This year, for the first Christmas ever, we are not going to visit any relatives on Christmas Day. Or Boxing Day. Nor are we going to have any relatives come to us. Nope. It's just going to be me, Ian and the children. No visiting, and no visitors. And that's just the way we want it to be.
Christmas has always been a semi-stressful experience for me. Even as a child, I was torn between being excited about Christmas but also anxious about having to dash about packing my things to take to my Dad's house, as my parents split up when I was four years old. And as an adult my Dad has continued to invite me round at Christmastime, which is wonderful.
Except... I now have a family of my own.
My first Christmas as a mother was when Little N was not even 8 weeks old. I was still getting over the birth experience, I was still getting to grips with breastfeeding, I was not getting very much sleep, and I just wanted to be at home in my pajamas.
My lovely Dad and his equally lovely partner invited us over for dinner on Christmas Day. I know he was excited about his first Christmas as a grandfather, and I know that they just wanted to make sure that I didn't lift a finger on Christmas Day. But for me it just made everything more stressful.
I couldn't relax that day. Presents were opened in a hurry in the morning, then we had to get everything ready to drive the nine or so miles to their house. We were late because the baby was napping when we needed to go, then he wanted a feed, and then he did a poo. When we got there I worried that I had forgotten something, I worried about feeding in front of people and I worried about when he would be able to have his next nap. We got home way too late, and we were all just exhausted.
Of course since then I have found my feet as a mother and I'm a lot less worried about things. I pretty much know what I'm doing and can throw a bag of stuff together for my children for when we go out. But I still don't want to have to be driving around visiting people. Or waiting for visitors to come to us. Especially when you remember that I have two stepchildren to consider, too.
As it happens, my stepchildren now go through that same Christmas split that I hated as a child. They spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with one parent, before spending Christmas afternoon and Boxing day with the other. Christmas Day is busy enough making sure that the children get to their mum's on time, without having to travel elsewhere as well. It's just crazy!
We want to relax and enjoy Christmas together. We want to start our own Christmas traditions. Those few precious days that should be about spending time together as a family have been spent loading and unloading cars to visit people. After three years of craziness, I'm putting an end to it. We still want to see our relatives, but we'll visit them on the day after Boxing Day. This year, Christmas is ours.