Saturday, 31 December 2016

Five Years Of Motherhood

One day old

This week my lovely daughter turned 5, which of course means I have now been a mother for 5 years.

I find it strange that, on children's birthdays, all the focus is on them, and there is no celebration of the parents who are having their own little anniversary of their lives changing forever. Let's face it, we should be able to mark our surviving of another year of parenthood!

One year old
But anyway. What have the past five years taught me?

Well, they've taught me a lot about my daughter. In some ways, she astounds me. She's such a bright spark, teaching herself to read when she was 3 and continuing to learn and work things out that I couldn't expect of a child her age.

Two years old
In other ways she exhausts me. She is energetic, loud, intensely curious, demanding and highly strung. I keep telling myself she'll grow out of it but it hasn't happened so far. In fact, I often think dealing with a 4 year old was the hardest stage yet - but then maybe I'm mis-remembering the previous years!

But she also melts my heart. She has the capacity to be so kind and loving. She's an incredible big sister, even if she still struggles to see that sometimes baby brother needs more attention than she does. She's funny, and zany, and confident. I'm so proud of her.

Three years old

Being a mother for 5 years has also taught me a lot about myself. I've always been an impatient person but I assumed motherhood would teach me patience. No. I still battle with my temper on a daily basis, and lose that battle more than I'd like to. But I've learnt that I can try, more than I ever thought I could. I can empathise far more than I used to, really putting myself in my daughter's shoes to try and understand her perspective.

Four years old
Motherhood has expanded my horizons in some ways. Trying to understand all the phases of childhood has got me interested in psychology and the workings of the brain in a way I never was before. And Eleanor's natural curiosity about science has pushed me to learn about an area I'd always dismissed as 'not for me'.

All in all, the last five years have changed me more than I imagined possible. As my daughter has grown and developed, so have I. It's not been easy for either of us. But it's been worth it.

Five years old

Friday, 16 December 2016

The First School Nativity: Expectation vs Reality

Yesterday was Eleanor's first school nativity, and probably the only one where she'll get to dress up and act. She was an angel, which is ironic given how un-angelic actually is, but there we go.
My not-so-angelic angel

The first school nativity has a special place in parents' hearts - it's a chance to see your little one, often in their stage debut, dressed up and looking adorable. As a result there's a huge amount of anticipation prior to the event and your expectations are raised. Only trouble is, the reality can bring you down to the ground with a bump, much like baby Jesus when little Mary decides to drop him mid-play. (I hasten to add that didn't happen in yesterday's nativity, but I have seen it happen before.)

So here's what I expected from the nativity versus what really happened.

THE COSTUME
Expectation: I would suddenly transform into a crafting genius creating a beautiful angel's costume.
Reality: I am not a crafting genius. The costume consisted of a too-small fairy dress, sparkly cardigan and tights (non-matching) to cover up the fact the dress is too small, wings I hastily borrowed from a friend when I realised with days to spare that she would need wings (why did this not occur to me earlier??! I blame sleep deprivation) and a wonky halo made of pipe cleaners and tinsel. But she looked cute anyway.

PREPARATION
Expectation: Cooing at her efforts to learn all the carols and joining her in a rendition of 'Away in a Manger'.
Reality: Clenching my jaw as, instead of going to sleep, she lays in bed singing 'Ding Dong Merrily On High' with gusto.

ARRIVAL
Expectation: Get there 20 minutes early to grab seats close to the front, affording me a perfect view of my little cherub.
Reality: Get there 20 minutes early to find a horde of people already there and flowing out of the churchyard, squeezing into the only seats I can find near the back, affording me a perfect view of the backs of people's heads.

THE PERFORMANCE
Expectation: Eleanor would behave perfectly and stand exactly where she - oh who am I kidding? She would shove her way to the front, wander off halfway through or even potentially create a cameo line for herself.
Reality: In this case I was pleasantly surprised. She wasn't perfectly behaved and there was one instance of shoving to the front, but from what I could see she did really well.

PHOTOGRAPHS
Expectation: I come away with an array of heart-melting photos of my little girl in action.
Reality: I come away with a lot of blurry pictures, some with Eleanor in but mostly she'd moved before I could zoom in enough.

EMOTIONS
Expectation: I glow with pride and hold back the tears.
Reality: I glow with pride and hold back the tears.

At the end of the day, no nativity will be perfect - let's face it, it involves kids!! But it will still be a treasured memory for many years.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

20+ Christmas Family Traditions That DON’T involve Santa!



I’ve blogged before about how as a family we don’t really ‘do’ Santa/Father Christmas. One thing that is a bit tricky with this decision is the number of Christmas traditions that relate to the big man in the red suit – from the old-fashioned mince pie and carrot left out and Santa’s grottos to more modern crazes like reindeer food and Elf On The Shelf.

So, to think about how I could create our own family traditions, I asked a range of other parents what their non-Santa-related Christmas traditions are. I’m sharing them here as I think they will useful not only for families like mine that but also for families with older children who know The Truth (ahem) or just want to have some traditions that will last as their children grow.

