Christmas is a time of family. That's been drummed into us since forever, and it's a sentiment I've always embraced. The only Christmases I've ever missed have been those when I was living on the other side of the world as a young backpacker, or when I moved interstate for a few years to live as an impoverished university student who couldn't afford smashed avo, let alone a plane ticket.
But this year, for the first time ever, I've decided to ditch my family at Christmas and run away to camp under a tree somewhere instead. (Probably right next to someone else's family celebrating Christmas, let's face it, but I'm still excited about the solitude.)
It's not as grim as it sounds, and it's a change I've decided to embrace – even if it's only for this year. My ex-husband and I alternate Christmas Day with our children, but whoever doesn't have the children on the day itself gets to have them on Christmas Eve.
So my December 24th will be all about preparing for Santa, exchanging new pyjamas, and watching Elf for the nine-thousandth time. My children will hardly be able to sleep – my older two because it's an exciting time of year, and my seven-year-old because she's terrified Santa will breach her bedroom perimeter despite her leaving him a note telling him to leave presents on the front deck.
We will wake up at zero o'clock to open presents, play Michael Bublé and share a cooked breakfast, despite it being 30 degrees before 8am in Brisbane. And I will put all my energy into making that time as magical as possible. At 15, nine and seven, I know the days of family togetherness are numbered for my family, so I will squeeze all the joy out of it that I possibly can.
Then, I'll drop my children off at their dad's place so they can continue to be spoiled all day long. And even though my extended family will be gathering for the traditional cooked lunch, paper hats and bad jokes that they do every year, I'm opting out in favour of some me time.
My extended family are all lovely people but really, they're strangers. We don't see one another all year, and we have little in common. And I find the distilling of my year into a five-minute blurb for aunts, uncles and cousins a depressing exercise. Yep, still divorced, still living in the same place, still a freelancer (which, my brother loves to tell everyone, is code for "unemployed").
And I also know that whatever gifts I buy for these pleasant enough strangers will be wrong. The wrong size, the wrong type, the wrong flavour. It will be landfill, and an enormous waste of time and money.
So instead, my boyfriend and I are loading the car with a tent and some groceries, and we're heading off for three days of absolutely nothing. All year, we've been fantasising about having some time to sit still and do nothing. It's the fantasy of parents everywhere, and now here is an opportunity staring us in the face. Why should we miss it just because it's Christmas?
For me, Christmas is really about my children, and if I can't be with them, I'll take the next best thing which is a healthy chunk of quiet time, swinging on a hammock and reading a novel with zero interruptions. That's my Christmas present to myself, and I reckon it's a pretty good one.