I've already 'fessed up that I was terrified of what this Christmas might bring: from access arrangements to festive decorating (although there was the initial self-satisfaction gleaned from wrestling the monster-sized tree through the door and setting it up single handedly) doubts had been gnawing away at my guilt-ridden single-parent brain for weeks. Once it was decided the small person would spend Christmas Day with me, other anxieties set in. Mainly:
1. How would my ex cope with not seeing his son opening his presents on Christmas morning?
2. How would my son cope with his dad not being there?
3. How would I negotiate the need to be in the kitchen cooking the teeny Christmas-dinner-for-two with the need to be with my son in another room as he grappled with a million wire twizzles in order to release his goodies from their boxes?
4. And er, how would I manage spending the whole day with just an eight-year-old for company? It would hardly be the done thing to be knocking back the cooking sherry (not that I have any cooking sherry. In fact, does it even exist?) whilst in sole charge of a small boy. But it would be Christmas Day...
As it turned out, it was all perfectly fine: my ex came over for a couple of hours on Christmas evening, which worked out well for everyone: I got a chance to lie on the sofa and inhale Quality Street and watch Ab Fab (disappointing) whilst he and our son examined chemistry kits and Dr Who books in the back room.
And as for me spending most of the morning cooking instead of sitting serenely watching my little boy play with his presents (in my mind's-eye wearing a pastel twin-set and wistfully fingering a string of pearls) the reality was my son being so involved in his presents that he probably would not have noticed if I had been replaced by an alien, or had spent the day with the neighbours. In fact, such was his dedication to building a Stars Wars Lego spaceship, that when I did dare flit in to the sitting room in a brief moment's respite from burning things in the kitchen I got only a stern 'shhhh, I'm reading the instructions' for my troubles.
Our mini-Christmas dinner - which I had also lost sleep over, there being a horrid sadness in the thought of the two of us at our dining table with too much space between us and none of the rows over who is going to pull the last cracker - ended up being eaten in the kitchen as the dinner table was covered in presents. And despite making my son get changed into something reasonably smart in time to eat, I never made it out of my pyjamas. All day.
So even if I'd had cooking sherry I wouldn't have turned to it – it was, despite all my fears, worries and 'eek, our first Christmas on our own' moments in the run up, one of the best we've had in a long time. There was no pressure. No trying to please everyone and ultimately pleasing no one. There was no timetable to run to, or tenterhook moments waiting for a drama or falling out.
I even got a iTunes voucher as a present from my little boy and a big bag of pressies from my ex's mum. Which means an awful lot when you sometimes see yourself as a little twosome on the periphery of other people's families.
So another lesson learned on my single-parent journey: Christmases without partners and other family members around might not be in the spirit of the season, but they can most definitely be a whole lot better than some of the ones which have gone before them.
Have you just spent your first Christmas as a single parent? How did you find it?