I’m not sure when it happened but I know that at some point, many years ago, Christmas was about nothing else other than love, lights, laughter and lots and lots of presents. Somewhere a long the line, the shiny, sparkly stuff has faded and it’s more about sky-high anxiety levels, constant cleaning and an ever-present feeling of well, disappointment.
I really, really don’t want to be the Christmum Grinch this year. I’ve had Christmases that I’ve cried throughout because I’m exhausted from either dragging my family up and down the country and living out of a suitcase for ten days, or from hosting a hearty rabble and feeling the pressure of having to deliver the perfect christmassy Christmas.
There have been years when I’ve genuinely questioned my entire marriage when Jimmy gives me a present that I can only imagine he intended for his mum, or his other wife* because when I look at it I can’t think what he thought I’d like about it. This disappointment isn’t a mercenary thing; it’s a ‘we’ve been together for 10 years and the fact that you think this would make me feel loved and special on Christmas just shows me that you don’t know me at all and maybe we should get a divorce’ thing.
Adding kids into the Christmas mix is, frankly, a blessing and a curse. Sure, it’s great to see their little faces light up and to watch them marvel in the magic of Christmas. Watching their eyes light up when they see the presents that they still believe Father Christmas delivered is something to appreciate. But, the 11am meltdown they have once they’ve devoured all the cheap chocolate you stuffed in their stockings and are fighting over presents…yep, there isn’t enough Prosecco in the world to make that OK.
The early start, the turkey that needs basting, the wrapping, the buying, the returning, the eating the drinking, the tidying up, the cleaning, the packing/unpacking, the bed-changing, the late nights, the cranky kids, the difficult relatives, the sprouts – it’s a stressful day whichever way to look at it.
And it’s not just the day itself. The life admin in the run up is overwhelming for any parent (read: mum). The tombolas that need contributing to, the costumes that need making, the secret santas that need buying, the teachers that need gifting, the Christmas cards that need writing and sending, the Christmas parties that need attending, the trees that need decorating, the shopping (ALL the shopping)…it’s a lot.
So, this year this is what I’ve promised myself: the run up to Christmas is going to be as stressful as ever. I’m ok with that. We are hosting 12 people in the house and I am going to do everything I can to make sure that when they arrive, the house is all about Christmas. The house will shout, “You’re going to have to bed damn Christmas you’ve ever had.” They are going to be bowled over by the decorations, the canapés, the drinks on tap, the little gifts on their beds and then, once their in and their coats are off and they’ve got a drink in their hand, I’m done.
From that point, they can help with the clearing up (because that’s only polite right?), we can divvy up cooking and we can all muck in together. Until then though…I might still be a bit grinchy.