Ghosts Of Christmas Past Part Two

Another year has flown by and Christmas is around the corner yet again, another excuse for some of us to go down memory lane and remember some of the more memorable Christmas times, but not all of them for the right reasons. Christmas isn’t just one day though and over the years  things have happened in the run up to Christmas, in the few days between Christmas and New year, and New Year’s Eve itself.

Like the time I had to have a neighbour arrested  as she’d been to a house party and couldn’t remember who was looking after her kids. She decided they must be at my house even though her kids and mine weren’t even friends, and not believing me when I said they weren’t with me (at 3 o’clock in the morning) she tried to break in. She was so adamant that I had them that the police searched my house from top to bottom before taking her to the police station. It turned out that they were at the party with her and she’d forgotten to tell them she was leaving.

The time a few of us mums got alcohol poisoning at the school fayre after drinking two plastic cups of warm wine.

The time I’d gone Christmas shopping with a friend who spent every penny of the money she had for Christmas presents in the first shop we went into, on herself. She treated herself to a lovely dress and shoes from Wallis and that was it, game over, we had to come back home before I’d even bought anything. It’s a good job she looked fab in that outfit.

The time we lived in Australia and spent Christmas day on the beach, twice.

The time I went out to bring a bike in from the garden shed on Christmas Eve and slipped on the step that had iced over convinced I’d broken a leg.

The time I went Christmas shopping with my young daughter knowing that when we got back my friend had called round with a hamster that I’d agreed to have as my friend had just got a kitten, the kids loved it.

The time years and years ago when an idiot I was seeing drove all the way from Manchester to Bath (where I was living at the time) in a snowstorm on New Year’s Eve to pick me up to drive all the way back to Manchester as he said he had two tickets for Peter Stringfellow’s club The Millionaire.  He dropped me off at a friend’s house and said he’d come back once he dropped his car off.  He didn’t come back and I didn’t see him again until 6 months later, just his way of making sure I wasn’t going anywhere that night.

The one time I bought a Christmas hamper and because I wasn’t in when the Rotary club came round with their float, someone gave them two tins of salmon.

I’m sure that there’s lots of other instances but one Christmas I remember was when I was a child and both my sister and I got a doll for Christmas. In those days parents didn’t buy every single thing that was on a child’s Christmas list, you got one main present as well as an annual, chocolate coins, an apple and orange and a couple of other bits, all in a pillow case. Anyway I got a Sindy doll but my sister got a Tressy.  A Tressy doll had hair that grew when you pressed her belly button and there was a wind up thing on her back that pulled the hair back in, next to her my Sindy looked drab and boring. Sindy had short dark hair but Tressy was far more glamorous and to top it all, after a couple of days Sindy’s head fell off. She didn’t go back to wherever she’d come from and get replaced as there were probably no consumer rights back then, so I lost interest and probably drew all over Tressy’s face with a ballpoint pen in temper.

Every parent wants to give their children the best Christmas, to buy every toy that’s on that Christmas list (even though not many kids will be able to tell you what they got last year) as proof of how much you love them. As you get older you realise that corny as it sounds it’s not what’s under the tree, it’s who’s around it that matters.

True story.

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Don’t Be That Parent.

Ok so Christmas is coming and  everybody’s making plans, presents to be bought, social events to be organised, party outfits to find (as well as extra cash) there are trees to decorate, all the food to buy, cards to write and let’s not forget that the true message of Christmas is, peace to all mankind.

Unless of course you’re a single parent trying to negotiate with your ex as to who’s having the kids and when.

This never gets any easier until the kids have grown up to be adults (yes it does happen) but this is the perfect time for some parents, and I’m going to say women here as they are usually, not always I know, the single parent trying their damn best to bring their children up as normal human beings, to use the kids as weapons and I can totally understand. If your ex hasn’t paid any money towards the upkeep of their own kids, only bothered once in a blue moon to actually turn up on a Saturday morning to take them to McDonald’s, never shown an interest in how their own children are doing in school, maybe caused a bit of trouble when any guy has shown an interest in you, maybe even started a couple of malicious rumours about you, introduced them to every single female that he’s been sleeping with then Christmas can seem the perfect opportunity for payback. It is very very tempting to tell these idiots that no, they won’t be spending any time with their own children over the festive period as they’ve been useless fathers all year and anyway you and the kids are going to be far too busy so there just won’t be any time.

Very tempting.

It’s probably safe to say that a lot of single parents have wanted to do this at some time, as it seems so unfair that you’ve had to put in all the hard work all year, so why should the absent parent get all the good bits? Your ex rocks up with a couple of tacky cheap presents and a huge bar of chocolate and the kids think it’s great and you’re having sleepless nights wondering how you’re going to pay the gas bill. Then your blood pressure’s going through the roof as he’s telling you he can’t take the kids on holiday as promised next summer as he’s already booked for Ibiza with his latest girlfriend so it looks like it’s going to be you and the kids in your grandma’s caravan in Fleetwood in the 6 week holidays. There’s no justice is there?

Just take a step back and look at the big picture.

By denying access you will unwittingly make your ex into a super hero. You will be seen as the bad guy as you’re the one stopping them having a relationship even though you might think you have good reasons. Children don’t usually know the ins and outs of why/how the relationship between their parents broke down they just need to know that it wasn’t their fault and that they are still  loved by both parents. Denying time spent with their father means that they won’t get to see the traits that you know (and hate) the less they see of him means they can put him on a pedestal instead of seeing that actually, he has feet of clay. Don’t threaten to stop him seeing the kids when he lets them down yet again and doesn’t turn up on Saturday morning (and you’re dealing with the fallout) because eventually the kids will see that he’s unreliable. Don’t threaten to stop the kids from going on holiday with him, or shopping, or Nando’s or any time he chooses to spend with his kids because you’re trying to protect them from being let down again, eventually they’ll work it out for themselves. They’ll make their own minds up but let’s not forget that you didn’t make this little person all by yourself, it did take two. As much as you hate it there is no way around it and there’s something you need to realise. The bigger picture means that there will be graduations, weddings and christenings where children will want both parents to be present, and even if you are not exactly best friends, hopefully you can be civil to each other if only for a day.

