It’s nearly time. Christmas is so close I can almost smell the turkey.
I am one of those slightly annoying people who start wishing people ‘Merry Christmas’ on the 1st December and break into seasonal songs at the slightest provocation. I decorate my house near the beginning of the month so I can have weeks of joy from the shiny, sparkly things. I change my route home to make sure I drive past the house with flashing coloured lights around the windows and illuminated reindeer on the roof. I wear novelty earrings and Santa hats and I’m not going to apologise for it.
I’m not naïve, I know it can be a hard time for some people. If you can’t spend the day with the people you love or if you can’t buy them the presents you’d like. There are people in this country sleeping rough over Christmas, there are children going without food and there are wars going on. But because it’s Christmas and I want the world to love it too, I try to help out where I can. I set myself a the target of spending at least as much on charity donations as I do on wrapping paper. I make sure the cards I send out are charity cards and I try to be generous everytime I see a collection box. I know it won’t solve the world’s problems, but it has to be a start.
I love finding a little present to make someone smile or opening a card from someone I haven’t heard from in a while or having an excuse to go out and celebrate with friends, but they aren’t the best bits of Christmas. It’s unpacking the decorations and remembering the best bits of all your Christmases. It’s sharing smiles and trying to spread a little joy at this time of year. It’s taking a moment to enjoy this moment.
Merry Christmas everyone.
I suppose a large part of parenting is about putting your own needs aside to do what is necessary for your children. That’s why it took me a while to get my head around the idea of being a parent – it just didn’t sound as much fun as putting your own needs first.
But now that I am a parent, sacrifices need to be made. That is why I am taking a deep breath as I prepare to go camping for the weekend. I am fully aware that around the world there are parents making bigger sacrifices for their kids: giving up careers to look after them, working every hour of the day to fund their child’s education, or even starving so their children can eat. And I’ll admit two nights in a tent isn’t quite up there; but it is still a big deal for me.
I know camping is something that many people choose to do for pleasure, but I’m just not one of them. Mostly this is because if I had to write a list of the things that were most important to me, up somewhere near the top, just below my family, would be my bed and my morning cup of tea. Stanchion is not like this. Not only does he not see camping as a hardship, but he actually enjoys it. He has bought me an airbed and promised to make me a cup of tea as soon as I wake up. So I’m going.
We took Quibble camping when he was two. There were four couples, each with a child. It rained. A lot. And the kids loved it. They loved the tents, they loved the muddy puddles, they loved being outdoors and running (relatively) wild. There’s something about the slight anarchy of camping, where the rules are relaxed and everything is an adventure, that appeals to children.
And the thing I didn’t understand before I had children was the way seeing your child happy, makes you happy. It’s fun to see them having fun. It’s even better when you embrace your inner child and join them jumping up and down in muddy puddles.
So this weekend, while I may spend a lot of time huddled under blankets trying to keep warm or wearing head-to-toe waterproofs, I will get to see Quibble and Squeak playing and laughing with the other children. And I know I will end up laughing with them. If the price for all this laughter is a couple of nights without a real bed, I think that’s okay. I just wish there wasn’t so much rain forecast.
It seems that Quibble is so advanced, he has managed to turn into a teenager nine years early. He is becoming whiny, argumentative and wants to watch television – CBeebies or DVDs – all the time. We had been using TV to give him ‘down time’ once he dropped his nap, but now he announces ‘I need a little sit down in the lounge’ (code for ‘I want to watch telly now’) several times a day. He is totally mesmerised by everything he watches, which makes it a temptingly easy way to keep him out of mischief while I get things done. So this month, we are having a new regime. We are going to find new ways to entertain him and get quality time together during Squeak’s lunchtime nap.
My first step was to stock up on ‘crafty’ things; I have done this the cheating way by buying a handy pre-filled box from Tesco. Last week I spread the contents out along with glue, scissors, pens and card and suggested we make something. I had, of course, forgotten that we are not a naturally arty family and without guidance we ended up with a few squiggles on a piece of card and one corner hidden beneath three or four layers of car stickers. Lesson learned: you get what you plan for.
Undeterred, I moved on to baking. I’ve made cakes a few times in the past it has never seemed very difficult. Of course the discovery that I seemed to have very little flour and no eggs was a bit of a setback, but I already had my apron on, so I wasn’t about to back out now. I found a biscuits recipe for which, if I only made half, I had enough flour. We weighed out the ingredients, discussing the numbers on the scale, and I felt like a Real Mum having a proper conversation with my child. I mixed the ingredients, because Quibble thought it looked a bit messy, then he got distracted by some other toys while I finished cutting out the biscuits and put them in the oven. After snack time, they were cool enough to decorate, although Quibble got a little overexcited by the first one and tried to use all the smarties on it. And despite the difficulties, I felt we had finally achieved something that I could put a picture of in my blog.
Then I found Mama. Papa. Bubba. – a wonderful blog, although it does have two things I don’t; really good ideas for activities and a child who seems enthusiastic about them. This idea seemed pretty simple; go for a walk and collect leaves and grass and so on in a muffin tray, so I thought I’d give it a try. I should own up that I made the labels for the tray while Quibble watched a programme on CBeebies. It was hard work to get him to buy into the idea and even when he did agree to it, we had to take his batman figure too. However, once we made it out of the door he loved it. We found all twelve things, stopped to watch some ducks playing in the brook, and even made friends with some older children who wanted to know why he was wondering around with a muffin tray. (Seems a reasonable question).
We talked, we smiled, we enjoyed each others company. I wouldn’t ask him to chose between this and an episode of Octonauts, but he has asked to do it again another day – I’ll count that as a success.