December 24th is Christmas Eve for many but for me and my boys it’s what, in 2023 we referred to as “Christmas Dave”. It was the first year ever I was not spending any part of Christmas Day with them as they were celebrating with their dad (which I was excited about for the 3 of them). So we decided to bring Christmas Day a day early and combine the words ‘day’ and ‘eve’….Christmas Dave!
We spent the 23rd sorting the house out, I had an urge to pop to the church yard my grandparents ashes are laid so took the boys there and we put some flowers down then popped into the pub next door for a Prosecco (cokes for them), and then went home to carry on making sure we were sorted for the next day.
Harry was sleeping in my bed due to a spilt drink on his bed making his mattress wet and I chose to sleep on the sofa.
Despite the boys not believing in Santa for a couple of years now we’d still continued the tradition of leaving a snack and drink out for him. This year though we didn’t. After they went to bed I sat on the “cuddle chair” in the lounge, Christmas lights on, Real Housewives on the tv, and it hit me how different Christmas is now.
Harry had said himself that “It doesn’t feel like Christmas” and I had to agree. I think now the lack of school Christmas performances, school Christmas discos, not having to be secretive about presents due to them knowing they are all from me, the TV schedule not being the same as it used to be, all contributed. I’ve vowed to find alternatives to make Christmasses a bit more Christmassy from now on.
I put their joint presents under the tree, and their Christmas sacks on the rocking chair and against the fire surround and stood back and felt really proud of myself.
I know we say Christmas isn’t just about presents but for me it is a big part of it. My love language is gift giving. I love it and dare I say, I’m quite good at it.
When I look at the pile of presents I have got my children I don’t think they are spoilt, I don’t see it as bragging, I instead look at it with pride that I alone, as a solo parent, work hard enough to be able to treat them to these things and to be able to afford it. (They also don’t go to any kind of clubs and get anything they want with their pocket money so don’t cost me much at all during the year!)
When I was a housewife I used to have to ask for the money to buy Christmas gifts so, even 8 years on, I am still loving the freedom and novelty of choosing what I get and what I spend.
At 1:30am, laid on the sofa feeling a strange feeling around how Christmas was for us I eventually decided to get some sleep. Not knowing if they would continue the tradition of getting up at silly o’clock to open their presents or if they would be a “typical pre-teen/teenager” and sleep in (I was hoping for the latter).
Unfortunately it wasn’t them that woke me up. I woke up unable to move as I’d obviously wriggled around enough in the night to completely swaddle myself in my duvet. I looked at my phone and had a Whatsapp from Charles.
They then walked into the lounge and helped me untangle myself.
“Merry Christmas Dave”.
I used to have the rule of not opening presents until we were dressed in nice clothes, hair done, make up done (me, not them) but this year instead made myself a coffee and sat next to the tree and we opened our presents.
Typically our Christmasses since my divorce have seen them open their presents, us then have breakfast, them tidy their presents into their rooms and then me dropping them off at their dads. This year though. They disappeared and I was sat alone, with a glass of Bucks Fizz, hearing the rustle of Lego packaging and Lego bricks being built by Charles, Harry setting up his Alexa. I made us chocolate pinwheels and briefly saw them as they came down to eat them before disappearing again.
My dad called to let us know he was on his way round to do the present exchange. “Merry Christmas Dave”. It meant so much to me that he acknowledged what that day was for us.
He stayed for a couple of hours, playing with the games the boys had got as Christmas gifts, and then left to do his final food shop for Christmas Day.
That’s when it hit me that whilst we were celebrating that today and in my head I was trying to convince myself it WAS Christmas Day so I didn’t feel the loss of not having that properly with my boys, for others it was different.
I watched a Christmas film with Harry and then we stuck with our Christmas Eve tradition of having party food for dinner and played “5 Second Rule” whilst we picked at mini pizzas, spring rolls, prawn toast and pigs in blankets”.
As much as I normally love party food that day I didn’t so much because I knew shortly it would be time to get them ready and drive to their dads.
They disappeared again, getting their stuff ready whilst I tidied up. I thought I could hold it together but I broke down.
Harry appeared and asked if I was ok. I told him I was but he knew I wasn’t and hugged me tight. I think I continued crying for a whole hour.
I dropped them at their dads, they were both excited to be going there and were really sweet giving me a big hug and letting me know they’d speak to me at some point the next day.
I drove to my boyfriends, trying to pull myself together so he and his 2 boys didn’t open the door to a sobbing mess. I managed it. Phew!
I walked through the door and his sons ran through and gave me a big hug.
He then followed. As they went back into the lounge and we stood in the kitchen I asked him if he’d told them to do that. He said he hadn’t. They’re a tiny bit younger than my boys so they put down a drink and snack for Santa, went to bed and announced goodnight to me via Alexa and we relaxed.
6:45am. My boyfriend told me I could stay in bed and get more sleep if I wanted and he would go down to be with his boys. I declined. I got up with him, made a point of moaning about Santa being messy and leaving a big pile of crumbs on the tiles in the fire place and we watched them opening their presents, and we exchanged the presents they had got both of us.
My sons were also on the radio on Christmas morning. Their dad is a radio presenter and was doing the morning show and Harry was his co-presenter. It was lovely to almost feel like I had him with me that day without actually having him there.
11am, I offered to drive the boys back to their mums so Tom could have a sort out before we exchanged our presents together. I quite liked that I still had that role of transporting children to “the other parent” and it made it feel a bit more like Christmas Day again to me.
I got back, opened my presents….including a print out of Mick Hucknalls face (I'm not even going to add any context here because I love how random it sounds) and then we got ready for our “rebellious, untraditional Christmas afternoon and evening”. We went off to the pub then went to the local Indian Restaurant for food (taking my Mick print off with me). It was really lovely and the atmosphere was amazing. It helped bring back a feeling of Christmas Day for me. I napped on the sofa when we got home, then we watched TV and ate the leftovers from our Indian at just gone midnight. Being an adult is amazing sometimes!
Reflecting back, although the 24th was different for us and involved tears it was really special and despite the fact I think this year I will have the boys again on Christmas morning, I’ll quite miss our special Christmas Dave.