I love Christmas. It really is my favourite time of the year, especially now with three small, excited children. And I go all out – Christmas lights everywhere, baking and decorating cookies, making decorations. All to make magical memories for us and the kids to cherish for years to come. And there are some really lovely, special memories to treasure from this Christmas but…it’s been really hard too.
And it’s OK to admit that it’s hard, that not every moment is magical. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard other mums say they’ve found it really tough this Christmas.
It’s freezing outside so you’re indoors all the time (cue cabin fever), your kids’ plastic tat quota has increased tenfold, so your house is a complete bombsite, and they won’t allow you a spare moment to even begin to tidy it up or find a place for all the extra stuff they’ve acquired. There’s extra cooking, constant cleaning and tidying, and lots more toys to argue over.
Then there’s the sickness. Now, this is not our kids’ fault, and it’s the worst thing in the world seeing them ill and upset. But the consequences of a cough or a cold are far-reaching for everyone in the household. Like my youngest toddler, whose cold disappeared about a week ago but he’s still up three times a night and won’t settle after 3am, screaming the house down and waking his brother and sister. I’ve lost count of the times over the last couple of weeks we have had a child – or three – in bed with us. I’m now so skilled at contorting myself to fit around the kids in bed just to get a moment of blissful sleep that I think I could actually join the circus. Seriously, I’m thinking about it.
My twin boys have just turned three, and whoever coined the term ‘terrible twos’ made a miscalculation. No, for me, three is where it’s at. In the weeks leading up to their third birthday, which is also around Christmas, my boys became really hard work.
Now, as all parents know, there’s always a certain amount of hard work with kids, it’s just how it is. They’re demanding and consuming, but we embrace it and get on with it because that’s the reality of being a loving parent. No, what we’ve been seeing for the past couple of months has been something different, another level.
We can’t leave the room for (quite literally) thirty seconds before someone is hit, kicked, whining, screaming, crying, or someone pulls over the Christmas tree (yep. TWICE). And my God the demands are endless. ‘I want to watch Blaze and the Monster Machines’, as I frantically scroll through the Sky Plus planner hoping it’s there. Oh no. The episode I’ve put on is not the specific episode they want to watch *cue hysterical crying.
Like when my Hulk-obsessed toddler will only eat from a green plate and use green cutlery – but the ones I’ve provided are the wrong shade of green *cue hysterical crying. Like when they demand a drink, but it’s not instantly presented to them at that very moment and they don’t understand why you have to go to the kitchen and pour it first *cue hysterical crying.
Now I understand why so many governments across the world impose a rule not to negotiate with terrorists. I’m afraid we’ve negotiated with our tiny terrorists too many times and, right now, if they don’t get what they want the moment they want it, it’s like the world is ending.
What I’m realising though, is that it being hard – and finding it hard – is completely normal. In fact, I think it’s those who find it a breeze that are the rarity (or maybe it’s just the Beyonces of the world who have seven nannies. What I would give…)
If there have been times over the last couple of weeks where you have found it impossibly hard, then you’re not alone. If you have wondered why the hell your kids can’t just act like civilised humans for one minute, then you’re not alone.
If you and your partner have locked eyes amidst the bedlam and know you’re both wondering the same thing – ‘will we ever be able to have a conversation again?’ Then you’re not alone. If you’ve eaten cold dinners and lost count of how many times you’ve microwaved your coffee, you’re not alone.
If you’ve attempted to take your kids out to do something ‘nice’ only for it to descend into tantrums and chaos and leave you wondering why you even bother, then you’re not alone. If you did everything to try and ensure a civilised Christmas dinner but the kids still ended up under the table, running around, and eating almost nothing despite your desperate pleas, then you’re not alone. If your little ones have been overtired, overwhelmed and overexcited, you are not alone.
So many of us fall into the trap of thinking other people’s kids behave better. Sleep better. Eat better. They don’t. I think the behaviour I, and so many others have been experiencing, is – sorry to say it – completely normal. That doesn’t make it any easier to deal with in the moment, but does perhaps provide some comfort that you’re not alone and this is just part of the journey of kids growing and developing.
All you can do is focus on the good bits. Like the times my mischievous toddler had me in stitches with another one of his cheeky one-liners, or watching my beautiful daughter dance around the kitchen to Thriller (it’s her favourite song. I know, random). Or all five of us getting on the floor to play animal bingo together.
There are so many wonderful moments from this Christmas to remember. And what do you do with those not-so-magical memories? The sleep deprivation, the squabbles, the whinging, the frayed tempers? Well, I don’t know about you, but I will be filing mine in trash folder right at the back of my brain. You know, the same place you store your memories of giving birth. Hit delete and start again.
Thankfully, I have the benefit of having a living-breathing example of what’s to come; proof of light at the end of the tunnel. My six-year-old daughter is calmer and more content (though, of course she has her moments). As my twin boys get older, I know this will become easier. But I won’t make the mistake of wishing the time away and dwelling on the negatives.
These years are so precious, and all you can do is savour the wonderful moments when they happen. Because having kids isn’t all sunshine and it isn’t all clouds; it’s a rich tapestry of amazing times, difficult times, and everything in between.
So for now, I’ll be hitting the delete button on those really tough memories from this Christmas and repeating that familiar mantra: “It’s just a phase, it’s just a phase, it’s just a phase…”