After the Tinsel

imageIt is New Year’s Day. 2016 has landed. As always, we begin our year with a mild hangover in a house full of noise, wanting to do next to nothing but being got at by annoying small people. They really know how to ruin self-indulgent, lazy hangover days. The little one and I also have a manky cold, which doesn’t help. I felt remarkably well when I was knocking back the booze last night but the germs are biting back today.

The kids don’t go back to school until the 5th, but 1st January always feels like the official end of Christmas to me. Once we hit the 1st, I feel a strange mixture of sadness that it is all over for another year and a massive desire to be done with all things festive as soon as humanly possible.

It simply all has to go. Cards have been unceremoniously dumped into the recycling bin and I’ve started taking decs down by stealth, one at a time. But I’ve been talked into keeping the tree up for one more day by the kids who will be gutted to see it go. They are desperate to hang onto the dregs of Christmas but for me their happy chirping of Jingle Bells has gone from cute to infuriatingly grating overnight.

The empty house, minus all the lights and decorations, will look odd for a day or two but I have such a strong urge to strip out all that tinsel, I just can’t leave it until the 12th night. It is my way of dealing with the reality of the next bit. The dream-world that is Christmas, full of magic and glitter, has to be wiped away as efficiently as possible in order for me to be able grit my teeth and prepare to face that old bastard, January.

imageGetting back to the real world feels even harder than normal this year, because we had such a brilliant Christmas. Our first time hosting the big day at home was a roaring success and something we plan to repeat. We went to lots of jolly gatherings after Christmas too and had many laughs. We ate and drank far too much and, despite the inevitable squabbles and general family overexposure at times, it was the best Christmas I can remember having since embarking on a life with kids.

A good deal of that is down to the fact that our baby, little T, is not such a baby any more. It was the first Christmas in a long time that I was neither pregnant nor attached to a very small, demanding kid. T wasn’t clinging to me or disorientated and miserable because of all the commotion. For the most part, all three of them happily got on with it, with notably less input required from us than in previous years. We could actually sit down at dinner and eat, without constant interruptions. It was as close to relaxing as Christmas with three young kids can be.

So, it was brilliant but reality beckons. We have a few days left before the treadmill starts again, during which time we have homework to do, neglected reading books to open and labour over (for the first time since school ended, I have to admit) and labels to sew in new coats. It all feels very dull and mundane, compared to the last couple of crazy, joyous weeks. My January calendar is depressingly empty of fun.

On top of that looms the horror of having to get back to some sort of sensible diet and alcohol unit consumption, losing the extra pounds gained in weeks of excess. A block of cheese and a bottle of Prosecco a day is a painful habit to break. When school, work, nursery and diet all kick in, it is like Christmas was just a lovely dream – but one that made me fat.

imageBut it is definitely time to get down to it. Time to look ahead. New Year is a time of such great promise. Who knows what 2016 has in store for us? It will soon be time to start planning the first family birthday of the year. In February my little girl turns five, a landmark age and no mistake. She is already so wise for her years that I can’t quite believe she is still only four. There is a party to plan and invitations to send out. She is very excited, with weeks to go still.

In a few months, my kids will all have had their birthdays and they will be eight, five and three. That sounds a great deal older and more manageable than seven, four and two, somehow. T turning three in the summer will be a biggie. I’ve been pinning a lot on that one, as a time when things get easier. And I can see it coming clearly now. Having such a successful Christmas has made me realise that it really is improving. Slowly but surely. By the end of 2016, we will have waved goodbye to highchairs, nappies and pushchairs. It will be the end of the baby era. I can’t help but feel a zing of excitement about the relative freedoms that will bring.

We are also going on our first foreign holiday as a family of five this year. It is months away but it is all booked and I’m very excited. I’ve not even left the country since 2010, so it will be a landmark.

Despite reminding myself about all the good things ahead, January is notoriously blue, and I can hear it’s Sirens calling me. After the Christmas high comes the dreary, dark low of long nights and routine. But I figure if I put minimum pressure on myself, I might just steer clear of the rocks this year. I’m not going to expect to breeze through it. I’m not going to make any impossible resolutions either, like taking a month off alcohol or eating next to nothing to lose weight fast. It strikes me as a crazy time of year to undergo major hardships. It can be bad enough without the extra pressure.

So here we go, folks. 2016, here we come. Time to get back to the serious business of guiding my little tribe through life. Back to the old routines and tasks. Yep, it can feel pretty monotonous and serious after all the frivolity of the Christmas run, but no-one (apart from Wizard) really wishes it could be Christmas every day. The fact that it puts all that serious stuff on hold is what makes it so special.

Kick-starting normal life again is a struggle and nigh on impossible when buried in stockings and tree lights. So, it is out with the tinsel and in with the new, even if it is initially through a the stuck-on smile and gritted teeth.

Coping strategies have to come into play in a big way in January. Time to start filling that calendar up with visits to my favourite people, so we can help each other through, so we can moan and giggle and muddle along together. You know who you are. Expect a call.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and a non-shitty January. Go easy on yourselves, stick together and avoid the rocks.

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