Lessons learned from my Ghost of Christmas Past

So this will be Christmas number 7 as a mother of 4, and with the assistance of my Ghost of Christmas Past, I reckon this year I am going to nail it.

1. The preparations

Ever striving to be an efficient person, with list for everything, normally I am all over it but this year it has taken me a little longer to get into it. I think part of the reason being is that I have been busy finding my ‘somebody’ (or in other words not doing any housework). The other part because I have realised those things I have strived to make perfect over the years, no one else in our house is really that bothered about. My boys don’t care if there is no flower arrangement table decoration, that there is no giant home-made gingerbread men, that the toilets and taps aren’t sparkling on Christmas morning, that their bed sheets aren’t nice and fresh on Christmas Eve…. so I have been questioning whether things on my list actually matter, and whether they need to be done. Which I have found is a much more relaxing approach.

I even bought myself a mug when feeling very un-Christmassy, and at the time thought ‘Pah, as if, I am so not going to get whipped up into the Christmas frenzy this year’.

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But as much as I am trying to tell myself not to, I just can’t help it. No, sorry husband but as much as you like my Christmas cake, I will not be making one this year, because quite frankly I can’t be arsed. After a few weeks of battling with this in my mind, going round in circles, I decided sod this, and the cake is done.

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Just call me Mary.

And now I am running out of time before they finish school and I know my last few days will be spent rushing around like a mad woman doing the things I decided didn’t matter which now I have decided indeed do.

I am trying to accept that my declaration of ‘I am not making mince pies this year’ is ok and ignoring the little voice in my head telling me I have failed.

I have always been like this. When my boys first started school, and I had all this new free time, I did everything homely one could think of – cake, mince pies, flower arrangement, festive wreath, home-made Christmas cards. Why sit down on the sofa, relax with a cup of tea, enjoy the first time in 5 years when you can slowly get ready for Christmas and take it all in, when you can rush around creating things out of the Good Housekeeping magazine. Even when my boys were pre-school years, get this, I made a Jamie Oliver Stollen. Not just one, but also one for my parents, and they were HUGE, filled the oven, and I still get palpitations thinking about making them now….So I have never been one for just sitting there.

But this year I am not making mince pies.

2. Christmas Eve

I always think of Christmas Eve as ‘Ooh it’s Christmas Eve’….but actually it is not really different to any other day until bedtime. The boys still need entertaining and their daily exercise, and this in years before has caught me unaware. The fact that “It is Christmas Eve!” does not mean I can rely on that purely as the entertainment, so this year we have got activities planned. In the evening, when the boys lay their sacks out in the lounge, I try to get a photo of them all with me, because after a few glasses of wine, I want a nice photo of me and my babies next to tree with them holding their Santa sacks. However I need to remember that there is always one that doesn’t want to do it, one that messes around, and well, the magic is lost.

The other Christmas Eve activity is getting the plate ready for Father Christmas and the reindeer. Cue fighting over who carries the plate, and again, the magic is lost a touch. Last year no boy noticed the empty plate till Boxing Day so this year I am wondering if I can just give this bit a miss.

Once the boys are in bed, me and my husband have a nice special tea and a nice bottle of wine. One bottle. Lesson learned after 2 years ago when we went for 2, in quick succession forgetting we had children sleeping upstairs and associated responsibilities, thinking ‘Woo hoo this is brilliant, Merry Christmas to us!’, lights off at midnight, only to have the first call at 3.50am, and to be all be down at 4.30am ripping open presents then straight into intense Lego supervision. We had to take turns to go back to bed for an hour. So lesson learned – no second bottle of wine (ooh but how about a few cheeky cocktails before starting on the wine…).

We have also learned to exchange our presents to each other on Christmas Eve too. After years of having present opening interrupted by general fighting, fighting between those wanting to open our presents, bottom wiping, putting batteries in toys, the pleasure is somewhat lost so we decided we would just do it on our own the night before.

3. Christmas dinner

In our house, we don’t have people to dinner. Ever. And not really for a cup of tea either. 4 boys generally override us. We are out-numbered. Any mealtime is painful. As in, really painful.  ‘Family teas’ are hideous, generally. They normally go something like this – me staring aghast at my boys eating habits so launching straight into intense table manner lessons, whilst getting them to eat everything I want them to eat, whilst trying to enjoy my own food, perhaps trying to get a conversation going (because isn’t this the time when families are supposed to talk), whilst getting up to get more drinks, wipe up spilt drinks, and getting them to shove it all in as quickly as possible before the post food sugar levels rise and we are faced with teasing and uncontrollable giggling.

So after the last few years of my husband doing Christmas dinner for the 6 of us (I suspect so he can have a job to do as a get-out from having to supervise the boys), us eating it cold, with the boys only being bothered by the Christmas crackers and ‘piggies in blankets’, not surprisingly really after stuffing themselves with chocolate and sweets all morning, we have said ‘No, not cooking it this year’.

So we are off to the local pub to drop crumbs on someone else’s carpet.

Going out for Christmas dinner also gets me out of the Christmas tableware longing. My Christmas tableware gives me a sinking sadness as I long to have what you might see in the John Lewis Home Furnishing Tableware section… I suppose this will come in the years when they have left home and I will be sad and want them all sat back around the table, with our red snowflake PVC table cloth and cheap Santa printed cork placemats.

4. Christmas Day

Once again, I have ignored my Ghost of Christmas Past and gone crazy with the selection boxes, little tubey tubes, Thorntons Special Toffee (ooooh), so completely expect my boys to go crazy too. But as I will be on my second bottle of wine by midday, which is only ever acceptable on Christmas Day, I won’t really notice.

And I do think I have done well to avoid the ‘crafty’ presents this year, as everything I have bought I asked myself ‘Would I want to see this come my way at 5am’… and the only thing that is questionable is a ‘Build-your-own gingerbread house’ and some hot chocolate kits (which I know they will just all go crazy about). Anyway I do think this year we may actually be in the local park at 6am wearing new football kits, with new footballs, and cricket bats…

5. Christmas Day Bedtime

And when we get there, I feel a slight sense of sadness. That the exciting build-up has peaked. And it’s another year until we get that day again. Another year until we see those little faces when they open their presents. Another year and they will be older, and I will wonder if they will still believe as much as they did this year. Another year until it is acceptable for me to be on my second bottle of wine at midday.

And as I tuck them in, I make sure they realise. Realise the usual things you want them to realise and remember. That not everyone is as lucky as them. That Father Christmas has been very kind and we need to say thank you.  And that although at times (well, most of it), our little house is a madhouse, we are lucky because of all the reasons that make it mad.

(And I am still not making mince pies).

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