Tuesday, 17 December 2013

If Santa is real then....

I sat this morning with both boys as they asked and answered so many questions about Mr Claus.

Last night we took them to see the big man at a local shopping centre.. it was crazy. We pre-booked, (£5 a child) which was lucky as Santa was totally sold out by the time we got there, and we joined the queue at the appropriate time - along with at least a dozen other people who had also booked for the same 15minute time slot. Admittedly, we have been a bit spoiled as we have always taken the boys to Lapland UK (which is fantastic) but this year - due to so many birthdays and the financial constraints caused by tenants not being bothered to pay their rent (don't get me started) - we opted to take the boys to the theatre on their birthdays and a cheaper Santa trip. Anyway, as we stood in the ever filling Santa waiting pen - complete with moving penguins - we soon realised that the boys were not going to have as much time with the big man as they are used to.

It came to our turn and we ran in - I'm not kidding you the 'elf' made us all run in shouting 'Come on Daddy', as I puffed behind. We then stood for a photo and the boys told Santa what they wanted for Christmas - TJ wanted football kits and the Sprog suddenly asked for a James Bond Gun (what!!!) - with that Santa handed the boys their age appropriate gift and we were ushered out into the photo collection area - where I spent another £15 on pictures. Papa stood there - still out of breath... "I came home early for this!" he exclaimed - he wasn't happy - so he took the boys on the big snow slides nearby to make up for it - another £3 a go.

The boys opened their gifts as soon as they got outside. Sprog had a brilliant book on dinosaurs - which he loved. TJ eagerly opened his package to find an activity book aimed at toddlers - the poor boy, because he is so small for his age Santa obviously pulled a present from the younger sack. TJ looked set to cry - 'Why did Santa give me a baby present?" he sobbed.

The Sprog then did a completely lovely thing - he turned to TJ and said, "I don't really like dinosaurs (which is a lie) - why don't you have my book and I'll have yours." I have never been prouder as TJ skipped off clutching the dinosaur book and Sprog walked around quite proudly carrying a 'Tree Fu Tom' activity book.

As we left the Sprog said to me, "I know that's not the real Santa - he employs lots of them to work in shopping centres - the real Santa lives in Lapland and my friend from school went to see him last weekend - So can we see the real Santa next year and not a crummy shop one?"

I spent last night pricing trips to Lapland. Its not cheap but it may well be the last year that the Sprog buys into the whole thing.

Then this morning the boys were discussing the 'reality' that is Santa. The Sprog said, "If Santa drinks a glass of sherry at every house he visits then why isn't he in prison for drunk driving?" to which TJ replied, "Because the police can't catch his sleigh."

Their sense of logic amazes me.

Then, "We don't have a chimney - how will Santa get in?" said Sprog, "We have a magic key!" said TJ , he then thought about this, "But if we leave the key outside for him then any robber could use it as well."

I don't think either child will be sleeping this Chrsitmas Eve. Although I'm pretty sure that TJ will now have a baseball bat under his bed in case  'robber' uses the magic key.

"Its ok," I said, "I usually wait up for Father Christmas, I'll make sure he locks the door after him."

"That's good," said TJ," But don't let Granny drink his sherry!"

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Advent Fun...

Well, we have eased the boys gently into the festive season.

This weekend saw the Sprog's 9th birthday - and we have agreed that, as both boys are December babies, we will get the tree and house decorated on or just before Sprog's birthday and then it will all be up for TJ's birthday, which is just after Christmas - so we are celebrating their birthdays along with Jesus's.

So last week whilst Sprog was at his Drama group (with the impossibly cheerful drama teacher) TJ and I went to choose a tree. At first he didn't want to. I heard every excuse - 'its not Christmas!' "I dont want a tree!' and "Why are we here?" - the last question was going to take a long time to answer so we decided to get a tree.

We unwrapped the lovely real trees - which TJ loved doing and watched the staff get upset as they realised they would have to wrap them up again. TJ selected the tiniest tree I have ever seen - his theory being that as it was so small no-one would want it. Psychologists will all point out that he was probably making a comment about himself - but I chose not to dwell on that - I was in full tree buying mode!

He then switched to looking at the biggest tree he could find and we eventually came home with a tree that practically takes up half the living room.

That evening we stood the tree in situ in the living room - with no decorations - just a bare tree in a bucket of water - apparently this is good for the tree but it also allowed TJ time to get used to the idea of a tree in the house. Then on Friday I allowed the boys to decorate the tree themselves. Papa and I put on the lights and got the decorations down from the loft - then we let the boys loose.

