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.

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12 Blogs under the Christmas tree #5

20161223_130426If you could put one thing under the Christmas tree this year, what would it be?

I just want sleep. 10 hours. Every night till I feel restored.

Getting enough sleep is the key to me functioning as a parent. I’m grumpy without. For a good couple of hours. Or more.

My son has cottoned on to that as well. A couple of days ago when I really couldn’t move at 7pm, he and daddy snuck out, and I heard his whisper : ‘ let’s close the door to the bathroom, daddy, so mummy can sleep.’

I know he is exhausted from a long and seasonally dark term. So am I. So is daddy.

After four years with us, our son still wakes on average 4 times a night, and calls for me. ‘Mummy, I’m scared.’ ‘Mummy, can you come to my bed? It’s dark.’ ‘Mummy, it’s dark.’ ‘Mummy, I think it it is getting light now.’ ‘Mummy….?’ ‘Mummy??!’ ‘Mummy, can we get up know?’

There are periods when he sleeps through til 6. But it’s been some months now since we had that luck.

We’ve been working hard a teaching him to snuggle in bed. And now he will come to our bed around 5.30/6am where he will have a good long quietly snuggle. He may count his fingers or sing a little song. But it is mostly snuggling.

I am very grateful for that. Very.

But I want more.

Please Santa, give me sleep. Dreamless and deep, restful and restorative sleep. Bring me peaceful sleep.

Snow would help. The world is so quiet …… wrapped crisp cold and fluffy white.

But really… sleep is all I dream of.

Love,

a mummy

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?

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas #2: Christmas Memories

Image 3The most powerful memories of my early childhood are around Christmas, most specifically waking up on Christmas morning.

Not so unusual I guess, waking to a pile of Presents delivered by Santa, Presents I had wanted and asked for in my Xmas letter to the North Pole, others that surprised me and delighted me.

However, it’s more than just the presents that had an impact on my Christmas mornings.

We went to bed at our usual 7pm in a house devoid of any signs of Christmas – no decorations, no tree, no Christmas lights, not even cards displayed (just a pile that had been gradually growing larger day by day over the previous few weeks), we fell asleep leaving a house that was the same as every other night.

Regardless we were all full of excitement and anticipation – and we were never disappointed.

For we woke on Christmas morning to a house that had been transformed – we got up to Christmas.

To all its glittery, tinsely, sparkely and tacky wonder.

There was a huge tree (that usually touched the ceiling???)and was full of baubles, full of tinsel and full of much loved decorations that we cherished and were excited to see after a year of being packed away.

We were dazzled by lights – so many lights. Lights that made the tree come alive and greet us as we entered the room and lights in places that transformed our oh so familiar sitting room into something spectacular in our young – and in hindsight – easy to please eyes.

The amazing spectacle, the mystery of Santa having visited our house while we slept and the wonder that was Christmas suddenly in our home has left memories that are still as sharp over four decades later, that still fill me with a warmth and delight as if reliving the experience all over again.

In my childhood Christmas started on the 25th December and still hasn’t ended over 4 decades later.
P.S – As an adult I wondered how on earth my parents had achieved all that they had after we children had gone to bed, now as a busy parent I am even more bewildered and I realise – and totally appreciate – just what an effort they went to.

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: All I want for Christmas

Image 9All I want for Christmas
It’s become part of family lore that when our eldest daughter was about 4 or 5, Dad got lost driving during a snow storm and we ended up, after dark, in a forest festooned with twinkly lights, where elves were waiting to greet us, and Mother Christmas had gingerbread men that needed decorating and her husband was snoozing by the fire in his cosy little hut, waiting to hear what she wanted most of all on Christmas Day.

Believe me, it worked a treat. The (real) snow was a fortuitous, if unexpected bonus (the hairy drive from London to Kent notwithstanding) and everything else, in the four hours we spent in that magical forest, sealed a belief in the big beardy guy in a red suit that has not waned, even though our eldest is soon to be 11.

I’m fully aware that she may be going along with it, still, for our benefit, but I don’t actually think that’s the case – I think our eldest daughter has an ingrained belief in magic. Richard Dawkins can huff and puff all he likes about the dishonesty of promoting myths and the supernatural to kids but, for her, it’s made every Christmas since just that bit more special – and for us, too.

So when our youngest daughter came into our lives, four years ago, it’s been our aim to recreate that magical experience ever since she heard about it, in breathless wonder, from her older sister. But, for one reason or other, I’ve never pulled it off – for her first Christmas with us, it was just too soon; another year, we had a family bereavement to cope with. But, most often, it was the prosaic reason of not having booked early enough – this gig tends to sell out in early November!

