The Christmas countdown has truly begun. School's out, the Twiglets have been cracked open, the mistletoe is up and (in Natty's case) the Singing Hands Christmas Cracker DVD has playing on a loop for at least a month already.
|Keep things safe, cosy and simple this Christmas Eve
Fuelled by lots of coffee and a little mulled wine, just like millions of parents across the land, I am trying to cross items off my ever-growing hastily scribbled list of things to do, inevitably with increasing slapdashery (I've reached the stage where I'm not even sure if that's a word).
There are last minute gifts to buy and wrap, prescriptions to collect, popping round to neighbours with cards handwritten by Natty, hitting the supermarkets at anti-social hours to avoid the crowds, excited teens to entertain, crafts to cobble together and our seasonal traditions to honour.
|Even teens enjoy crafting on the night before Christmas
And since Natty's birthday was on the 6th December, the month is a pensive one for me, as I relive her 3 weeks in NICU. This time 15 years ago I was spending my days at her incubator side, encouraging her to feed, trying our first kangaroo care hugs and expressing all the milk she needed to be fed through her naso-gastric tube, before she was eventually allowed to come home for good on Christmas Eve.
Xmas sometimes feels like an impossible festive puzzle that can never be solved, doesn't it.
But I realised some years ago, that the answer is simplicity.
It's accepting that you can't do it all. It's focussing on the small things you enjoy, like baking or crafting together. And it's realising that the Christmases of your life can all be different, they will evolve as your family grow and your circumstances change. And being divorced, it's accepting that the festivities can be spread over a month, that the big day doesn't have to follow a set pattern.
It's about being gentle with yourself, learning to say no sometimes and preserving your energies whilst taking time to note your thoughts and feelings at what is undoubtedly an emotional time of year.
And it doesn't have to cost the earth. Christmas is about making memories your children will remember for a lifetime, and, as parenting expert Sue Atkins says 'Kids spell love, T-I-M-E.'