January is almost in double figures. The twenty three bags of recycling mostly comprising packaging from kids’ toys are no longer providing an hilarious tripping hazard outside the back door (well, it’s hilarious when it’s not me). And even the coffee cream has disappeared from the chocolate box. That poor fucker, the coffee cream. Imagine being the bloody coffee cream. The lid is lifted, fingers float back and forth over you and your chocolately box companions, lips are licked in anticipation, a choice is made. But it’s never you. It’s like being the fat smelly kid in a games lesson, the one left downcast and on his own after all the other kids have been chosen, even the one with the boss eye. The fat kid is finally, begrudgingly picked and told to stand at the back and not get in the way. I ate the ugly, despised, lonely coffee cream. Just to put it out of its misery, you understand.
So what does all this mean? The end of Christmas. No more do we have to mention the C word, until some idiot takes pleasure in telling you that there are only two hundred shopping days left until Christmas. And approximately three seconds before he will need a trip to A & E. The end of Christmas. I repeat this phrase simply to luxuriate in it. Does it make me a misanthrope to enjoy the end of Christmas? (Sorry, I can’t help myself, I just have to keep saying it). Should I be sucking on a humbug as I contemplate it? Probably, if only to take away the taste of that bloody coffee cream.
“How was your Christmas?” people ask. This is the same type of question as “How are you?” – one asked purely as oil in the conversational machine, to grease the cogs of dialogue until you reach full speed. No one wants to really know how you are, about your piles, or your crappy boss, or your new car. Just as they don’t really want to know about your Christmas. “Great, thanks,” most people reply, before moving on to more weighty and fascinating topics such as how come Max Branning in Eastenders looks so much like a pissed off, new-born chick. Or, if you are a parent, the reply to the Christmas question will often be: “Oh, the kids loved it.”
Yes. The kids loved it. Of course they did. Because what is there not to love? You get a shit load of presents, get to eat crap between meals and go to bed a bit later just so you can cram in that extra few hours of staring moronically at the television. As many people tell me, Christmas is really for the kids. Is it? Because the last time I looked, Christmas appeared in my diary too and not just to remind me that there were loads of extra jobs that needed doing, like wrapping, putting up decorations and meal planning.
E was not well over Christmas. Viral tonsillitis, the doctor said on Christmas Eve, after we had waited an interminably long time to see her. I had phoned that morning to see if I could get E in front of someone who could tell me if I should take him to hospital or make him tidy his room, and was asked if I could come in, but did I know what day it was? Unfortunately, there was no prize when I guessed correctly, which I thought was a bit mean-spirited as it was Christmas Eve. So there was nothing left to do but shove Calpol down his neck whenever he opened his mouth.
But it made a lovely start to Christmas, scraping vomit from the carpet and following him around with a sick bowl in a futile attempt to stop any other soft furnishings feeling the wrath of his stomach contents. Luckily, the sickness soon passed, leaving a very high temperature and a volatile temperament as a thank you note for the hospitality. Which was an interesting thing to cope with in the season of goodwill. Given that my parents were with us, and despite the fact that they have never, ever passed judgement on our children or our parenting style (not that we have a style, that sounds far too purposeful. We have more of a parenting lurch) I did not really want to be admonishing my son in front of an audience, even a sympathetic one. At first I tried the Hard Stare. Taking my lead from Paddington, if E misbehaved, I would fix him with a glare of Peruvian Bear proportions, which clearly communicated: If you don’t stop that now, you will be in trouble. Which of course, was about as effective as it sounds, so I moved to strategy number two: Whisper-shouting. On numerous occasions over Christmas when E would not go up to bed, or take a bath, or get out of the bath, or put his shoes on, or take them off, or stop poking me (I did say numerous) I would drag him into another room and whisper-shout a succession of scoldings and threats about loss of freshly unwrapped presents. I pretty much perfected the art of communicating a hundred decibel yell without actually executing one, and there was an interesting side effect of my words being punctuated with a little burst of spittle every now and then as I really got up a head of whisper shouting steam. I think I showered E into submission more than anything else.
I may have triumphed in the whisper-shouting stakes, but E certainly got his revenge at night, where a near 40 degree temperature meant he barely slept. Which meant that we barely slept as well. I did Christmas day on three hours sleep, which in itself is not terrible – it’s only when you haven’t had a decent night’s sleep for the previous four and a half years that it gets problematic. Cue much putting the milk back in the pan cupboard, mixing up my words, and starting to say something and then completely forgetting what…. It’s just as well I was not cooking the Christmas dinner. The state I was in, we’d have been eating turkey stuffed with a kitchen chair, or the cat stuffed with Lego. And that would have been interesting, as we don’t even have a cat.
And then there was B, who at nine months is desperate to get on the move, but as a Christmas trick manage to get up off his bum and onto his hands and knees, at which point he would rock back and forth like a slightly demented bear I once saw at a zoo whose incarceration had sent him doolally. We couldn’t leave him sitting on the floor, as he is prone to a spectacular over-balance and one incident of head butting the floorboards was probably enough. But pick him up, and it’s like trying to hold a bag of very angry, body-building ferrets in your arms. It’s exhausting.
Shortly after Christmas, I was busy on my phone with a work email. Or possibly Facebook, I can’t quite remember. E asked if I would play with him, but after a week of building stuff with him (please, someone buy my son a non-educational piece of crap that we can pull straight out the box and play with immediately, I am begging you) and zooming rockets around on my hands and knees I was utterly exhausted, and told him to go and find one of his Christmas presents to play with. He returned with a chopstick and an empty tissue box (which, just to clarify, were not presents) and played with them for over an hour. A chopstick and a tissue box? Now, I know the old adage about kids playing with the box that the present came in. ‘Ah, look at Jonny. How creative and endearing he is, he’s made a car out of the box that his very expensive present came in and he’s mummified his sister with the wrapping paper. Too cute.’ It’s not endearing or amusing. It’s sodding irritating. Maybe next year, I will wrap up the other chopstick so he has a pair. That’ll soon teach him to ignore his Christmas presents.
So. The end of Christmas. It felt like it was very nearly the end of my on a couple of occasions. So don’t mind me if I creep off to have a quick lie down. For about three hundred and thirty days.