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.

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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

The Pixies. 12 Blogs #2


This year I’ve tried out an advent calendar. In our house it is a piece of cloth with 24 small pockets, into which I sneak a small item every evening after my son has fallen asleep. Something simple, tiny, unpretentious but special. He’s loving it.

The first week I focussed on stones and the like. One morning he got a biggish stone. Igneous looking. From the depths of the house collection. He showed it to his dad. Who raised his big daddy eyebrows in very real surprise. If not disbelief. ‘You gave him the stone I collected as a young boy from Vesuvius?’ Oups. I guess I did. Which would explain why I couldn’t remember where or when I’d collected it. He soon relented and he likes the beauty of passing it to his son. If only he’d been part of that decision. Not unlike the year I told our son The Santa doesn’t exists.

‘That’s the kind of stuff I think we should agree on as parents – before we tell him.’
That does seem very reasonable to me. Even in hindsight. But the cat was out of the bag. Out and gone. My son now tells a number of other kids that santa is just made up. Apologies if you are a parent of a kid who has met our six year-old myth buster.

That same evening of Vesuvius Gate my son asked me why I had stolen it from daddy.
I told him I didn’t think I had bla bla bla.
‘But mummy you lied to me.’
‘?! What do you mean…?’ I thought I’d been honest. Too honest it turns out.
‘I thought the pockets filled by magic…’
Errrrmmm….
‘You just fill them, Mummy. When I am asleep.’ He was very disappointed. And I was busted.

How to get back from that one??

Turns out there was a way back to December magic. After another few mishaps.

One morning my son complained there was nothing in the pocket for that morning.

‘Are you sure?!’ I remember finding something the evening before and carrying it downstairs. But my son was adamant: There was nothing there. I checked with him. The pocket was totally and completely empty. And my son’s eyes as big as saucers.

Hmmmmm. Puzzled but not deterred I went about my business, grumbling over what may have happened. I distinctly remembered having chosen something small and fine.

‘Maybe we have nisser (Danish for gnomes or pixies)….’

‘Maybe they took it? Like they sometimes take daddy glasses and put them up on top his head so he can’t find them.’

‘Or they ate the last biscuits. Pesky creatures …’

I walked into the living room and there on the mantle piece was the thing I’d chosen. Small and shiny. I managed to sneak it in to the pocket. And soon after I heard a scream of joy:
‘Mummy! The pixies have been! They brought me a crystal!’

Since that morning his faith in the pixies has been restored. Which all together is a better fit for our family than Father Christmas. They’re mischievous and fun. Not good, nor bad, but a bit of both. Altogether more real. They also don’t judge. No elves on our shelves!

Next year I think I may introduce more of their mischievous sides. You see in Denmark where I grew up you put food out for the pixies. Every night in December. To keep on good terms with them. If you forget you may upset them. And they may play tricks on you and your family. Like dye the milk blue only for you to realise as you pour it over your breakfast cereal. Or they may fill Your pencil case with raisin instead of pens! Which you only find out when in school.

I think my son is ready for some December themed mischievousness. But am I?

12 blogs under the Christmas tree #6

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If you could put one thing under the Christmas tree this year, what would it be?

I don’t have one thing to put under the Christmas tree… I have a few things. I can’t help but be excited for Christmas. I smile and nod when people say it’s for the kids…Raspberry to that! I love it even more that I have children, despite the challenges.

So under my tree I would put: –
· A big box of hugs for my children and husband. I can sometimes be a bit mean with my hugs being an avoidant adult myself.
· Love, love, Love I would buy it all up and fill not just the tree but the house. I apologise now if the shops have sold out of love
· Passion! I wear it as a badge and I would get a badge for each of my children. After all, I am from the Caribbean therefore can be a bit passionate.
· Finally, I would buy us all a watch which speeds up when the day is tough but slows down when the day is just right! Particularly when all the other gifts above are being well used….

Merry Christmas parents.

Twelve blogs of Christmas #12: Twelve Christmas moments I won’t forget in a hurry.

DSC_4361My uncle’s thoughtful present to our daughter. A set of eight children’s CDs containing no less than 134 plinkety plonkety songs, performed on what sounds like a Bontempi organ and sung in the shrillest voice imaginable. I cannot get them out of my head or CD player.

An extra special gift for me (The giver shall remain nameless..) A top, sized 18 – 20 (I am a 12) with additional information reading “EXTRA LARGE” in case I was in any doubt.

A special doggy treat. Catching a friend’s dog weeing into one of our old fashioned radiators, right into all those little bends and twists of the immoveable metal cave nooks and crannies.

