Expect more.

I don’t always like it, but quite often my Mum is right about a lot of things. She’s not particularly old, she had me when she was 19, she’s not travelled far and wide, but none of this matters. She’s one of those ladies, akin to Miss Marple, who from the comfort of her front room, can tell you precisely who is and who and what is what. Is she humble about her gift? Not a chance! Ever since I was tiny, I’d always hear about how she could correctly assess any situation and how she was always right. Growing up, it would annoy me immensely – now I accept that she has a certain talent or a gift, I just hope that it is hereditary and that I too can be equally infuriating as I get older, by always being right.

One of the things that I will always be thankful to my mother for, is that she always taught me and my siblings that if we were not happy in a situation, or if things were not going the way we wanted them to, or if we had bought something that we didn’t like – never shrug your shoulders and accept ‘that’s just the way things are’ – do something about it.

Her feeling was that in life we work so hard. Every single penny that we bring home, we have truly earned. Nothing is given to us for free. Nothing in life is free. So when you have worked hard in life, to get what you have and if something isn’t how you would like it, why accept it? If you go to a restaurant and you order a meal and the waiter brings something that you didn’t want, would you just accept it, or would you explain this isn’t what you wanted and ask for what you did want?

Sometimes it is easier to not say anything – but is that right? Do you get what you want by just sitting back and accepting things for what they are?

So, here’s a small example of my Mum’s philosophy in action. We’d had a glorious summer this year and even September was remarkably warm and pleasant. But when the weather began to change, my husband and I bought warm, padded, winter coats that zipped up at the front for our daughters. The zips are an absolute pain. They get trapped with material all the time, then you have to spend ages pulling on the zipper, untangling material, I absolutely hate them. My eldest is particularly prone to getting material trapped in her zipper no matter how careful she is. However, it was my youngest whose coat was eventually ruined because the zip actually broke. Luckily, we had another duffle coat that had belonged to my eldest, but she had grown out of it, and she started to use that. It was my Mum who saw this and asked, ‘Why isn’t she wearing her other coat?’ We explained the whole sorry story to her, expecting that to be that. But she asked, ‘Why haven’t you returned to the shop and asked for another one in her size?’ I then explained about how we hadn’t kept the receipt, we couldn’t remember when we had actually bought it, there was no point, blah, blah, blah…

‘Give the coat to me,’ Mum said, ‘I’ll speak to the shop. This coat is only a couple of months old. This shouldn’t have happened. Children’s coats shouldn’t be ruined so quickly. If you haven’t got a receipt it doesn’t matter.’

Off she drove, with the coat in tow. An hour or so later, she called me. ‘I showed them the coat, explained this shouldn’t have happened. They’ve given me a gift card with the value of the coat on it. I’ll give the gift card to you later.’

There was not a single atom in my Mum’s body that had doubted the outcome of the conversation that she was about to have with the Customer Services department of the shop. She knew what was right, she knew what she wanted and she did something about it. And it reminded me about how strong she is, how unfaltering in her views and how absolutely determined she is that things should be right. You never accept less in life.

So…taking a leaf out of her book, I returned a couple more things that I had bought for the children only a few weeks previously, I didn’t have the receipt but the goods were still for sale in the shop. I explained the situation – the shops returned the money onto gift cards and apologised for what had happened.

Reflecting upon what had happened, and reflecting over my life in general, I was grateful to God that my mother is the way she is. She is a fighter. A strong, demanding woman who knows what she wants in life, and will not take the easy, lazy option. She wants what she wants and will get it.

She taught us, and we picked it up without even realising it, that the whole world is out there – you have to know what you want out of life, and you have to ask for it. Expect it. If you don’t get what you asked for – make a fuss. Keep going, keep knocking on doors, keep trying until you get what you asked for, what you wanted for yourself.

Even though I am so much older now, I am astounded at my Mum’s confidence when facing things. When she knows she’s right – she knows she’s right (and that’s quite often), and no one will be able to stop her from getting what she needs, done.

