Happy Humbug Day

2012-12-10 19.49.01
Happy First Xmas

And once again it’s that time of year where everyone spends a ton of cash sending bits of paper through the mail to people they haven’t seen since that holiday in Torremolinos in 1997; stress themselves silly trying to get the last remaining [insert current trendy toy here] for the kids for them to cling to for a week before binning it for the next piece of cheap mass-produced, but well-marketed crap; assault their digestive systems with far too much… well, everything – especially sprouts.

Yet for some reason, people call it a celebration.


OK, let me be specific. Humbug to all the stuff in the first paragraph. It’s fluff. It’s unnecessary. It’s nice, I suppose, but in the end it succeeds only in making the retailers happy.

What makes most of us happy at this time of year? Spending time with the family. And I include myself in this – despite recalling many, many holiday seasons in the past which I enjoyed hugely simply because I was on my own.

The Americans have one thing right. Which is pretty poor, given the size of the country, but hey. One thing’s better than nothing. They have the Thanksgiving holiday. A holiday the sole purpose of which (OK, sole other than to make Hallmark even richer) is to bring families together and make them recognise that they all have something to say “thank you” for. It’s non-denominational. It doesn’t exclude anyone based on race, colour, creed, height, or even if they’re ginger. Hell, they even invite non-Americans if they’re kicking about in the country on their own.

It is more important for Americans to be with their family for this one annual meal than it is at any other time of the year.

Here in the UK, we don’t have Thanksgiving. The closest we have is Xmas/Christmas/the December holiday. Family is what it’s all about. Kids opening those crappy presents they’ll have broken before the batteries (which you forgot to buy, you fool) run out. Grandad pretending to be Santa, handing stuff out. Thirty+ people crammed into a house designed to hold half a dozen if they think elbow room is a luxury.

And the one or two members of the family celebrating it with a little one who’s going through it all for the first time.

That’s me, that is.

Humbug to everything else. The best Christmas present I ever received arrived 5 months to the day earlier. She wasn’t delivered by a fat bloke in an ill-fitting suit. She was delivered by my beautiful wife, Gillian. She needed wrapping when we got her. She’s self-powered – we just add milk and sloppy stuff from tubs. We’ve also managed not to break her (although at times it feels like she’s breaking us).

She’s beautiful. Perfect.

This is her first Christmas – and I couldn’t be any more thankful.

So, to all friends and family – have a brilliant day, but specifically:

Gillian – thank you. For being my wife and the mother of all three of our children. I can never repay what you’ve given me. But I’ll do my best.

Ellissa – we don’t always get on, but you’re the best annoyingly pre-teenage daughter a man could ever wish for.

Austin – I defy anyone to claim they have a better son than I have in you.

Ann – if it weren’t for you, I’d not have Gillian. Mothers-in-law like you are the reason Bernard Manning ran out of steam all those years ago, and I can never thank you enough for letting me marry your daughter.

Mum & Dad – I know you were generous to a fault all these years, and I had some cracking presents. But I’m sure you’ll agree that none of them can match what I have to be happy about today.

And in case you forgot who it was writing all this: HUMBUG.

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This parenting lark

Naughty step
Naughty step (Image by memespring via Flickr)

I’ve kind of got into the parenting thing quite late on. Not so much in my life, but of those of the kids I’m finding myself scarily “responsible” for.

Quick catch-up for those who didn’t know. By day I’m a secondary school teacher, trying my best to control other people’s kids. By weekend (and holiday), I’m a boyfriend and try my best to control two specific kids owned by my better half.

To be fair, they’re lovely kids. ‘E’ is almost 10 (going on 16…) and her brother ‘A’ is approaching 3. He’s quite a handful compared to big sis, but they get on like oil, water and a box of matches at times.

I’ve got no siblings. The closest I’ve got is my little cousin, the same age as ‘E’ and the two of them get on really well. Little Cuz was over for a sleepover last night which kept the girls quiet. ‘A’ had a cracking day as well, really well behaved – even going as far as to tidy up. Unheard-of territory!

And then today. We went swimming this morning, only his second ever trip to the baths. He was less sure of himself than last time and it took us a while to get him in the water past his ankles, but after a while he was having fun, swinging at swimmers-by with a large polystyrene purple float. As you do. He was great round Asda, as he usually is, then fell asleep in the car on the way home. As he does.

He was also cranky when he got woken up as we arrived home. Nothing unusual in this! However, he pushed “crank” too far when Gill sorted out a butter and jam sandwich for him. He waited with taste buds erupting as she spread the butter. Then the jam.

And then lost it when she started to cut the bread. Screams, arms going. Gill folded it over and handed it to him and he went mental. Pulled it into two bits and threw it at her. Not good behaviour at the best of times, and especially not when his mum’s nursing a pretty awful head cold.

Naughty step time.

I might not be ‘A’s dad but we both share one very common trait. We’re stubborn as all hell.

‘A’ refused to sit on the step. He screamed. He yelled. He bawled. In between he drooled, cried and somehow found time for the occasional sob. I tried to make him sit. Not having it. I told him to sit. Nope. His mum wandered past (around the 15 minute mark…) and told him to sit. He refused.

He screamed in my ear at a pitch that would likely have had dogs for three streets around running in circles. This went on for three or four minutes until he was coughing. I sat and stared at him. He screamed some more. I stood up and turned my back on him.


I turned around and he was stood there sobbing. I pointed to the step. He shook his head. I turned my back.


I turned around and he was legging it upstairs to his room. I collared him and carried him back down. Needless to say, there was more noise.

Time to lead by example. By now he was crying his head off and standing with his arms open, asking for a hug. I sat down and explained to him that if he sat down next to me, he’d get one. I said please. He repeated what I wanted. Then refused to sit down.

We were on around 25 minutes by this time. I had a pretty watch to look at (thanks, Gill!). ‘A’ had nothing.

I sat. He cried. I tried to explain the rules, he screamed. I stood up and turned my back, he sobbed.

Finally, after forty minutes I sat and ‘A’ collapsed on the stair at my feet. As promised, cuddles followed for me and from his mum. He was much more settled after that and had a good afternoon playing quietly while sick mummy slept on the sofa.

One thing my parents always tell me (and everyone else, thanks folks) is that I was a stubborn little sod as a child. Some things don’t change. ‘A’ picked himself the wrong person to try his luck against!

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