Illustration: Kelsey Davenport

DESPATCHES FROM THE SCHOOL GATE

Who excused my husband from all domestic labour at Christmas?

Oh, that would be Liz Dashwood herself – because he doesn't seem able to contribute at all other times of the year either

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I must apologise. I fear, on re-reading, that my previous column – about having basically cracked Christmas by the end of November – might have left you with the wrong impression. Namely, that the household is serene and that I am filled to o’erflowing with joy and goodwill to all mankind.

No. Let me furnish forth two addenda for clarity.

Being ready for Christmas leaves you with time to think, and what I have thought is this:

1 I am ready for Christmas because I have to be. No other bugger is going to do it. My husband’s sole contribution is to add undeserving names to the Christmas card list, get cross when I ignore them and to panic-buy plastic tat for the child on Christmas Eve because he does not believe I have bought enough and/or the right things. He doesn’t know what things I’ve bought. He just assumes a basic incompetence in me, despite six solid years of my anticipating our child’s every need and 13 years of doing pretty much the same with him.

He can't help with the food shopping because he doesn't do it enough the rest of the year to know which brie we have, what size of frozen pea packets our freezer can handle, what I mean by 'enough sprouts for eight'

2 It follows that we must therefore ask – as we pour ourselves a large Baileys (pro tip: if you leave out the ice, it tastes much sweeter AND leaves room for more Baileys), unwrap the child’s selection box and make a note on our phones to replace it before the 25th – WHY said husband is doing fuck-all at Christmas. And answers come there many:

a) He can’t buy gifts because this process requires a wealth of knowledge of and appreciation of people in our lives (likes, dislikes, which of the concentric circles of friendship that make up our social lives they stand in, who will be embarrassed by a big present, hurt by a small one, offended by/extra grateful for something handmade and so very much on) that is entirely absent from his mind and an understanding of subtle but very real social conventions that he has managed to go 45 years without developing (cf the time he wanted to give money instead of the usual chocolates to a friend of ours who had recently been diagnosed as diabetic. He still doesn’t know why we couldn’t just put a tenner in her card).

b) Ditto messages in Christmas cards.

c) He can't help with the food shopping because he doesn't do it enough the rest of the year to know which brie we have, what size of frozen pea packets our freezer can handle, what I mean by “enough sprouts for eight”, what stage of ripeness to buy anything at or any of the 101 other tiny calculations that what only superficially looks like simple supermarket shopping takes.

d) He cannot help with cooking because his negligible skills + lack of this curtailing his suggestions of how to peel/roast/baste better = I’ll kill him.

I could go on, but the Baileys is kicking in.

In short, Christmas has become a time that throws into sudden relief 13 years of shortcomings, none of which are remediable in the time available. But sod doing another adult human being’s thinking and domestic-working for him for the rest of my days. My number-one resolution for 2018 shall be to find a way of instilling a lifetime’s worth of knowledge, detail, skills, sensitivities, accurate interpretations of basic behavioural cues and all the other things I contend are within the capabilities of anyone who wishes to try into the functionally cybernetic man who shares my house. Merry Christmas to me, next year.

@LizDashwood

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Illustration: Kelsey Davenport
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despatches from the school gate
PARENTING HONESTLY
Christmas

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