Christmas this year seems to have taken on a different meaning. The house is ready - the tree lit and the scented candles filling the house with the smell of cinnamon and spice. The presents are bought and squirrelled in suitable hidey holes throughout the house and in the houses of friends and relatives.
I’ve eaten three mince pies - not had any wine through the month of December yet, which is a shocker but something I plan to remedy over the weekend.
I’ve attended a carol service (at St. Patrick’s chapel in Pennyburn where my son made his wonderful choral debut with the school choir) and a nativity play where my daughter was the star of Bethlehem. The turkey is ordered - and plans are already underway for the annual boiling of the ham in a pot of full fat Coke, ala Nigella.
The children have gone into hyper overdrive. The boy is almost apopletic with excitement, Gangnam Style dancing around the house and counting the days in terms of sleeps.
The girl has taken to acting out the first Christmas using the inexpensive wooden nativity set we bought in Tesco or playing at ‘Santa has been’ by leaving random well loved toys under the Christmas tree and exclaiming with surprise when she “finds” them 30 seconds later.
Their joy is palpable - and infectious. But at the same time the overload of excitement means that by the time bedtime rolls around each evening they (and we) are tired, emotional and maybe a bit clingy.
The girl, still only three, in particular has been unsure how to deal with the mix of emotions being thrown at her.
She is trying to understand why the baby Jesus was born in a stable and not a “hostible”.
Having been to church, she is trying to work out how the baby Jesus is also the man the bad men hurt and put on a cross. And she wonders why Santa didn’t bring the baby Jesus presents to the stable.
Added to this, I’ve been in “hostible” myself for a minor op and even though I wasn’t away from her for more than a day, she seems to have had her confidence knocked in mammy’s constant presence. (The fact that I have not been allowed to carry her for the last two weeks has not gone down well either).
It’s enough to make her wee head spin and the result is that, in addition to the excitement that has flooded our house, we also have a confused little girl who has become a little clingy. And when I say a “little clingy” I mean she spends the vast majority of her time like a limpet by my side, or my knee or better still with her nose touching mine so that both of us go cross-eyed with the effort of trying to focus on each other.
Now I love my daughter and I love my son. While recuperating from said operation it has been lovely to spend more time with them - but there is only, I thought, so much Gangnam Style renditions and super clingy episodes any mammy can deal with without losing the plot just a little bit. (And this was all while on a wine ban thanks to the recuperation).
In fact I was starting to suffer from a serious dose of mammy fatigue, never mind post operative fatigue, by the end of last week and longed for a break from the endless questions, demands and cleaning up afters. I’ll admit I was probably starting to get a little short with them - I was tired, and sore and feeling sorry for myself. I wanted someone to look after me for a bit rather than having to look after others. Then I heard about Sandy Hook.
Now I’ve not magically been transformed into a super mammy. I didn’t get an extra dose of patience with the news. I didn’t even suddenly, magically, start feeling less tired or less sore. But I did stop and think that most unthinkable of thoughts “What if that was me, what if those children were my children?”
The thought that one day, conceivably, you could kiss your child goodbye at the school gates and never see them alive again is enough to take the very breath from your body.
The thought that the last conversation you could have with you child could be a terse, “I don’t know, ask your father” or “Would you ever stop with the Gangnam Style carry on” is a sobering one.
For the last few days it is not my children who have become particularly clingy. I’ve not let them the see the news about Sandy Hook and nor have we discussed it front of them.
I am the one who has clung to them a little tighter, who has gone in to check on them way too many times while they are sleeping. I am the one who has, at the school gate and school door, kissed them far too many times and told them repeatedly how much I love them. I am the one who has felt the fierce need to protect them and to be with them, even if that means sitting nose to nose going cross-eyed looking at each other or doing nothing, ever, unaccompanied by an inquisitive three year-old. I am the one who has promised, once the stitches are all gone, to Gangnam Style after Christmas dinner. Christmas has a different meaning this year, because my eyes have been opened to how magical every day with our children is.