“Snow is falling, all around us.” Well, it’s not, is it? Let’s be honest: it never, EVER snows at Christmas.
“Children playing, having fun.” Really? Two of mine have spent this week being sick, and the other one is fretting about the fact that he might not remember his lines in the school nativity play tomorrow.
“Tis the season, for love and understanding.” Or, to be more accurate, the season for being in the office till late, wondering how on earth you’re going to get everything finished. And when it comes to ‘understanding’ within a family, that’s easier said than done. I’m still not convinced my gran has forgiven me for failing to pay in the £10 cheque she sent me in June.
The more Christmas looms, the more I realise my own inadequacies as a parent. Every film, TV programme and advert paints an idyllic picture of family life – but behind closed doors, there’s a baby trying to climb inside the dishwasher, a 3-year-old who thinks it would be a great idea to draw a Christmas tree on the kitchen cupboard, and a 5-year-old who’s so worried about delivering the line “We’re going to Bethlehem”, you’d think he was auditioning for RADA (to be fair, he’s obviously VERY talented, having beaten every other boy in his class to the role of Joseph. And no, I’m not competitive at all).
This is our first Christmas with three children – and to be honest, if we can get to the big day without having some kind of meltdown, it’ll be a miracle on a par with the virgin birth. In a moment of madness, no doubt brought about by a sleepless night, we thought it would be a good idea to host ten adults on Christmas Day. We’d just about got our heads round what we were cooking (answer: turkey, and lots of it) when my dad phoned with a classic question:
“I’ve been thinking…”, he rather ominously announced. “Are we having turkey on Christmas Day?”
I confirmed his suspicions.
“Do you think we should have duck as well?”
“I’d quite like duck.”
That’s nice. But you’re not having duck. We don’t have room in the oven for a duck.
“No problem. Tell you what, I’ll just part-cook it at home, then we can finish it off in your oven when we arrive. Everyone else can have turkey, and I’ll have my own little plate of duck.”
YOU’RE NOT HAVING DUCK.
All this is exacerbated by the fact that in my day job, Christmas is the most manic time of the year. There are seemingly endless carol concerts to attend and special programmes to make, all of which result in even less time than usual to write cards or buy presents. Yesterday, we reached the low point of running out of toilet roll – so frankly, I’m not sure how we can be expected to write loving messages to our nearest and dearest when we don’t even have the ability to defecate with dignity.
I’ve decided: in our house, we’re not going to try to live up to some unachievable festive ideal. Apologies in advance, but we won’t be sending any Christmas cards (except to my gran, to thank her for that ten quid in the summer). We will see no shame in cooking stuff out of a packet, and if we manage to get out of our pyjamas by midday during the holidays, we’ll consider it a bonus. And while the world around us insists this coming weekend should be about “feeding the cake” (IT’S NOT A MAMMAL) and making your own Christmas wreath, I’m going to escape to Paris for two nights with my wife, to celebrate her 30th birthday in the presence of ABSOLUTELY NO CHILDREN WHATSOEVER (well, none of our own, at least).
Given that we’re going to Paris, I might even pick up a confit de canard for my dad. He can have it on Boxing Day.