Friday, December 18, 2015

The Spirit of Christmas Mom Present

It's December, and the height of the Christmas season.  I decorated, and drank hot chocolate, and pretended it's cold outside, but my Christmas Spirit is flagging and I don't feel very merry - I feel exasperated.  Write what you need to hear, they say. I need to give myself a good talking to and write myself to right.  Am I the only mother of young people who's missing her compliant little ones and searching for her missing in action Christmas Spirit?  How can I write a blog about joyful seasons in a state of un-joy?

"We're attracted to scars," he says, "they're the only thing we have in common."  If you'll pardon my sarcasm and my terrible attitude, here is my scar on this gray December morning - no, not really a scar; it's an open wound:  I want this Christmas season to be the kind that requires two syllables to name it.  Bless-sed.  That means I want my people to join in the celebration, partake in the joy, participate in the traditions.  That means I want my people to do Christmas right.

I want pockets of sacred connection, moments that twinkle, and unbroken circles.  I know it's the birthday of Jesus, and I'm a terrible person to focus on the season and not the reason.  I know that we're supposed to be working toward a holy crescendo by Christmas Eve ... but can a mom get her people to participate in the seasonal pleasures without an alignment of the planets, and can a mom lead the way to merry and bright and get people to just SHOW UP?

Schedules conspire to cancel out ever being all together as a family. People are tired of being busy and they just want plain old ordinary days.  Tossing a wink and a nod to family traditions and activities seems to be all anyone but me wants to do this Christmas.

So what I want to say right now is forget Christmas.  It's a culmination of all things holy and love and family and joy-filled favorite traditions, and what I feel right now is that I've invited my people to the feast and they're not even willing to stop by 7-11 and pick up some ice.

I pull out my soapbox, stand tall upon it, flip on the bullhorn.  PEOPLE!  If you don't put effort into making the season SPECIAL, it's just like any other season!  Christmas will just be another DAY!  It'll be just one day in a parade of 365!  You have to work to make it SPECIAL!

I told you I had a terrible attitude.

Logically, I know they aren't intentionally distracted or disinterested.  My people are involved in their own lives, and in the pursuit of my own vision of holiday perfection, maybe I've made Christmas a spectator sport.  With my ever sharpening parental hindsight, I'm beginning to see that over the years I've focused too much on making Christmas my vision of perfection.  I've done most of the work so my people can RSVP Christmas and not even put on a Christmas sweater.  In attempting to craft perfect Christmases, I neglected to teach them that the most valuable thing they contribute to the party, the season, the day - is their participation.

I know the temper tantrum raging in my emotions is overblown and immature.  The behavior change that I want is in someone else, not me; I can't control it.  My people are no longer pliable, directable toddlers - they're young people with their own lives, their own thoughts, their own desires, their own schedules, none of which I can control.  I know the only thing I can control is my own attitude, which happens to stink right now.   There's no grace and there's no graciousness emitting from this heart of mine, and I know well that there is nothing in it that compels anyone to gather round the yule-tide fire.

Even so, I want my people to be the perfect Victorian characters I envision.  And aha, there is the problem ... I want everyone's participation on my own terms.  Anything less than my definition of perfection doesn't count.  But who am I to say their efforts don't count?  Who am I to judge that?  Maybe they're doing the best they can.  Maybe in their world, this kind of Christmas is just fine.  And maybe they could turn around and judge me, with my demanding, it's-not-good-enough, pinched countenance as I adjust the twinkle lights and amp up the Christmas Carols.

Maybe I'm not the embodiment of the "Christmas Spirit" that I'd like to think I am.

I contemplate my eternal Parent/Child relationship, God and me.  What is Christmas like at God's house?  I consider Christmas in the church of my childhood, wherein it was disappointingly nothing at all - there was no mention nor celebration in that particular congregation of that particular religion in that particular era.  I suspect if I examined it deeply, my conclusion would be as with other things I've concluded about this religion:  at its root, the desire to keep the focus simple was genuinely pure, and at the branch tips, the fruit became judgment and rules.

Like my Christmas expectations for my people.

I consider how God conducted the first Christmas: quiet, at a donkey's pace, and the rejoicing was wonderment, not frenzied.  I consider God's gracious invitation to Christmas.  "See, I'm doing this new thing, in a manger.  I'll provide the Savior.  I'll wrap up the gift in my grace.  You don't have to do anything at all - just come as you are, and take in as much glory as you can manage.  I'll be so glad you're there."  That ... is compelling.

So I see.  I see I can try to create perfection, where everything is in its place, all the ornaments glitter just so, the presents sit just right.  I can expect the guests to come dressed in their holiday best, bringing holiday cheer, caroling as they brush the snow from their shoulders, relinquishing gifts and pumpkin pies.  I can expect the Christmas meal to be a slow and leisurely affair, with profound and loving conversation around the table

... or ...

I can just let it be enough that they're here.  I can let it be enough that I have a chance to love them through a hamstring of mistakes, even though there is no fitting Christmas Carol about wise men who get stuck in a cycle of one rotten thing after another.  I can let it be enough that I can love them in and out the door as they dash through on the way to do things that are young and exciting, wild and free.  I can let it be enough that they greet me cordially and are genuinely happy to tell me what they did today.  I can let it be enough that they express interest in family traditions.  I can let it be enough that they remember fondly the time when.  I can let it be enough that they did, actually, show up.

What's the spirit of this Christmas Present?  Grace.  Grace to all who don't care about the red and green, the glitter, or Dickens' Christmas Carol.  Grace to all who are busy and frazzled and preoccupied.  Grace to all who aren't living up to my expectations of perfection.  Grace to all who enter here, because these are my people, and I love them.  Grace to all who enter here because God sees my heart, and He knows I don't deserve His gift, either, but He gives it anyway.

In the early morning light, I pound out frustration and impatience and grumbling all over the keyboard, and I resolve to do the Christmas-y things for my own enjoyment, without expectation on anyone else, and not for the perfection of it, but just for the joy.  Because my need to watch A Christmas Carol and see Scrooge transform into the man who keeps Christmas in his heart all the year through runs deep.  Later, long after dark, I invite without expectation and without pressure.

"Um, hey - you don't have to ... it's not an event or anything, but ... I'm just going to watch A Christmas Carol?  The one with Patrick Stewart?  Anybody else want to watch it?"  And glory be ... their eyes light up like they've been waiting days and days for this.  Yes!  they say, and they pause their games and stop the movies and trip down the stairs ... dare I say merrily ... and I realize that in the act of giving grace, the Christmas Spirit arrived in my heart.

God bless us, every one.

Sharing this post with the It's Overflowing! Share Your Creativity party ... click to get in on the fun!

Shared joy is doubled joy ... let's double the joy for both of us - what are you most grateful for today? Click below to leave your comment. I'll go first :

  1. I don't know about you, but I don't find a lot of talk about how to make the transition gracefully from being a mom of little people to being a mom of young adults. It is not for the faint of heart. Managing attitude and expectation and remembering the heaping helping of GRACE that's been afforded to me, these are the keys to life when your children become their own persons. And if I'm really and truly honest, it's way more fun to walk beside them as life cheerleader than it was to carry them on my hip all the time :)