|[Image description: Ink and paper drawing of crying face on the phone, surrounded by speech bubbles: He loves you I'm sorry I didn't mean it I won't do it again".]|
CW: Mentions of domestic abuse (verbal/physical).
Deep down you believe Christmas is kinda sacred, right? That it’s just wrong to pick a fight on Christmas Day?
Everyone has this perfect version of how Christmas should go. You wake up, and maybe you don’t run to the fireplace anymore, but you unwrap your presents (all the things you’ve longed for all year) and breathe in the smell of pine. Family starts arriving at about 12, your cousins are perfectly well-behaved, none of your older relatives are at all homophobic, transphobic, sexist or racist; everybody is happy.
There’s a perfectly cooked turkey on the table and plenty of pudding for afters. It looks like a scene from a Waitrose ad.
Of course this never happens. At some point during the day the cousins will have a screaming fight over a monster truck, Uncle Vernon will declare feminism is defunct and the turkey will be dry.
But for children of divorced/separated parents, Christmas is a hundred times harder. Often this is the only time of year that the parents will spend more than an hour in each other’s company (apart from birthdays, but that’s another story). Mix that with alcohol and competition over presents and you have an explosion. But if you have a parent with a tendency towards violence, multiply that by a 100.
I’m used to having my dad come round for Christmas because I can’t remember any other way. I’ve accustomed myself to him always purchasing big presents because my mum can’t afford to spend 90 quid on a drone for one child out of three. Hell, I’ve even accepted that my mum will hide out in the kitchen all day because she wants our Christmas to be peaceful and as “normal” as it possibly can be.
Last Christmas was supposed to go exactly the same, overstuffed and a little dull, but sweet. It even started out the same: relatives dropping by with cards and money, my dad showing up with a bike he could barely carry. My brother playing the same cheesy Christmas songs on loop. Prayers at the table. Crossing ourselves as Dad looks on in confusion (we’re Catholics). Hiding Brussels sprouts beneath our plates.
Just before he left a small fight arose. It went a bit like:
Dad: Why don’t you show me any of your poetry?
Me: Because I don’t want to.
Dad: But I’m your father.
Me: Well that’s news to me. And I don’t show my work to anyone until it’s published.
Dad: *gaping* But I bought you a notebook. And that’s no way to talk to me.
Mummy: Is he asking about your poetry again?
Dad: She’s my daughter.
Cue: Rant, throw things, scream, slam doors, storm out, storm back in to grab wine, shove people, say that you will never return, stomp on baubles, drive off, call your shell-shocked offspring once gone to cry down the phone line and say you love them.
Domestic violence spikes around the Christmas period, especially since many people (majority womxn) have to spend more time around their abusive partners or exes. On Christmas Day in 2016, the U.K. police received 95 domestic abuse calls: https://www.itv.com/news/utv/2017-01-31/police-took-95-domestic-abuse-calls-on-christmas-day/
I want to say that the government needs to keep refuges open.
That however low-level =you think the abuse is, it still isn’t okay for them to hurl insults at you and break your things. To make you feel bad for being angry at them afterwards. It’s still domestic abuse.
Just because they said sorry, that they didn’t mean to, doesn’t make it better.
I’m fine now and my family is safe. My dad is never coming into our home for Christmas again or on any occasion again.
To all those out there whose festivities are tainted by memories: I love you and understand what it’s like. I hope it gets better. Take big breaths for me.
P.S. This was really hard to write.