A certain 3 year old is convinced everyone in his world most ardently desires a Thomas Playset for Xmas, and is just as convinced that Father Cwistmas will not fail a single one of us. Oh how lucky we all are (Me: What do you think I want for Xmas? 3 y/o: A Thomas Playset. Me: What do you think Granddad wants for Xmas? 3 y/0: A Thomas Playset. Me: What do you think Daddy wants for Xmas? 3 y/0: A Thomas Playset...repeat with all extended family members). This being the first Xmas which has really had much of a lead-in (i.e. daily requests since August) it is also the first Christmas where we as parents have been able to take advantage of the "Father Christmas only brings presents to good boys" strategy (ok ok, it's a threat not a strategy). And I fear that in true Xmas spirit, we may have overindulged a little. How on earth we will restore order after Xmas with our sole parenting strategy defunct is anyone's guess. Notwithstanding the fact that with multiple Xmas Days to be attended, arising not from our own family breakdown but from coordinating our children with others in the family who have to share themselves across two homes (when your children are sharing Boxing Day with the children of separated parents they need something left to open!) we may be creating a brace of children for whom Xmas never ends, I do not expect the threat of no presents next Xmas to be so durable. Also, and more concerningly for world stability - he has not got a Thomas playset for Xmas, this having been a very late entrant into the obsessive-mantra-like-gift-identification-parade.
I had intended to write long before now a sort of perspective piece about Christmas disputes between parents. But it has not happened. Probably just as well since it would have been a bit sour, a bit bah humbug. Shall I precis it anyway? I've had a few of clients lately whose children have been removed. Permanently. To be adopted. With no contact ever again. Not on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or any other day. And I know a few single parents too whose partners died when their children were young. They don't have dads. They don't have rubbish dads, or inconsistent dads, or dads who don't pay maintenance, or who aren't very good at turning up on time. They don't have a dad. So, whilst it is heartbreaking to miss out on your children's Christmas, galling to feel that your ex is not allowing you as much of a part as you ought to be playing - a chink is better than a slammed door. Treat it all as a gift. Love them and give thanks. And if you are tempted to think your kids would have a better Xmas without their feckless Dad (or mum) this year, think long and hard about that. One day they may tell you that they wished they had had a dad, even if he was not perfect. Argue, litigate and brood at any other time of the year if you must - but take your gift, however tiny and make it special. Do not waste it on ill feeling. And do not forget the greatest gift of all is giving - giving your children a special Xmas not marked by seeing the people they love the most arguing. At 37 I look back fondly at all of my childhood Christmasses, they are my template for the Christmases I try and build for my own kids: I remember my mum and dad having the same annual argument about how long the turkey needed to cook, and the haggling over who would wash up or who would get the biggest slice of Christmas pudding, and I think if my Christmasses had been peppered with standoffs at the front door, tense handovers or sozzled arguments about whose house we spent time in I'd recall that too, with sadness - it's not easy when you are separated, but do your best to help them build happy Christmas memories for the future.
Oh dear. I seem to have written my perspective piece. Bit sentimental isn't it? You know you are over-tired and need a break when you get all gushy.
I shall be luxuriating in a whole ten days of unpaid absence from court over Xmas and new year. By then I shall have recovered my stiff upper lip (professional distance).
I shall support this vastly extravagant time out from violence, despair and family destruction courtesy of a festive blessing from the LSC who have deemed me a fit and proper person to pay some actual real money to (don't get overexcited we're still having to buy fake Baileys this year). Which is nice. Since I've already spent it on toys other than Thomas Playsets. I am hoping that the 3 y/0 is wrong and that I will open my presents to reveal the five digit cheque that has been long long long awaited. I don't think even Santa's elves can sort that one. Perhaps Santa will bring me a doll and some pins - you may think this is a joke but I have seen the cloth dolly that one anonymous individual owns, across the chest of which is a yellow post it marked "LSC", curling up at the edges but speared through the centre with pins, rammed deeply into the heart of said dolly. It hasn't worked of course. But it is as emblematic of how much festive spirit there is about as is the modified "Season's Greetings" thank you email from the LSC that is doing the rounds, complete with V sign.
Regardless of all the late payment / non payment BS that we all have to endure 52 weeks a year, I hope to return refreshed, enlivened, and ready for a 10% pay cut in 2012. Can't wait!
2011 has been a busy year for Pink Tape - I wonder what 2012 will hold blog-wise? I anticipate much to report combined with much pressure on my time, struggling to complete the equation: FAS - 10% = mortgage.
I can't predict the future really - but I would like to know what has worked and what has not. It will help me work out how to shape things in 2012.
With that in mind: Favourite / most execrable posts of 2011? Topics you'd like to see covered? Things you are bored to tears with? (don't say legal aid - I'm not going to shut up about that). Editorial tics that you can't stand (I know I can't use apostrophes - forget trying to cure me, it's genetic. I'm too common to be cured.). And while we're here - what about my approach to comment moderation - too soft?
Comments please in the usual way.
PS No, since you ask, unusually I didn't proof read this before hitting "publish". Does it show?