My pretty little girls with your sweet little curls, dreamy eyes, and snow globe-sized world; what I wouldn’t give to keep you wrapped in a blanket of safety and comfort forever. While you lay in your bed and worry about the monsters in your closet; I lay in mine and think about dangers that look nothing like monsters, yet cause me far more fear.
I know it’s cliche, but when you were born I realized a kind of love I’d never known existed. I wish I could say this love made me stronger, but truthfully it made me exponentially more vulnerable. Loving you means allowing my heart to reside in three different places with no guarantee it will be kept safe. With you in this world, I multiply the risk of everything times three.
When I reflect on my own childhood, I remember the holidays as some of my happiest and most comforting times. To my recollection, our Christmases were always perfect and I want the same thing for you…but sometimes I get off track. Your dad and I would move mountains to prevent hardship – whether it be a death in the family, financial strain, or a grouchy mood – from permeating the bubble we’ve created around you. But tragically this is where I, like many adults, tend to stumble.
When it comes to holidays and hardship, in the face of something threatening, we cling to tradition as proof to you that everything will be okay. We assume that the key to our child’s wellbeing is a holiday just like years past, and so we set out to complete each holiday task according to its own specific protocol. With half-hearted tolerance, we grit our teeth through bad attitudes, fights, messes, and foibles and remind ourselves to just get through. We’ve forgotten why we’re doing any of it in the first place but we do it anyway because in order to protect our children our first instincts are to control, to be perfect and to do everything ‘right’.
As I said, I remember my childhood Christmases as being happy and perfect times, but upon further reflection, I realize they were anything but. With a traveling father and 5 brothers and sisters, there was coordinating, clutter, debt, teasing, bickering, lost keys (there are always lost keys), rushing, and grouchy kids up way past their bedtimes. My holidays were a disorganized mess, yet still, I remember them as perfection.
I’m not going to pretend my family didn’t focus on tradition, they just didn’t strive for perfection because they knew they’d never achieve it. With people coming and going and kids constantly growing, flexibility was key. Our traditions had a very loose foundation of togetherness, love, acceptance, sharing, and laughter; a culture which my parents embodied on a daily basis. There was bickering and teasing and bad moods, and I’m sure my parents would recall some years of serious hardship, but 10 years later all I’m left with are warm memories.
I guess what I’m saying is that I know grown-ups sometimes overcomplicate things. When life feels puzzling we think the answers must be complex, when quite often they are basic and intrinsic to anyone who has the capacity to love and be loved. We cannot shield our children from all life’s hardships, sometimes things have to change, sometimes you will be sad, and usually, life won’t be perfect. All we can do is talk to you, guide you, reassure you, and let you know there’s a safe and warm embrace waiting for you anytime you need it.
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