Thank God that's over. And yes, I do mean Christmas.
I know it's not the done thing as a parent to wish Christmas away - it's a time of joy and giving and love and all of that stuff, after all - and yet, at points throughout those buggering Christmas holidays, I just wanted a very, very, VERY long rest. On my own. Away from my own baying children.
Year on year, it gets to October, and I'm in the midst of all the excitement along with everyone else. I am not exactly consumed by the thought of Christmas, but planning has begun in earnest. Along with the present-buying and the childcare and the 'seeing-the-rest-of-the-family' thing, as a single parent you're also busy attempting to communicate with your ex - someone who you may well dislike intensely - about who will have the treasured jewel of having the children on Christmas Day.
So there's that to contend with. And all that Christmas preamble - school plays, concerts, Christingles - they all have to be attended (on your own, of course). And friends are lovely and invite you to Christmas parties, and you're soooo tired but you feel you have to say yes or they won't invite you again, so you scratch around for babysitters that your kids don't want, and you go to a party that you're too tired to enjoy, and you end up, on Christmas Eve, feeling a bit ... frayed.
And then comes Christmas proper, this year spent travelling to see sick and mourning relatives, and then returning home and trying to keep the kids amused as the days stretched out ahead. Interminably, it seems.
But this is not an 'oh-woe-is-me' tale. Because on the last Friday of the Christmas holidays, when it was finally time to hand my kids over to my ex for the weekend, I buggered off with my part-time boyfriend to the Dorset Coast. I have never been so in need of a dirty weekend away. And my gosh my golly my o my lordy - we had a swashbuckling time. We ate, drank, made love, laughed, walked, took photographs. Slept a lot. Here's a random pic:
And then, after returning home, I felt like a normal human being again and welcomed my children back with smiles and open arms. Back to being the loving parent that I was before all of that bleedin Christmas bollocks set-in.
It made me think. My ex husband is useless, but he IS there for the children every other weekend, and this allows me to let off steam. If my ex wasn't around - if I were a true single parent - how would I cope? The answer is, it would be extremely difficult. I have no family near; I suspect I would have to move back nearer one of my parents. And that in itself presents its own set of problems.
So. Thank God for small mercies. And the start of the new school term.