There should be a word for that feeling when you cast your eyes on anything remotely Christmassy in the first weeks of January and it stirs zero festiveness in you. Just days ago you were well into that tinsel, you couldn't get enough glittery candles, tea towels, mugs and other Christmas merch. Now, seeing them around the place you realise the connection you once had is gone, the bauble burst and if anything, you feel like the festive things hold you back from embracing January – this stuff needs to go because it doesn't fit in with your new year and your new life. Be gone copious amounts of leftover food, get back in the attic, tree lights – this isn't your time to shine. Presents, you can stay, most of you – some might have to be eBay-ed, but fair-isle stockings, you do not belong in this time and place. It's not a negative feeling as such, your brain is just switching gears and helping you make sense of life. But we do need a word for it, kind of like an anti-hygge? I feel it every year, especially on New Years Day.
Yesterday I looked after my two (nearly three) year old niece whilst her parents were at hospital, bringing her baby brother into the world. Despite smiling and laughing all day, she definitely displayed some signs of anxiety, unsurprising really when a.) she doesn't quite get what's happening, and b.) she must feel threatened by the two people who are her whole world (and whom she probably feels like she controls) going off to get another little person. At one point I said to her, you alright? She replied, something is not right, Aunty Sarah, but I don't know the words. She is two (nearly three), and continually blowing me away with her insight. Never mind the words for describing how over Christmas you become in the new year, what about the words for when we feel confused and rejected by our parents, but also feel like we need to carry on being happy for some reason? If you're only a toddler I mean, though there have been numerous times in my life where I've been shocked or hurt or scared into not being able to express my feelings. Words don't always come easily, not even for writers, or the ones that exist feel like they don't represent what you need them to. The worst is when you say the wrong ones to try and communicate something, anything, and it makes matter worse.
I felt proud of my niece during her first meeting with her brother, she gingerly touched him and said ahh a lot. She kept running to fetch more and more of her toys and telling her parents loudly that she's giving them to the baby, she also asked several times if she could change his nappy or look after mummy. She didn't sulk or get in a huff, it was like she needed to make sure everyone knew she would be useful to have around, and that she was definitely worth keeping. Just when I was leaving, and I was alone with her she cried for the first time. I don't want you to go, her bottom lip quivered and her eyes pleaded. Then she got cross and refused to hug me goodbye. I'm not saying she's not genuinely happy with the addition to the family, but I think all that smiling acquiescence exhausted her, and her mask slipped a bit. No one can blame her, it's got to be a bloody weird thing for any first born to deal with, especially a very young one. She'll probably not remember how she felt during this time, or that she couldn't put it into words. It's not always a limited vocabulary that prevents us saying what we want (though her's for her age is scarily big), it could be that the word doesn't exist, or we'd rather not accept the ones that do. It's okay to admit it, though probably best to get some perspective over what we needed those words for. Putting away our Christmas comfort and joy in the loft until next year is not the same as having your life turned upside down.