We never stop learning. We never stop growing. And every so often, we need reminding. Expect more from life. If things are not right, in any situation in life – don’t just shrug your shoulders and accept it. Things will never change if you do that. Things will never get better. Be brave. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and ask for change – just like you would if you were brought the wrong order at a restaurant, or if the zip’s broken on a coat and you don’t have the receipt.

Anything is possible. Just ask my Mum, she’ll tell you what to do. And when it works, be prepared for her to say, ‘I told you it would work. I’m always right!’

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Resolutions

It’s the start of 2019. A new year. A new start. My teachers, when I was little used to say the same things every year. A new year is like a blank notebook. A fresh start. An opportunity for you to draw a line under things that happened last year and a chance to make the future brighter and better than before.

So many of us start making resolutions.

I’m going to lose weight.

I’m going to read more.

I’m going to meet my friends more.

I’m going to…I’m going to…I’m going to…

Here’s what I think…

You’re curvy or you’ve put on a bit of holiday weight. So what? People love you the way you are. You have to learn to love yourself.

Ok, you haven’t read as much as you would have liked – it’s ok. You were doing other things. If you get the time, you will read. No need to beat yourself up about not reading.

You have been busy with life so you haven’t had the chance to meet up with friends. Guess what? They’re also in the same boat. Set a date. Go. Don’t put pressure on yourself for having to meet up frequently. It’s ok. Everyone understands.

There is so much pressure on self-improvement. Unless you’re a racist, woman hating, homophobic, animal torturing and anything else despicable – you’re a pretty wonderful human being. Stop beating yourself up. Accept that something’s you can do, other things you can’t.

If you have to make a resolution – try this one – love yourself more. Say positive things to yourself. When those thoughts begin to lurk in and like worms, begin to dig away in your brain, telling you that you’re not good enough; not pretty enough; not thin enough; not clever enough: not funny enough – take a deep breath and stop. Start telling yourself what you are good at. Start telling yourself what a difference you make to the world.

Enjoy 2019. Enjoy the adventure ahead. Start believing (if you don’t already), how absolutely brilliant you are.

NB: if you are racist, or misogynistic, or a homophobe, or cruel to animals or simple troublemaker who gets kicks out of hurting others – you do need to have a word with yourself. You need to sort your issues out. None of the above ‘feel good factor’ stuff applies to you.

The rest of you – you are brilliant. Believe it!

Respect

Respect is a funny thing isn’t it? An intangible but a powerful force to reckon with. You know when you have it. However, a bit like water and food, you’re even more acutely aware of it when you don’t have it.

We’re taught from a young age that adults and authority figures deserve respect. Throughout history, there have been innumerable instances when those figures have abused the power of the respect bestowed on them by others by taking advantage of and mistreating those around them. Often, they get away with their actions with very few consequences. Why? Because they are often shielded by others who revere them or benefit from them or bask in the reflected glory of the respected person.

When you go through life and there are ups and downs, you realise quite quickly that people are chameleons. People quite often astound me – and not in the positive sense of the world. To some, position, power and wealth is king. It is absolutely everything. You can be an absolutely wretched, deplorable human being. But, because you have an important position, or are in power, or have wealth – you are impressive, worthy and deserving of respect. On the other hand, you can be kind, helpful, an angel of a human being – but without wealth, or an important job, or not wielding power over anyone – you’re valued as worthless. Undeserving of respect. Your words are not valued, your actions are not valued. You are a ‘nothing’ in their eyes. Nothing.

The older I get, the more and more I observe this behaviour in the world around me. People fawning like sycophants over people with wealth and/or power. If truth be told, it angers me. Those people who are so superficial and lacking in integrity, that the way they judge people is purely based on wealth and power and position – and that is their criteria for giving people respect – in my eyes, these people are truly despicable.

Surely, you have to dig a bit deeper? Surely, if you are going to give respect to someone – you have to have loftier ideals? Surely, the recipient of your respect has to be a good human being in the first place? Surely, they have to be kind and good? Surely, being in their presence should make you feel good about yourself?

The thing with wealth and power – you never know when it will come, or when it will go. The other intangible qualities: kindness, helpfulness, reliability, integrity, ability to keep your promises…these are not transient attributes. They don’t simply come and go. These qualities, if you have them – they are there for life. Why aren’t these people given the most amount or respect? Because if they were – our world would be a different place. Certainly not the brutal mess it is at the moment.

