Why I dreaded starting the school term after Christmas

I was never bullied at school, but I was never one of the popular kids either, I was in that happy medium that required the least effort – I could just go by unnoticed if I wanted to. I was right where I wanted to be. No matter what position you held in the shitstorm of a school social-rank though, there was one question in January you could never avoid: “What did you get for Christmas?”.

Christmas worries for parents
Me and my sister at Nan and Grandad’s house, Christmas Eve 1989 or something…

A bit of history…

We were never a well-off family. We weren’t exactly recycling our teabags, but we never had much disposable income. To an extent I think this has made me grow up to be appreciative of things, and I’m grateful for that. I just wish it didn’t carry with it a load of guilt on my mum’s part.

Yes mum, I know you still feel it – please stop it!

Dad is too laid back to still feel it now. And he’s distracted with grandkids pestering him for things these days.

Anyway, Christmas as a child was something my older sister and I always looked forward to. It was more about the feel of Christmas though rather than the gifts. The school break, the late nights, the films, the lie ins. Crawling round the side of the couch to swig my dad’s beer before nearly being sick at the taste of it. Good times.

Also, I don’t think I’ve mentioned this here before, but my mum is from Mauritius. Her entire family has always been over there with no means to come and visit, Christmas was only ever with half of the family. So with all the above in mind…

Back to school

Erm…don’t ask, because I just don’t know.

Listen – I was grateful for the things I got at Christmas. I understood, even at an early age, that sacrifices had been made to get what we had. It made me sad to think about that at times. Starting school for that January term always made me panic though. The first question on everyone’s smug lips would be “what did you get for Christmas?”. They seemed to say it with a hunger for the extreme – they could either celebrate or mock and they weren’t happy with the middle ground.

I remember one year in particular that makes my chest implode with hurt every time I think about it.

Little shit: “What did you get for Christmas?”

Me: “Clothes, money (always a good ambiguous one), games and a remote controlled car”

LS: “Which car? I got the one that does flips. It goes 40mph. It’s got a built in fax-modem and my mum even rides it to her escorting job”. (Ok, paraphrasing there).

Me (still proud of my car): “The silver Porsche one with the working headlights”

LS: “It’s not some £20 one from down the road is it?”

Me: “heh, no!”.

It was the £20 from down the road. He had it right, but I loved that bloody car. I didn’t care about his, and fuck him for making me think less of the one I’d got!

She'd just tuned 1 here. She doesn't really care what she gets yet
She’d just tuned 1 here. She doesn’t really care what she gets yet

A lesson learned

In the years that followed I just lied. I added hundreds on to the money I said I’d received. I picked the latest console and threw that on the list with a guitar and a load of other shit I really didn’t care much for. The lies always came with a sense of guilt – not because I was lying – but because I felt I had to. If my parents had’ve found out I had to lie they would be heartbroken at their gifts.

As a father these memories are recalled with a renewed sting, like a crack of a whip that strikes right behind my ribcage. Only now can I understand what my own parents must have felt. If I imagine Evelyn in my position back then it crushes me. I only hope that she has the strength of character to realise that they’re being cruel. Kate and I want Evelyn to learn the value of things, to not be materialistic and to understand that everyone has a story – everyone. I hope we’re successful at that.

Child opening activity set present
Even at 3 years old she has the right idea, she’s happy with things for what they are. Why can’t we stay this way?


They say hindsight is a wonderful thing but it’s a bitch. It plays at being your friend but then colludes with its ugly cousin, Regret.

I wish I had it in me as a kid to just say to my classmates “I’m really not bothered about any of this” or “I’m pleased you got all those things, but we both know your parents resent you for coming along too early in their relationship”. I wish I’d hardened to this one thing that bothered me as a child.

But then again, if this is the only thing that bothered me about childhood to the extent that I’d write a thousand words on it, then I’m a very lucky guy.

School’s a strange thing – if you show any signs of having a moral compass whatsoever then you’re a sitting duck. If you show reasoning, a compelling argument or compassion towards someone who isn’t popular then you’re downgraded instantly. It’s shit. It’s unavoidable. You have to learn to play the system and just get through, and that’s just what I did.

To my parents

I’ve said this a million times to your face, but I want to take the opportunity to say it on a public platform, despite it possibly effecting my google ranking!

Thank you. Thank you for smiling through the hard times and not cracking under the pressure. I have nothing but happy memories of childhood. This must have taken immense effort on your part to hide all the adult crap we deal with, I know this now.

It’s only since becoming a dad I realise where the strength must have come from. You’ve told me countless times “you’ll know what it’s like when you have your own”, and you were right.

I know I will never truly understand the extent of what it was like, but I guess that’s how you want it. That’s certainly how I’d want it for Evelyn. I get it. I love you both.



8 thoughts on “Why I dreaded starting the school term after Christmas

  1. Love love love love this. Don’t feel bad for what you said as a kid! Kids are tw@ts! (You will realise this in approx 6 months if E is about 3 now…sorry dude) Seriously though, I love this. Whip crack of guilt under the ribs – I can feel it now! Xx

  2. Aww kids can be so cruel. I remember this being asked in January too. I think this is why so many parents get into such a lot of debt at Christmas because they worry about this. You parents sound wonderful though.

  3. I have to say that I was the sort of kid that never really wanted anything massive, a few bits from the pound shop would have be grand! Lucky really, because we didn’t have much in the 80s. Things were so much different then, it was highlight of my childhood when we got a proper carpet to walk on. It’s my mission to make sure that my kids don’t grow into pretentious entitled twats and to appreciate the basic things the most.

  4. The thing is though those other horrible children were probably fibbing too. It might be that they were getting in there first as a defense mechanism (or they might just have been little gits – entirely possible!).

    I also grew up in a household with very little money. It’s given me an appreciation for things, but also a horror of being in that situation myself as an adult. I want my children to appreciate what they have, but would never want them to go through what I did in order to achieve it – does that make sense?
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  5. This was a great post. I remember not having as much as other people in my childhood but I was never really that bothered. We lived in a very affluent area, everyone owned enormous houses in an expensive village and we counted out coppers from my piggy bank at the end of the month to scrape together the last of the rent for a tiny, unheated bungalow. We’re okay now but my children are young and actually I don’t buy them much, they don’t need it or ask for it. I don’t know what I’ll do when they’re older. We can afford to buy more but I feel I learnt a lot from not having much so it’s a real dilemma I think.
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  6. I was a child too that didn’t have much. My single mom struggled and strived to give my brother and I what she did, and I also went to school and lied. It’s so sad that children can’t be mor accepting. This post was beautifully written and I loved it!

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