The Christmas Tag – couldn’t resist!

Okay I know I said I was going to stop blogging for Christmas, but this isn’t a blog post, it’s a Christmas tag. My lovely friend over at Me, You, Baby Too tagged me and it simply seemed rude to say no. You should pop over and check out her blog – she is very funny!

So this post is just a bit of fun and doesn’t involve me being creative. Let’s face it. I’m addicted to the internet. I needed to do some internetting today. I promise I’ll get better. But for now…here’s my Christmas Tag interview.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE CHRISTMAS MOVIE?

For me it’s not Christmas if you haven’t seen some version of A Christmas Carol. I’m not that keen on the Jim Carrey one. I like either A Muppet Christmas Carol or the straight-to-DVD one starring Patrick Stewart. Patrick Stewart is the perfect Scrooge.

HAVE YOU EVER HAD A WHITE CHRISTMAS?

When I was little I lived somewhere that used to get very snowy indeed. Sometimes there would even be so much snow you had to dig your way out of the front door. I’m not sure if that much snow ever happened on Christmas day, but all the Christmases were definitely white. In adult life, not so much, but I do think one Yorkshire Christmas had enough snow (or was it on Boxing Day?) that I managed a snowball fight with my nieces.

WHERE DO YOU USUALLY SPEND YOUR HOLIDAY?

In Yorkshire with my husband’s family. There are 18 of us when we all get together!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CHRISTMAS SONG?

‘Fairytale of New York’ because I like the sort of Irish-y tune paired with depressing lyrics.

DO YOU OPEN ANY PRESENTS ON CHRISTMAS EVE?

Not usually. But this year I’m letting my kids open some presents from friends and neighbours early. We have loads of presents from us to lug up to Yorkshire so I don’t want to take the other presents as well. Saving everything for Christmas Day is overrated IMHO.

CAN YOU NAME ALL OF SANTA’S REINDEER?

Dasher, Prancer, Donner, Vixen, Rudolph, um…nope.

WHAT HOLIDAY TRADITIONS ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS YEAR?

Having a drink and chatting with family!

IS YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE REAL OR FAKE?

Real. I wouldn’t mind a fake myself but my husband wouldn’t stand for one.

WHAT’S YOUR ALL TIME FAVOURITE HOLIDAY TREAT/FOOD/SWEET?

We always have our main Christmas dinner at lunchtime or late afternoon. Then, later, we have Christmas supper. This consists of lots of cheese, chutney, pickles, Yorkshire pork pies and the likes. I love this munchey meal with a glass of port.

BE HONEST, DO YOU LIKE GIVING OR RECEIVING GIFTS BETTER?

It depends on the person I’m giving to. There are some people that are fun to shop for and are then grateful for their gift. In that case, it’s great I’d rather be the giver. But sometimes people are hard to shop for and not very appreciative, which is not so much fun.

WHAT IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?

That’s a tough one. I don’t think anything has ever quite beat the excitement of receiving a ‘Barbie Dream House’ on Christmas when I was about 6. I don’t think adult gifts can ever really compare! But I do love getting a spa voucher. You can let everyone know.

WHAT WOULD BE YOUR DREAM PLACE TO VISIT FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON?

I would actually quite like to just be in my own house and have family come to me. It might be stressful but we have never been in our own house on Christmas day before.

ARE YOU A PRO PRESENT WRAPPER OR DO YOU FAIL MISERABLY?

I fail miserably. This year, my husband wrapped and I was in charge of handing him pieces of tape and writing the gift tags.

WHAT MADE YOU REALISE THE TRUTH ABOUT SANTA?

I always knew the truth.

WHAT MAKES THE HOLIDAYS SPECIAL FOR YOU?

Wine. Oh and probably my family. Wine and my family together.

I’m not good at thinking of who would like to be tagged for this sort of thing, so if you’d like to participate just let me know in the comments!

