Background details: When Evan was born, I was a single mom. There's a story behind how he was conceived (besides, you know, physiologically), and where I was in my life. That's not this story - but I was single when I got pregnant with him, and remained so for 6 years after he was born. His Dad has always been here for him, they've always regularly spent time together. I knew when he was teeny-tiny that it was my mission to be there for him. Before he was born, I had the conventional mom-thought at that time: I'd go back to work when he was around ten weeks old. I thought I was being generous by going further than six weeks. THEN I met him, right after he was birthed at home, and I knew there was NO WAY I could go back to work. Through the years, I found ways to make that work - first, living with my mom, who had not become as cold as she would later, then bartending and cater-waiting on weekends when he could be with his Dad. We moved into a sweet little 2-bedroom house right before he turned 3. Money was always tight, but we had a life we loved. I started watching kids so I could be with him all the time, and his Dad started having scheduled visitation, rather than being there when I worked.
For those Christmases we shared when I was still single, and it was just me and Evan, I started a little tradition. Because we had NO extra money, a tree was mostly out of the question - unless we waited 'til late Christmas Eve, when the tree lots gave their trees away. I would get the tree with Evan, and tell him we'd have to decorate it on Christmas, but I'd actually put it up and decorate it while he slept - then when he woke, he thought Santa brought the tree in and decorated it! I did this two years in a row. I can see now it was magical, it was thrifty, it made sense. I'd love to say that I made the decision consciously and graciously, and stayed fully aware of the magic. Instead:
I was kind of a maniac! And I HATED myself, just absolutely hated myself the whole time, for not providing Evan with a "normal" Christmas, like "normal" families have. The first year, I had no idea we'd get a tree for free - I just drove into the lot hoping we could get a good deal on a Charlie Brown tree, and I wept when the owner just handed me a beautiful tree, and told us to take it home. I was stressed - WHY couldn't I put up a tree before Christmas, like everyone else? I was thinking, Evan's going to remember this! He'll be telling his therapist when he's an adult: 'My mom couldn't even get a tree up before Christmas!' I felt so disorganized, so... overwhelmed. This isn't how it's supposed to be done! I kept saying to myself. I know I wasn't fully present for Evan.
I had SO much to learn, about appreciating the moment that IS. About accepting where I am. About loving myself. About knowing what's really important. I look back now - and dang! That was creative! And practical - AND it was magic for Evan. But then? I couldn't see that at all. I send love to my younger self, lots and lots of love, to me so overwhelmed and stressed, but full of love for my child, this beautiful boy.
And it's causing me to ask today: What am I stressed over now, that if I give a different perspective to, I'll appreciate? What's causing me to not be present for my kids today? Where am I judging myself for falling short of where I "should" be? Can I breathe, and love everything about this moment?
Why, yes, yes I can. In the intervening years, I've learned what's important: us. BE-ing together. Doing what we need - and want! - to have an amazing unschooling life. This moment, this one, will never come again, so it's my job to move everything else aside, all the self-doubt, all the judgment, all the petty, petty money stuff to BE HERE NOW. Fully and lovingly.
I also send love to my younger self (and the boys!) for teaching me just that. Over and over again.
I hope you're able to appreciate all the moments you have this holiday season. Even stressed (you don't have to go there, you know!), even overwhelmed, even joyful and full of love. It's all magic.
A couple weeks ago, I read this post by writer Jennifer Harvey. I started to write all this in her comments, then realized: 'blog post!' Also - 'Don't hijack the comments!' Thanks, Jennifer!