The next little while is set to be somewhat frenetic in our household, as in many others, as we prepare for an early Christmas with my family’s little ones, and then a Christmas at the other end of life’s cycle with Mrs Chook’s ninety-year-old Mum and family.
Mrs Chook didn’t have kids and I don’t have a Mum, so we share.
There won’t be much on Sheep, except maybe some bleating about four-year-old Archie’s snoring, sleep talking and aggravated assault of his Giddy after he’s padded his way down the stairs from his bedroom to mine in the middle of the night and in a stage whisper said “Giddy, can I get in your bed I promise I won’t pee.”
Well, he doesn’t pee, but he does thrash about and hit me in the eye.
A woman called Vicki once said to me, family is everything. I know she was talking about traditional heterosexual families. But for mine, that is a very narrow concept of family, and the fact that it’s heterosexual and traditional is no guarantee of it being any good.
It doesn’t matter how family is constituted: if there’s a group of people who love each other and share their lives, that’s a family. It’s about time this privileging of traditional heterosexual families came to an end.
My extended and blended family recently came together for the naming of our youngest babies, Mabel Jane, called after her late great-grandmother, and her cousin, Audrey Mae.
Mabel Jane brings the total number of grandchildren in this family to twenty. There are second marriages and ex partners and new partners and we all turn up for every wedding and naming and we all get on, regardless of our sometimes chequered histories, and we even get on when we’re pissed, so that’s some indication of how our family is everything to us.
What astonishes me is the elasticity of the human heart, as it expands itself to make room for yet one more individual, adult or child, who through birth or commitment enters this family and becomes a member. We may not always like each other all of the time, and some of us wouldn’t want to spend our lives with some of us, but I doubt there’s any one of us who’d turn their back if someone else was in trouble.
This is not to say some families aren’t shit. My family of origin was unspeakable, so there’s a dark side to the “family is everything” mantra: family can be everything in the worst possible way, haunting you for the rest of your life, and under those circumstances, Christmas is no fun.
If it’s awful I hope with all my heart that it passes quickly for you.
And no matter what combination constitutes your family, however big or small it may be, love one another the best you can, and put the all sharp implements in the high cupboards.