I am a girl of traditions, and since Betty was born five years ago I have taken great joy in carrying on old Christmas traditions from my own childhood, and also creating new ones.
When I was a child, decorating the tree was right up there with the anticipation of Father Christmas sneaking into my bedroom with a giant bag full of presents. So I was thrilled that Betty had been nagging me for days about when we were going to put our tree up.
Despite Tom's suggestion to keep things simple, I made a real ceremony of it. On Thursday evening, there the tree stood in all its glory, ready to be adorned with a huge array of beautiful decorations; some we had made, some we had chosen together, some I have collected over the years, and indeed some from my childhood.
It all went beautifully for at least a minute. Betty in her pretty dress and plaits, cheerily singing Away in a Manger. The fairy lights twinkling on her delighted little face, as she hung the first few decorations on the tree. Meanwhile Dolly stood a couple of metres away contentedly playing with the nativity scene, and I watched on proudly, with my G&T, at my delightful children going about their Christmas acitivities.
Betty had hung about six decorations when she turned and clocked Dolly playing with the nativity set. She marched over to her and through clenched teeth said: 'You must not play with Mary and Joseph, they are not toys, they are just for us to look at,' and then swiftly snatched baby Jesus from Dolly's sticky little clutch.
Horrified that my daughter was probably parroting me, I calmly told Betty that Dolly was not doing any harm and to let her play with them. But Betty had the bit between her teeth and would not let it rest, and continued to get more and more irate with Dolly. Soon Dolly couldn't take any more and became inconsolable. All the poor kid wanted to do was feed Jesus to the ox, and make the two sheep kiss.
I shouted at Betty to stop, and she stormed off upstairs to her bedroom, and slammed the door.
There the tree stood, mostly bare, Dolly crying, and I knocked back my drink and poured another.
After a couple of minutes, Betty re-emerged down the stairs, walked over to a sobbing Dolly, gently put her arm around her, and soothingly said: 'What's the matter my darling, is mummy being horrible to you? Has she upset you?' 'Yes' said Dolly.
They defiantly marched off together hand-in-hand. I decorated the tree on my own, while my children sat on Tom in the other room and watched two cartoon pigs happily decorating a Christmas tree on TV.