I have met people who have been cruel. Who have been unkind. Who have done their best to break people around them, destroy their confidence, stamped out the light inside others. Often, it is these types of people in power. They treat their subordinates in this way. Many leave. Some leave before too much damage has been done. Others leave after they have been completely destroyed. Those who stay they emulate this behaviour once they get into power because they admire and respect this style and believe that this is the best way to be.

There are those of course who have wealth, power and position, and are absolute gems of human beings. Those people are few and far between.

I will say this – we are on the brink of a new year. 2019. 2018 has felt extremely drama filled and tumultuous when you look at events on a global scale. At the moment, the world doesn’t seem like a particularly kind, safe place to be living in. On the Earth at the moment, the best people are actually primary school aged children. They are the ones who are the most idealistic people, wanting the world to be a better place, treating each other with kindness and calling out others who do not behave correctly. They often show patience to those who are different, and won’t tolerate unkindness in others.

What the hell happens to them? Why do those incredible qualities that they are born with, because children are inherently good and kind, why do they get battered out of them? When does respect for goodness and kindness become substituted for money and power?

I don’t know. What I do know is that we need to take a good hard look at ourselves and reflect on our own behaviour. If we want to live in a more peaceful and happier world, we need to re-evaluate as a society who and what we give respect to.

I know, I know, I’ve laboured the point enough… but I’ll leave you with this…

We make choices all the time. Our choices have consequences. If we choose to give the wrong type of people respect – the repercussions are horrific. We cannot blame those in power for their behaviour, if we are the people who put them there and crucially, keep them there in the first place. Let’s start taking responsibility for our actions, and slowly but surely, let’s start changing the world.

One can only but hope.


Failure

When I was a tiny little dot, my father decided to take me to watch a karate lesson, to inspire me to take up martial arts. I think I was about 5 or 6 years old at the time. My memories are hazy, but I remember that my mum was not with me – that felt strange in itself, to be going somewhere without my mum and my sister. It just didn’t feel right. I don’t remember the building, or where we went. I simply recall my dad opening a door to a large room filled with men in pristine white karate uniforms with black belts tightly tied around their waists. All the men were carrying out synchronised manoeuvres and were shouting words in frighteningly loud voices. I remember finding these men terrifying! Within a few seconds, I must have started screaming and crying inconsolably because my father just could not pacify me, he drove me home.

Years later, I too have two daughters, and even before they were born, I also developed a huge sense of anxiety and fear – how am I going to keep them safe and secure? How am I going to protect them? How are they going to protect themselves when I am not around? So, when my daughters arrived, I already had a plan of action developed – Taekwondo. By hook or by crook, whether they liked it or not, they were going to learn how to stand up protect themselves if ever the need arose.

You see, I wish that my dad had taken me back to those karate lessons, perhaps when I was a bit older. I completely understand why he couldn’t – he was carrying out further studies after working all day, my mum didn’t drive at the time, it was a difficult time. But I know now why dad would have wanted me to attend those lessons, but he also knew that I wasn’t ready for them at that time.

I didn’t give my girls much of an option, or a choice about it. I spoke to them long and hard about what Taekwondo was and why I wanted them to learn it. I showed them videos on YouTube of little children learning martial arts and what they were able to achieve and the benefits of learning this amazing discipline.

Luckily, I found a family run club, the instructor understood straight away my anxieties for my daughters and reassured me that they would benefit and thrive from learning Taekwondo. She wasn’t wrong. What attracted me to this particular club was that the accomplished black belt instructor was female. I’d only ever seen and heard of male instructors. Since the girls have started attending the lessons, there are at least two other female instructors which is brilliant because my girls can see that it isn’t simply a discipline practised and taught by men. Women and girls can achieve and become warriors too.

