Robin Bailey: I was dreading this Christmas – until a friend answered my prayers.

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I never thought I would be fearful of Christmas, but this year I really am.

I am fearful and panicked because its the first year I’ve hosted the day at home as a single mum.

My husband died 15 months ago leaving my three sons and I to establish a new life. We have already done one Christmas day without him, but we did it in Africa as far away from any memories of Christmas past.

But we can’t run forever so this year I have decided to face my fears and start creating new traditions with my three boys who are 15 , 13 and 11. This is actually harder than it sounds as we have also moved house.

Although I love our new, much smaller home, by leaving the old one we also left behind my boys’ happy memories. There is also the added difficulty that in the last 15 months, my youngest has let go of the Santa ideal so all that investment in Christmas traditions is now gone too. So no more stockings, or ridiculously early Christmas mornings of unwrapping presents after panicked wrapping the night before. I know I used to sometimes whinge about these things but now I don’t have them as a way to start the day, it does feel more daunting.

So here’s my dilemma: I want to make today feel special and I want the boys to feel like its Christmas, albeit a different Christmas. I want us to do something or make something or play with something that can become our new Christmas thing. I want the food to be right and day to run smoothly and I don’t want them to reflect to much on what they have lost…which is massive.

I am torn with how to do this as it needs to be something they have never done before.

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Watch Robin’s interview with Mia Freedman for No Filter here:

So here’s my plan so far…. My cousin is here from Melbourne with her husband and two kids, 3 and 7 months. My boys love little Riley as he’s fun and of course so excited about Christmas, although I’m not sure his baby sister is very aware just yet .

The boys have agreed to share with Riley their Christmas traditions which means they will all sit down and watch Polar Express with him. They will also get up early with him to sort his stocking and get excited when he does about his presents. This is a great start to all our day as it means both his parents and I can all have a bit of a sleep in (OK maybe not, as there is still a 7-month-old in the house). It also guarantees that it will at least start the day feeling a little like Christmas and at least remind them of those good times.

Breakfast will be the same as years gone by when we sit down to home made sausage rolls (pre-made by my sister on a visit to Brisbane about three weeks ago before she headed overseas with her family) ham, mangoes and our special family favourite of Bailey’s and corn flakes for the adventurous adults.

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We will wash that all down with champagne and orange juice. So that should see us through till at least 10am. I’m guessing it will then be present time under the tree with the kids fighting over who will play Santa and, even though we will all agree it will be done one present at a time, like every other year we will have a free for all.

I hope that will see us through till 11….but then what? One of the things my husband was so good at in years gone by was all the catering. He’d have the feast completely under control and we would be a hub for family waifs and strays. It was always very festive – but that is not my forte, and with a need to make new memories this is where I start to panic.

Sadly, I’ve been faced with similar scenarios a lot in the last year or so and my strategy has always been the same: Talk it through honestly with the kids and make this a family decision. So I did that last week. My sons and I sat around the kitchen table and I said, “Guys what do you want to do?” I also explained I was feeling overwhelmed. The boys were brilliant and told me that its not about the food and that whatever we eat will be fine. They also said it was about us having fun together – so surely we can manage that? So they each picked a dish which I have bought the ingredients for. That, coupled with ham and some prawns, makes me think that on the food front we will be OK.

LISTEN: Rebecca Sparrow and I discuss how best to speak about grief with kids, on The Well. Post continues after audio. 

But here’s the wonder of Xmas: I have just received a call from a friend of mine who babysits my dogs when I am away. He is such a lovely bloke called Peter a guy who is a little bit older with no kids and a complete heart of gold.

He said: “Mate, I am trying to clean out my garage and I have two kayaks under the house never been used with all the paddles and life jackets. You are now living near the river. How about I give em to the kids for Xmas….and Ill get them to you by this arvo?”

Of course, I said yes. My god who wouldn’t? This is so like Peter and he’d be doing it to make sure my kids are OK, not just as a kind gesture to me. But of course, Peter doesn’t realise what he’s actually given us – the chance to create those new great Christmas memories – which is truly the best Christmas gift.

So as I help my 11-year-old son (who I call Big Boy on the radio) make the ingredients for his trifle I keep pinching myself because for all that worry and all that fear, my prayers have been answered. This is what we will be doing for the rest of Christmas Day. After the presents have been unwrapped and played with, and after all the food’s been eaten, we will pull these kayaks down the street to the river, strap my burly boys into their life jackets and paddle and laugh and take photos and just have fun together.

All my prayers have been answered.

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Robin talks to Mia Freedman for No Filter.

I know not everyone will have a Peter in their life today or a phone call that will answer all your prayers but I hope with all my heart your Christmas wishes come true and today is a wonderful day full of family, friends and fun.

I know my boys and I will remember their father and raise a toast to him but life is for living and our Christmas will be a celebration of love and family – and for me how blessed I am to have three very noisy beautiful boys.

Merry Christmas, everyone! x

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