By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
I remember being a kid and wondering why my mother was never as giddy about the approach of Christmas as my brother and I were. During the weeks leading up to the holiday, she was just a blur of wrapping paper and Scotch tape, rushing here and there doing – well, I don’t know – Mom stuff. She definitely wasn’t a grinch, but her mood was not a lot of “fa, la, la, la, la” either. Didn’t she realize it was Christmas – the “most wonderful time of the year”?
It’s been a couple of decades since then, and now I – mother of three kids under the age of 8 – can say without hesitation that I just didn’t get it back then. My mother was keenly aware it was nearly time for Christmas. In fact, we moms can always hear the deafening “tick, tick, tick” of the clock, counting down to December 25th. And there’s just so much to do.
What a few years and a few kids have taught me is that Christmas can become a pretty big production. Every big production needs a director, and moms usually end up in that chair. But there’s no time to sit down because there’s shopping to do, gifts to wrap, family photos to shoot, lights to string, holiday cards to send, parties to attend, school plays to watch, church concerts to hear, meals to make, laundry to fold, carpool to drive, and on and on. December can be downright exhausting.
I was having lunch with a fellow mom today who said she’s a little sad because the holidays are about to be over. I’m a little sad about it, too, and I think it’s because there’s not enough time to enjoy it. I’ve been so busy sprinting up to the finish line that I forgot to enjoy the run. It’s a shame, really, because Christmas is supposed to be about more than the myriad of details that go into it.
We mothers (and dads, too) are so good at cueing the traditions and orchestrating the pageantry of Christmas that we really run the risk of missing out on it altogether. Sometimes multi-tasking can be a curse because what we need most this time of year is to be in the moment. We’re so used to looking ahead and getting on to the next thing on our list that it’s hard to just “be” – to look around and say “Yep, this is good.”
The other day I had one of those moments, and it helped me get out of my rush-rush holiday funk. I’d just picked up 2-year-old Kate from a play date and we were walking out to our van to go home. It was a sunny but cold December day, and I had a million things waiting to be done at home. I looked over at my little girl, who was all zipped up in her puffy, powder pink coat with a fur-trimmed hood that frames her face. She smiled the sweetest, simplest smile and looked up at the sky. I looked up at it, too, and closed my eyes so I could try to memorize her face in that moment and how wonderful it feels to have her warm little hand in mine when we’re walking together. That moment – that’s what Christmas should always feel like: love, peace, blessing, wonder, gratitude and hope.
If you, like me, find yourself working furiously behind the scenes to pull off a big holiday production, be sure you stop long enough to appreciate it, to honor the meaning of the holiday. Because the truth is that, in a few days, the wrapping paper will be crumpled at the bottom of a Hefty bag. The Christmas cookies will be morphing into fat cells. The new will wear off the toys, and January will get here before we’re ready. But before that happens, we have this day, this moment. We have the chance to slow down and just “be”. We have the opportunity to cherish the people we love, to memorize their smiles, to hold somebody’s hand, and to thank God for the chance to do it.
From my family to yours, have a very blessed Christmas.