Sometimes I worry that this blog is starting to become a form of birth control. On and on I whinge and moan...oh god, we're so tired, the place is such a tip, the kids drive us crazy...blah, blah, blah.... I feel now is the moment to rectify this. For one thing, my sister will never feel like having kids unless I start to put more of a positive spin on it. I think my little ones could do with some cousins one day! Second of all, 'tis the season to be jolly and count one's blessings.
Christmas is the perfect time to really enjoy children because, as I see it, Christmas is all about them. It is the story of a birth, a new beginning, a new life. A story about people coming together around children, as they tend to do at Christmas. The house with the little ones is usually most popular because it is where the magic and excitement is. Yes, some people like a sedate affair with champagne flutes and a grand dinner and white napkins but really, screams of delight and a bed full of melting chocolate coins are just better.
Christmas time helps connect old with new, celebrating family traditions from both sides and creating new ones. I loved hanging up a stocking at the end of my bed and tossing and turning, unable to sleep with excitement. My husband remembers opening presents around the tree at teatime. There are new traditions I like too. Every year I still get together with my mum and my sister for Stir Up Sunday, and now my son as well as my daughter gets to join in with mixing the huge bowl of homemade mincemeat, jumping over the festive gender divide! I took my daughter Christmas shopping for the first time this year so she could choose little gifts and enjoy the fun of giving as well as receiving.On Christmas Eve, we sprinkled reindeer food (glitter and oats!) on the lawn and left out the mince pie and the carrot. Next year, I fancy a candle-lit supper too and maybe experimenting with the Kindness Elves idea.
It is a great opportunity for making. As I have mentioned before, I think making things is quite an empowering process; it doesn't have to be "domestic goddess", more artist in residence! It is creative and satisfying. I have my special "Christmas pastry" recipe and like experimenting with eggnog. My husband loves making Christmas playlists, planning exciting vegetarian roasts and hunting for ideas for festive cocktails.
I really like making things to last from year to year but this does take a bit of foresight. I enjoy sewing but I'm not especially adept at using a sewing machine so my hand-sewn projects always take forever! I managed to finish the stockings for the kids the week before Christmas and it gives me great pleasure that they will have these for as long as they don't fall apart. Something Christmassy made with love. I am already checking out pinterest for advent calendar ideas as clearly leaving it to the last minute won't work. I NEED to find an alternative to chocolate ones; I made the hideous mistake of giving my one year old and three year old a daily chocolate for 24 days and now weaning them off the stuff is something akin to heroin withdrawal..."choc-lat" the baby wails piteously every morning, pointing at the kitchen top desperately and throwing himself on the floor when I tell him that Christmas Day has been and gone.
Of course, Christmas isn't really relaxing. But then, it never has been for parents! Before having children you manage to avoid most of the tasks of Christmas because, despite being 19 or 29, if are still the youngest generation you are used to being looked after. When your own kids come along, you suddenly graduate to the realm of "Christmas responsibilities". Building toys at midnight on Christmas Eve. Stocking presents at 6am. Calming over-tired strops. Cooking feasts and washing up endless pots and pans. Clearing away the crumpled wrapping paper and ribbon littered all over the house. Even choosing an appropriate family movie for Christmas Day is a minefield. Who knew that minutes into Aladdin, evil villain Jafar tells Princess Jasmine that Aladdin has been sentenced to "DEATH by BEHEADING"? Cue little girl on sofa bursting into tears. But then, as is always the case, you have to take the highs with the lows. I started a mother's yoga class recently and the yoga teacher's tip for the Christmas holidays was "just try and enjoy it. Everything doesn't have to be perfect".
This is a pretty good mantra for motherhood too. So often I end up getting anxious and stressed about things that don't really matter at all. I think mothers often spend so long thinking and planning, anticipating needs and wiping noses that it is hard to relax and enjoy what we have strived so hard to create. Whilst not thinking of myself as a Christian, I take from Christmas that it is about being kind to ourselves and each other. Material things are replaceable; people, groups, clans, families are what matters. They provide warmth and light in the darkness, and Christmas is an opportunity to re-charge and remember that however tough things may seem, we really are very lucky to have people to love.
For some ideas for magic, mystery and making, try the Imagination tree for ideas for Christmas and all year round.