The traditions, the structure that primary school life gives children gives me a strange comfort. I love that as soon as autumn half term ends, we're hurtling towards December with choir practise and angel costumes and writing cards for all 30 children in the class. Four times over. I've been in this loop since 2004, and it won't end until 2017. That's a lot of Christmas cards.
But this year things have changed. This year my children have had their world kaleidoscoped by their parents splitting up, and I'm trying to find a new way for the five of us to be. We're unusual because their father has moved overseas, meaning he isn't a constant presence in their life. It means I have to find a way to make Christmas the same, but different. Will the comforting rituals be a sharp jolt reminding them that Daddy isn't here? I don't know.
We have new pyjamas on Christmas Eve, wrapped under the tree as an early present. We leave carrots and whisky for Father Christmas. I can do that bit. But what happens on Christmas morning when they wake up and it's just me? They've been doing it since July. Maybe it'll be okay. Maybe they'll open their stockings on my bed like we always do. I think they will. But will we get dressed and have breakfast before we open the presents, like we always used to? I don't think so. I think we'll have a mad scramble of dressing gowns and wrapping paper and shrieking and being silly, and that can be our new tradition. And I think we'll eat chocolate for breakfast. And crisps. Because we can, and because whilst we need to find a balance between not making things too strange, we also need to find a new way of being.
I was 15 when my parents split up. They tried doing the right thing and doing Christmas together for the sake of the children - we've got the photographic evidence it doesn't work. Stiff-jawed grimaces with party hats on top, and an atmosphere so thick you can sense it from way back in 1987. I don't want that for my four. And no matter how hard this year will be, I have to remember that as Garry said here the other day, the magic doesn't last that long, and I want to treasure it. We'll get there, somehow.