In March when they joined, my eldest was already a confident, sparky little girl. It was my shyer, more reserved younger daughter that I was worried about – but to my delight, she is becoming more and more confident as each day passes. I do attribute a huge chunk of this success to Taekwondo. I don’t stay and watch the lessons – there’s no need for that, and my presence would be more of a distraction than a help. But I do watch her in the last 5 minutes of the lesson, before it’s time to finish, and I’m proud to see her looking at her opponent’s in the eye whilst they practice their kicking and punching skills. I’m impressed to see her having a go at carrying out ten push ups and then sit ups too. She’s become more assertive at home and at school too, more confident about disagreeing with others and putting her point of view across.

These skills you can’t grade: confidence, assertiveness, walking around with your head held high, becoming easy in yourself instead of anxious. But from a parent’s perspective, these developments mean the world to me.

When the children are ready, their instructor puts them forward for grading and inevitably, not all children pass their grading. What I loved reading later on, was the instructor’s attitude towards failing. The gist of what she wrote was this: failure doesn’t matter. Failure is a part of life. Not everyone passes everything on the first attempt or even second attempt. Failure helps you to develop, learn and grow and teaches the incredibly valuable skill of perseverance. It is ok to fail – the question is – what have you learnt from failing? And what will you do next time to succeed?

When I read what the instructor had written – by heart just swelled up with joy. This is what I want for my girls as well – to not fear failure. No one wishes for failure – of course not, we all want to succeed in life, I pray for their success all the time. However, at times failure is more valuable than success – it makes you more determined, makes you wiser, makes you empathise with others who have found something challenging and you learn to help others along the way. It helps you to develop coping mechanisms with life when other situations are challenging.

In terms of pushing forward and developing good emotional well-being in children and ultimately in adults – surely we should all look at failure in a different way? It’s not a bad, terrible thing – it’s an opportunity to learn. An opportunity to grow and develop. It may not be something that you would want – but it’s something that helps you nonetheless.

I was talking to my husband about this in great depth and we both shared stories about times when we had failed in certain areas of life – and how we had persevered because failing and then giving up was not an option. We discussed the strength of character it took to try again and ultimately how much sweeter the prize was when we achieved our goals.

We have to teach our children to able to pick themselves up, dust themselves down and go for their goals again if they did not achieve what they wanted, the first, second, third, fourth time – keep going, keep learning, keep growing.

Failure doesn’t mean that you are a bad, rubbish, worthless person. Quite the opposite. Life is telling you to have another go. Go on. Try again. Show the world what you are made of. And when you achieve your goal – there is no other feeling quite like it.

I’ll finally leave you with a story that I only heard quite recently but will stay with me forever. WD-40. WD-40 is an everyday household chemical that people use to lubricate and get rid of the noise from squeaky hinges etc. The reason why it is called WD-40, is because it was on the 40th attempt that the scientists developing it got the formula just how they wanted it. 40. 40 attempts! If that doesn’t illustrate the point that from failure and perseverance, comes success – I don’t know what else will.

Meanwhile, keep pushing yourself and the people you love to try new things in life – and if you fail, you fail. Shrug it off, try again and enjoy the journey.

Step back in time

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the app ‘Timehop’, most of you probably have it.  If you don’t, I’ll explain what it does.  You can link it to the photos on your camera roll, to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Dropbox etc, and everyday it gives an update of any photos, or Facebook statuses, or tweets you may have written on that day years ago.  I love it.  Everyday, it shows me memories of photos and videos of my little ones that I or others took and I marvel at how small they were.  I marvel at videos of them when they were only 18 months old and how I could understand them perfectly at the time – but I look back at their broken English, and attempts to communicate, gesturing and nodding – like a game of charades – and I think how nobody else would probably understand what they were trying to say, but my husband and I did.  

Yesterday, as is my daily ritual, I opened Timehop again, and saw a series of photographs and videos that physically hurt my heart.  It reminded me of a time when I desperately wanted to be in control of my life – but nothing could have been further from it. 

