One Moment in Time…

Christmas is a marker in time. The lovely Mr Hunt always used to feel it took him by surprise, and that used to fray my nerves because it happens every year. I’m a planner and gifts are sorted by October and menus by the start of December. This year I had all the veggies pealed, cut and frozen ready to go, the turkey boned and stuffed and a salmon filleted and skinned a week clear because I was terrified of being ill and not being able to properly host my guests.

And I still had guests, despite lockdown, because my three carers/au pairs need hosting and the children need feeding with the specific things they will eat. There is no muddling through here.

It was a strange tipping point this year, with none of the children having large plastic toys. Clothes and personal grooming products took centre stage with the usual showstopper from their aunt, which we never try to beat. The low-key nature of the preparation was relaxing: their cousins being similar age, I had very little to buy as they had all reached the age where money and personal choice are key. But others went even more low key, and when it came to it, there was not a single present for me under the tree.

Strangely, this felt ok. I thought I would miss the days when appreciation from others came in the form of gifts. But we have spent a long time working on recognising each other’s love languages, and actually, this was just a reflection that gifts are not a love language I am receptive towards.

The things that were important to me were honoured. Mr Hunt shows me his love by getting on board with the planning, despite this not being his natural style. We shared food, which to me is crucial. We made time to incorporate lots of the religious bits of Christmas that are really important to me, including gathering the household in the garden to sing carols at the top of our voices (in a well-ventilated way). The tender respect of all the traditions that are important to me and their significance in my life was very special.

Of course, Christmas was adapted this year. But then, for families, I think it is every year. We never stay the same. Relationships start and end, friends become geographically distant, and children grow. The mythical perfect Christmas has never existed, but our memories will tidy up the difficult parts and distil it to the best gifts, the best party, the best company.

This year my parents, living less than a mile away, may as well have been on the moon. My sister, 250 yrds away, likewise someone I can wave at from 8ft, when what I want to do is touch her. There are always crisis though. In 2008, with a new baby, the lovely Mr Hunt nearly died of swine flu and spent the lead up to Christmas in intensive care with pneumonia. In 2011, we left our third child at the crematorium and went straight to our eldest’s nativity play. In 2015, we were waiting between the charging and court appearance of our children’s attacker. Being apart from people because we love them is a walk in the park comparatively.

Courage is to take what you have and create as many of those happy, shiny memories as you can. The ones which sustain you going forward. It’s minimising the bare spaces, noting them and making emotional room for them, but focusing on what is there. I can’t imagine how hard that must be for people facing their first Christmas alone, as every adaption I’ve needed to make has seen family standing with me.

It is also courageous to make your Christmas/ winter solstice / Hannukah unique to your own needs and those of the people you love. I am religious and like my Christmas focussed that way, which can be very out of step with my peers. But the lights that cover my home are far more focussed on driving out the winter darkness as we reach the turning point of the year. Christmas this year has been about incorporating the traditions and needs of my guests from France and Spain. Innovation rather than hanging on to the things we can’t have has been important, kept us focussed and sane. It was easier for the grandparents to all join us via videocall than it is for us to focus on only the set who are visiting. Our Tapas lunch is amazing, but its flexibility is designed to make sure there is something on the table each child will eat and enjoy and that will never be a roast dinner.

Hope is something I have learnt a lot about through learning to parent. Without getting political, some people seem to think hope is a moon-shot. Aim for the stars and wait to see if all the pieces come together. Like promising the best toy when there is neither money for it nor availability and disappointing with what is delivered.

Hope needs to be grounded in reality. Hope is the top end of a realistic plan.

It is not I lack optimism, but I am not good with uncertainty. I’m a long hauler. I’d rather a downplayed, slow burn relationship than the promises in “Last Christmas”.

Christmas is just a day, an anniversary and public marker we (broadly) societally share, but you always need to look back with tenderness, face today with courage and aim for the top end of what is possible, with kindness and consideration to yourself and others if this can’t be achieved.  

Christmas Stockings

Treated myself, and by default, the lovely Mr Hunt, to some Snag “Sexy AF” garter tights. My legs are ridiculously long, so I’ve never had stockings come this far up my legs before and I really love the look.

