Christmas is now going to be perpetrated – that’s about the best way I can describe it – across our various households and I have just finished wrapping a hefty chunk of the gifts I’m passing around this year. Our planned trip up north has fallen foul of – well I’d like to just wave my hands vaguely here at world events to encompass the chaos – so a smaller and more intimate gathering is planned round with boy s and the cub to welcome in their first Christmas in the new flat.
To facilitate that, I’ve spent most of this week running around patching and fixing as many little things at work as I can, and now I’ve stepped away and trust the people I manage to carry on being amazing. As is traditional at this time of trying to get away for a holiday, a massive piece of work landed in my lap around lunchtime. Fortunately, being the organised and professionally paranoid person that I am, I had everything I needed documented so was able to complete it with a minimum of growling – which was just as well as I then had a call from the school.
There had been an incident.
Fortunately nobody was hurt beyond some feelings, and the cub’s lesson has been to pay more attention to his verbal filters and to perhaps not make hand gestures when arguing with people. He’d already done all the self-flagellation by the time I got there so beyond some light teasing and a reassurance that he wasn’t in trouble, that was the end of that.
So. Hello my first holiday in a while – if we can just hold off on any seasonal colds, that would be lovely.
We’re celebrating the cub’s birthday across this weekend, accompanied by Lady M’s niece and nephew, and the highlight as far as he’s concerned has been this morning where we took him to an escape room at the Denbies Estate just outside Dorking. He’s been wanting to do one for months since watching YouTubers attempt them and so we had a look round without telling him. Through careful questioning we discerned he wanted to try something spy-based, so it seemed appropriate to allow a little cloak and dagger about the event. Which is why we made sure it was all a big surprise.
Even as he got out of the car, he still didn’t know why we’d made him get up on a Saturday morning to come to a vineyard. When he noticed the signs, he started getting excited and asked again why we were here – and then when we confirmed we were there for an escape room, he started bouncing up and down on the spot. It’s probably the most excited I’ve seen him in quite some time, and the gleeful grin was wonderful.
The scenario was, as described, an explosive spy thriller, involving hidden rooms and videos of missile launches and we managed to not only beat the game, but completed every single puzzle – the last with 8 seconds to go. It was far more fun than I imagined it would be, and our respective skills and experiences meshed well. From knowledge of Ancient Greek, autistic hyperfocus, a head for logic puzzles, and all the inquisitive running around you can imagine; we all cracked puzzles, found solutions, and unearthed conundrums.
The kids, and cub especially, were buzzing with excitement and retelling of things they’d found and done – and to be fair so were the adults as we gathered for a pub lunch. About the only thing that sparked more excitement was the unwrapping of presents later – but that’s the cub for you.
There was a lot going on today, but some good things among the chaos. Most notably, boy s received confirmation of securing his new flat, and after some banking shenanigans is due to pick up his keys tomorrow. As a major distraction from the stress of it all, he’s now playing Sims4 on the XBox while we eat our bangers and mash, and muttering under his breath about all the clothes packing he’s going to need to do tomorrow. I think he’s in that slightly bewildered state where he wasn’t really expecting to get the flat, and now its all becoming a bit more real. He’ll be fine.
Just to throw an organisational spanner in the works, the cub’s birthday is due among all this upheaval – we have plans for the weekend, and I’ve just spent a spare fifteen minutes with the bedroom door firmly shut while I wrapped a selection of presents. With his birthday so close, he’s a bit sensitive about Christmas wrappings and trappings so mindful of that I had some more generic paper stashed in the cupboard. It’ll make a nice surprise for him when he gets to see them. For now there’s a small stack of presents on top of the wardrobe that he walks by and never looks up at.
Like most preteens he lives in his own little world by the gaming logic that best appeals to him. For example, his school tries to encourage him to read with a reading star scheme and everyone in the class contributing towards awards and bonuses like days not wearing uniform. He has decided that as he doesn’t read every day he can’t get the reading star, therefore won’t be contributing, so therefore why bother. Its a very selective and circular form of solipsistic reasoning that he specialises in, while sounding to his own ears very reasonable.
The cub starts at his new school tomorrow, which came as something of a shock to him while we were being shown round this morning. As you might expect, all the stages of grief and protestations have been rapidly cycling today as a result.
Behind the snark and angst and sarcasm however, it all comes back to him being a very anxious young boy who has had a lot of change and upheaval in the last few weeks. It makes the outbursts easier to put in context even when we’re being driven to distraction.
But we’re working together and supporting each other and him, and I’m sure that once he’s actually started he’ll calm down and resume his ordinary goblin behaviour. Let’s see what the morning brings
Despite the foggy start we headed out to the wilds of Hounslow today in search of school uniform items for the cub. The boy s was down in Portsmouth getting more work done on his leg so it was just the three of us piled into the car as the sun burned through.