As Papa will tell you we are typically gay in that our tree is always immaculate - we alternate between a modern festive tree in pure white and crystal and a traditional Victorian tree with wooden ornaments. But this year the tree is so big we simply don't have enough ornaments - so the boys decided to put everything on. By the end the lower branches were covered with stuff and the higher ones were bare - so after the boys went to bed we re-arranged some of it. Never do that with a child who 'sees the world differently'. As soon as TJ got up he pointed out each decoration that had been moved and then moved it back... so now my tree looks like the decoration box simply exploded over it!

But - they love it - and thats the main thing!!!!!!

This morning as TJ opened his advent calendar - chocolate for breakfast is his idea of heaven. As he did so I said, "Are you going to give a bit of chocolate to your old Dad then?"

He looked at me stunned - his face froze - and he simply said, "I don't want to see my old Dad - is he coming?"

He had completely misunderstood me, "I meant me," I explained, "I'm your 'old' Dad."

"No," he said, "You're my new Dad."

He has been with us for nearly three years now - yet I am still his 'new Dad'.

Oh well - at least I am his Dad!

And this morning I heard the best thing - he was getting ready for school and singing a Christmas Carol, 'Away in a Manger' - it was the most beautiful thing I have heard... finally he is getting into Christmas....

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Tom Daley, kids and school...

So Tom Daley has announced that he was in a relationship with another man yesterday. Good on him.

I have to be honest in saying that I was a little cynical - my belief was that Tom's confession was probably precipitated by a newspaper threat to out him - the youtube clip just seemed too well planned for me, mentioning  his book and tv documentary and his previous denials of being gay, plus throwing in a couple of mentions about his late father and bullying to ensure we were all completely sympathetic to his cause - it smacked of a publicity writer's hand (I know a few - no offence guys!). I also doubted whether or not this should have been 'Headline' news as shouted by the BBC lunchtime newsteam.

But.. I had a long conversation with some old friends via the social media site that is Facebook and soon came round to seeing that, despite all my own personal misgivings, Tom's 'outing' may actually be a good thing for young people everywhere and that regardless of the whys and hows of this story anything that brings these issues up in front of young people has to be a good thing.

A friend, who teaches at a post 16 college, pointed out that the performing arts centre is next to the sports hall and the level of abuse hurled by the sporting types to the performing arts students is horrendous. Another friend of mine has a teenage son who has also recently come out and her and her families acceptance of him and his partner has been humbling. My own mother flipped when as a teenager I even broached the subject of being gay and my own coming out story is long and protracted and ended up becoming incredibly public - albeit on a much smaller scale and in a foreign country, so I do sympathise with Tom about having your private life interfered with by the press - but this is not about me its about the boys.

In a blogpost I wrote last year, regarding IDAHO and school (incidentally the blog post that went a bit bonkers worldwide) I commented on how homophobia needs to be addressed at primary school level in order to avoid the very attitudes my friend is facing in his post 16 college. I hoped that had finally been addressed in the boy's school.

It hasn't.

Newsround, the BBC's news programme aimed specifically at children, ran a very sympathetic piece on Tom Daley - I was quite surprised that they did, but it was well done and it meant that the boys were able to understand and talk about what Tom had been through.

The Sprog is so much more open than his younger brother - he now attends a small independant school and everyone knows everyone else - they are very open and the Sprog is able to talk freely about his home life, being adopted, having two dads - all of that is run of the mill there.

TJ is still at the local primary and his friends are all members of the 'football' crowd - who are in real danger of turning into the post 16 crowd mentioned above.

As soon as TJ saw the story on TV he said; "Tom Daley is gay - that's gross." Those of you that read the article last year will remember that he said something similar then and we ended up in a long conversation about how Daddy and Papa are gay, two of his Godfathers are gay, we have gay friends - are they all 'gross'? But TJ still doesn't put the language of the school playground into context with his own life - and this is where school is at fault.

I have stood in school and heard children banding about the term 'gay' as if it means nothing more than 'rubbish'. I even heard a teacher telling a child, 'Please don't use that word - you know its not politically correct." She then looked over at me and nodded as if to say, 'See I told him off didn't I". Well, no actually you have given him permission to use it whenever he likes. I made the point that schools wouldn't allow racist langauge in school so why do they allow homophobic 'banter' - a point that the headteacher told me she 'took very seriously'. A point that the local council's anti bullying co-ordinator told me she 'took very seriously'... if everyone is taking my point very seriously then why don't they do anything about it.

So to Tom Daley, I say well done for 'coming out' - I'll keep that in inverted commas - but equally well done for raising this issue among young people - I could never have imagined even a few years ago that I would be sitting and listening to a 7 and 8 year old have a full on argument about whether being gay is gross or not.

I won't repeat what I said before but I will say here is still a lot of work to be done - especially in primary schools and if Tom Daley's story can kick start that then I take my hat off to him!!!!