Friday, December 21, 2012

Does He Get Christmas?

"Does he get Christmas?"

This was a question recently asked of me about M.  The question is easy to answer, harder to explain.  How much does M get Christmas?  Enough.

I've written and scrapped this entry at least a dozen times.  I've thought about it and hopefully this explanation will be the one I finally post.

Does M get Christmas?  It is a difficult question to ask of anyone, as everyone will have a different interpretation of what Christmas is to them.  The faithful will celebrate Christmas as the miracle birth of a savior born to a blessed virgin mother.  Others will await the arrival of a jolly grandfatherly figure to deliver presents to boys and girls from around the globe.  Families raising children in homes practicing dual religions may mesh and meld aspects from each of their respective religions together to form their own unique blended holiday celebration.  Pagans will send holiday cards and atheists will decorate Christmas trees. The interpretations of what the significance of December 25th means are wide and varied, but I think regardless of who you are and what you believe, the season for most is a time of joy, togetherness, thankfulness and giving.

So to finally answer this question, perhaps not to the person who first posed it, but to myself:  Yes, M completely understands our individual interpretation of Christmas. M is very much an active part of our family's holiday traditions. He is excited for the preparations and happy for the celebrations.  M and Miss J bring Christmas to me as much as I hope to bring it to them.  Perhaps some will see this as simplified and perhaps watered down, but for me, it is just enough.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

No Virginia, There Is No Santa Claus

The day Miss J matter-of-factly  told me there was no Santa Clause, I held my breath fir a moment.

And then I exhaled a big sigh of relief.

In my circle of moms, most have come to dread this day, knowing their child is stepping further from childhood.  Perhaps losing the Christmas magic. While part of me felt like I was turning my back on a fun tradition, this announcement from Miss J left me feeling like I'd been let off a very large hook.

I should mention that when Miss J declared Santa a fake, she was just three years old.

It was getting close to Christmas and Miss J and I were out running errands together.  One of our stops was to the grocery store to buy ingredients to make cookies.  We parked the car and as we made our way to the store, Miss J spied a Marine's "Toys For Tots" collection.  She eyed the Marine in full uniform and the large box of toys.  She turned to me and said,

"Oh, so there is no Santa?"

I was unprepared to hear that and sputtered and stammered and only managed to get out a surprised, "Huh?"

She repeated herself in the same matter-of-fact tone.

I looked at my girl.  "Why would you say that?"  I asked her.
She simply stated, "Well, if there was a Santa, there wouldn't be that, " a mittened hand pointing at the toy collection. She shrugged her tiny shoulders and proceeded into the store.

I said nothing but my mind was racing.  Do I confirm this?  Deny it?  What do I do?  I was not prepared for this! I decided not to do anything at that moment.  I decided that if she wanted to pursue the conversation, she would.

Once we were in the car, she asked me for the truth.  I told her.  I wondered if perhaps she might cry. I kept glancing in the rear view mirror to see if disappointment had crept upon her face.  The last emotion I was expecting, the one she nearly exploded with, was anger.

"You lied to me, Mommy?"  She glared at me.  "Why would you do that? That isn't Christmas."

I explained it to her, as best I could.  I apologized for making her feel tricked and foolish. We talked about Christmas and Hanukkah and tradition and folklore and magic and joy.  It was one of the most meaningful conversations I've had with her.  One I won't soon forget.

Hence my sigh of relief.

Before I was a mother I'd had always wondered how I would handle Santa and the Easter Bunny with my children.  Once I had Miss J, I hated lying to her.  I struggle some with religion, but I have always been involved in my church and the thought of taking a religious holiday and putting such a commercial spin on it really bothered me.