This was Christmas Eve, with a freshly spanked behind, ready to throw myself into the last preparations. It was lovely to know- to feel them – beneath my clothes all day, whilst cracking on with being the public-facing, domestic manager all day. Having the carers in for the kids is a real privilege, but, my goodness, the six of them (kids and au pairs) take some management when it comes to excitement and lack of structure. The stockings, and the slightly warmed backside, were my powersuit- a reminder of who I am when I’m me rather than “Mum”.

And, God, I need that sometimes.

There are lots more gorgeous images out there… follow the two links below if this is your Christmas cup of tea.

Lights, Camera, Action

One kind word can warm three winter months.

It is not as easy to be kind as we are told when we are children. Ethics and morals develop and divide ideas of kindness because how you treat someone becomes based on a set of internalised rules and protocols and these don’t always align across society.

Do you tolerate the inappropriate view of someone you broadly get on with, in the hope of educating them in this point of disagreement with your consistency and kindness in other things? Or is this appeasement? Do you really sometimes need to be cruel to be kind? Is not rocking the boat when someone asks you not to kindness? What about when you do rock the boat to speak up for someone- kindness or activism?

Kindness is consideration of other people without expectation of reward. Sometimes in being kind to one, you can be unkind to others simply because of their conflicting stances.

I think considering another person is to be aware of them as an individual, so to be kind takes account of their needs, their traumas and making the provision they need. Autism books often talk about iceberg behaviours. You see the part above the surface, but to understand it and act appropriately you need to get to grips with the parts under the surface.  

You cannot be truly be kind if you are only dealing with the part above the surface.

At the same time though, kindness should not reward poor behaviours. It is not an excuse to allow someone to be hurtful. I don’t agree you need to be cruel to be kind, because cruelty takes pleasure in hurt, but I do think you need to be firm. There are lines that shouldn’t be crossed without consequence.

I work with some people who are so hurt and chronically under-supported that they thrash about like injured animals, hurting those around them, including those who are trying to help. Regularly, I have to remind the others professionals working with them, that their poor manners, lack of thanks or hurtful mistrust does not make them unworthy of help, in fact it is a sign things are lacking. That doesn’t mean we don’t set boundaries on their behaviours. I get hurt too and have to take steps to protect myself. Ask my clients to step out if they are being mean to people who are doing what they can within their own constraints, including me.

And then I go to Twitter.

To return to the iceberg analogy, when you are dealing with people you see in a holistic setting, you can start to unpick their motivations. You can talk, but mainly you listen, and from that you sort out the causes of the behaviour you see. When someone is a real person to you, working out where to draw those lines, how to be considerate of them and make their life better are easy to see. Even if you are only seeing 10%, you are seeing enough other clues to the remaining 90% if you are observant.

On Twitter and other media we see a fraction of a fraction presented through whatever prisms the speaker and receiver wish and crushed into imprecise language choices to fit the word count. Whilst there are people out there who are truly callous, cruel and self centred, and business who are there for the money, there are many more that we judge based on this tiny refracted image of who they are.

If you can’t be kind, say nothing at all.

Twitter is very instant. If you miss a day or two, you can miss a whole shitstorm and end up paddling through the mess trying to make sense of it all. It is possible to be morally and ethically correct but at the same time and in the same thread be inconsiderate of an individual and what has shaped their world view.

One of the things I find hard is when something like this has happened, not taking a side has been met with instant condemnation. To me, kindness is often stepping back and listening carefully first. It’s often far more nuanced than can ever be achieved on twitter. It’s taking the hurt and the violence of an altercation and distilling the key points and taking action- something which may or may not be visible on Twitter.

Lights: Step out of the spotlight. Kindness is offering sympathy rather than empathy, where empathy changes the focus to yourself. Kindness isn’t always an apology, but when it is, it is a “Sorry” without a “but”.

Camera: Don’t think about how your words or actions are going to play out to others. If they are not for public consumption, but need saying, find places and ways to do this that are constructive. Kindness is being firm, often privately, rather than fuelling a bonfire because you look good in firelight.

Action: Kindness is finding something praiseworthy and praising it. Kindness is taking the time to understand where someone is coming from before you act or speak. Kindness can be action rather than words.