The defining moment was when I was on the floor trying to pound a screwdriver into the base of my grandmother’s antique Christmas tree with a hammer to get the wrong piece my Asperger/ADHD/bipolar/PANDAS/asthma son had jammed in it. My blood pressure was roaring, and I was ready to cancel the holidays for the next decade. When the base gave way and it popped out, I couldn’t have been more surprised since I had no idea what I was doing. My bipolar/ADD/LHON/asthma daughter stood quietly while my son ran crying to his room.
Sometimes the holidays take a toll on us all. Still in a divorce and trying to co-parent, we now face a new legal threat from yet another agency regarding the children. Working on restricted diets, I’ve watched our precious pantry dwindle down. Limited budgets have made clothing, medication and household goods difficult to purchase. Everywhere I turn there seems to be stress and tension. I admit to crying many tears trying to deal with the adversity facing our family this year.
My son walked quietly out of his room about ten minutes later. “What does this mean?” he asked holding a train ornament engraved with his birth year.
It hit me hard that none of this was as important as my children having warm, joyous holiday memories for their childhood. Whatever challenges or consequences we would have to endure would come after the holidays regardless of how I choose to spend that time with my children.
Outside the snow was falling with a forecasted three to six inches by midnight. We began taking the novelty ornaments and the stockings out of the storage totes. The story behind each ornament filled the room while my children hung stockings for everyone including the service-dogs-in-training, Butter and Tinkerbelle. By the time the children were done decorating the tree, Martha Stewart would have had a heart attack. But it was exactly the Christmas tree for us. Oddly placed ornaments and mismatched stockings covered the small tree crooked tree.
My son turned to me and asked to be told the story behind Christmas for the first time. We spoke about that and then looked up resources he could refer to online, in addition to the Bible on the bookcase shelf.
I sat on the couch for a while and just listened to their chatter. It was the happiest 25 minutes or so I’ve spent in the longest time. They discussed happier Christmas in the past, the meaning of different ornaments and laughed as they filled my grandmother’s tree with decorations. I was extremely grateful I had asked for that tree since my daughter had two allergy attacks near live pine trees this week.
My son surprised me with comments about how he loves the spirit of giving best during the holidays. When I suggested perhaps a community service project of some type on Christmas Day he was all for it, much to my delight. My daughter is not as spiritually advanced and admits she likes the presents. I still have work to do there …
It’s difficult as mothers to just let go. Everything about the holidays seems to hinge on the woman of the house choosing, scheduling, cooking, cleaning, entertaining and occasionally performing magic in order to ensure that the holiday season passes again in her home without a hitch. I don’t try to convince myself that we as mothers are going to magically get anyone else to take on our role. What I suggest instead is that you change whatever is in your holiday plans that interferes with how you enjoy this Christmas season. Make certain that true joy is the reason for your get-togethers, tree decorating, caroling and cookie baking. If you’ve lost that feeling don’t stop until you get it back. You might make hot cocoa with your grandchildren and fill-in coloring pages or visit those in the nursing home without family. That feeling is there … don’t stop looking. And when you find it, take a tiny spark and place it in the children’s hearts as well.