 The joy of the chase. Misplacing my mobile phone and trying to listen out for it’s vibration over the din of Justin’s House Christmas panto, and a loop of 134 plinkety plonkety children’s songs; all the while kneeling onto thousands of tiny little sharp pine needles stuck in the rug and and holding the sofa up to peek under there.

Our Daughter’s Joy. Watching our daughter try out her bike for the very first time and her expression of sheer concentration and wonder.

Boxing Day. Having guests cancel Boxing day visit due to sudden unforeseen circumstances, and getting to spend the entire day together as a family on the sofa, playing games and watching films with a fire lit. – Perfect.

Being able to fully realise how blessed and lucky I am. Sometimes I can’t access these feelings. This year I felt so much joy.

missing people. Thinking about two dear friends who sadly didn’t make it to see Christmas this year, then thinking of the same friends’ families and loved ones, and how hard this time of year will have been for them.

Missing more people. Seeing my husband really miss his father (as he always does at this time of year) and feeling helpless.

Miracles. Being present to see my dad finally get up and join us for a couple of hours at Christmas, after spending 5 days practically comatose in bed recovering from radio therapy.

My new red handbag – best Christmas present. Ever.

Cooking my first Christmas lunch ever. Turkey with all the trimmings, pigs in blankets etc, Christmas pudding  and it was for 14 people. It was much easier than I thought.

 

 

 

 

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas #7: So Macho

DSC_4363Last year for Christmas we gave our oldest son a simple MP3 player. We went through our music collection and filled it with happy pop songs that we felt he would enjoy – and enjoy them he does.

Very quickly he learnt some of the lyrics and he merrily sings along – often at the top of his voice – and very quickly we realised the error of our ways.

We are gay dads and without considering it we had filled our young son’s gift with VERY ‘gay man’ music.

Immediately his favourite song became ‘it’s raining men’, closely followed by ‘dancing queen’, ‘YMCA’ and ironically, ‘So Macho’.

I have never been under the illusion that I have a cool taste in music, which is fortunate because if I ever had been it would have been quashed when my nephews reached the age when they could express their feelings about it; it was often clearly stated that I like ‘sad old gay man’s music’.

And here I am passing it on to my son.

I am the first to scream about the merits of gay adoption, but even I have to acknowledge that when it comes to music, there could be a real downside for our children.

I am now going to take my tongue out of my cheek to go and ‘daddy dance’ around the Christmas tree to something very butch…where is that K D Lang CD?

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas #6: A three and a half year old describes Christmas.

Photo by Lili Gooch

Photo by Lili Gooch

I don’t want to tell anyone about Christmas because you’re not my friend because you won’t let me blow the silver blower because the dog doesn’t like it.

 

Christmas is all about – I love my headphones – my people coming like Gran-Gran and Nanna and my cousins.

 

I like Christmas because little FlatOut – my friend FlatOut – is squeaking and he likes Christmas because he likes to help everyone. And Billy doesn’t look Christmassy because he hasn’t got a Christmas hat – can we get him one from the shops?

 

Everyone comes at Christmas, don’t they? At Christmas Eve my friends are coming – and my pink table can be the table for all the guys at Christmas. And Lily will need a comfy chair – can I put it there ready for Christmas now? Please? I just want to make it look like it needs to be so everyone can sit on my table and sit next to me for Christmas. Why not now?

 

But I’ve already told you all about Christmas, Daddy. Stop asking me.

 

Yes, oh and there are presents for Christmas, that’s correct. Because we get presents and can I look at what’s in those presents? Please, Daddy. OK – well I don’t want to wait. But OK.

 

Can you wipe my nose?

 

And the Snowman – I love that. That’s for Christmas as well, isn’t it Daddy? I love it – they sing in the sky – it’s so good isn’t it? It’s my favourite in the world. But I love Fungus the Bogeyman too because he’s so sticky at Christmas.

 

There’s roast chicken for Christmas, cake, I love cake, don’t I?

 

And Father Christmas comes and gives us presents, he’s red – that’s my favourite colour. And I can watch Rex at Christmas Eve. You know Rex. Rex, Daddy, Rex. This one here – Rex. Yes Shrek – that’s what I said.

 

And Christmas is pretty; it’s pretty at Christmas. And our tree is good and so magical for Christmas. And look – there’s a Father Christmas candle hiding behind that card map. And that’s what friends are for.

 

At Christmas everyone is friends together. I do like Christmas; I do Daddy.

 

But I don’t want to tell you any more about Christmas, because you can think on your own, can’t you, Daddy. So just do that, ok?