So the song goes. But I am afraid. Much as I try to fight it off with misty-edged fantasies about us laughing over charades as we pass round the Quality Street, I fear Christmas a lot. Here is why.
First, my kids are really ramping up the trauma at the moment. This, I realise, sounds rather flippant! We are seeing an increase in disclosures, fantasising, nightmares, clinginess and ambivalence, controlling behaviour, violence, defiance… Our special, family version of advent. It’s our third Christmas together and I think I’m allowed to spot patterns now. As soon as the 1st December arrived, so did their ‘stuff’. While decorating the tree, we had our (now) traditional family row. Not quite the ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ scene I’d had in mind. It will be fine – it is the natural unpacking of emotions that are triggered at this time of year. Just like the baubles, they come out for an airing.
Secondly, present buying. We have two boys quite close in age and one of them has a big, violently expressed, issue with jealousy. The other is now copying him. So, if I buy the youngest a remote control car with opening doors, I’ll have to get that for the eldest. But then, he won’t get the toy that’s on his list. If they don’t get the things on their list, they will be disillusioned, and enraged that the world hates them. So, get the same gifts? That’s double the money! But if they are not the same and the youngest’s RC car/stocking/etc… is in any way inferior to the eldest’s, that will cause war and ravine-deep emotional scars. But how does a middle-aged woman know what is inferior, according to the vagaries of a six-year-old boy? Argh!
Also, I hate ingratitude. It makes me angry. Do you see where we are heading here?
Third issue: guests. On the face of it, I am quite desperate for my siblings and parents to come here for Christmas and make the whole thing jollier. So, they are coming; brilliant. Sadly, I am so run ragged by the pressures of adoptive family reality plus Christmas, that I’m wondering if having four extra people and a dog in the house for two days is actually going to kill me. This is the kind of thing I used to take in my stride, but now I have my elderly mum asking if I’m sure they can stay, whether they can bring the main course, if it’s not too much… and I realise that I can’t be coping very well, that people see it more clearly than me, and I no longer manage to take anything remotely ‘extra’ in my stride. Which makes me realise that my life is stretching me to the max. I’d love a bit of R and R right now, in the shape of a Seychelles holiday ALONE, ideally. But I will content myself with evenings in front of the telly. With the medicinal wine that should surely come free with the child benefit.
Fourth, I am a natural Christmas lover. I love all the traditions – carols in church, giving presents and luxuriously long, decadent meals. My inner child is sulking pretty hard at the moment, because she knows that the eldest kid will deliberately spoil the carols, the youngest will ruin the meal and they’ll both spoil present time by flying into jealous rages or sulks. And that I need to be nice about it. Poor me, boo hoo.
But. Even while I’m being screamed at if I accidentally get the good bit of the cracker, resented forever for getting the wrong RC car or sworn at for daring to serve up our feast in the middle of whatever film is on, I must remember this: I deeply love these little people and life was empty before. Things are a thousand times better than last year and will improve each time. Finally, once we pack up the tree with all its stress, memories and expectations, we’ll all be OK.