12 Blogs: A Ghost of Christmas Past.

The Day is done.
The presents have been opened.
The Turkey has been eaten and the chocs have been scoffed.
Leafing though photos of the festivities on my computer I stumbled across an old folder I hadn’t opened for years.
Clicking on it, out tumbled hundreds of images of me and my husband as novice parents and our first Christmas together as a family. Our daughter must have been about 15 months old and it took me straight back to the early days.
I could remember looking at that little smiling face in the pictures worrying that I wouldn’t be good enough; that I would somehow let her down. And I was oddly freaked out because at the time I couldn’t quite picture the little girl she would grow into. I don’t know why it was so important to me but I needed to be able to look into the future and see us not just as the parents of a baby but also parents of a little girl and I couldn’t. Every time I tried it just got hazy. Maybe it was just the general anxiety of becoming a parent for the first time but there seemed to be so much to worry and think about!

Fast forward five years and surprise surprise here we are. No longer the parents of a baby but yes, parents of a little girl.
I hadn’t needed to worry about it after all because like most things in life – it just happened. It evolved.
For me it was a timely reminder to try to let go of things that I cannot control. To try not to waste any more time worrying myself into the future.

Easier said than done I know.

Advertisements

12 Blogs #11. Unleashed

It was our first Christmas together and we were spending it away from London, in a house in the country.

There was great excitement all around, from the boys who we had been working on for weeks filling them with expectation and from us looking to make our first christmas together special and memorable.

However, something that we had not considered was the weather – which was quite simply horrid. It rained constantly and apart from the gloom that it brought about, it prevented the boys from going outside as it was very cold and the garden (as well as the surrounding countryside) were quite literally a mud bath.

It took us a while to realise what was happening, but regardless of out attempts to keep the boys busy and entertained we started to notice that they were getting restless and were becoming more and more difficult to cope with.

By the end of day 4 things were bad, their behaviour was getting out of control and we had little patience left. They were sent to bed early amid tears and anger.

The following day – Christmas Eve – started pretty much how the previous day had ended and the prospects of having to deal with two increasingly uncontrollable little boys on top of preparing for the big day tomorrow was quite simply looking beyond our ability.

My sister – a far more accomplished parent – phoned to ask how things were going and I shared our distress, the conversation went something like this:

Me – We have had enough, the boys are clearly unsettled being here and none of us are enjoying it, in fact the boys are driving us mad.

Sister – They have been couped up for 4 days, it sounds like big time cabin fever to me.

Me – Could be, I hadn’t considered that. (duhh)

Sister – You need to get them out to release some of that energy that’s just building and building.

Me – We can’t, the weather is just too terrible’ I think it best that we just go home.

Sister – Don’t be silly, you have everything planned and set up for Christmas there, why don’t you take them to a soft play area.

Me – What’s a soft play area?

Once she had finished laughing at me – the oh so clearly novice dad – she educated me into the word of indoor play and advised that there was a great centre about 50 mins away and that it will be a journey I would be very grateful of.

51 minutes later we are paying to get in and I could see the boys positively ‘chomping at the bit’, waiting to be let loose. Armbands on wrists the gate was opened…

And they were off, immediately running into the thick of it without looking back, we found seats and made them aware of where we were and they did not come to us for over 30 minutes (and these were still the very early days when they never seemed to leave our sides).

They ran, they climbed, they jumped, they slid, they shouted and they laughed – before they even thought about us. When we did finally come to mind they ran to us for a quick drink and then they were off again and it was like this for the next two hours or so.

I have described it as being like letting a dog off a lead – you could see the ‘need’ they had to get rid of all the pent up energy and it was actually a delight to watch.

Our sons are quite active little boys and of course four days stuck indoors was going to drive them mad – and by default us too – it is just shocking how oblivious we were to the blindingly obvious – even as it unfolded around us.

We live and learn and as painful as we the parents can find the hour or two in a soft play centre it saved our Christmas and has become a regular part of our life since.

12 blogs #10 Christmas Day 2017

I am sitting in the quiet of the kitchen in candlelight listening to the whirl of the dish washer. It’s peaceful after all the hullabaloo of the day. Cold sprouts, roast potatoes and the turkey are still on the table.