Don’t get me wrong – we HAVE taken our youngest to see Father Christmas at some venue or other, every year. But, last year, after a particularly disappointing specimen, her world-weary verdict afterwards of: “Well, he was just an actor in a suit, wasn’t he, mum?” gave me a lump in my throat for all the wrong reasons.

She’s five years old.

This year, when Christmas started to appear in all the shops, and she said: “I wish daddy could drive and get us lost so that we find that forest with the real Father Christmas!”, I could hardly keep the smile off my face – this time, we were booked, well in advance.

So, yesterday, we set off; the special, personalised invitations for each child safe in my bag, we told the girls we were going for a family day out to the zoo. Neither wanted to go – why were we going to a zoo on a cold, damp day when they could go to the indoor play centre down the road? We bundled them out, still moaning and sulking, and off we went. An hour and a half later, they’re beside themselves with contempt when Dad said he’s lost and the satnav has stopped working.

“Let’s just go back HOME!” protested the eldest.

But by then we were in the forest, and I pull the trump cards out of my bag… “Well, actually, we’ve got a special appointment, girls…”

Our youngest couldn’t read her invite but she recognised the guy’s picture on the front, along with her name. Our eldest was squealing at such a high pitch that only (husky) dogs could probably hear her now.

So far, so special…then:

“You know what I’m going to ask Father Christmas for, Mum?” breathes our youngest, her eyes shining.

“I’m going to ask if I can meet my birth mum, again – even before I’m a teenager.”

Her dad and I glanced wordlessly at each other but we kept the smiles on our faces.

“You can ask him that baby, sure,” I said. “But I don’t think he can make that happen straightaway, you know. Besides, I hope he doesn’t think that you’re asking that because you’re unhappy living with us?”

Why on earth did I say that? This wasn’t about how good a family we were; we’re not in a competition, here. This was my OWN need for affirmation that shouldn’t impact at all on what my child feels about her situation at any – maybe all – given times of the year. And at least she was sharing it with us, rather than burying that (probably) ever-present longing down deep for fear of how we might react.

Fortunately, she considered my statement with a maturity that had temporarily deserted me. “Yes, I’m happy living with my family,” she nodded. “But I just want to see my birth mum again before I’m 18.”

“Well, we’ve said we’ll help you with that, baby,” I said, “but when you’re a bit older, though.”

And then suddenly we’re tramping through the forest, back on track in every sense, and it was just as magical as I’d remembered from before and hoped for this time. Sitting in a fairy-lit glade, with a wise-cracking elf hanging his socks on a washing line between the trees, our youngest turned to us with THAT expression peculiar to Christmas time – full of wonder and glow and glee.

Then, when he cracked open a wooden door to the main attraction – the forest dusted with snow, lit only by fairy lights in the gathering dusk, and winding paths where special ‘herders’ were walking actual huskies, her grin was a mile wide.

But while her sister galloped on, taking it all at face value, our youngest felt the fir trees between thumb and forefinger. “It’s not real snow, mum,” she whispered. “I think it’s made of paper.”

“That’s because it’s magic snow, love,” I whispered back.

Then, later, with the elves in their toy factory: “I don’t think they are elves, mum – I think they’re grown ups dressed up. And why is my invite from Father Christmas printed and not actual handwriting?”

“Well, he has to write to a lot of children, love, so he’s probably got a printer to save him time.”

We’ve been aware from very early on that our daughter tells it how she sees it and that there’s a cynicism in her world-view that is not apparent in her older sister. Whether this is simply a personality trait or informed by her early years experience of being let down by the two most important people in her life, we don’t know. Maybe it’s a mixture of the two. But surely every child needs to have one moment of believing in magic, don’t they?

And, eventually, we’re knocking on the door of the main man’s hut at the end of a long, winding, snowy path. We’re ushered in by an elf and even I feel a lurch back to 40-odd years ago when I believed in magic. I gasp back a single sob that comes out of nowhere. The kids sit beside him, awe-struck. He knows their likes and dislikes; their hobbies; their pets. He shows them their names on his ‘good’ Christmas Eve list. He asks our youngest what she wants most of all and I hold my breath, ready to pitch in if I need to.

“I’d like a tree that grows diamonds!” she announces. “Or a doll’s house….”

On our way out, she confides in me as we walk along, past grazing reindeer and a parked up, red and gold sleigh: “I don’t think dad really got lost driving here, mum, and the elves and snow aren’t real – but Father Christmas is. Can we come again tomorrow?”

I laugh and say no, but he’ll be visiting us on Christmas Eve – and I’m really glad she’s finally got to meet the real Father Christmas.

Silence. Then: “I love you, Mum”.

And there, knackered and a bit muddy, trying to find our car in the dark in a forest car-park, was the magic of Christmas.

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.