Let me explain...
Over the past few years, as parents have aged, and children have become more boisterous, there has been a general trend amongst LittleBear's grandparental units, on both sides, to suffer from an Inability To Cope With It All. In the case of my in-laws, this has translated to Christmas with both their sons and hangers-on simultaneously to be a bit much. And since other-son has more complicated family arrangements, having an ex-wife, two children, fiancee, step-child and step-child's-other-family, they've had first dibs on Christmas Day, and we've arrived for Second Christmas a few days later. Assuming this to be the case this year, I announced we would take ourselves off to the middle of nowhere and return on the required day.
But then we arrived at the in-laws... and I discovered that they were all spending Christmas with other-son. And there would be a great, big, jolly, family Christmas to which we hadn't been invited*. And, naturally, this precipitated more feelings of woe and sadness in me, and an even greater sense that I would be bereft at Christmas.
So the next morning we set off for the middle of nowhere, with me fighting back tears as we drove. They persisted until we stopped to change drivers at Burton in Kendal and I had a large cup of coffee. My first cup of coffee of the day. And I felt a lot better. And my headache went away. And I began to wonder how severe my caffeine addiction is.
And then we had four days of utterly, utterly foul weather - what the Mountain Weather Information Service described as "incessant rain". The wind was 50mph, gusting to 70mph, and when we did venture out, LittleBear could barely stand, even when clinging to us. Then the valley flooded, and we couldn't even get across the footbridge at the bottom of the field. The cottage had nearly run out of coal and wood and the kitchen was a bracing 11C. And we had a lovely time.
We played games. We ate chocolates, and had toast for lunch if we didn't feel like anything else (and by "we" I mean LittleBear). We read books, and made up stories, and drew pictures, and had LittleBear's Christmas stocking in our bed, and had a teeny-tiny Christmas tree, and an open fire, and new oil-filled radiators in the bedrooms that chewed through electricity but kept us warm and comfortable. And I cooked a massive Christmas dinner for three people. And it was all lovely and low-stress, because I didn't have to live up to anyone else's expectations, or make sure dinner met with other people's approval, or lived up to other people's traditions.
I loved my family Christmases as a child, and I miss my family, but I do need to remember that everything doesn't need to stay the same for it to be lovely. There isn't one right way of doing things, there isn't one way of being happy. And if I spend too much time thinking about why I'm not going to be happy, I won't leave time for actually enjoying the moments of joy when they come along. And with LittleBear, there are always moments of joy.
On our final day the weather lifted to reveal glorious snow-capped fells under bright blue skies, so me and my boy ran across the fields with gay abandon:
|Moments of joy|
* This is, obviously, a gross misrepresentation of the facts. I decided we were going to the middle of nowhere, and BigBear informed his family of this. There was never an opportunity for us to be invited to do anything else.