The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Grandad’s garden.

Image 10I used to adore Christmas. Then last year, a week before the festivities kicked in proper, my Dad died. His funeral was on the 23rd of December. I gave the eulogy; I have no idea how I managed it. So, then and now, Christmas is a tough time.

Recently, I drove down to the coast with our daughter to visit his grave. I told her we were going to visit Grandad; my Mum came up with the phrase Grandad’s Garden as a better way to explain the trip.

En route, we all went to the shops to pick up a Xmas wreath and some white roses to take to his grave. In the shop, the daughter spotted some marshmallow biscuits shaped like a snowman; she wouldn’t leave the shop until we had put them in our basket.

When we arrived at the graveside, she took five white roses and planted them in Grandad’s Garden. As we stood there, my Mum and I lost in private memories, while it seemed the daughter got bored. Eventually she shouted, demanding “I want to go back to the car, Daddy” and no amount of gentle (or otherwise) persuasion would placate her. I was annoyed but also sad that my daughter had no real understanding of what it meant to us to be there. We got to the car and as I opened the door, she said, “Get the snowman biscuits, Daddy”. I told her she would have to wait until we got home to have one.

She looked at me and said “But Daddy, get them. I want to leave one for Grandad to have with his Christmas cup of tea.”

I’m finding it easier to begin adoring Christmas again.

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: I’ve done it again…

Image 8I’ve done it again.

I’ve gone out Christmas shopping with the best intentions and my daughter has displayed her defiant, complicated, clever and independent nature by doing the opposite of what I wanted and I have shouted. Loudly. In front of people.

Carols are playing in the background. Shop fronts depict charming displays of christmassy loveliness and here we stand amongst it – a small tantrumming child and me with my red faced fury. I’ve got a loud voice at the best of times but I think this time I might have actually shattered a few windows.

I’m not proud of it. I have known all along that shouting wouldn’t work, it’s just that in the moment of frustration my brain won’t do the new thing of waiting and not fuelling the fire. It reverts straight back to it’s reaction of choice – anger, and trying to unlearn that stuff is really really hard work. My brain protests in indignation at the unfairness of having to do it after all these years of coping this way.

I had imagined this Christmas as a picture postcard of me and my daughter laughing gaily as we make snow angels and decorate the tree yet here I am I’m barging huffily through the crowds and finding it hard not to grit my teeth as I buy some crackers.
“Are you happy now?” My daughter asks meekly as we finally clamber into the car, and I feel ashamed. I had no idea that having a child would bring up so much stuff in my own psyche. It’s like a mirror being held up and I sometimes squirm at what I see. “Yes darling, I’m fine.” I say. “I’m sorry for shouting, I’m just a bit tired today. Shall we go home and play a game?”. Her eyes light up and she gives me the biggest smile. “I love you Mummy” she says, and I feel like someone is squeezing my heart. I literally melt right there on the spot. She is the best thing that ever happened to me and I love her so much. I don’t want to be a shouty parent. I take a breath and remind myself of all the laughing and mucking about we also do together. It’s not an all or nothing situation. I just need to keep working on trying to be a bit gentler on both of us, which is easier said than done.

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Our 4th Christmas

Image 3As we head towards our 4th Christmas together, in our family of two, I now find it hard to recall what it was like before. As each day passes with my amazing and beautiful daughter (aged four and a half) my life before adoption fades more and more in my memory. She has a knack for turning everyday events into amusing anecdotes with her interesting take on life. Her most recent one was after her final nativity performance when she announced dramatically to her childminder…
Jesus is coming…
Jesus is born …….
(pregnant pause)
Only kidding….
It’s not true like Father Christmas!
Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating with their families.

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Santa is real

Image 6Santa is real!

They want him to be real and we love their belief.

Their belief adds extra magic to a magical day, their belief brings extra joy and extra smiles, extra excitement and extra satisfaction.

Their belief doesn’t question the absurd or the illogical – and Christmas is all the better for it.

Of course Santa is real.

Anyway, we know for sure because we have even been to see him and it was a truly magical experience – for our sons who were in total awe and for us who got to see such wonder in their faces and the glee in their hearts.

Santa is real – because life is just better with that being so.

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Our son is 3

Image 11My son is 3 and this is our 3rd Christmas together but his very first Christmas we didn’t get to share with him. I catch myself feeling melancholy that our boy, was wrapped up in someone else’s arms, waking up on Christmas Day with another family and both he and us (on this day) had no idea of each other’s existence. How does this seem possible now when he is etched into every fibre and part of our make up. I pinch myself and remind myself that he was truly well looked after from the moment he was born. I tell myself that it’s normal to wonder about all this but pointless being anything else but blessed. He is with us now. Today is what’s important and tomorrow we get to wrap him up in our arms over and over again.

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: 12 Days of Christmas

Image 12 I appreciate that I may not understand the symbolism, but frankly if my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree, irrespective of the five gold rings she gave me previously, which I probably would melt down and stick in the savings vault, I would definitely lose my Christmas Spirit.

And probably question both her sanity and her standing in my true love rankings.

Instead, here’s what my true love has given me (not a partridge in sight).

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a beautifully decorated Christmas Tree.

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two hours of dancing madly to Strictly.

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me three French Brie.

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me four nappy-changing opportunities.

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me five gold chocolate coins.

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me six home-baked gingerbread men biscuits.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me seven seas cod liver oil to keep me well.

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me eight hours of blissful sleep.

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me nine Christmas cards to write (she had written, enveloped, addressed, stamped and mailed the other 100).