My six year old son went to sleep asking if he could pull a cracker tomorrow with our 82 year old neighbour. “Mummy I’ll let her have the present inside as she’s so old”.

He spent much of Christmas singing the same carol over and over again (jingle bells with the bit about Uncle Billy losing his ……, eating as many mince pies as he could find and then ripping open presents like he was being timed for the olympics. This year it was filled with “thank you Mummy and Daddy – wow I love this!”.

These comments wouldn’t have seemed possible this time last year. It has been like two years in one. My son has gone from a frightened hyper vigilant five year old kicking, swearing, hitting and screaming to a calmer more playful six year old. Last year he couldn’t attend the last few days at school as he couldn’t cope. He was running around the corridors wildly and I had to piggy back him out of a school sports cupboard back home. It was a relief to have him out of an environment which he clearly wasn’t coping in but I wondered how this year would pan out.

His behaviour had been triggered by events for sure – the change of the timetable with the nativity rehearsals and his LSA being off sick plus countless different people then replacing her. He felt neither safe nor secure . He had an EHCP which stated he must have consistent care but it wasn’t happening.

This year his LSA has not been away for even a day’s sick leave and the difference is huge. Our son now runs into school happily. He has gone from 10 mins in the classroom to 4 hours a day. We’ve had every treatment in the book from AIT (Audio Integrative Therapy) to Cranial osteopathy and Primitive Reflex work (INPP). We’ve also had therapeutic parenting sessions. We have begged, borrowed and stolen the therapies getting discounts where we can and using the Adoption Support Fund. Without them I don’t think we could have survived.

Things can change and Christmas is a natural hiatus in which to realise the change. He still can’t eat a meal without getting up five or six times and is like a mosquito buzzing from thing to thing but a happier mosquito. I still end up in tears every couple of weeks with the exhaustion of it all but even that is changing.

We all had melt downs on Christmas Eve but the big day has been a success – a lunch with just the three of us, presents under a tree, card games, log fires roaring around the house and ‘Arthur Christmas’ on a big screen We promised ourselves that if we felt stressed to say “nevermind” reach for a glass of vino and put another log on the fire.

I actually read a poem by Wendy Cope out loud at breakfast. No one was really listening but it meant a lot to me.

12 Blogs of Christmas #9. Etch a Sketch

As a child I always wanted an Etch a sketch, it was new back then in the 70’s and positively ‘hi tech’ to us who had been brought up on basic, traditional toys.

Advertisements for the – to be honest, pretty rubbish – pen and paper alternative were all over the TV and made it look positively glamorous.

And then the Christmas came when I was to get one – I knew because being 12 I had done that unforgivable thing of searching the house mid December to root out the presents we would be getting.

I was pretty pleased to finally be getting the gift that I wanted so badly and I was full of excitement on Christmas morning, however the excitement didn’t last too long. I was unwrapping my gifts with the growing realision that NONE of them were in fact those that I had seen a couple of weeks earlier.

I was obviously very puzzled and conclude that my patents must have worked out that I had found them and had exchanged each and every one. That will teach me I thought as I sat there full of disappointment and with a forced smile on my face.

So another year without the coveted gift.

About mid morning the family across the road who we were close to came over to wish us a Merry Christmas and we children all compared our gifts – and then the reality of the situation hit.

The boy the same age as me had all the gifts I had seen…including MY Etch a sketch.

Serves you right I hear you cry – and I would most certainly have to agree. It was a harsh lesson and rest assured I never went in search of my Christmas presents again.

12 Blogs of Christmas #8

Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve?

In theory no – it’s against my principles, but sometimes we cannot help opening “just the one” before midnight !

When do you put up and take down your tree?

Up: Almost as soon as the local Tree market opens and;
Down: probably not within the boundaries set by tradition/superstition.

What goes on the top of the tree?

A fairy (not a real one) or a star (again, not real), depending

Fake or real Christmas tree?

After a good number of years as a singleton with a re-usable fake tree, my wife has me converted to real and no way am I going back.

Favourite Christmas film?

It’s A Wonderful Life

Coloured or clear fairy lights?

Clear

Favourite Christmas song?

