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Mama Said: How do you make Christmas perfect?

How *do* you make Christmas perfect? Emily Martin has an idea

Is there such a thing as a perfect Christmas, asks Emily Martin (52828799)
Is there such a thing as a perfect Christmas, asks Emily Martin (52828799)

It’s the most worrying time of the year. Will we get our booster jabs for Christmas? Will our carefully-curated plans and gatherings all have to be unpicked (or unwrapped) at the last minute due to a lockdown? Will cases surge as we spend more and more time in our living rooms with random members of our family from other parts of the country? Will Boris Johnson’s press conferences loom over our Christmas TV schedule? We just don’t know. All we can do at this stage is make plans and have hope.

So, Covid-be-willing, this year I will have both my children home and together with me for Christmas ACTUAL Day. I’ve never mentioned it before in this column but my babies have different dads so Christmas alternates between us all being together (me, Tom, Boy and Girl) or Girl being with her Dad’s family and it just being me, Tom and the Boy.

When it’s “not my year”, Girl tends to go away for Christmas Eve and stay with her Dad until Boxing Day morning which, we worked out early on, was the best arrangement after trialling a Christmas where she was with me for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning but then left to go to her Dad’s around 10am, leaving me with just her presents, and the memory of her opening them. It was brutal. Savage. I cried the whole day and shunned the turkey, instead having pasta for dinner. Oh, and also that was the year that George Michael DIED at the end of the day. So, a big fat zero on the Claus-o-meter.

Tom kindly says that that “crying Christmas”, as we call it now, was better than the Christmas before when he’d had a migraine and spent the whole day in bed, in the dark, getting up occasionally but only to be sick.

But anyway, the Christmas co-parenting arrangement I have with my ex-husband means this time of year can be a bit emotionally fraught and, though it does get easier each year, I can swing from either being obsessed with everything being PERFECT, because she’s home, or pretending to be really chilled and making out like I’m not even bothered about Christmas (let’s just have pasta again, who even cares?) but then usually ending up crying for at least part of the day.

I truly have digressed here. This column isn’t even about my volatile Christmas spirit, but I’ve never mentioned my divorce before and I want you to know, if you have shared-children in your house this Christmas, I’m sending BIG LOVE to you, my divorced brothers and sisters.

So, how do you make a perfect Christmas? I think it’s crucial to accept first of all that it’s impossible. Christmas is too big to make every single bit good enough to appear in a George Michael music video (R.I.P). From food to music, to matching onesies, to Christmas Eve boxes, to perfect presents, decorating your garden, reading your childhood Christmas books to your own children, family films and gatherings of old friends, office parties, snowy walks, relaxing time off work - enough! You just can’t do it all.

Instead, this year I’ve got an idea. Rather than trying to live all of December in a blissed-out state of fairy-lights and happiness, which only ends in tears I’m afraid, I’m choosing three single “moments” to make perfect. Just three. And everything else will be the usual rollercoaster of fun bits, chaotic bits (losing the end of the sellotape, peeling carrots but also peeling a bit of your own finger off, but there’s no plasters because the shop is closed), and moments of lull (where there’s nothing to do except enthusiastically ask your slumped family, playing on a new PlayStation, if they want to go for a walk).

Perfect Moment 1: Even if it’s just for five minutes I want a moment where no one has anything else to do but watch a Christmas movie all together in my bed. Cosy, happy, no fighting and ideally it’ll be Arthur Christmas which is our new-age favourite.

Moment 2: I want to go out and choose a tree and then come home to decorate it. We’ll put Christmas music on (last year Kelly Clarkson’s Underneath the Tree shot into the lead as everyone’s top track) and the kids will dance around. Me and Tom will have a row about where the tree should go and how it should look. Perfect.

And Moment 3: I want that Father Christmas-morning, coming downstairs and there’s a little twinkle of magic in everyone’s eyes. Girl is 8 and she’ll be at her Dad’s again next year. I don’t know how many more times I can put this one on my wish list and it be as perfect as I want it.

I swear the older you get the more everything about Christmas gets so damn WISTFUL. Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow… and all that. It’s all too big and everything’s way too complicated to ever be 100% perfect, but that’s OK. I wish you a very merry and imperfect Christmas, probably tinged with your own personal sadness, but filled with (at least three) absolutely perfect moments.


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