Saturday, 24 December 2011


Complicated fib, this Father Christmas thing.

It's great when they are little. As long as they aren't terrified out of their wits by the prospect of a strange, bearded man wandering around the house at night, then the magic is irresistible. They go to bed. Empty stocking. They wake up and....ta da... presents.

But then it starts to get tricky. Whilst I am generally delighted that my children are curious and question the world around them, I wish they would just take Santa at face value. Each year the plots and sub plots get more complicated as their enquiring minds develop. I have to think with the speed of a master criminal just to keep one step ahead of them. The occasional slip up is to be expected. If caught out, I change my story and move on. If I'm really stuck, I fall back on the rather feeble explanation that it's all magic.

Some of these may sound familiar.

'Yes I think Santa shops in Next too.'
'I'm not sure why Auntie June's present is wrapped in the same paper as your gifts from Santa.'
'I don't think Santa brings expensive electronic gadgetry for bedrooms.'
'I think he does have a budget.'
' I'm not sure it's a good idea adding something new to your letter at 5pm on Christmas Eve.'

You get the picture. But I have children of two ages. Whilst the Little Ones are on the cusp of discovery as far as the Father Christmas myth is concerned, the Big Ones have long since moved on. With various nods and winks they assist me with the conspiracy and wouldn't dream of spoiling it. But it is also important to maintain a degree of mystery for them too. Tempting though it is to discuss the complications of the lie with them, I have resisted.

Older children also bring a whole different set of problems with them.They go to sleep late. I go to sleep early, particularly when here is a family infused cooking fest to be dealt with the following day. This is another area where a degree of foresight on my part would have been helpful about fifteen years ago. Why did I encourage the excited toddler to place their stocking on their bed instead of hanging it on their door handle? Could I not foresee the difficulties I was creating for myself? Of course not. And so I sneak about trying not to rustle as they lie there pretending, for the sake of good form, to be asleep.

Of course I adore the excitement that goes hand in hand with the Father Christmas story but if I'm totally truthful, I shall not be sorry when it strikes them just how very unlikely it is and we can all happily pretend. Until then, I will track his progress with my Norad app and marvel at the speed with which he covers the ground.I will leave out mince pies and carrots and savour that moment in the morning when they see that, yet again, the magic has not let them down.

Merry Christmas to you all and may Father Christmas bring you everything your heart desires... because it is magic after all!

Monday, 12 December 2011


So, the tree is up and the house is full of twinkly lights. It must be nearly Christmas. And there are various other tell tale indicators of the impending festivities.

1. Every available spare inch of inaccessible cupboard space is filled with surprises.
2.We have run out of blu tac.
3. Each time I leave the house I come back to cards informing that a selection of delivery men have failed to deliver something.
4. My lists have sub-lists.
5. My voice is getting higher with every passing day.

I love Christmas but I think I like this bit best. This is the moment before the panic of forgetting the Stilton or a gift for the teachers has fully taken hold. This is the moment when I can listen to tacky 80s Christmas hits and still feel festive and nostalgic. At this stage, filling my freezer with tasty morsels still seems appealing.

Sadly, experience tells me that this remarkably calm period won't last. Already every evening is filled with a party or a show or both. This means that as the Big Day approaches everyone will get increasingly exhausted and consequently irritable. And then the children will break up from school and suddenly the order that I have spent weeks creating will be destroyed. They will try to eat everything that I have prepared. They will make tails out of tinsel and scatter sparkly coloured strings all over the floor.They will spring surprise gift requests on me at not quite the last minute so that there is just enough time to source the item before it's too late but with scant regard for my stress levels.

I will get more and more wound up as I try to ensure that everything to do with Christmas Day is as perfect as I can make it. I will scream and shout and moan that no one but me ever does anything and if they're not careful I'm going to cancel Christmas. I will spend the day itself in the kitchen striving to make the food the same as it was last year so that no unfavourable comparisons can be made (as if they ever would be.) I will collapse in front of the telly at the end of the day and feel ever so slightly let down that all my work has vanished in less than twenty four hours.

So, if I know all this, why don't I do something about it? Does it matter if the kids eat all the chocolate before Santa comes? Will anyone but me notice if there's a bit of dust? As long as the meal has the main component parts, does it matter what else there is? Of course it doesn't? The person who sets the hurdle so high is me. I want it to be the best that it can be so that I can be proud of it when it's all done and think to myself 'I did that!'

But I've decided there needs to be some give and take. This year, I'm not going to spend the time between now and then getting in a tizzy and feeling badly done to. So I have a new strategy which I'm hoping will result in a more relaxing holiday for everyone. In my preparations, I will aim for angel on the top of the tree but if reality happens to be the glittery bauble three branches down then so be it. After all, it is my Christmas too!