Funny time of year, Christmas. Back in July, when I thought about the festive season briefly from the comfort of my sun bed, I pictured myself in my kitchen surrounded by tins full of baked delights. I knew that I would have a freezer full of tasty morsels for those drop in guests. Each Christmas card would be inscribed with a personal message and the details of the past year in the Clark household. Each gift would be chosen with great care and wrapped in exquisite paper and adorned with coordinating ribbon.
Fast forward five months and here we are again with the dream and the reality clashing noisily. The cake is done but as yet the tins are all empty. There is nothing in the freezer barring frozen peas and some frosty ice cream. The cards have gone but with a typed insert. The presents were carefully chosen but are wrapped in paper from WHSmiths because I just couldn't find quite what I wanted elsewhere. In short, Christmas is in danger of becoming just another trial to be endured and overcome. Again.
I blame the OXO advert. I have a big family and so apparently Christmas should be one long game of charades with an endless stream of food and festive drink appearing effortlessly from my kitchen. After we have hand fashioned our Christmas cards we should be making tasteful decorations out of dried oranges and cinnamon sticks. We should decorate our perfectly shaped Christmas tree whilst singing carols and drinking mulled wine.
The thing people most often say to me when I say I have four children is that Christmas must be fun in our house. Maybe I'm doing it wrong. By the time we get to the end of term the children are all exhausted. Add to that the almost unbearable sense of excitement and anticipation that swamps them and all that remains is to light the blue touch paper and stand well back. It's all I can do to keep a lid on the bubbling cauldron of chaos. I certainly don't have the energy for board games and endless truffle making.
When you're in the thick of the festive season, it's hard to see the wood for the trees. All I want to do is to deliver a Christmas that everyone enjoys and remembers fondly. But what do I have to do to achieve that? Stay calm and don't shout. Don't stress about the stuff that really doesn't matter and relax. Because at the end of the day, there's no right or wrong way to do Christmas. It's never going to be like the Waltons because this is real life. There are bound to be arguments and bits that don't run as smoothly as I'd like but there's no point getting in a steam about it because sure as Rudolf has a red nose that way disappointment lies.
The Christmas that I dreamt of in July and the one that I manage to cobble together in December are, without doubt, two very different beasts. What I have to remember is that it's only one day, that the children will have a nice time no matter what and that it's my Christmas too so I owe it to myself to make it fun for me as well. So I'll take a deep breath, write myself a new list and smile.