“I don’t think I believe in Father Christmas anymore.”
“Well, the Year Twos say it’s just your mum or dad who brings the presents and if you think about it, it makes sense.”
One of the best things about being a parent is the fact that Christmas gets magical again. It is no longer about horrible shopping malls, tinsel round your computer monitor and lairy office drunks. The real meaning of Christmas comes back: Father Christmas returns.
You get so into the idea of Santa that you almost believe again. So much so that last Christmas Eve, I think I actually thought Father Christmas was going to turn up – until I sobered up a bit and realised I had to make crumbs from the carrot and mince pie, pour white glitter all over the rug and lug the presents out from their hiding places.
Everything about Christmas with kids – nativity plays, advent calendars, twinkling lights – is wonderful, even to the hardened antichrist. Sometimes I think I can’t believe I am doing this when I am gathering tat for his stocking from the pound shop, or helping him fashion lumps of salt dough into animals for the tree. It is probably the time of year when I feel most like a passable mother.
When Tom was about a week old, he got a terrible cold and couldn’t breathe very well. I blamed myself entirely for being shit at breastfeeding and took him to the hospital in the middle of the night.
“Ooh, they don’t stay like that for long, do they?” said the receptionist, hands on her hips, staring at this livid, red screaming thing strapped in his car seat.
I’m writing the book at the moment and it’s hard, because although I kept notebooks a lot of the time, I can’t remember how it actually feels to hold a tiny baby in your arms, or change its nappy, or listen to the weird little noises they make. I often think back to that moment in the hospital, because the receptionist was absolutely right. And now, when I see Tom full of genuine glee when he changes the number on his Christmas countdown bear, or chases a child dressed as a sheep across a stage with a tea towel on his head, I can’t help but think he won’t stay like this for long.
Next year, Tom will be a Year Two, which means thanks to someone’s evil big brother or sister, he’s highly likely to stop believing altogether. I think I might have managed to eke another year of believing out of him by telling him the Year Twos will not be getting a visit from Santa and ordering one of those personalised letters (which still hasn’t arrived, actually. Hurry up.) As much as I am gutted that they opened their little mouths and tried to ruin everything, I am quite grateful to the Year Twos, because this Christmas Eve, I am going to savour every single magical moment.