Being kind to yourself at Christmas

Some of you might have seen the news around this time last year when people started talking about “emotional labour”. This is the concept that on top of the everyday work that women do – whether that is in or outside of the home – we do the extra work of looking after others emotionally. This Guardian article puts it better than I could:

We remember children’s allergies, we design the shopping list, we know where the spare set of keys is. We multi-task. We know when we’re almost out of Q-tips, and plan on buying more. We are just better at remembering birthdays.

I don’t like to make generalisations, but in many relationships, it is the woman that deals with all the admin for children’s schooling (parties, filling in the forms, getting the right outfits on the right day, baking the endless cakes).

I find at Christmas in particular, it is women who get it all sorted out. We figure out what to buy for whom and buy it before our partners have realised it’s December. We send Christmas cards, we arrange drinks or dinner with valued friends, we sort out travel arrangements, and we pack the bags if we’re going away.

Sometimes I think it would be utterly hilarious to let my husband pack the children’s things for a weekend away. Not to rag on him – he does all the cooking in our house and contributes a fair amount to other domestic chores – but he’s clueless at stuff like that. He’d remember to pack clothes but forget things like their cuddly toys to get them to sleep.

All of this remembering who needs what and when can be extremely tiring. This is why I’ve been thinking about how we can look after ourselves at Christmas while we’re usually so busy looking after everyone else. So I have compiled a little list of things I can choose NOT to do, to give myself a little break and be kind to myself this Christmas:

  • Christmas cards. I have duly purchased cards and planned to send them off to my carefully compiled list. But between real life and blogging life, I don’t know when I’m going to have the time or energy to sit down and write ‘Merry Christmas’ and an address 20 times over. My real friends will understand if I don’t get round to it. I will do it if I have time, and forgive myself if I don’t.
  • Sitting in front at the Nativity play. My school operates some sort of system where certain classes’ parents get priority seating on certain days of the Nativity play. I can only make the day where I will have to sit in the back. I’m not really sure what happened to good old “first come, first served”. But not everyone can sit in front. I refuse to feel guilty about this. I will be there, and that’s what counts.
  • Attending events that no one will notice you’ve missed. I felt incredibly guilty last week when work commitments meant I couldn’t attend my 2yo’s nursery Christmas party. I went last year. It was fun. I got to watch him do some party games, eat some party food, and then watch him cry when Father Christmas came to visit. I’m going to forgive myself for not watching him do this again this year. My husband went, so he did have someone there, and my son will never remember the occasion anyway.
  • Watching my weight. I have some weight loss goals. I’ve been doing okay with them. But December is not the time to keep losing weight. Or even to not gain a bit of weight. It’s all tiring enough without abstaining from food and drink when everyone else is indulging. I’m going to live it up and be miserable and boring in January just like everybody else.
  • Keeping up with the blog. I would like to vaguely keep posting until we properly break up for Christmas, but honestly I’m not really feeling it at the moment. Christmas is hard enough without churning out sparkling content. That’s why you’re getting this amazing list about what I’m not doing. I’m relatively confident that all my bloggy dreams will not be dashed by slacking off at Christmas.
  • Baking. Unless you luurve baking because it relaxes you. I like baking, but only when I have loads of time to spare. In previous years, I have always baked some Christmas biscuits to decorate and share with work colleagues, friends and/or family. Not this year. I will buy some boxes of Cadbury’s Roses and everyone will be equally happy (if less impressed by my domestic goddess-ness).
  • Skipping self-care. When I get busy, the first thing that goes is my self-care. Uncut hair, unpainted nails and no makeup for me! But not this Christmas. These things make me feel like me. They make me feel relaxed and happy. So I’m going to make time for them. Even if that means an extra episode of Twirlywoos on the iPad for the little ones.
  • Buying lots of presents. I’ve sorted out the presents, but I’ve not been as extravagant or creative as usual. Simple and thoughtful is good enough. People don’t have to gasp in wonder at their presents.
  • Worrying about how Christmas day is going to go down. Some of us have more responsibility for this than others. I’m lucky enough to NOT be responsible for making the dinner. But I have in previous years worried an awful lot about how much fun will be had by me and others, and gotten upset when things didn’t go well (cue my children having ALL the tantrums and me MISSING the Doctor Who Christmas Special). Well, unlike last year, I am no longer breastfeeding. So I’m just going to drink as much wine as I like and go with the flow. And I can catch up with The Doctor on iPlayer later.

