Christmas can be a stressful season, with gifts to find and time to find them! Sometimes, the essence of this special time is lost to pressures of real life.
The decorating of the tree for example...romanticised by many a movie, with families enjoying this moment together; embracing the festivities and periodically breaking out into song by the piano, before the youngest (adorned with perfectly ironed party dress and the biggest of beautiful Christmas bows in her hair) is lifted high, to place the star into pride of place (queue the Von-Trap worthy finale)
Meanwhile in reality it wouldn't be Christmas without the laborious rummage in the loft with various family members bellowing out their suggestions (shame creeps in as you try to recall whether you threw away last years hand-made-in-primary-school Christmas pudding bunting).
The untangling of tree lights brings a silent annual promise to yourself that this year you will most definately be paying a trip to the value store to invest in one of those miracle decoration organisers. Then comes the obligatory dash to the shops for more lights (so sure you are that they worked when you took the down last year), whilst back at home your own Von-Traps have had a tug of war over which child puts the stringed beads on which results in a 'twang', scattering hundreds of tiny balls under every piece of furniture and causing slip hazard to an already thinning patience.
Then there's the"no, not there" and "yes, I know you are trying to help" that slips out as the need for order is so focused on the tree, that the ensuing chaos bubbling away is the least of your immediate concerns.
But wait!! Alas!, there is a moment of peace to come as everybody squints at the tree, eyeing up the twinklies, trying to spot any gaps that may need to be filled. By now, your older Von-Traps have retreated with their frowns to the sofa, squeezing themselves amid your grandparents 56 year old glass bauble collection and began snap chatting your moment of sheer panic, to their list of acquaintances and the odd stranger.
By the time it comes to the grande finale - the topping of this tree with the family star - there is not enough energy in your arms to gracefully lift even the youngest child up to reach those dizzy heights.
There is however a momentary smile left in each of you and the selfie stick is raised as you all stand in your Xmas jumpers, giving a cheesy grin for all of Instagram to see...I don't suppose anyone looking at that photo would have any idea that this moment was anything short of of a Disney-like happy ending.
But here's the thing...and this is the true magic of christmas...warts and all, there is no single movie moment that would make me want to swap my troop for any other. Families come in all shapes and sizes, full of different characters and temperaments; 'The tapestry of life' my gran would have called it. We all have different ingredients and so when the oven goes 'ping', we are bound to be an alternative version of any other family...but we are bound together by the same things as any other...love.
This is the moment when I tell you that pottery painting is the ideal time to spend together this silly season, that no matter what your friends or family makeup, there is something for everyone. That you will never be made to feel any other than at home here, regardless of your needs. That you will be surprised by how creative you actually are, how amazing it is to see your oldest children's faces rather than the top of their heads and even the youngest of your Von-Traps enjoying this time and actually sitting still for more than 5 minutes! That next year, when you come to decorate your tree you will smile amongst the chaos as you hang the decorations and recall the memories you made when you found 2 hours of time together and created these in 2016. Sounds like a shameful plug doesn't it? Whereas actually, it's said out of a real belief that it is all of those things and more.
Why should you believe any of that? Why should you not dread the thought of bringing your 2 year old anywhere near some delicate pots, let alone out in public to be made to feel anxious when they throw a tantrum in the aisles? Why should you worry that your teenagers manners will be left at the entrance and that people will think them (and you) to be rude when they respond to all questions with a shrug and the odd puff of air? Why should you not recoil in horror when your 6 year old decides to start picking their nose or wandering out the loo like an Andrew puppy, with a stream of paper following them and a sink left behind, overflowing with water and hand wash?
We posted a message to our Facebook wall many months ago and we will repeat it now because some things are worth reminding us all of...
"For us, being 'family friendly' extends beyond high chairs and changing facilities. It is important to us that families feel at ease and enjoy their time here. We have lots of things in place to make your visit as fun for them and as anxiety free for you as possible.
Mess is ok by us...sign of a good time. Tantrums are ok by us...we kind of envy a child's ability to just go for it. Running around...we have a perfect courtyard for letting off steam...who doesn't like bubbles and chalkboards. Touching stuff...it's just curiosity and if we wanted to keeps things off limits we've kinda picked the wrong business!
Hope that helps"
Whatever you decide to do and however you decide to spend your time this Christmas, we hope you make yourself some memories that are sure to last a lifetime.