Proper full on back-to-school blues. That lugging Sunday night feel. I keep trying to hold William and sniff him and have profound moments but he keeps shrugging me off and telling me he’s bored and this is the worst day of his life.
I drop Alex at nursery for a few hours so Monday isn’t such a blow. He cries. I cry. William cries.
I suggest a cinema trip. A soft play venture. A lunch out. All of them will be ‘rubbish’. We stay at home.
It’s still the worst day of William’s life ever.
I put some laundry away.
We mope about.
We go and pick up Alex who’s had a great day.
I take all these as a sign the spell has broken and normality beckons.
In the corner of the living room the artificial Christmas tree is wilting.
Deep down, I know New Year’s resolutions are patriarchal pants designed to make us naval gaze our way in to a vegan diet but I do like a fresh start. Like that feeling at primary school when you got a new exercise book and vowed to keep in maximum neat with best handwriting.
And so despite myself, I’m going in to 2019 with a few things to hothouse.
1) Make the children more independent
They need to lay the table, put their dirty washing in the basket, empty the dishwasher etc. I need to stop mollycoddling them- there are already enough entitled white boys in the world.
2) Create an office space.
Somewhere in the house. Just a small spot-big enough for a laptop and a tidy exercise book.
3) Write more.
I’m 16,000 words in to a novel and have been for about eight months. Get on with it!
(Wonder if that’s the most common [and most w**ky] resolution ever?)
4) Ace a mega deadlift
100kg or bust. Plus master a handstand. #dreams
5) Other noble and aspirational targets for the better and good of society etc
I don’t think resolutions should be used to beat ourselves up or starve ourselves or treadmill our bodies as punishment or reflect endlessly on our foibles and flaws but I do think there’s a value in taking a moment to consider what worked well in the year just gone and to have a momentary self-indulge in what we would like for ourselves in the year to come. Surely that’s even a little bit feminist…?
Do you remember the excitement of being a child and wearing your pyjamas out of the house? Being snuffled in to a car and on to a midnight ferry or to pick up a parent from the train station? I do. Vividly. And today I got to relive it because we had tickets for The Polar Express.
We left the house all in Pjs and dressing gowns- ready for an adventure that was either going to be like a bad anxiety dream or a magical experience.
Polar Express runs deep in their veins. So much so they watch it all year round- height of summer or snuggling winter’s day. Whenever. They adore this film. Alex’s first long sentence was ‘shall we go home and cuddle up and watch Polar Express?’
We boarded the train from the misty (dry ice) platform and found our seats and the carriage filled with characters from the film: the chefs, the elves, the conductor. William, who is usually rather cool and aloof, was spellbound and grabbed hold of my phone to capture a picture of the conductor.
He then went bright red and all flustered-like how I would if I ever met Dolly Parton.
He even made me ask the conductor for a photo- this is unheard of.
Then we had a dance and a hot chocolate from the chefs and games and chats with the characters.
And then the carriage lights went off and outside the train window were lights and signs for the North Pole and Santa and his sleigh and our boys were beside themselves and I wept. It was utterly magical.
AND THEN SANTA CAME ON TO THE TRAIN! And Alex went wild and then shy and then bright red too. And Father Christmas gave them a bell each and it was beautiful.
As we chugged back, the conductor came and clipped their tickets and put a B and E for believe for Alex (‘just like the film!’) a W on William’s who lost his shizzle (‘how did he know my name?!’).
On the drive home William said ‘I loved the Polar Express’ and I teared up all over again because sometimes I forget he’s only six and we can still make his life magical.
At some point at Christmas you will have to drive somewhere. There are certain recognisable stages to every day of travel.
Stage one: planning
‘We should probably get going by lunchtime/after breakfast/before bedtime’. The hours prior to departure must be spent not-quite-relaxing. Advise moving listlessly around ‘doing jobs’.
Stage two: packing
A clear division of labour is important: one of you may want to pack both children’s clothes, all the medicine and bathroom bits and snacks for the journey. Another of you may want to use all your teenage Tetris training to fit it in the boot.
Stage three: exit
A rousing chorus of ‘can you just get your shoes on?!’ accompanies all major exits from the house- a cliche all parents enjoy. A pound for every time you say one of the following;
‘Did you pack the kids’ coats?’
‘Did you put the alarm on?’
‘ Why is this Sat Nav so f***ing slow?!’
Stage four: journey
Spirits may start high with Disney soundtracks and liberal distribution of snacks. Things usually deteriorate about mile 25. Bickering starts. Injustices happen. Snacks run dry. Spirits dampen. The footwell of your seat is up to your knees in wrapper, bribes, and maps and your right bum cheek has gone to sleep.
Stage five: arrival
Relief. Then dread. You have to unpack the car. Unpacking is the absolute pits. Try and provoke as hissing disagreement by being in opposite camps- ‘Let’s have a cuppa and unpack once the kids are settled’ versus the ‘Let’s just get it done and get a wash on’. Always fun.
Unpacking Christmas is always fun and may provoke a need to ‘have a sort out’ on a major scaleand you may make wild promises to streamline, organise and reject capitalism. It will be short lived. You will do this all again next year.
Hot morning breath whispers ‘mummy, shall we go downstairs and open some presents?’
Feel like expectations need readjusting…
I’m in charge of ‘using up the turkey’ today so pop out in the car to get puff pastry to make a pie.
Chap on till: ‘Have a nice Christmas?’
Me: ‘This is the first time I’ve been on my own for what feels like months! I’m going to drive home very slowly!’
Clutching my two-pack of puff pastry, I feel a bit silly for my outburst until I see a man in his car in the Co-Op car park – there are kids’ presents all over the backseat and he’s sitting behind the steering wheel listlessly cleaning it with a wet wipe and staring off in to the distance. I feel a deep sense of understanding.
Back home, the kids and in-laws have gone to the park so I listen to Desert Island Discs and make a turkey pie. It’s lovely.