Do you feel a bit burnt out in the run-up to Christmas? What do you do (or not do) to make it easier?

Tammymum

Should I lie to my children about Father Christmas?

Like most non-parents, before I had my children, I had some pretty strong opinions about how I was going to parent my future children. I remember sitting in my neighbour’s lounge, 9 months pregnant with my first son, saying to her:

“I will never let him watch In the Night Garden. What a ridiculous programme!”

Well ha bloody ha ha! By the time he was 1 year old, Night Garden had become a part of our bedtime routine. He wouldn’t commence bath and story time until CBeebies had actually told him it was time to go to bed. So much for my pre-parent parenting plans.

Another topic on which my pre-parent self had strong opinions was about telling my children the truth. I told anyone who would listen that I would never lie to my children. And that included “lying” to them about the existence of Father Christmas.

I saw an article on Netmums recently saying that researchers have found that “the lie of Santa can actually be damaging”. Now, pre-parent me would have been nodding vigorously to this. I had long conversations with my mother-in-law about how I wouldn’t be telling “the Santa lie” to my children because it would be a betrayal. She understandably disagreed with my thoughts on this.

I worried that if I lied about this one thing, then once they found out the truth they would never trust anything I had taught them. Especially if it was anything that needed to be taken on pure faith without any proof. However, post-parent me feels a bit different.

The thing is, I never truly believed in Santa Claus as a child, but I still went to his grotto every year. My family never went out of their way to convince me he’s real, but they still sometimes gave me gifts from “Santa”. I enjoyed playing the game. It didn’t matter to me whether he was real; it was just fun to imagine he was. I never told them I didn’t believe because I was afraid that would be the end of the fun stuff. I’m sure they knew that I didn’t believe, but none of us cared.

So as my eldest son grew old enough to understand the concept of Father Christmas, I found I couldn’t resist teaching him about the Christmas customs. Soon, I was shamelessly “telling the lie”. I’ve enjoyed getting family pictures at Santa’s Grotto. I’ve loved teaching my son Christmas carols. One of his faves is “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. Last year, on Christmas Eve, we even put out mince pies, brandy and a carrot for the reindeer. The brandy was large and the carrot was very, very small.

This year we’ve kicked it up a notch and he’s written his first letter to Santa, which we actually sent off in the post.

Letter to Santa

So, as with Night Garden, I’ve done a complete 180 degree parenting turn.

The thing is: I’m not sure if it’s really lying. How is it any different from telling any other imaginative story or playing a game of pretend? And importantly, my son hasn’t questioned it yet. The closest he’s gotten is, when listening to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, he asked how Santa can see him when he’s sleeping. I just said “magic” and he was happy with that.

The real test will be if he starts asking more serious questions about whether Santa actually exists. This is where I will draw the line. I don’t care to go out of my way to propagate the fantasy, but at the same time, I don’t want to outright say Santa doesn’t exist. If I told him this, he might ruin it for his friends, and no one is going to thank me for that.

So my plan is to explain that believing in Father Christmas is a game we all love to play in order to make Christmas more fun. That’s why we do it, right? Because it’s fun?

I’m going to tell him that nobody knows for absolute certain that he doesn’t exist, but that it doesn’t matter. The idea is that it’s fun to believe – just like when we pretend to be cats or Pontipines (oh yes, being a Pontipine is a popular pastime in my house). And I will remind him that it’s important not to tell other people if we don’t believe he’s real, because it will ruin the fun.

There may not be a literal jolly fat bearded man hanging out at the North Pole forcing elves to make toys. But the idea of it is a positive way to fuel our children’s imaginations. Just look at all the fantastic books and films that use this popular myth to create a new and different story. It’s a quintessential part of our culture.

So even if Father Christmas doesn’t exist in the real world, he will always exist in our imaginations. Without him, Christmas wouldn’t be half as much fun. And that’s the absolute truth.

Petite Pudding
Two Tiny Hands