Well now, it has arrived in good time this year, my annual festive meltdown. For despite being Mrs.Christmas of all the lovely twinkly ideas, each and every twelve months, come the middle of December, I throw a tantrum of spectacular proportions, and everyone LAUGHS. They do. They look at me, ranting and stropping around the Christmas tree (🎵 🎵 have a happy holiday…), and they LAUGH.
Oh yes, my Christmas tantrum arrives with monotonous regularity. So much so that next year I’m thinking of scheduling it, and insisting that my Homeschool members do the same: building it right into the heart of my Christmas Planner so every woman who feels like she is on a tinsel-wrapped hamster wheel knows she is allowed to throw herself off the darn festive train, shove a pig in a blooming blanket into everyone’s gob and curl herself up into a ball with the Christmas Eve bottle of Baileys and the box of Celebrations, already stale because they were bought in September when Tesco decided to pop them on the half-price and make every Mother in the land feel prematurely harried by the spectre of the darn holiday long before we had managed to pop a witches hat on and swing a sparkler around our demented heads.
Once upon a time, my Mum would give me a verbal slap, take me for a Marks and Spencer’s jacket potato and insist I calmed down, But now that she isn’t here, the men just laugh at me. And do nothing. They just do nothing. They laugh and then they carry on with their non-festive related pursuits and presume that the Christmas Elves will make sure that they are wearing festive pyjamas on Christmas Eve, eating mince pies till they come out of their hairy ears, and opening their hearts desires following Santa’s midnight deliveries.
If you are wondering how this kind of stroppy drama pans out in my house, then first let me assure you that except for the one afternoon I dedicate myself to a melt down worthy of the most outraged of snowmen, I am usually the most sedate of Christmas hat wearing swans, ticking things off my list, attending events all smiles, pouring mulled wine and generally trying to be all things to all the people who have not yet fathomed out that here in our house there wouldn’t be a Christmas if I didn’t send them all (Christmas) crackers with my lists and tasks and must-be-dones or else the reindeers will fall out the sky kind.
Oh yes, I am calm. Until I am rather splendidly not.
The matter usually starts with one innocuous remark or another. A casual dismissal of something I have got it into my head that matters more than world peace. You know, like Finley putting a nice jumper on to meet his Auntie and Uncle for lunch. Or Ste telling Stevie that we might not do Christmas Eve boxes this year because these are giant teenagers with girlfriends and penchants for fruits of the bloody forest cider. Or the man who owns the empty house behind us telling me that he’s having the path at the front and side of our mutual houses dug up and re-laid next week and would I mind parking the car three million miles away so the JCB can add a little festive cheer to my Christmas card vision of the tree twinkling away in the front room. Or you know, people going about breathing when they should be planning how to cook sprouts.
Stuff that doesn’t matter a jot really.
But stuff that come December can tip a woman already on the verge, completely over the edge, and send her splashing tangerine scented washing up bubble flying as she smashes her way through the dishes (because NOBODY else has bothered and SO I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING AROUND HERE??) and wraps presents in bows and Scrooge style snipes.
Of course it isn’t rational and crucially it doesn’t last longer than an afternoon, because when Ste and Finn finally realise the gravity of the situation they are quick to shove a glass of rioja into my hands and pop me in front of something stupid and happy (like Miranda or the much aligned Mrs. Browns Boys) so that before they know it normal service is restored and I am no longer likely to rip their heads clean off their necks if they dare to disrupt my carefully orchestrated plans with god-forbidden ideas of their own about what is actually necessary for the Christmas of all our dreams.
And therein lies the rub. The Christmas of all our dreams. You see I do believe I have a sort of indoctrinated idea of EXACTLY how Christmas MUST be, and whenever anyone tries to flout my festive rules I get upset. Because it might not look like my Mum’s Christmas. Or I might not get all the boxes ticked on the list in my head. Or Father Christmas might declare me naughty, not nice. OR worse, oh so much worse than all of that, I might disappoint those I love by not re-creating the Christmases we have always enjoyed…
It is I suppose about setting standards for myself that threaten to break me in their pursuit. Add to that the most difficult year of my life, the chance that I may not see my Dad this year, Covid rules that are all manner of silly and stress, and financial issues due to Ste not having worked for eighteen months and I am almost completely off my trolley long before I find myself screaming that I don’t LIKE FINN’s JUMPER and OF COURSE we are having Christmas Eve Boxes and who in the name of Mother Claus SAID WE WEREN’T and what if snows and I have to park ninety miles away and muddle my way down the lane carrying seventy sacks of festive nonsense?? WHAT THEN AY?? AY????
So the standards have got to be taken down a notch. Not dropped. Because dropped standards are an insult to our very sanity, but definitely dampened when doing it all starts to feel impossible, because stress bashes our immune system and now more than ever we need a healthy response to festive germs, and a reasonable outlook on what truly matters. And so I have been marching myself to bed early this week, telling myself off and trying to drum it into my own dramatic head that NOBODY but me in this house would notice if I served the outrageous travesty that this is frozen roast potatoes come Christmas Day or even if I replaced the traditional turkey altogether in favour of a pack of gluten free fish fingers.
Nobody would care. But they do care when I seem exhausted. They worry when I seem stressed and they love me even when I have accidentally wrapped the scissors up in a present destined for who knows who because I can’t remember buying it and can’t be absolutely certain I know anyone who would want it even if I could!
They love me anyway. And now that I have stopped throwing baubles at their heads, I’ve remembered that I love them too and at Christmastime that matters above all else.
All this to say that if you are feeling round the bend, please know you are not alone. What feels manic now won’t matter once Christmas Eve arrives and the world stops spinning for twenty-four hours as we throw stress out with the all that crumpled wrapping paper and throw the towel in on homemade gravy in favour of a jar of Bisto Best…