Let me digress and travel off track a little.  On the BBC at the moment, there is an advert that has caused a bit of a controversy amongst some viewers.  The advert shows a teenage boy and a fraught mother.  It’s Christmas time and the mother has to work – she can’t spend the time that she would have liked to with her son, and her son resents her for, as he sees it, putting her job before him.  As a viewer, you can see the conflict in both of those people.  Mum has to work.  The son probably gets that too – but he wants to spend some time with her.  The mum is also torn in half, she needs to work, but she also wants to spend time with her son.  We see shots of them both struggling in their different settings, both angry, both frustrated.  Finally, the mum runs out of work, races to be with her son and they spend the perfect evening together, reconnecting.  

Why the controversy?  I wondered why people were outraged.  I wasn’t.  I got it.  Having felt that way many, many times in my life, I understood how that mother felt.  I never wanted my own children to feel that way about me.  You see the objection to the advert was that it was a woman.  Why do women have to feel guilty about going to work and having a career and leaving children at home?  I think those people are misguided.  The advert wasn’t trying to say that.  My interpretation was, in a world where we seem to be living to work, instead to working to live – there are times when we need to take a step back, revaluate what is important, the times and moments that we will never get back, and grab those moments so that we can live without regrets.  

The photos and videos that I referred to earlier, was my eldest’s very first Christmas play, when she was in Reception.  I had resigned myself to the fact that I couldn’t go.  I didn’t bother asking my boss at the time, whether I could go because…because I didn’t want to put anyone out.  It was alright, I convinced myself, my husband would be going, she would have one parent there to watch, that would be ok.  It didn’t matter if I didn’t go.  That’s what I told myself.  

The day of the performance finally arrived, and all I could think about was making sure that she was ok.  I hugged her and explained that she was going to be brilliant and that daddy was going to take lots of pictures and videos, so I wouldn’t miss a thing.  From an extremely early age, she has been incredibly emotionally intelligent, so she just smiled and said that everything was fine.  With a heavy heart, I drove to work.  Now the play was starting at 1.30 in the afternoon, and my husband had to pick his parents up from Heathrow that morning.  A completely straight-forward job.  He was keeping me updated about the flight and his arrival time and all was going well – until the flight was delayed.  The airport was about 2 to 2 and a half hours away – and we were in trouble.  Chances were that he wasn’t going to make it back in time, and our little 4 year old was going to have no one there to watch her in her first performance.  

I felt anxious anyway about not being to watch her, but knowing that we had promised that Daddy would be there, and for her to not see anyone in the audience was too much for my heart to bear.  Feeling distraught, I went to my head and explained the situation to her.  I’m not sure how articulate I was, but she could see the distress that I was in, she was completely wonderful and let me go.  

I made it.  I made it on time, to watch my daughter play the part of a sheep, singing her songs and doing the actions that she had spent hours at home learning and perfecting.  All the other parents were sitting together, they all seemed to know each other, I found an empty seat somewhere in the crowd and suddenly there was a bustling of excitement as the play was about to start and the children were walking in.  

Looking back through the photos, I remembered my daughter’s face, so wide-eyed with amazement as she took seconds to process the fact that I was there!  Mummy was there to watch her.  And then she waved excitedly as I blew kisses and waved like a crazy person back at her.  

The play began, and I sat back in my chair wondering at the might of God.  Even though I thought that this was an event that I was destined to miss – the Almighty had other plans.  Genuinely, it felt like a Christmas miracle.  My husband didn’t miss out either.  20 minutes into the performance, he arrived and saw the rest of the play too.  Both of us had tears of both pride and joy and relief in our eyes…

Although it pains me to look back on those times, I’m also extremely grateful that I was able to make life choices and decisions that helped me to redress the imbalances in my life.  I’ll be honest, a few years on and I had forgotten about that time.  But the photos and videos brought everything back to me, like a jolt of lightning.  

One of my mantras in life is to have no regrets.  Life is short and unpredictable, so at times, we have to make life choices that may seem bizarre to others – but are right for us.  I am grateful to God every day for being with me, and helping me to not live a life of regret.  And I will never forget the day that I was not supposed to watch my daughter’s play – but God had other plans.  And for that memory, I will be thankful and grateful forever.