Depends on who is singing it – It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, if a choir; We Wish You A Merry Christmas, if our daughter.

Favourite Christmas food?

Sprouts. And my wife’s home-made sausage rolls. And Beef – I do not like Turkey !

What is the best Christmas gift ever received?

Socks

What is the worst Gift you’ve ever received?

Socks – it’s all about timing.

What’s the best part of Christmas for you?

Watching people open their presents; the second glass of wine with Christmas lunch

Most annoying thing about this time of year?

The West End

12 Blogs of Christmas #7 If you could be anywhere.

If you could be anywhere for Christmas where would it be and why?

Home, Home, Home!!!!!

If I could be anywhere for Christmas it would be at home with all three of my boys.

In fact, that’s exactly where I’ll be at home, with my family.

Just because I can and want to be.

Worcestershire cottage would be the only alternative, burning the fire log fire with the boys.

I’ve always loved Christmas and this year all I want for Christmas is to be at home, home, home with just me and the boys.

12 Blogs: Yuletide peace – within and without

So yes … The pull of the Christmas Vortex is as strong as ever. I’ve been sucked in and spat out a few times. By now, December is wearing thin on me.

I’m tired. We are all tired. The festive period comes straight after a ridiculously busy time. So I start the holidays tired.

A happy, relaxing holiday period of plenty seems a stretch. There’s still so much to do before Christmas morning!

My needs are usually drowned in everyone else’s, it feels. Drowned in whirlwinds of perfected expectations – my own and of those around, of the environment. It’s an old script. And I know it all too well. Friends and family often come to stay with us, and we go to stay with them. In this tornado of packing, unpacking, shopping, eating, wrapping, kisses and board games, I forget myself. I get short tempered – mainly after they or we have left, when life naturally slows down again. I love them all, and love the visits, but it is frankly draining. I won’t go there about adoption, because that we all know as the fancy antsy add ons. No, now it is me in focus.

I’m determined to do it differently this year. I’ve got a few guidelines in my head. They are my intentions, so all I have to do is practice. Over time, over Christmasses, I may even perfect them. Discard, re-jig them. So that I can be properly there for me. And for those around. And enjoy Christmas which I love.

So here are a few reminders of how not to do it, and a few pointers of how perhaps to do it.

DON’Ts of Christmas

· Bake (unless you absolutely and totally looooove it)

· Write Christmas cards (unless you absolutely and totally …) Sorry, guys….

· Spend time on fancy schmanzy wrapping (unless you absolutely…)

· Spend time on homemade this, that and the other (unless you…)

· Clean the home for Christmas (unle…)

· Jampack your calendar with visitors or visits every day of the holidays.

· Pretend that you can be gliding serenely over the chopped Christmas seas, without you feet peddling like crazy underneath.

· Take on the sole responsibility for all cooking and shopping over the festive period.

· Feel responsible to the good atmosphere at any one time.

· Spend all your energy on making sure every one else are happy and well.

DOs of Christmas

· Rest for min 1-2 hours per day.

· Watch a lot of films and christmas telly.

· Make sure not to have (any?) fixed plans between Christmas and New Year.

· Go for walk during the daylight hours.

· Let it flow/go.

· Let PJs rule the days.

· Go to bed early.

· Be lazy, boring and egoistic.

· Share the workload.

· Only use 70% of your energy.

· Have that extra biscuits (because it is not what we eat between Christmas and New Year you need to worry about, but what you eat between New Year and Christmas).

Because you can’t pour from an empty jug.

I know this and yet this time of year I feel challenged to do much too much. All the freeking time.

And yet… when I do slow down, and snuggle you myself, it becomes so much easier to do as well as with other.

It is obviously so much harder to do than to say, but I really will try to put myself a but higher up the list of needs I listen to. Hopefully there will be stretches where I am number 1. I’m finding it hard to let go, but I also instinctively know that when I do let go and slow down, when I’m honest about my needs – that is first and foremost to myself (no one else needs to know as much as I), demands magically transform to something I might actually like to do.

Brene Brown speaks about how she is much less kind but much more loving, when her own boundaries are in place. I think I get that.

Wish me luck. And good luck to you too.

Wishing you all the most peaceful and re-plenishingly happy of festive periods.