Kate Livingstone: The time of year to try to be together

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The countdown is well under way ... only ten days to go until children everywhere discover if all their dreams have come true and Santa Claus has delivered the gifts they asked for.

I’m beginning to sound like a broken record but every year I cannot believe how much my two grandchildren receive.

And while admitting that I’m guilty of adding to the very large pile of presents they wake up to on Christmas morning, I do think we over indulge them.

In fairness, Emma and my son-in-law are not the worst ‘offenders’. When she tells me what some of their friends buy for their children, it’s almost obscene the amount of gifts they receive.

We all want to give our youngsters the best we can, but is lots of presents really the answer?

Now we are definitely not the perfect family, but we do make time to spend time together, particularly at this time of year.

There’s nothing we like better than to wrap up warm and go for a walk along the canal or to Callendar Park or the Helix. What better excuse than to come home and heat ourselves up with hot chocolate and mince pie!

We’ve also got a family tradition of Santa bringing one board game that all ages can get involved in.

The collection is certainly growing but the well-used Monopoly set bought for my two many years ago is still a firm favourite.

You can’t beat a bit of friendly, family rivalry when you spot someone has landed on Park Lane ... and you hold the card.

I couldn’t believe it when a group of friends began discussing how they spend festive season and, albeit after several glasses of Pinot Grigio, one confessed that last year her daughter had put her grandson’s Christmas dinner on a tray – complete with cracker – because he was ‘too busy’ playing computer games to join everyone else at the table!

I think that I would have been saying to the young sir that it was Christmas Day, the rest of his family had made the effort to turn up, his mum and gran had spent hours slaving over a hot stove and he was going to sit with them at the dining table – whether he liked it or not.

Of course, none of us said this to my friend, who I don’t think was very happy with what happened, but later on the rest of us were very vocal 
in our phone calls and texts that we wouldn’t have allowed it.

I’m sure some of you will think that there is nothing wrong with what his mum did but if a family can’t spend some time together on Christmas Day, when can they?