I took a sick day on Monday.
But because I can’t seem to relax anymore, I poked around under the basement stairs, found some left over paper from last year and wrapped the few gifts I’d bought for Shaune and the kids so far.
Once wrapped, in the very opposite way Martha Stewart might have done it, I laid them neatly under the tree, grouped together by their intended recipients. It was my small attempt to atone for the lack of effort I’d put into bringing the season into our home this year.
A small thrill of excitement lit through me as I imagined the kids running through the door, notice the pile of presents, and then excitedly ask who they were for.
What I hadn’t imagined was Naveen crying for four days straight because I’d had to break it to him that they were not to be opened until Christmas morning.
It stirred in me two things:
The first was sympathy for this three and a half year-old of mine, who had with alarming grace and composure, watched his older brother only a few days earlier, open an enormous pile of birthday gifts and who was now expected to understand that this here pile was not to be opened either.
And the second was a mild sense of guilt that I hadn’t yet discussed the true meaning of Christmas with my boys this year. There’d only been non-stop talk about what each hoped Santa would bring. And on my part a lot of warnings that Santa would bring only socks and underwear if they didn’t behave. What can I say? I like to make the most of an opportunity.
Mixed in with both of these sentiments was that same old malaise I always feel around this time of year: that feeling that I’m not so sure myself what this season is about.
Lately I’ve felt an even greater clarity that for our family at least, Christmas is not about the birth of Jesus Christ. And it’s not because I don’t like the story of Jesus. I like it just fine. I get that’s why we Christians say we celebrate Christmas. I grew up Catholic after all. I teach my kids Christian values all the time: be kind to your fellow person; treat others as you’d want them to treat you; give to those who have less than you.
I even own a Nativity set.
I just don’t feel right about making the connection between Christmas and Jesus’ birth. It doesn’t make sense for our family. We don’t go to church. We don’t talk about any orthodox religions on a regular basis in our home. There’s not a crucifix or religious photo in sight.
The thing is, my God, the one I commune with daily, well, he is very private. He has very little resemblance to anything I’ve read about in the Bible. He’s a higher power I’m not sure can be attributed to religion. I'm not even sure he's a he. A sacred and safe place inside me, for which I feel ill equipped to explain to a six and three year old.
I like the idea of giving as the true meaning of Christmas. But let’s face it, mostly we’re giving gifts to each other and I’m not sure my husband needs another set of tools. And besides, real giving, the kind we’re trying to teach the kids about, well, that’s something we talk about all year long around here.
So it occurs to me that I can tell the kids what Christmas has been about for us and our family. A time to spend more time with their extended family. A time to refresh their toy supply. A time to appreciate each other. A time to decorate the house and feel festive. A time to believe in the magic of Santa. A time to create family traditions.
When I think about it that way, I can relax and enjoy the season.
* I got the idea of the title from one of my favorite bloggers.
I don't think I'm going to get a chance to do Christmas cards this year. If I change my mind, these pictures might be contenders.
Poor Shaune's been sick as can be for the last two weeks. He put the tree up even though he could could barely stand.
Most of the ornaments are this low on our tree. Like so many moms in the same predicament, I fight my urge to spread them out.
As usual we had Deaglan's birthday party early since his real birthday is Christmas Eve. Here we are at Adventures on Wonderland.
Poor little cousin Leo - "Stop pushing on my bloody face Naveen" is what I imagine he'd say if he could talk.
As usual, Shaune kept me humble with his photography. In the photo above please note the extra roll around my hip area.
In this one I like that I look like I'm listening to my sister-in-law Chrissy while actually just stuffing my face.
And finally, just in case you didn't know that I don't have a flat stomach...here's a reminder.