Whangārei MP Emily Henderson encourages everyone to take care this Christmas.
It’s the week before Christmas, and all through the house… there’s chaos.
The big kids are home from uni, and apparently there are no washing machines down there; what isn’t covered in washing is covered in flour because the youngest has discovered baking gingerbread houses, every one of them is rehashing arguments that apparently they hadn’t got sick of last Christmas, and absolutely everything is muddy because the SPCA puppy has discovered the dam in the bottom paddock.
Did I mention the inbox is still full, work doesn’t finish for two more days and the in-laws are coming?
Christmas can be a bit much at the best of times. We’re working ‘til the last minute, up late the night before, and on the day we’re cooking complicated meals and rushing between in-laws, parents and step-parents, lugging over-excited kids and often wishing the whole thing was over.
All families have their cracks, and there’s nothing like the volatile mix of Christmas expectation with Christmas reality to shine a searchlight right through them.
I have a friend who got so exhausted by the whole palaver that, once the kids were gone, she invented a new tradition: Christmas fishing. The crack of Christmas dawn finds her and her partner moored peacefully in a bay somewhere, with not a tinsel reindeer in sight.
If you’re alone and lonely, or stressing about providing for your family, as many of us are right now, the strain of the festive season can be overwhelming.
It’s even harder for families struggling with separation, conflict and abuse, as I used to witness every year as a Family Court lawyer, where the lead-up to Christmas was a time of huge strain as families tried desperately to cobble together arrangements for both parents to see their children.
Despite best-laid plans, there is often a spike in family violence and police call-outs after Christmas as those carefully worked-out agreements fall foul of heightened expectations, disappointment and, too often, alcohol.
Yet the ideal of the family Christmas endures – maybe because today’s society deprives us of so much time with our families during the year.
My best childhood Christmas memory is of one of those oddly miserable, rainy Northland Christmases where, following a very tough year, for the first time ever, Mum, Dad and us kids went nowhere and saw no-one but each other.
I don’t remember a single present I got, but I remember that we were staying near a big dam, we went swimming in the grey drizzle and afterwards we played board games and read books. It was the best.
There’s a Japanese world view called wabi-sabi, which is about acknowledging life’s transience and imperfections. In the art of kintsugi, a wabi-sabi practice, artists use gold in the process of repairing cracks in broken bowls and cups, and celebrate the beauty of wear and tear.
However you spend this Christmas, go easy on yourself and those around you. We’re all of us a little broken, but we’re most of us trying. As a songwriter once said – cracks are how the light gets in. Meri Kirihimete, whānau.