I grew up in the area but haven’t really been back in years. The High Street is still bustling and energetic, but recession has bitten it hard, and I felt saddened to see what it is now compared to what I was even ten years ago. There’s what feels like an undertone of desperation rather than the busy hustle that I would have previously characterised as its mood.
And yet at the same time there’s life and energy rather than the flat despair of some high streets. It was a strange mix, and perhaps I felt it more because I had a youngster with me and was therefore more consciously watchful.
With all that said, the school shop was a step back in time both to equipping the Charleesi for her own school journey, and memories of my own trips for The Mall, and St John’s. The staff were friendly, and I slipped into a comfortable space as we assembled all the elements we needed. I even enjoyed the dust and fabric scents of the shop as a sensory treat – it was all very familiar in a comforting sense.
We’re meeting the Headmaster of the school that the cub is transferring to on Tuesday – well boy s and I are anyway. It does feel very strange to be diving back into this mode again with the Charleesi all grown up now. That said I’m in a very different headspace and set of circumstances this time. I’m not deeply unwell in the throes of clinical depression for starters. Maybe I should just accept this as the universe offering me a chance to experience all this with a clearer and healthier head.
I can accept that gift now. There’s a lot of experiences that I didn’t appreciate as much as I should have when I was ill and there’s still guilt around that that I work through in counselling. Today has stirred up rather more than I was expecting but it feels healthy even if it has been exhausting.
By fervent request of myr s, we trooped back to The Plough for a Sunday Roast today, and had a slow couple of hours soaking up the atmosphere, talking to other diners, and saying hello to various dogs roaming the public area. The cub was as restless as usual between bouts of fierce attention to detail, while myr s was disappointed that the landlord wasn’t present as they missed his broad Irish accent and humour and haven’t seen him since before the first lockdown!
Then,with the cub champing at the bit, I walked him over The Green to the playground that has served so many over the years. We used to take the Charleesi there regularly, so memory lane yawned wide, contrasting with the newer equipment currently installed but still latching on to the activity of watching a child chamber everywhere, and pushing them on the swings.
Just a quiet moment of reminiscing, and then just for good measure I tweaked my back a bit – so hello painkillers and deep heat this evening…
The cub has recently discovered a new activity that has gripped his attention – playing darts. He’s now old enough to be trusted with proper sharp darts rather than the magnetic set that has adorned the door next to his desk, so lady s has registered him with the local darts academy.
His grandfather is of course extremely pleased, and has invested in a high end board and a selection of flights and components so that everyone in the house can have their customised setups to suit their play style. The cub has a practice routine to do every day and so it was that we ended up in a mixed doubles series of darts matches last night. I was in a team with lady s, and the cub was in a team with his grandad.
It was just a lovely quiet family moment of playing together with quiet banter, promises of being dumped if it ended up needing a double one to win, and hardly anyone being hit by rebounding projectiles. I suspect there may be more this afternoon while lady s is at work.
There’s nothing quite like the sound of what might be a river outside your window to add a certain frisson to the decision to open your eyes in the morning. Half-buried under duvet and a small mountain of soft toys, that was my first conscious sensory input this morning.
The knowledge that it was an Inset Day, and that lady s and I wouldn’t have to do battle with the cub to go out in that weather arrived soon after. It didn’t stop me opening my eyes to check that there wasn’t actually a river flowing down the wall. As it turned out, the auditory confusion was coming from driving rain against the window panes and sill, a fast flowing drainage overflow pipe, and some kind of outlet releasing steam from somewhere.
Content that the room wasn’t about to flood, I’ll admit I did then turn over and do my best to burrow back into the nearest pillow and snuggle for a little while longer. There are worse ways to start a day, even if you know you’ll be spending the rest of it on the train home.
Neither of us wanted to get up, even though daylight and pre-booked train tickets wait for no one – but I was at least already dressed when the cub burst in wanting morning cuddles. I was honoured with at least ten seconds of enthusiastic cuddles before he bounced off in search of breakfast, a charger, and his Switch (more or less in that order). He is never that bouncy on a school day. To be fair, neither am I.
One of the guiding principles of dating lady s has been that it is public, known to all, and that includes her son. He is very much a typical boy of his age, so has taken our comings and goings in his stride, tolerating us as only he can.
But an interesting development has come about recently, where I’m greeted with big hugs and involved in conversations. It’s nice. It doesn’t stop him occasionally being a little ratbag when it’s time to get dressed for school, but again that’s business as usual.
It could just be that he’s just buttering us up with his birthday and Christmas both in the near future, but even the anti-school protests have mellowed, so perhaps he’s just… growing up?