THAT snapshot of Jamie Redknapp relaxing in the home of his ex, Louise, as they watched their sons tear into the Christmas Day presents is hopefully a reflection of many homes over these past few days.
The Redknapps were married for 19 years and were seen to have one of the strongest relationships in the business.
Sons Charley, 16, and Beau, 12, are their highest priority.
Sharing Christmas with your ex can be tough. In many cases, impossible.
But it can work. A sure-fire sign that things are chilled is the fact that no debate is had about it — it is just presumed that you will spend the big day together.
I’ve spent the past three Christmases with my ex Brian and our children (Cameron, 26, Bo, 20, Martha, 16, and Malcolm, 12).
That first one was when we both had known the marriage was over for the past year but Brian hadn’t yet moved out. The impending changes made for a nervous atmosphere.
'I WAS DESPERATE'
I was desperate for things to be perfect and feel right for the children’s sake and I think, with effort on both sides, we did a good job.
There was never any doubt in my mind we would get on as exes. We were good friends and always made the children our priority — at times too much.
There were periods when we forgot about ourselves and channelled everything into our kids.
But I would not have wanted things any other way. The children are the most important thing and I would sacrifice anything for them.
That very first Christmas together as exes in 2018 was delicate — scars were still raw.
You no longer have the right to tell someone what you really think or give them a telling off for not loading the dishwasher right.
You can’t roll your eyes and huff and puff, because you are no longer in a romantic or domestic relationship. You’re in a new liaison — one that can’t quite be defined as a friendship. Nor is it one fuelled purely by animosity.
It’s not a bond that can be sweetened by a loving look or a touch of the hand. It’s not one where a sarcastic comment is guaranteed to land well.
Words can be misinterpreted and atmospheres can change at the drop of a fork.
It’s a link that needs handling with care, because children’s eyes are upon you and they hang on every word.
You put on your best behaviour because you want things to work — because it’s only a day or two, because, despite being emotionally exhausted, it’s all about the children.
With the passing of time, the atmosphere eases and this last Christmas was, for me, more seamless than any before.
'I FEEL FORTUNATE'
Perhaps it was being in lockdown together at the beginning of the year, when we clung to each other because it felt like the end of the world. Or maybe it was because — and we were lucky here — Christmas was not much altered by the pandemic. It was always going to be us and the kids.
But also because, over time, we’ve learnt how to behave around each other.
We no longer have ownership of each other but are independent people who are members of the same family.
I feel fortunate things have turned out this way but, of course, it’s not something that has been handed to me.
It has taken work and effort and hurt and recovery.
No doubt things will change when either of us meets someone else, and that will require a reconfiguration — a new template and new lessons.
But what is always at the forefront of my mind is you should never hate your ex more than you love your children.
Besides, hate is a horrid word.
How to end life dogged by pain?
Guest Editor on Radio 4’s Today programme on Christmas Eve was the octogenarian Prue Leith.
Among many interesting things, she wanted to explore assisted dying. Her late husband had suffered a painful death and so had some of her friends.
I’ve always been a proponent of assisted dying. I might struggle with the medical facts and legal loopholes, which would need to be watertight, but the principle of knowing when the time is right to allow someone to give up a losing fight to live is fundamental to what makes us human.
I’ve been forced to face up to some stark realities very intensely at home over the past few months – in animal form.
My three-year old bulldog, Leo, has chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.
My adopted bulldog, Fella, who is nearly 11, has dementia and terrible arthritis, and my beloved Nessie – my first-born fur baby – was suffering from kidney failure. I’m basically running The Best Marigold Hotel for canines.
As a family, we were given – as one is with dogs – a choice for Nessie, as she has no means of recovery, to help her to a dignified end this week.
It felt too soon to end her life despite the fact that hers was a magnificent one.
She had so much personality it was impossible to ignore her presence.
'STOIC, STRONG & STUBBORN'
We often joked that she would outlive us all – she was stoic, strong and stubborn. But Bulldogs have a habit of not living as long as other dogs.
And now I am bereft and inconsolable. My dogs are everything to me. I have cried myself through Christmas and the pain in my heart will not heal any time soon.
But I’m so glad we were able to end her suffering before it became unbearable for her, and for us to witness.
We could have gone on keeping her alive for our sakes but it was not the right thing to do.
Whether you choose to call it assisted dying or end-of-life care, I hope we carry on exploring options for humans in this field of medicine.
Often keeping someone alive is in your own selfish interest and not in the interests of the person suffering.
Sleep well, Nessie. We love you more than words can convey.
I mask be mistaken
“I really need a face mask”, said my oldest female, ungrateful, as she looked at herself in the mirror just before we headed out to the food shops one final time before Christmas.
Without thinking, my mind found itself immediately in a different world, and in a different year.
“Gosh, so do I,” I replied, stroking my dehydrated, neglected skin, thinking about how grey I turn at this time of year and how lovely it would be to sit down for 15 minutes with a moisturising face mask on for a change.
“No, you t*t”, daughter responded, “a Covid face mask!”
Suddenly I felt the decades between us and the years dividing a face mask of yesterday and a face mask of 2020.
And I felt a bit sad that these two words will for ever have a different meaning to our children from hereon in.
Kourt up in herself
Kourtney Kardashian has shared an article about being “autosexual”.
This, for those of us idiots who don’t know, is a trait where you’re turned on by your own eroticism.
So, basically, a Kardashian is telling us she fancies herself.
Tell us something we don’t know.
Please spare me. Please spare me from all the January health kicks.
Please spare me from Veganuary. Please spare me from Dry January.
Please spare me from the fitness bores, the cigarette-quitters, those giving up swearing or abandoning chocolate and sweets.
All the bores who insist on giving something up at this time of year – it’s irksome and irritating.
As if January isn’t miserable enough as it is, the sadists among you insist on further suffering by denying yourselves some small pleasures of life.
So what am I giving up? Nothing. I’m just giving up.
Snacks for stranded
I was humbled and touched by the local Sikh communities, Khalsa Aid and volunteers from Guru Nanak Darbar in Kent, who cooked well over 700 hot meals for stranded truck drivers in and around Dover.
Some had been forced to sleep in their trucks for several nights.
Just a note to those who struggle with the concept of immigration (I myself am an immigrant), but fail to see that either religion or colour is what divides us.
Rather it is humanity that unites us.
The days between Christmas and New Year are always a blur.
People carry on wishing you Merry Christmas even though that time has passed but we haven’t yet hit New Year.
The Swedes have a terrific expression during these “in-between days”.
It’s as exciting as a bit of dry ham but it fits perfectly: “Good continuation.” And I think it covers all bases. This year, however, I don’t want a good continuation.
I recall being told a couple of months ago that all would be well by Christmas. Then that got delayed to spring.
Now we’re looking at Easter before things look remotely normal. I don’t want a “good continuation” until then.
Stop the world. I want to get off. I also want it to be July.
This year I survived. Next year I want to LIVE.
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