Opinion with Matthew Munson: Looking forward to Christmas and settled family routines

Bryan help his grandparents get ready for Christmas

Santa has been inoculated and is getting ready for Christmas Eve night. Children are getting incredibly excited; I’m getting a daily update as to how many days are left before The Big Day. Bryan and I have had “the chat” about Santa (the history of his name and where he comes from, of course – what else?), and he seems remarkably unfazed. Perhaps it’s how I talked to him about the man in red, still factoring in the “magic” of Christmas, but Santa’s magic is still alive in our house in a different way.

We’re very limited in festive attractions this year; no pantos at the Sarah Thorne to entertain and amuse, no Christmas fairs, no … well, the list could go on, couldn’t it? But it’s still a magical time of year; if we’ve learned nothing else from this lockdown year, it’s that joy can be derived from the smallest of moments. We don’t need huge commercial events or mounds of presents to prove our love; events and presents are nice, but the times we spend together are better.

Bryan and I are spending our second Christmas together, and it made me appreciate something – that we have officially gone through pretty much all of our “firsts”  now. We’ve gone through a full year at school (sort of), birthdays, Christmas, Easters, and so on. Everything is settled and more … normal, for want of a better word; every family’s normal is different, but we are establishing our own routine that feels right. We no longer have to work out what our routines are going to be, because we’ve already decided; things that other families take for granted, we have had to decide what they’re like. Everything is settled, for a lesser or greater degree, and that means we can be like any other family and change as Bryan grows up.

As I write this column, Bryan is helping his nan and granddad with their Christmas decorations, and he is very obviously having a brilliant time. It’s surprised me to see how important Christmas is to him; family events are clearly things that he values, and it’s nice to see children valuing those simple things in life. Sometimes, we can overcomplicate things (I’m as guilty of that as anyone), and I’ve seen the beauty in simple pleasures this year.

Bryan’s schooling comes to an end next week for the year; it’s been an eventful two terms so far, and not precisely as he remembered, but still – he’s loved it. I am fortunate to have a son who enjoys his education, and I usually get a play-by-play account of the day’s events, dramas, and highs and lows. His school has been very good with his development and getting the classes back into their routine; he’s adjusted incredibly well, and they seemed as interested in his emotional development as his academic development.

Ironically, going back to school has helped both of us; I’ve been able to work during the day whilst Bryan learnt and was inspired by his teachers and his friends. We’ve continued to be careful, of course, and we’ve continued to learn how to entertain ourselves in partially-shutdown times. The New Year is nearly upon us …