Saturday, 13 November 2010

Learning Difficulties - (Grand)Parental Style. Hopefully Not An Omen.

Max has decided to go on a flying visit to Sam's overnight, as he says this is likely to be the last weekend off he'll be allowed before Christmas. He doesn't invite me, but when I look a bit unimpressed, he says,

"You could have come if you'd wanted to. I thought you'd like a weekend to yourself. You can catch up on all that woman stuff you don't like me to see you doing."

Is that a hint that I should have another go with the hair removal wand? Or is it just an excuse? Whichever it is, there doesn't seem much point in arguing, so I wave Max goodbye, and then decide to go for a wander around Primark.

Bloody, bloody Christmas. Why does it have to start so early? The florist I pass on my way into town still has pumpkins piled up in the window, but now they're swathed in Christmas tree lights. Talk about trying to cover all bases. I bet there'd have been hearts in there somewhere, too, if I'd stopped for a better look.

My blood pressure always goes up at the mention of the so-called festive season. Or, at least, it does these days. I didn't used to mind it when the children were young, despite the inevitable Christmas morning fight that would break out between Connie and Josh within five minutes of them waking.

This was usually about ten minutes after Max and I had gone to bed, but watching the kids open their stockings was such fun, even if Josh did get a bit stressed.

Connie's obsession with laboriously un-peeling every bit of Sellotape and folding the wrapping paper as if it were an origami masterpiece - before she even looked at the present - almost drove him into a frenzy. Josh has always been a fan of immediate gratification.

He would rip his presents open as fast as he could, then cram anything remotely edible into his mouth - including an unshelled Brazil nut that he confused with a piece of Chocolate Orange on one memorable occasion. He'd almost always need to be sick by about 10:00am. Or hospitalised. (Maybe not quite as much has changed as I thought.)

Now Christmas just isn't the same. Well, the fun's gone, though the tedious bits remain exactly as they were. I still have to write one hundred and sixty-four Christmas cards every year - another dubious benefit of having an over-extended extended family.

And why do wives automatically become responsible for buying, writing and sending cards to their husband's family too? That wasn't at all what I meant when I said, "I do." Five million years ago.

Top of the enthusiasm-killers is definitely the "Who gets which parent?" question, though. Dinah's already on the case when she phones in the evening.

"You having Gary Glitter for Christmas, if he comes back from Thailand before then?" she says. "He already sounds a bit bored."

"Well, even he probably can't have sex twenty-four hours a day," I say.

"Not without spending all his pension on Viagra, anyway. So - are you going to invite him?"

"What?" I say. "Dinah, it's not my turn. I did it last year. Why can't he come to you?"

"He's too annoying." I suppose that's undeniable, but even so...

"And he hates my kids," Dinah continues. "He will insist on calling Jake Damian."

"Damian?" I say.

"From The Omen. Dad thinks it's bloody funny, but I don't appreciate him looking through Jake's hair every five minutes, and saying he's only trying to find the number 666."

Dinah inhales, then carries on:

"And Dad always picks the remote up the moment he arrives and doesn't let it go until he leaves. He won't even let Jake watch CBeebies, for God's sake. How can you expect a four-year-old to appreciate Rugby Sevens or The Terminator?"

She's got a point there. Whenever Dad comes to stay with us, he insists on having the TV on all the time. As far as anyone can tell, there appears to be no reason for this, except to allow him to change channels. Every thirty bloody seconds.

"Yeah, what is wrong with him?" I say. "I thought Josh was going to have a coronary by Boxing Day. We didn't manage to watch a single film all the way through."

"It's ADHD," says Dinah. "As witnessed by his serial marriages."

I really hope that's not an omen. Max is easily-distracted - especially by naked women - and aren't there more divorces over Christmas than at any other time of year?

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