Rosie Green: How to do Christmas, divorcée style
It’s fair to say Christmases since my marriage split have been testing. The first was hellish: full of snotty tears, the kids stunned and sad. The second was slightly better, less fraught but all of us laid low by a vicious bout of food poisoning, plus a broken ankle for my mother just for good measure. On the third, the kids and I were holed up with Covid and had to have meals on wheels from my friend Gem. So I’m hoping fourth time lucky.
And now it’s that time of year again, when the whispers of ‘What are you doing for Christmas?’ are building up to a fully fledged cacophony. Joyous though the festive season is, it was challenging enough to maintain emotional harmony when we were still a regular nuclear family.
I found there were points of tension surrounding the ‘big day’ within all of my relationships – partner, parents, in-laws, kids. Everyone has their own ideas about how it should go; we all want it to be perfect and it rarely (OK, never) is.
‘I found there were points of tension surrounding the ‘big day’ within all of my relationships – partner, parents, in-laws, kids,’ Rosie Green (pictured) says
Now, as a divorcée with a boyfriend and a fractured family, I am faced with some new challenges. Number one is that I want to make it perfect for the kids.
As the only child of a single mother, Christmas was when I felt acutely aware of how small our unit was. We were always warmly welcomed by our extended family, but still something in me felt like the poor relation. I didn’t want this for my kids, so I would try to create The White Company on steroids. We traded in our bijou (estate agent speak for cramped) London house for a country cottage with a hall just made for a Christmas tree. Finally guests could access the kitchen without having to edge round the branches and risk a pine needle piercing.
There’s a new family dynamic – namely, the boyfriend
We became the family offering a warm welcome to waifs and strays. Then all that blew apart. So, my thinking now is that I need Christmas to be fun-filled, super-social and aesthetically perfect to shield my children from any feelings of sadness. Which is all very well, but my Christmas aspirations rarely become my Christmas reality.
I’m not one of those people who has ordered the turkey in September, blown the dust off the decorations bought in the January sales and is about to send out family portrait cards, complete with fake snow, I had taken in June. Nope, I’m the person who cobbles Christmas dinner together from what’s left on the supermarket shelves on Christmas Eve (Heston’s balsamic Christmas pud, anyone?). Then comes the inevitable self-flagellation.
Now there’s the new family dynamic – namely, the boyfriend.
‘Are you spending Christmas together?’ enquiries seem to really mean ‘How serious are you about each other?’
But Christmas together is challenging because we both have kids and we want them to feel comfortable and secure. Plus, being together would mean learning and navigating his family’s quirks, because everyone thinks their way to spend Christmas is the only way and anything else is abhorrent.
Meal in or out? Rip open the presents at 6.30am or slowly remove the Sellotape after lunch? Goose or turkey?
Well, I guess that whatever happens it’s got to be an improvement on last year, when we were newly dating and, thanks to Covid, our Christmas involved a drive-by passing of presents and a socially distanced walk on Boxing Day. Romantic it was not.
I ask the children what they would like to do. It’s harder to get a straight answer out of them than it is from the most slippery of politicians.
‘I loved it last year, when we spent all day in our pyjamas and slobbed about.’
‘What? You mean when we saw no one and the house was a tip?’
‘OK, well we will re-create that – but without the Covid, hopefully.’
‘Great. But, erm, Mum, can Gem bring the food round again?’