Honestly, when Christmas would roll around I would wish I were Jewish.  No Hanukkah folk heroes.  No over the top antics.  No telling my child that they would receive gifts only if they were good.  No explaining why the children residing in the more desirable zip codes were bestowed more gifts while other children received dollar store junk.  No trying to rationalize why some children would receive visits from Santa while those of other religions did not. (I grew up in a largely Jewish neighborhood and used to wonder, "Does Santa not like Jewish kids?"  I'm happy to report that my Jewish friends survived, unscathed, without the presence of a Santa figure in their youth.  None that I know of had to work that out in therapy.)

Now, after the confrontation from my three year old, I was let off the hook.  No more lying.  No more pretending.  No more games.

I did receive some backlash from other parents when they discovered my Miss J was a non-believer.  I was accused of forcing her to grow up too fast.  I was told I was robbing her of Christmas Spirit.  Adults would look at her and say, "But I am a grown up and I still believe in Santa." Comments like these annoyed Miss J to no end. Imagine how much easier it would be when people asked if my kids believed in Santa to simply say, "Oh, we're Jewish.  We don't do Santa."

And now that Miss J is ten do I feel like somehow the magic was lost? Would I go back and change it if I could?
Not for a single second.

Is see the wonder on her face when she decorates the Christmas tree and when we make our Swedish rice pudding.  She is magic when she carefully selects a gift for each family member and painstakingly wraps it.  She is light when I hear her angelic voice singing the hymns at the candlelight Christmas Eve service.

And when the entire family is gathered in our little home at Christmas, with a fire roaring and a delicious meal on the table, she is joy.  This is what makes my girl the happiest.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Get Out Of My Uterus.

My uterus is not something I usually discuss with the general public.  I do not ask other women about their uterus or if and how they intend to use it.  Call me old fashioned.

I recently had an exchange with another person.  It went something like this:

Random Person:  "I heard a rumor you were expecting.  Is it true?"
Me:  "Um.  No."
Random Person:  "Oh good, because I am sure you already have enough on your plate."

Whoa!  Was I really a just a part of this conversation?  

I wish I had a pithy response.  I wish I had been quick with a witty retort.  Instead I just stood there, unsure of what to say.  My mouth was probably hanging open.  I fumbled through the awkward moment and left the scene. I should add that this person is not a stranger and I do not think this person made the comment with the intention of being hurtful.  Sometimes people mean well and the words come out all wrong.

I thought about this quite a bit and came up with some general conversational ground rules:

#1.  Unless you actually see a baby physically emerging from a woman, never ask if she is expecting.  Just don't.  Trust that if said woman is pregnant and wants you to know, SHE WILL TELL YOU. *

#2.  If  you forget Rule #1 and ask anyway, do not let out a sigh of relief and say, "Oh good!" if the assumed-to-be-pregnant woman answers that she is not expecting.  Hide your shock/relief/dismay and bite your tongue.  Bite until it bleeds, if you must.

And #3...this is a big one for me: If the assumed-to-be-pregnant woman is also the mother of a child with special needs, please refrain from comments such as, "You already have enough on your plate."

Telling me that I have 'enough on my plate' (which I will automatically assume is a direct reference to my child with a disability) is a euphemism for, "You are overwhelmed/overextended/unable/unwilling to take on any more."  It's an insult dressed up in pretty clothes.

Comments like this take me from zero to defensive in about a half a second. Let me share three facts:

#1.  What is on my proverbial plate is my business.  I've got it covered.  Trust me here.
#2. If you really must know, yes M is a portion of my plate, but he is not the entire plate.  Remember I am also parenting a preteen girl with a vein of snarkiness that runs deep through her prepubescent body.
#3.  I am a mother.  A full plate goes with the territory whether you have one kid or ten, young or grown, typically developing or those who have a long list of special needs.  Full plates and mothers have gone hand in hand since the dawn of time.  Look at Eve.  She had some intense stuff to deal with.

Please don't look at me and assume that I cannot handle more children or that I would not welcome more children into my life.   I can and I would.  And no, I am not expecting.

For the moment I am happily parenting two quite imperfect children whom I happen to love with every fiber of my being.  And I am very grateful that they love me and all of my imperfections.