Our KIND of Christmas
Dear Evan and Lulu,
I never know how to reply when someone asks that question “how do you do it?” How do you work full time, go to graduate school, and raise two children. The long answers is complicated and involves so many important people. The short answer is easier to say but harder for some to understand.
“We’re raising each other.”
In past Christmas years I tried to instill in you all those things I wrote about, and this year you instilled in me all the things I’ve forgotten about.
There are two things I love desperately in this world (aside from family and friends) and they are writing and children. I know that both of these things are pieces to my puzzle, even if I don’t know where they always fit, or even what picture they will eventually display. Both things come somewhat naturally to me, not speaking of talent just simply comfort and ease. Both things have the ability to drive me absolutely insane.
I believe everyone should write. I think it is therapeutic. I think it is calming, and enlightening, and I think it is an adventure. I agree that everyone has a story to tell. I also believe everyone should be around children. Not necessarily have their own, but I think they should spend a day or 100 with them so they remember what it is like to be brilliant. Also, if you don’t have a story to tell before spending 100 days with children, you certainly will after.
With all of that being said, I can’t stand reading some writing and I can’t stand being around some children. Two un-Christmas like confessions, right? But there is always importance in the truth and these are no exceptions. My wise friend who has spent her life working with children tells me to focus on what it is about some children that really annoys me. By examining that sore you will probably discover a deeper wound, maybe in them but more likely within yourself. I’ve learned the same goes for writing. If I really dislike someone’s tone or the way they tell their story, I should really look at why that is. Maybe it is a flaw that they need to work on, or maybe it is something in me that doesn’t allow it to resonate where it was intended to.
If you someday need proof that I made a full effort to celebrate Christmas, despite my somewhat mixed emotions about it, please know that this year Mike and I took you to the mall two nights before Christmas, upon realizing it was your last and only chance to see Santa. Please know that we waited in line for over 90 minutes, inching forward half steps at a time. Please know that we were surrounded by children and although I should have been in my “zone” instead I was locked in on the 9 year old in front of us that for whatever reason had set off every “annoyed” trigger I have.
She stood with her brother, maybe age 5, and her mother sat a distance away while they toughed out the line alone. I don’t blame the mom, I later resorted to a bench myself, when the Santa line and standing for so long was more than my knee could handle. Maybe it was her defensive body language. Every time we inched forward she would turn around and glare at us like we were trying to cut in front of them. I felt like she was attempting to block us out in a basketball game the closer we got to Mr. Claus. Maybe it was the way she would scream for her mom to come over every few inches we crawled forward, although they were nowhere near the front of the line each time she screeched.
I was jolted out of my irritation with a loud POP and the sharp inhale of her brother who lost his balloon sword not five minutes after getting it. Those balloon creations were the only thing keeping kids sane in a line that seemed never-ending. Of course the balloon artists were now gone, and all that was left to console him was his big sister who wrapped her arms around him and kissed the side of his head and whispered to him softly that she was so, so, so sorry.
I was wrong about this girl. I didn’t examine what had been bugging me. If I did I would have seen that she was just trying to be a good sister to her little brother. She was protective and worried about him and was trying her best to look over him.
Without a second thought Evan took her own balloon hat off her head and extended it to the devastated boy. “Here, you can have my hat” she said, joining ranks with the big sister who was doing her best to console.
He didn’t take the hat. Maybe he was surprised and didn’t expect someone to offer up their momentarily most prized possession. Maybe he was shy and didn’t know how to accept the gift. Probably it was the fact that the hat was pink and white swirled and looked like a gigantic unicorn horn.
But there I was, supposed to be raising you, and instead you were raising me. You were showing kindness when I was unable. You were examining when I was just glancing. You were practicing our KIND of Christmas, when I was not. You brought me to tears, you made me ashamed, you taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. Like all good mentors do.
And let’s not leave Lulu out of this Christmas miracle either. She had some great KIND moments this year. She helped wrap presents with Mike for the Family Advocates program, never once whining about presents for herself. She also received a very generous gift from Mike’s parents of an American Girl doll with tons of accessories to go with it. We weren’t paying attention to her order of unwrapping and she ripped into the doll hat before even opening the doll. She pulled out the strangely small hat, placed it on her seemingly huge head, and declared excitedly “This is the best present I’ve ever gotten.”
Thank you both for being the best present I’ve ever gotten, and for raising me when I need it most.