Footprints…

The journey that life takes you on is a strange and surreal one.  I often think that it’s a bit like a train ride – people arrive on the train, share part of your journey with you, they get on the same train as you at different points, leave when their station arrives.  During your journey, some of the passengers sit with you, share food with you, share incredible stories with and you can’t imagine travelling the rest of the way without them.  But then, their stop arrives, they have to depart to catch another train and continue with their journey.  Sometimes you see them again, perhaps stay in touch through social media, or the odd text now and then.  Most of the time, you will never see them again.  

Friendships are like that too.  Best friends you had when you were at primary school or secondary school – they are your universe at the time.  Then you drift away.  Never to think of them ever again.  And this can happen at any point of your life – friends that you make when you are older, you become firm, best friends with.  You share all your secrets with them, you are there for them or they are there for you during some of the toughest times….and then – something happens.  Perhaps you move away, or they do.  Perhaps you meet someone who becomes your partner and you don’t have as much time for anyone else because you’re totally absorbed in this new person and you’re trying so hard to make this new relationship work…before you know it, old friends become relegated to the status of acquaintances.  And then you completely lose touch.  

Do you look back with regret on not being in contact with those people anymore?  Or is it an organic, healthy part of life anyway?  They say that those people who are no longer a part of your life, it is that way for a reason.  Their journey with you was only destined for a period of time.  You met them when it was the right time for you to meet, and they left your life when it was the right time for that to happen also.   It’s not without sadness that I look back and think of some friends that I no longer see.  It’s easy to say we should make time for others and reconnect – but often that’s tricky.  Geography plays a huge part.  Making the time to see someone who lives in a different part of the country, when you have job and family commitments is hard.  And the truth is, after a huge expanse of time, you and your close friends sometimes have actually grown apart for a reason.  Both of you are no longer the people you were when you first connected and made friends.  The close bond that you had, may never be recreated because of the stages of life that you are at.  Before, when you were single, had no commitments, had no children, you could be there for one another at the drop of a hat.  But now, that isn’t possible….

I don’t often look back.  If truth be told, I’m so busy moving forward thinking about the next thing that needs to be done, I don’t have the time to look back.  A friend I once knew said that there are a few people you meet in the world who, when they leave, you can feel the imprints of their footsteps on your heart.  You’ll never forget them.  There are a handful of people who have made that impression on me.  Who I find it hard to forget.  Who were fiercely protective of me, and were at the end of a phone call whenever I needed them.  You can tell I’m talking about pre 2010, because nowadays people would rather die than speak to one another on the phone! I’m talking about friends who built me up and made me feel that I was worth something.  They would make me feel incredible about myself.  We would meet and just laugh and laugh forever.  We were young and invincible.  Everything was in our grasp.  

I think if I hadn’t met this bunch of disparate, incredible, loyal, strong, intelligent, beautiful women – I wouldn’t be the person that I am now.  I wouldn’t have had the courage to make certain decisions that I made in life.  I wouldn’t have realised the importance of raising people up, so that they can become the best versions of themselves.  It’s only when you have experienced true sisterhood, true friendship, positivity – that you can pay that forward.  

I may not be constantly in touch with all the wonderful friends that I had in the past, the ones who made me realise that life is for enjoying and isn’t always a serious slog and fight.  But those incredible women have left  indelible imprints on my heart, and the lessons I learnt from them, and the positivity and boost in self esteem that they gave me, I hope that I am able to pass onto others.  

But – just like the train journey that I referred to earlier – the wonderful thing about life is that you never know who will embark upon that journey with you.  Which exciting people you will meet next?  New friendships that will take you to new places?  

All I know is that life is an unpredictable, strange, journey – be kind, positive and loving to the people you meet along the way, so that when we leave, people smile and remember us with fondness.  

 

The Santa Debate

I love Christmas time.  I love driving home in the dark, seeing people’s houses lit up with the most cheerful and intricate displays.  I love walking through shopping centres, with their shiny, glittery decorations, colour everywhere, lights everywhere and I marvel at designers who have such amazing ideas.  As I write this, I am beginning to realise that it is the cheerful, colourful lights that brighten up the dark winter nights that make me feel so joyful. 

And of course there’s the build-up.  The process of carefully choosing and buying gifts for loved ones, and hoping that when they unwrap their gift, it brings a smile of surprise and joy to their face.  All very lovely!

