“It’s the most wonderful time…of the year.” Andy Williams wasn’t wrong – but for a more accurate Christmas song, he should have added in a few extra lines. It’s all very well to have the whole “kids jingle belling and everyone telling you, ‘be of good cheer’” bit – but surely, it needs to be followed with something about it being exhausting if you’re trying to keep two under-fives entertained all day, track down a shop that sells non-alcoholic mulled wine for your pregnant wife (isn’t hot Ribena good enough?) and sort out a few last-minute near-nightmares at work.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas: not just for the wonderful story of that night in Bethlehem but also for the HUGE Radio Times, the tins of sweets, and the frankly disgusting foodstuffs that it momentarily becomes entirely normal to consume (sticky date stuffed with gharishly-coloured marzipan? Why, I thought you’d never ask). But if you’re not careful, all this expectation and excitement can only lead to disappointment.
As with most Christmases, ours began with the traditional trip to the soft play centre up the road. We had some of our best friends staying over for the night, breaking up their five-hour journey to Southampton. The feverish excitement about a) the fact that J and B would be STAYING FOR THE NIGHT IN OUR ROOMS AND WE CAN HAVE STORIES TOGETHER AND IT WILL BE SO, SO FUN, WON’T IT DAD; b) the realisation that Christmas Day was now only three sleeps away; and c) the general carnage that’s created whenever you cram two families into our house, meant that it was only logical to escape momentarily to the land of multicoloured balls. But for my little girl, it was already all too much. She’d been grinning for about a week at the idea of her friends arriving, and her heart rate had been further increased when she met “scary Father Christmas” in his grotto one afternoon (“I run away, Daddy. I not like him in his house”). By 22nd December, she’d evidently had enough of all this frantic seasonal activity, as I found out when I discovered her eschewing the delights of the soft play and opting instead for a quiet kip round the side of the inflatable rollers:
Since then, we’ve managed to pack in a trip to the in-laws, a flood-ridden journey to a wedding in Wales (I remain disappointed that the woman at the Severn Bridge toll wasn’t the same as the one from the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special) and a few other journeys here and there. It’s all been lovely – and we’ve had some brilliant moments along the way with great family and wonderful friends. But next year, we’re staying at home. The conclusion from the Jackson family Christmas of 2012 is that it’s probably best to always try to take this time of year at your kids’ pace. And if your two-year-old’s already hit the wall three days before the most wonderful time of the year, you really should consider taking it easy in 2013.