It’s hard being a single parent. It’s hard being both good cop, bad cop and not being able to say “Wait until your father gets home!” It’s hard knowing you have little people totally dependent on you for everything. It’s hard trying to be strong in front of them when you’re having a particularly bad week.  It’s hard trying to teach them a moral compass as to what’s right and wrong and it’s hard when you have no support from the person you should be having support from.

In return hopefully you will have the best friendship with your kids when they become adults, and if you’ve done your job right they will love you unconditionally  and when someone asks you “Would you change anything?”  you can truthfully answer “No”.   So in a way you’re in a good position believe it or not, which means as it’s Christmas and really you want to do the right thing I say this.

You can afford to throw your ex some crumbs from your table.

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Ghosts of Christmas Past.

With Christmas practically upon us I have to say that for me (and thousands of others) it’s not the same now that the kids have grown up, and yet it doesn’t seem two minutes since we were writing out the Christmas lists for Father Christmas. Two minutes, also a lifetime ago, but I remember it well.

Although it’s a busy stressful time of year it’s also enjoyable trying to juggle work with attending nativity plays, carol singing concerts, school Christmas fayres and spending a great deal of time trying to track down the most popular toy of the year. As parents we all want to make sure that our children have the best possible Christmas that we can give them, so of course we want to get them the main present on the wanted list which will always be the one thing that you can’t get for love or money.( My Little Pony Princess Bride springs to mind) and this quest will consume all your spare time trying to track it down. Trust me, after opening all the thousands of presents they get the disappointment of not getting their little heart’s desire will not even register, but unfortunately you will have cultivated a few grey hairs and worry lines in the process.

Back in the day you couldn’t just walk into a supermarket and pick up a fancy dress costume for the nativity, you either had to make your own or hope that something could be fashioned out of the school’s dressing-up box. Waiting to hear which child had which part would either mean having to find some green felt as they’d been given the part of a blade of grass, or a white sheet for a star with some silver tinsel wrapped around the head, and everyone knows the old trick of a tea towel with a crown on top for one of the three wise men. It didn’t matter if any of the kids forgot their lines,(which usually happens when they see mum and dad) it was seeing all of them singing and getting into the whole nativity thing, but you can bet that there will always be that group of mothers who are sat there, seething because their little cherub hasn’t got a main part.

Christmas eve when you have young children is a lovely lovely day. The Snowman is always shown on Christmas eve and then you have the rituals of leaving a mince pie and a drink for Father Christmas with a couple of carrots for the reindeer although looking back there must have been a hell of a fight between them if every house only left one or two carrots between eight of them. What it shouldn’t involve is having to go outside to retrieve a bike that’s hidden in the garden shed, slipping on the back step that has iced over when the temperature dropped, and lying there convinced you’ve broken your leg while realising that no one can see or hear you, and no, there’s going to be no magic sleigh transporting you to A&E.

We all know what happens on Christmas day, watching the presents being ripped open, looking at the sheer joy on little kid’s faces, so what if you’re all on beans on toast all of January? Christmas is for children but as you get older you realise it’s not what’s under the tree, it’s who’s around it that matters so with that in mind, Merry Christmas.

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A Cautionary Tale.

As Christmas fast approaches, anyone with children will know that not only will you have your own social diary to organise but at some point you’ll have to attend nativity plays, Christmas carol concerts and the obligatory fundraiser known as the school Christmas Fayre. The latter is more of a social event for all the mums and dads really, as the ones I went to when my own kids were at primary school sold alcohol and were usually held in the evening. The dads were to be found sat as close to the bar as possible, while the mums were sat in the main hall trading any gossip they had and keeping an eye on the kids at the same time.

One particular Christmas 3 or 4 of us ladies thought we’d live a little and have a plastic cup of warm white wine from the “bar.”  (we’re talking a school fayre kiddos, we’re not at The Alchemist) I’m not quite sure if we had more than two but I doubt it as the event finished around 9 0’clock and it was hardly pinot grigio but on the walk home I started to feel really unwell. I was staggering all over the place, dropping my keys in the snow and  falling over which the kids found funny at first until I eventually got in to the house. Once I was inside I knew I was in big trouble as by now I could hardly walk and as the kids put me to bed I was throwing up all over the place. Lying down I couldn’t lift my head up and it did cross my mind that I might actually choke on my own vomit but there was nothing I could do. I could see the headline.”Woman found clutching a tea towel that she’d won on the tombola” but would they name the school? At the time I thought maybe I’d had a dodgy wine but a couple of days later I found out that all the other ladies had also been really ill.

So this is what I think happened.

I think maybe someone on the committee had made some home made wine (it was probably Sheila, she can’t bear to be left out) and thought what a good idea it would be to sell it over the bar as a good way of making money for the school. No one saw the bottle it came out of, never mind the label on it and let’s face it, we’re not going to ask which vineyard that particular grape came from when it’s been poured into a plastic cup. So just a word of warning ladies when you’re attending this year’s school fundraiser. While you don’t expect a top of the range wine at these social school events you should hope that at the very least you don’t get alcoholic poisoning from them but having said that I’m pretty sure it’s not a usual occurrence. If in doubt, offer to buy a drink for the person who’s been flirting with your partner all evening. Just saying.

 

 

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