Christmas has always been a magical time for me.  I still marvel that approximately 2018 years on, we celebrate the birth of a tiny baby born in a stable.  This baby’s incredible kindness throughout life and sacrifice at the end is a beautiful story, and one that I love.  But for many people, Christmas isn’t really about this little boy, it’s about a completely different person altogether….known by many different names around the world, this person is of course Father Christmas.  

I was under no illusions when I was a little girl, that Santa Claus was not real.  That myth had been dispelled for me from a very tiny age.  I had been told he was not real and that was that.  It didn’t ruin my enjoyment of Christmas one little bit.  We still enjoyed the warmth, the happiness, the special food (all different types of delicious curries for me, not a roast dinner), the presents (which are no way as extravagant as they are today – we belonged in an era when we were delighted to receive a selection box of chocolates!).  It was still an incredibly magical time.   I remember my sister and I trying really hard to stay awake every year on Christmas Eve to see if we could hear Santa and his reindeer on their sleigh, racing through the inky black sky – even though we knew he wasn’t real, a tiny part of us wondered if he just might be! 

As a teacher first, then as a parent – I keep the magic of Santa Claus alive.  When the children hear others whisper ‘Santa’s not real!  It’s just your parents buying presents!’ I laugh it off.  ‘Of course Santa’s real!’ and move on.  I enjoy listening to the extreme lengths that parents will go to in order to make it seem real that Santa did come – the apps tracking Santa’s journey, the icing sugar footprints on the carpets and floor, the half eaten cookies and carrots that were left out for Santa and the reindeer, the dressing up as Santa and putting presents in rooms, the notes from Santa and Rudolph.  I even have an app on my phone where Santa can actually call up my children and talk to them on the phone!  All of this brought me immense delight until I read something that made me think twice…

Somebody has posted a satirical article about how annoying those children are, you know the ones, whose parents have told them that Santa Claus is not real, and they then proceed to tell everyone on the playground in superior voices what they have learnt.  (I was not that type of child when I was little, I will hasten to add!)  Often, the most interesting part of an article for me, is reading the comments section and as usual I was scrolling down to see what people had written.  Most people had written comments agreeing with the article – but one comment in particular made me start to re-evaluate and question my own thinking.  This person had posted how potentially harmful the lies were about telling your child that Santa Claus is alive and delivering presents, even though we know he isn’t alive anymore.  That children look to their parents as people who will tell them the truth about the world – and if we maintain this façade – and when they realise that Santa Claus isn’t real after all – won’t they start questioning what else they were told and wonder if all that isn’t real?

I’ll be honest – my mind was blown!  I’d never thought of it in that way before.  And I reflected on my own childhood – Christmas was no less special because I had been told that Father Christmas was not real.  I was fascinated with this character, and wanted to know the origins of his story – but I knew that ultimately Christmas was actually about Jesus, so the existence of this jolly man in a red suit didn’t really matter.  

I also pride myself on being the one that my children can come to, for the truth about life – if they have a question, or a concern, or a worry – they can come to me and I will tell them.  Having said that, my five year old discovered that one of her teachers was pregnant, and she asked ‘How did the baby get there?’ – I diverted her attention away  from that query faster than snow melting in the Sahara.  

I don’t know.  I really don’t know.  I suppose the lesson learned is – don’t read the comments sections of articles – it will only lead to you feeling bad about yourself.  But more than that, I’m going to have to have a real think now.  My feeling is that I do nothing drastic.  I will neither encourage nor discourage the belief in Santa Claus for now – but if my own daughters ask me the dreaded question,  ‘Is Santa Claus real?’  I’m going to have to share his ‘origin story’ and explain that he was real – but isn’t alive now. AND that they don’t need to share this information with everyone because lots of children still believe in him.  

Meanwhile, the little girl inside me still loves films like the ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, and will always believe that there is a Santa Claus out there, spreading his seasonal magic in some way.  As Dorey Walker says in that film…’Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to!’

And whether you believe, or whether you don’t,  ‘Merry Christmas one and all!’