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me ten pounds to go to the pub and have a few beers after a long old day at the office.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me eleven kisses spread through the day just because.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me twelve actually brilliant Christmas presents, but the best one she ever gave me, part from her hand, has to be the phone call to kick off the process that led to us sharing our second Christmas this year with our beautiful daughter.

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: A Christmas Carol

ImageIt’s the season of good will and I have recently been reminded to pause and extend good will towards the woman who gave birth to our daughter. It’s not something I do very often, being busy just getting on with being a mum myself. But the prompt came from an article I read about a retired nurse’s recollection of working one Christmas eve on a busy labour ward when she was still a student. The ward was full of expectant mums and she had been advised that one of them – whose child was to be adopted – was not under any circumstances to be given her child to hold after it’s birth. When her time came, and she delivered a baby girl, the baby was quickly whisked away, but the mum begged to hold her just once. The nurse being a student didn’t know what to do and eventually gave her the infant to hold. The mum then tenderly kissed her baby and said quietly “I love you. My own little Christmas Carol”. They had a quick cuddle before Carol was taken away and given to a foster mum to take home. The tenderness and love of the birth mum towards her child stayed with the nurse over the years and she found herself thinking of her at Christmas time and wondering how both mum and child were doing.

It got me thinking about my own daughter’s birth and how intimate it must have been for her and birth mum in the moments after she was born. I never really thought about it before but how can there be anything more intimate than giving birth? I will never be a part of that bit of her story and yet it’s a massive part of her. This Christmas I would like to thank her birth Mum for delivering my beautiful daughter. I will never forget that she came from you.

December will be magic

20121201_130647Christmas 2014 will be our third together as a family. This is the first year our three-year-old has really understood something about the fuss. Needless to say, it has brought new meaning and depth to the whole period for his parents. Having a child trumps everything, most importantly it offers instant validation of wanting to stay at home, thus avoiding all travel nightmares. Yay!

In 2014 however, the hitherto quiet crimbo tables are being turned on us, as my family will be descending on us in reasonable numbers. There will be family members snoring in every room. I predict our son will love having the family in his house; he will love being close to so many people he loves and who love him. These are truly days out of the ordinary.

But it is not all calm and magic. In fact, December has already been tough on our son. Sure he’s enjoying the daily rituals of opening the advent chocolate calendars and lighting candles. We’ve been wrapping presents and writing cards. We got the tree up and have been decorating (and moving baubles around) for days. We’ve been baking: at home, in nursery, with friends. Sugar intake and party attendance has rocketed. No wonder excitement levels are sky high. Our son normally is good a self-regulating, but we have had more meltdown, and more major meltdowns, in December than the rest of the year put together. There are usually straight-forward reasons for the explosions, but I think the undercurrent is Christmas-related. It certainly isn’t helping.

Admittedly, I never really acknowledged the darker side to this time of year. Call me stupid, but I never noticed just how ramped up it all is – it was all water off a ducks back. I enjoyed the nice bits, and ignored the rest. But now it seems inescapable. Loud and sleekly commercial. But worst of all: it is so coldly aimed at children. It makes such demands of small people. (I imagine the need to manage December will only increase over the next many years as he grows older and more aware. As school and peer pressure set in in earnest.)

I’m happy to report, that we successfully have been escaping Father Christmas. Much as I love Christmas, I never got the attraction. I loathed the lines of waiting only to perch on a stranger’s knee, and perhaps to be handed a cheap present. You won’t see me going to any lengths to convince my son he exists, and that he will only get presents if he is nice. A strange and bearded man sneaking into the sanctuary of our house through the chimney? At night? Leaving stuff around? Let’s not jog the imagination, or worse still memories of lives and families past.

Traditions have memories at their core, casting shadows or glitter over the past, and hopes (or fear) into the future. I can’t help but think that for our children, this can be a painful, soulful season. New traditions is a careful balancing act for us all.

Our son LOVES Christmas as much as I do, but the protracted excitement is taking it’s toll. I’m trying to embody super parental calm (yeah right) to weather his frequent storms. I’ve found the best escape in entering straight into the spirit of it by making stuff together (mostly) at home.

When we bought our tree, our little man was sweeping pine needles off the ground with a broom he found. He did a damn good job of it, and so the salesman gave him a cut off branch of fir – his own little Christmas tree. Daddy tied it to his bed and we put two small baubles on it. He falls asleep looking at it every night. Oddly, enough, this does seem to have a very calming effect on him.

December is magic.

Moments of Wonder

20140315_121005Here are a few of my moments of wonder –

– First of course the Adoption Panel saying YES!

Then:
– The first time I lay eyes on my beautiful sons.
– The moment I realised I was totally and utterly in love – instantly.
– The first ‘Daddy’.
– The first ‘I love you Daddy”.
– A hot little body climbing into bed as I wake.
– Every time one of their tiny hands reaches out for mine.
– The spontaneous kiss brought about from a moment of sheer joy.
– That moment of sheer joy.
– The first painting of ‘our family’ for the fridge door.
– The first painting of our family with five smiling faces (the cat was happy too).
– When the ONLY seat is my lap, regardless of the six empty ones.
– When I caught them singing along to a pop song (a little less wondrous that it was Gangnam style).
– When they say something really smart.
– When they do that Meerkat thing of looking up straining their necks to make sure I’m still there.
– When they hurt themselves and desperately need you and only you.
– When they hurt themselves and they respond to the magical healing powers of a hug and kisses.
– The first time ‘they’ remind ‘me’ that it’s time for the bedtime story.
– The first time they pick up a book by themselves and start to ‘read’ it.
– When they fall asleep in my arms.

– Those certain heartfelt smiles that say ‘I’m doing it right’ .

– Realising I have everything I ever wanted, but thought that I could never possibly have.