It’s 21st December today.
I mean, I’m sure you know that, because you’ve probably had to open an advent calendar or two, like I have.
Bill gets so excited and I pad downstairs after a shower, bleary-eyed and tired, but I always find the energy to find today’s number with him.
“21, that’s a two and a one! Can you find it?”
Normally, at this time of year, I am beyond happy and wild with excitement. Christmas lights reflect in my eyes. My laugh is jollier than the man in red’s. And I’m just so ready for this time.
It’s the longest time I get with my son during the year. I try and spread out my days off from work, but Christmastime is a bumper crop of days filled with family.
But this year, and perhaps for a long time now, I’ve been approaching Christmas Day nervously. It’s just a day, but it’s meant to be the happiest day of the year. That’s what we’re all told.
And the closer it’s gotten, the more my heels have dug in. And I’ve been so blue.
Earlier on this year, Bill’s father and I had a discussion about Christmas. And what we’d do in the future. And it’s not a nice discussion to have with anyone. Who will get to enjoy our child that day.
For me, I couldn’t bear any year with no glimpse of my son on Christmas Day. And I didn’t want that for his dad again either. I didn’t think, even though alternating years was easier practically, that it would work for us.
And so we decided a split. Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with one parent. Christmas Day from midday and Boxing Day with the other. That would alternate each year.
And yes, it ties us into a knot. It restrains us to our house while we wait for pick-up or collection. But this day is about my son. No one else. It has to be about him. And so this year, I am Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.
But, it doesn’t change how sad I have felt.
I allow myself to run away with ideas of Christmas Day. Just yesterday I was explaining to Bill that I was going to make my first Christmas trifle and I realised it wouldn’t be one that he’d get to eat. And I started to imagine the games we’d play and which toy we’d play with first. As a family. Instructions everywhere, wrapping all around us, and a panic for spare batteries (I’ve bought some now!). But then I realised that even the earliest Christmas morning ends quickly.
And then he’d go.
And I’ve not been able to shake this feeling.
All I want, literally all I want this year is my son for Christmas.
Christmas Day used to be about me. Father Christmas. The magic of it all. Writing to him. Waiting up late and convincing myself that it was jingle bells I could hear outside.
But when I became a mother, the sheer magic of Christmas lay in that small smile. Those eyes that are so blue and bright. And the way they crinkle. The happy shiver he does. And the dance on the spot. The real belief that Mama and Mark, with their carrot nibbles and crumbs of mince pie, are indeed Father Christmas himself. The way the presents are wrapped in two types of paper. Gifts from us. And gifts from the big man.
And to have to give that up, and share that, breaks my heart.
And I feel conflicted in this, because I know that, at this time of year, at any time of year, to be a mother and see and hold my child should be enough. But the truth is, it doesn’t make it any easier for me. My heart doesn’t understand the theory of relativity or how to not feel the way I do.
I just want to sit next to him and pull a Christmas cracker. I want to make him eat a sprout. I want to watch a Christmas movie with him, with full bellies. I want to sing Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer with him. Play with toys all day. And smile and feel that exhausted feeling at the end of the day. And be the one who tucks him up in bed and kisses his nose and says: “Merry Christmas Bill. I love you.”
Christmas Day is about many things. But mostly it is a day to be with the ones you love.
And so, today I came into work, my last day in this office, for the year. I’m excited to wind down. I’m excited about Christmas, of course I am. But in the same way that I’m closer to a break, I’m closer to the first Christmas like this. The first Christmas as a result of the choice we made for our own happiness, but which comes with so many sacrifices.
And so, when my mum first messaged me, I didn’t expect to see a smile warm on my lips. I didn’t expect to start feeling flurries of excitement in my belly. I didn’t expect to see Mark suggest the exact same thing moments later.
For I’ve been so focused on that day, and call me petulant. And call me silly. But of course that special day still matters. I wanted to do things the right way. I wanted to wake up and do Christmas traditions properly.
But when I heard them speak it out loud, suddenly I wondered what on earth I’d been waiting for. Why it hadn’t occurred to me.
So William, while you don’t know it yet, as you play at Granny’s as I work, we’re having a Christmas all of own.
On Christmas Eve, we’ll wake up whenever you like. We’ll cuddle up in our bed and we’ll smile as you see how full your stocking has become overnight. We’ll creep downstairs and there will be presents, bursting from under the tree. Presents you can play with all day with us. You won’t have to leave them and come back to them. You can play. And you’ll have our undivided. We promise.
We’ll have a Christmas brunch, so you don’t have to eat two Christmas dinners in a row. We’ll have sausages and bacon and eggs and all the things you love the most. Hot cocoa, as you call it. And I’ll have a cup of coffee, and Mark a steaming mug of tea.
Maybe there will be a big tin of chocolates to dip into all day. And share with Granny and Po when they come round, with Uncle Jamie.
And we’ll go out for a meal as planned. Reserved for three, at 5:00pm on Christmas Eve. Who says that pizza isn’t festive?
And we’ll show you how loved you are. And how much you mean to us.
I don’t have much time to get things ready. But I know that all we really need is each other.
Most of all, I hope, if I can manage it, that you won’t have to see your mother cry on Christmas Day. I want to send you off with happiness in my heart. For you and the love you are given. Every single day of the year. By so many people. I don’t want you to worry about me or why I’m not happy. I want you to want to leave. Even though that’s painful to say.
I have, for a long time, felt that a mother’s worth was down to the presence in her children’s lives. The way she is always there. The way I am always not. But I have learnt that, as the old romance novels say: “If you love someone, you have to let them go.” You aren’t my possession. But you are the biggest gift I have ever been given. And I love you so much that I want the world for you and more. There is so much I can’t give you, but I can always try and make the decisions that while hard to make, are the right ones to make.
If I could have anything for Christmas, it would be you.
But motherhood isn’t just for Christmas. And I’d settle for a lifetime of missing you, so long as you come home.
Merry Christmas little boy.
And merry Christmas to you too, if you’re reading this.
I hope you get what you wish for. Whatever that might be.