The Child in Me at Christmas

As a child, Christmas was a rather bittersweet affair for me. My Mum and Dad separated when I was five, and my Mum and I went to live with my Grandparents, before my Mum met and married my lovely stepdad. But every year, even as I got a lot older (and if I’m totally honest, even now, just a little) I’d suffer from these hugely mixed emotions about the holiday season.

A Christmas tree inside a home.

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Obviously I’d feel the excitement that most kids feel about the prospect of two weeks off of school, the presents, the sweets, the Wallace and Gromit TV special on Christmas Day. But there was also an underlying nervous anticipation, and a bit of guilt for good measure. As soon as I got to an age where I’d buy my own presents for people, I felt under enormous pressure to get things right, to make sure everyone got something, even on my tiny pre-teen budget. My expectations for myself were huge. And then there was the guilt of not seeing my Dad on Christmas Day, even though he made his choice, and even though he was rarely alone. Even as a kid, I tended to over-think things, my brain not allowing me the luxury of self-indulgence that most kids exercise as a default.

This Christmas, I’ve decided to forget about the child in me. I’m concentrating on the child sitting next to me as I write this. The one who is repeatedly singing the highly inappropriate Christmas songs from Family Guy and begging Daddy to just let her eat all of her advent calendar now. This year, all my energy is going into making her happy, and making sure that she feels excited and in awe off all the Christmas magic around her. And as she grows up, I’ll make sure there’s no pressure at Christmas, just sweets and presents and Wallace and Gromit on DVD.

This year, Christmas is all about her.

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  • Morag Gaherty

    I think Christmas is a difficult time of year for many people. If you’ve lost someone during the year, you reflect on them not being there. If your parents (or you) divorced, it’s a reminder that you’re no longer the “happy” nuclear family we’re all programmed to expect. etc The fact that you were aware of these issues when still a child makes it all the harder – so many parents forget the impact of these life changing events on the children.

    In the last two weeks, a close friend of mine has separated from her husband and divorce is on the cards. Although she talked about divorce before, she never talked about the children as part of that process. But now that he has moved out, it has suddenly occurred to her that there were four in the household, not two. And of course, all this has happened in the run up to Christmas, which has enough stress of its own without additional stuff. Mind you, I don’t think she appreciates that yet, either. She had this mad idea of inviting Daddy home for Christmas with the kids and her parents, all of whom know the marriage situation. Their awkwardness at this bizarre suggestion had not even occurred to her, nor had the thought that Daddy might do his best to wreck events (it would be in his style, and he’s feeling pretty petty at the moment). Sigh. I really give up.

    Anyway, focus on the child next to you rather than the child within, and all will be well! Have a happy Christmas. :)

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