Making the most of a new life

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The ChangingDad 12 Blogs of Christmas: 2. Pace.

Christmas means many things to many people. But to young boys and girls it mostly means Santa and presents, an increase in sweetie availability, and a break from normal routines; and our boys are no exception to this.

One thing we have learned from our limited experience of being parents at Christmas, this year is our sixth, is that it pays to spread it out a bit. I remember when I was little there was a huge expectation that built and built and built until I could hardly stand it. I used to lie in bed on Christmas Eve under heavy bed clothes shivering away (we used to go to my grandparents, who did not have central heating, in usually freezing Northern England), waiting ‘for him to come’. There was a massive opening frenzy and then, well it was all over; and I did not know what to play with first.

With the boys we have a more staged approach over a few days. This began when we merged two Christmas cultures, Karen’s German Christmas of opening presents on Christmas Eve; and mine of opening them on Christmas Day. This year it seems to be stretching out to four days with my family on the 23rd and Karen’s on the 26th. I much prefer it this way and, I think, so do the boys. They get a chance to look and play with their presents at a more leisurely pace and, well, last year then both slept until 8am on Christmas morning. Here’s hoping for the same this year, it’s a very long day that starts in the middle of the night.


The Final Countdown

So that’s Halloween over with, Guy Fawkes Night out of the way, so it’s the final countdown to Christmas. That’s how Jake sees it anyway.

Of course there is nothing in the shops that would make him think any differently. The witches and fireworks hanging from the ceiling of our local supermarket have been replaced by santas and reindeer; and the Christmas goods, present since the beginning of September, have now been moved into even more prominent positions. The excitement is palpable as Jake pours over toy catalogues and makes snowman collages; and everything that he ‘wants’ has been put on an (ever-changing) mental list. It is only a matter of time until the big day now, and the fact that we are due to have snow in December is likely to only ramp the excitement up even further.

I do not want to blame Jake for this. Although he does not watch anything but the BBC, he is still prey to the tentacles of the advertiser on billboards, the sides of buses and trams; as well as in shops and, yes, through school and various community events. I do not blame him because he is actually usually very satisfied with a haul of Christmas/ birthday presents which seem modest in comparison with many of his peers. He is also very good at receiving presents: “just what I always wanted” he will genuinely say.

It would be easy to turn this into a riff on how kids do not know how lucky they are, and how I did not have this, that and the other in my day. But actually I do not want to say this, nor do I want to say it to the boys because in many respects childhood is no different then as it is now, and while I would like to think that I did not anticipate Christmas until the week before, I know that this is not true and I know that a part of me looked forward to Christmas months and months before (and part of me also mourned its passing for another year once it was over).

I think it is often very easy to judge things through our adult eyes and conveniently forget how we were when we were young, probably because we put such things out of our minds when we were teenagers: how embarrassing to have fallen for the “Santa trick”.

So I do not begrudge the boys their Christmas build-up because such events are milestones in our own histories, milestones that are good to remember. I remember many childhood Christmases vividly. I look forward to taking them to see Santa, and I look forward to seeing the look on their faces when they see their stockings magically filled with toys. I know it is not what Christmas is all about but it is certainly part of it

Jake loves the build up to Christmas, oh and he has also been asking about when he can have his chocolate eggs for Easter.

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The Word’s End

I had a bit of bad news today. Although no one has died or been hurt, my life will not be the same again. It was announced that The Word magazine is to cease production after its next issue. I dare say that most of you have never heard of this magazine (and that is no doubt part of the problem) and will be wondering what all the fuss is about; but to me it was the perfect publication.

I still remember when I saw the first issue on the shelf. It had the singer and writer Nick Cave on the cover and, looking back, I remember it as having a sort of glow around it. Of course it didn’t, but it was such a significant find for me that that’s how I still see it in my mind’s eye. Upon picking it up I felt that it had been put together specifically for me with a great mixture of music, film and tv, current affairs, books, and technology. It was intelligently written and both complemented and challenged my cultural life.

In addition to the magazine there is a complementary podcast that has accompanied me on countless train journeys and bus commutes. It was fantastic, like having a group of like-minded friends having a chat and a laugh in my ears. Around the magazine the editors (Mark Ellen and David Hepworth) built an amazing online community that put me in touch with others who were interested in many of the same things that I am; and all the messages of support and sadness on the Word forum and on Facebook are testament to how much it was loved. All in all The Word has helped me keep in touch with the sort of things I wanted to be kept in touch with, and I feel rather sad that it will no longer be there.

I’ve always been a fan of things cultural, and music in particular; and this was something I was determined to try to keep going when I became a Father. In fact a song, Changingman (by one of my favourite singers, Paul Weller), inspired the title of this blog. Paul Weller originally sang in one of my all time top bands, The Jam, which he split up in 1981. As a teenager at the time this seemed like a huge tragedy, I wondered how I would ever cope with life without The Jam. Of course life went on, and other great music came along too.

As life goes on we learn how to cope better with change, perhaps as we experience more and more of it. What led to us feeling utter desolation when we were young now seems like a minor aberration in the grand scheme of things. So while it’s sad when things that we’ve really enjoyed come to an end other things soon replace them, and I dare say that it won’t be long before I’ve found something to replace The Word. In the meantime it has provided me with great memories, and I think I will be having those 200+ podcasts on syndication on my iPod for many years to come.