Oh, Child. I feel I should start this with an apology (and not for calling you pet names that drive you mad, because that’s still slightly funny). 🤷🏻♀️
I’m sorry you inherited my anxious tendencies. I still remember when it first became obvious my cunning plan to not be myself around you had failed: when, as a toddler, you started to charmingly call out “Be careful, Mummy! Be careful, Daddy!” from the back seat of the car.
You’re in that weird half-way house now where you’re not a tiny, but you’re not even really a pre-teen yet. You really enjoy and relish sneaking the words “crap” and “bloody” into a sentence because you know I don’t care if you do (provided you don’t say it at school) but when I stubbed my toe and barked “shit!” you primly announced that “I know what you said, but not what it means”. You want to go and see Hamilton but I’ve maybe been censoring some of the lyrics and that’s going to get interesting (although given that you listen to the soundtrack while simultaneously watching Pokemon XYZ, God only knows what you think is going on. Listening to Philip Hamilton sing his last while Dedenne chirps is… different). You’re so small but also demanding to walk up from the school gates independently. You’re so young but also setting up Dork Diaries book clubs with your friends. You’re tiny, but also want to visit George Washington’s house (he didn’t sing like Christopher Jackson).
Next spring, assuming Brexit doesn’t bring on the apocalypse, we’ll be spending more money than we strictly should to go somewhere all three of us have been obsessed with for a while: Tokyo. And while we’re there I’ll be dragging you to Tokyo Disneyland knowing that even though you love Disney-in-general, our last visit to Disney Parks was not straightforward for you. At four years old you were on and off rides without a care in the world. By six, you refused to go on anything more elaborate than Living with the Land. You simply switched off at the thought of any thrills. You panicked and got a sick tummy from the mere thought of the bangs from fireworks.
So, my first Christmas wish for you is that we can navigate those fears in a way that feels safe for you and, most importantly, means you can rediscover some of the fun you had before – without any pressure or stress from us. We’ve got a bit of a plan in place (ear defenders for the fireworks, to also be taken onto any ride that has a soundtrack or noises that worry you). We’ve watched the YouTube ride videos for anything you’re unfamiliar with. No drops (not even Pirates unless you decide yourself, without being asked to try it again – even though the first time we went to Disney World it broke down while you were queuing for your fourth go on it and you cried and cried at the thought you wouldn’t be able to go again).
I mean, maybe that wish is more for me than you – for me to have patience, and not let my worry about your caution and reticence tempt me into pushing you too hard or letting you think you’re a problem. You’re never a problem, kid. You’re my world.
Luckily, the season of plays and nativities has passed, and you bashfully but clearly said your lines and sang your songs at both your weekend drama school and school concert. Doing drama regularly has been an absolute saving grace and what might still seem like a shy performer to other people is to me a child who has come on in leaps and bounds to speak as confidently as she can and sign up to do LAMDA exams next year. And I mean, I read your speech to be elected (successfully!) to school council, and I would not underestimate that child.
I do wish the audience knew what you’re like when you go to town at home – but I won’t describe it because I know that would embarrass you. Even though you’re so incredibly eloquent and funny and consciously, gleefully, anarchically ridiculous. So while I might regret not having that all to myself anymore, my second Christmas wish for you is that in the next year you’ll feel ready to let people see more of how outstandingly weird and wonderful you are. But only if they deserve it, of course.
And speaking of being deserving… Look, this year we have truly lived in interesting times. I navigated my first year at a new job. You navigated your first tricky friendships. Your dad worked round the clock at times. Last Christmas Day we visited your yiayia in hospital and this year she’s spent as much time in one ward or another as she has at home, and you’ve gone from seeing her every week to sometimes not seeing her for a couple of weeks at a time and having to pick your way through hospital corridors quietly and sit calmly in rooms full of sick people just to see her. And you love her so much, and you worry about her so much. And you worry about me worrying about her because you can see how much my own mummy means to me.
You got an award from school for being ‘kind and respectful at all times’ – maybe not always to me to be fair, but everyone’s allowed a bad day. When we went to spend your Channukah money on the books you were keen to pick out – books you take in every day to share with your friends – you had a few pounds left over and they quickly disappeared into the hands of people who needed that money more than you. Sure you can throw a wobbly with the best of them when things get too much, but you are at heart such a warm, generous and increasingly empathetic soul. So my third wish for you is that you never, ever lose that. Keep kindness in your heart, and you can let go of everything else.
A little bit of faith in yourself, a little bit of hope that others can see you as I do, and a lot of heartfelt charity. That really covers everything I want for you. As your father is fond of quoting – if for no other reason than it’s also quoted in The West Wing – “O, Lord, give me health and strength. We’ll steal the rest.” Or, you know, something a bit less mercenary…
Yours with such feeling a tiny word like ‘love’ could never hope to hold enough of it,
Alex, this is beautiful. I love every word. And that photo – a treasure! Happiest of all the holidays that your hearts can hold!
Thank you so much! Very happy holidays to you and yours xx