So here they are, over 20 Christmas family traditions that you can do without reference to the big FC …

Advent

“We have advent jars instead of a calendar, I put activities and little gifts in the jars”  Bamm Boo

“We have this... it's our advent calendar and each day has a different activity. Lots of crafty things but also includes thing like donating to food banks, driving round to look at lights on houses etc” Messy Blog

“We do a random acts of kindness calendar. Here it is” – Giggles Family Vlog

“We do an activity advent calendar and every year we go to the woods and decorate a lonely tree. Here is lasts years” - Gingerlillytea

Other Preparations

“Just the crib: adding figures each week and then Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve” – HeadInBook

“We pick (an) expensive (decoration) each year. Have a day dedicated to decs and tree and lights.” – The GrownUp

“We decorate the tree together. One year my hubby did the tree by himself and couldn't understand why I burst into tears shouted at him and then stormed out (okay sounds a bit OTT but HE JUST DIDN'T GET IT!). On the more positive side, mum would make her mince pies, we'd have Amy Grant's Christmas CD on and make the mince pies. That combined with the "Holidays are Coming" advert we knew Christmas was coming. That's before you get to all the church stuff we do each year.” - HanPlans

“December 12th is St Lucia’s Eve. Every year, I put a crown of candles on my head and take a tray of snacks upstairs to the bedrooms in the middle of the night. It’s not something my family did as a child. It’s not a particularly common tradition anywhere, not even in Scandinavia where services in celebration of Saint Lucia are widely held. It does involve a midnight feast, though, and that makes it a winner with the boys. It is, I’m told, one of the best things about our family.” – Frogotter

“We do carolling. When I was younger we went to the village centre on Christmas Eve and sang. Now we live in a village on our own we go to the light switch on and carol singing round the community shop.” – East Sussex Mummy

“We (the hubby and two kids) have a couple of traditions. We like to attend the Christmas light switch on at Bluewater - I always end getting emotional during the fireworks! My sister comes over and we paint the windows - as in she draws on a humourous Christmas image on the main one and I paint it - on the side window we always have the nativity scene - I can supply pictures if you want! We also attend the Christmas Eve service at our church and the kids get to dress up and be really involved! I love it!” – Jog On Mum

Christmas Eve

“Ever since I was young, my family always took a trip to The Barrowlands market in Glasgow every Christmas Eve: if you've never heard of 'The Barras' it's essentially the dumping ground of Central Scotland, pirated DVD's, stolen gear and antique stalls that couldn't look further out of place amongst the rest. In theory, it's the last place anyone would want to spend a holiday, but it's tradition, and it's packed every year. I'm not sure whether I quite want to continue with my little one this year, I'm not exaggerating when I say it's not exactly family friendly anymore, but I'd love to continue with a less than traditional tradition.” – Life With Boys


“We go to kids church service on Christmas eve, then when we get home the 'Christmas box' will have appeared with new PJs for the whole family (which get put on straight away), a Christmas DVD (also on straight away) and popcorn, chocolate, marshmallows and hot chocolate.” – Jane from Norris Box

“Every year we do a Christmas Eve buffet for the family and then all put on our Christmas pyjamas, watch a Christmas DVD together.” – Five Little Doves 

“We always have mulled wine in our slow cooker on Christmas Eve and have family over for a gossip. It's one of my favourite foodie things about Christmas and I look forward to my own homemade mulled wine every year!” MentalParentals

“My daughter is just turning one, but we are just starting some traditions! We plan to drive around and look at the local houses' Christmas lights on Christmas eve, followed by hot chocolate near the fire” A Mundane Life

“We go to the Christingle service on Christmas Eve which is really special (and a bit of a fire hazard if I'm honest).”Life By Naomi

“For the past 8 or so years my husband & I have had a gingerbread house competition. We make & decorate our own gingerbread house on Christmas Eve after everything's done (last year I was up until about 4am) & our families then have to pick whose is best. He is the current reigning champion. Raging. (I have photos - still think mine was better last year.)” – Glasgow With Kids

Christmas Day and beyond

“Everyone in our house chooses what they want for Christmas breakfast in advance and that's what they get on Christmas morning. Even if it's chicken nuggets or melted marshmallows. We always have a ceilidh in my parents house after everyone's had a little bit too much mulled wine. It usually ends with much falling over & a bunch of bruises.” – Glasgow With Kids

“We don't open the presents until AFTER lunch! Apparently that's not popular (and we're mean!)” – Lycra Widow

“My husband’s family always have a Christmas quiz on Christmas Day. His dad spends all year making it and we all love it. It's the highlight of our year.” – Mumsy Midwife

“We all put 50p in to guess what colour the queen is wearing. There's not many of us so it's not exactly top risk gambling!Casa Costello

“We always use our leftover turkey from Christmas Day to make khoresht fesenjan. It's a Persian recipe that is beYOND delicious. It uses pomegranate molasses and walnuts to create the most rich, sweetly savoury and moreish sauce that you've ever tasted. It's a fab use for the leftover meat, and we're hoping to expand it in the coming years to take in a few other Persian dishes too. None of our family is Iranian, but we really like to celebrate other cultures in our household and introduce our son to the idea of them. For us, Christmas is an excellent time to do that what with the "peace on Earth" message!” – Vie Choufleur

In Memory

Amongst the festivities it’s important to remember that, for some people, Christmas is hard. If you’re missing a lost loved one this Christmas, I hope that you can find some comfort in a tradition of your own …

“Ours is rather sombre but is meaningful to us. My fiance/the girls stepfather died suddenly a few years ago. Since then, we light an advent candle every night in December in his memory and the three of us attend a memorial service at our local church, where people can remember loved ones by placing a personalised bauble on the church Christmas tree.” – That British Betty



What non-Santa-related Christmas traditions do you have?