How was your Christmas-type holiday? Did it knock you off your ass as it did me?
I was completely sleep-deprived after being up until midnight making the school cupcakes and cutting out cardboard for crafts and school holiday parties. Then after said parties, after we had fought our way through a couple of stores, I started getting their piles of stuff from school holiday mishegas separated and organized. There was a small pile of wrapped gifts. Five of them: four for their dad, and one for their grandmother.
I’d love to tell you that I beamed at them and patted their little heads. That I admired their wrapping paper and packed the presents off to their various destinations.
Instead I saw bright red and found strange sounds coming out of my mouth. My eyebrows shot up until they were nearly in my hairline and I said in one of those pseudo-non-hysterical screeches, “Oh, okay. None for me. Heh heh. Heh. That’s really great. Great.” My heart started pounding and a furious closed captioning sort of turned on in my brain, displaying things like, “After waking me up three times a night every night for years? And whining all day? And the nightly horror of homework? And how I stay up nights worrying about you on the nights that you don’t happen to wake me up? And how I do all this crap for you and have never once actually throttled you or thrown you out a window and I‘m a short order cook and buy you cases of nitrate free hot dogs and organic macaroni and cheese and I CAN’T EVEN HAVE A PIECE OF CRAP ORNAMENT FROM SCHOOL? REALLY?!” And then I slumped up the stairs to cry which is where I stayed, asking Greg to handle dinner. I cried for hours.
Somewhere around then I had to admit that 2010 has been a pretty tough year. But still, I’m not sure how I ended up crying over this. I was raised in a wholesome iconoclastic atheist Jewish rabble-rousing home. I don’t really know where this sort of low-rent Martha Stewart tendency of mine comes from, or why I seem compelled to create some kind of a perfect holiday. I hate the consumerism. And I don’t think I really want endless things crowding our small home.
But what I especially don’t want is to be the person who actually cares, who seeks some weird kind of approval from my own children. I know that I’m the one who’s here for them, not them for me. I know I’m supposed to be a monolithic entity to them, one who doesn’t make them feel like they have to nurture me. I know I know I know.
And I’ve recovered, having spent some uncomfortable time reflecting, realizing how my heart just isn’t pure. How there’s no way I could have had this reaction if I let my real values guide my parenting. Doesn’t that seem true and right – that when we act with truth and integrity, we’re not looking for the recognition from others, but being guided by our own inner compass.
And looking forward to the clean slate of a new year of life, that’s what I’ll be promising to do in addition to all the usual smaller goals. Like making good on my promise to slow our lives down, to laugh more, to listen and make time for quiet. And making space to forgive myself for our imperfect and fractured lives, my disorganization and impatience. And I’ll try to remember to not look for gold stars or glitter-covered, glued-up whatever as a reward.
But maybe you could stop by next December with a nice bottle of red wine and box of tissues, just in case.