While driving in the van towards our weekend ‘three-hour’s worth of figure skating club’, Littlest One says to one and all, “Let’s decorate the tree tonight and then hold hands and sing around the tree.” Yes, let’s. The image conjures up just about every stereotype I have regarding Christmas but which seems to ironically fail to deliver each and every year. And did we accomplish festive merry-making, you ask?
Well, what do you think? Exactly.
So, instead the tree stands bare in the middle of the back room whilst children were sent sulking to their rooms/shower/bath after having participated in sporadic episodes of spontaneous combustion. We’ll see how round two goes tomorrow, but I’m not getting my hopes up. Why is it that whenever you want to do something special as a family, the pressure builds to such a heightened force that it serves to drive family members apart rather than pull them together? I left the girls room tonight after laying out the ‘down low’ that things better be on the ‘up and up’ tomorrow, or else. That tree is going to be my bonfire for tomorrow’s weiner roast.
I have been lamenting my lack of Christmas cheer this year, and just when I think things couldn’t get any worse, the kiddos pull out another trick hand that gets my eyes off the game, serving to whip me off my feet and send me flying. They say in the media that Christmas is for kids, but I have yet to understand why that is. I say that parents who use Christmas as leverage for coaxing out desirable behaviours in their children better have a game plan in place for December 26th. Because Valentine’s is a long way off.
And besides. The stores are closed on Boxing Day. There is no bait to dangle over their mischievous little heads.
What’s a mother to do?
My own dear mother and I were discussing the other day how amazing it would be for the family to give up Christmas for a year and use that Christmas money instead for a missions trip to a Third World Country. We pack shoe boxes with our children every November, but just once in my lifetime, I would so enjoy being able to deliver those boxes of love directly to a child. How amazing to have that opportunity, even but once in a lifetime.
As amazing as that opportunity would be, I am continually reminded of this truth. There are all around me people in need. I don’t have to look past the schools, churches and gatherings in my own community to see children and families with needs greater than my own. A little girl who’s favorite toy is a hand-me-down doll that saw better days. A child without boots. A boy wearing a coat that won’t zip up. A family with bills that threaten to take Christmas away. A senior without nearby loved ones to offer needed help. And many more people who are hurting for many more different and varied reasons.
People are lonely at Christmas time. It’s the expectations that get us down, along with everything else.
And those expectations are exactly what make and break Christmas cheer. I know that I can’t change the direction of my days at this point in time. I am a tired and busy mother of four active, strong-willed children. Do I sometimes wish for peace and quiet? YES!!!!!!! I mean, yes, as a matter of fact, I do. But, that isn’t really feasible at present. I am not a senior citizen yet.
But I can still count my blessings in the here and now, in spite of the absence of harmonious days and absolutely silent nights. Because the four little blessings that lie sleeping underneath our warm roof this December night are just that. Blessings. In spite of it all! And, dare I say it- because of it all! For they teach me about patience, understanding, compassion, mercy and grace. About second chances. Indeed, about forgiveness that numbers seventy times seven. And they teach me about the power of unconditional love. And because of them, I look outward to a world around me. And I see the need. And in my own small way, I am doing a part. And it’s all because I know and understand what it is to give and receive love. Unconditionally.
Tomorrow’s another day. And with it will come much of the same as was today’s pitiful offering. I am not gifted with the outlook of an optimist. But I can make these decisions. Will there be Christmas cheer or not? Will there be seasonal joy or not? Will there be firm, but loving boundaries around decorating the ill-fated tree or not? Will I be my best as a parent or not? 365 days of the year?
Wow. Some big decisions going down.
My Christmas cheer is not dependent on others. It is dependent on me. So I say ‘yes to the best’ that is waiting for me this Christmas. And I’ll take it one day at a time.