Last night was officially the end of Christmas in our house.
Yes, you may say we were flogging a dead horse but it is just tradition with us.
Each year at the end of January we go to see the panto. All six of us.
The pantomime is not a tradition I was reared with, and attended my first one when my eldest was young.
I took her, and the little one I minded, one Christmas when they were five or six years old.
We went to see Red Riding hood.
It was on that occasion I first saw the magic of the panto.
Throughout the performance all those years ago, the little one I minded kept saying,
“I know they are only just people what are dressed up”.
She usually said this at the more scarey panto style moments.
At the very end, not to spoil it for any of you, the wolf was killed in dramatic panto style.
The crowd roared with delight, clapping and cheering.
All except one distraught little lady.
“It’s okay, I said to her, remember it’s only a man dressed up”.
She looked up at me and sobbing said “But what about his family?”.
I still laugh at how she had got reality and panto so mixed up.
Since November my youngest has been looking forward to this night.
It is not always easy to manage a night when six of us are free,
but we had no choice. She was determined we would be going it was just a matter of when.
It was wonderful to sit there last night and see her face light up.
As I looked across at the others I could see everyone was really enjoying it.
Without my youngest I doubt we would have been there.
Just as in everyday life much of what we do, and subsequently enjoy is orchestrated by her.
In our families lives there are a host of small ways that this little lady pulls us together.
With two teenagers and a twenty plus year old, we would be a very different family without her.
Our older children are of an age where they live their own lives to a large extent.
Lives which regularly have to take into account the desires of our youngest.
Take Christmas morning for example.
The eldest is out in the local pub the night before, the other two in no hurry to bed,
yet no lie in is tolerated.
On Christmas morning tradition dictates that they all line up at the top of the stairs,
in order of age, youngest to oldest, to go see what Santa has delivered.
They do this at 7.30 am, not usually an hour teenagers would rise at.
Yet they do, because she wants them to.
Each day when they come home she welcomes them, and in general keeps tabs on where they are going and what they are doing.
She entertains with her talk of school and friends,
and ensures everyone sticks around while she makes plans for us all as a family.
As I was thinking about it last night I thought how much we will miss these days when she grows up.
The greatest gift this little lady brings to us all is childhood.
There are no limits in her world and it is a very positive place to live.
Through her we all get a view of a different world.
She allows us to lose a few years and remember what it is to be a child.
Through her thankfully, we all get the chance to stay young at heart.