Christmas tree close up

20th January 2021 • Carly Jones MBE

Happy New Year fellow parents and carers. How was your Christmas? How are you feeling entering 2021? Are you relieved that 2020 is over and excited for what a new year can bring? Or are you anxious about how 2021 will play out?

Although it’s a sensible and much-needed move, it landed a difficult dollop of disappointment on the plans I had made for my youngest over Christmas. Our panto trip to the Palladium was cancelled, and the prospect of having one or two of her friends at a social distance was not possible or safe.

Creating memories in difficult times

It’s been a tough year for our children and ourselves. It goes without saying that Christmas 2020 was an unforgettable Christmas – perhaps one our children will relay to their grandchildren one day. For us, like for so many, it was tough but I hope we managed to make it a happy memory.

We were alone on Christmas Day and I missed my parents and the children missed their grandparents dreadfully. We did, however, find alternative ways to spread Christmas cheer. My daughter, with some help from her assistance dog, made little stockings full of carrots, apples and dog biscuits and we hung these on the branches of a tree where many dogs we see every day are walked. In a four-acre field, social distancing from passers-by was easy; the dogs, however, didn’t quite understand the need to not kiss, hug, jump and lick one another!

Perhaps, just because something is different, it doesn’t make it wrong. This simple motto may be helpful if you or your young person can’t adapt to change quickly. But what if you feel more secure and healthy in the presence of familiarity, routine and sameness? It’s a difficult balance to find and something that, like so many plans in the last year, is seemingly out of our control.

Adapting to our new normal

We were able to control and set in stone some routine things though, such as what time dinner would be and sitting down to watch the Queen’s speech. What could our household do for fun? Perhaps a family film? Board games or a dog walk? Because our Christmas has been so different this year, I tried to expand the happiness of the new Christmas lifestyle. Not the usual Christmas routine but hopefully one in the future they will look back on and smile about. Who knows, maybe we even started a new tradition for the years to come? Maybe that was the real hidden beauty of Christmas in the year 2020: it was an opportunity to make new happy traditions out of a ghastly year!

It wasn’t a perfect Christmas because, with so many absent or lost to this dreadful pandemic and finances running low, it couldn’t be. But I wholeheartedly wish that you and your families experienced a caring, close-knit, authentic, innovative, loving and new-tradition-making Christmas!

So much has changed

This time last year most of us hadn’t even heard the word ‘coronavirus’. We were not wearing masks and we were able to hug, shake hands and greet one another in ways that now feel impossible.

I recall kindly being invited to the House of Lords’ reception for the female entrepreneurs’ celebration in early 2020. We 100 recognised females were politely asked to refrain from shaking hands or hugging, etc. It felt surreal reading the memo!

Firstly, how could we not shake hands at a business event? Secondly, have you ever tried stopping 100 supportive women hugging one another to congratulate each other?! Of course, we all stuck to the rules to protect one another and I was thinking to myself that this is a nasty virus but it will blow over by the summer at the latest.

How wrong I was.

With the new year starting, although I’m excited to see the back of 2020, I’m also a bit scared, as I’m sure are many others. I wonder what events of 2021 in January 2022 we will look back on. Will it be with relief? Will it be with sadness?

There’s one thing I am certain of, though. Our country and, indeed, the world has shown unity, resilience and love, and pulled together neighbourhood and community efforts like never before, and we will be all the better for that in 2021.

Wishing you a safe, happy and healthy 2021!

Carly, the Girls and Hunter the wonder dog

An apology

In my November article, I aimed to show a contrast between countries that have the equality act and those that didn’t. I aimed to have an honest and frank article that showed this contrast. Sadly, honesty without shared communication of context can often lead to things being read with a different perspective. My aim was to show, in a protective and frustrated manner, that not everyone globally has their equivalent of the Equality Act and try and stand up for them.

It has come to my attention that the intended message of my Nov article has not been conveyed and hurt the feelings of others not in the U.K. and was not viewed as supportive. I would like to be accountable for this hurt caused and apologise publicly for the miscommunication. Being Autistic, even at 38 years old, I struggle with context and am I grateful for the message I received as although it hurt to know I had caused sadness and disappointment, it highlighted to me my own blind spots due to my disability and an area I need to work on and have support with.

In 2021 I will try my best to ensure I gain PA support to double check my communications and to ensure I learn to convey a message as it was intended and to do ultimately better – I am sorry x