I’ve been anticipating this Christmas for what seems like my whole life–the magic of the first Christmas with my living child. I never thought I’d have to quantify it in that way. We’ve been through a first Christmas as parents, but our child was with us only in spirit and memory. As the actual holiday gets closer, though, I’m realizing just how much pressure I’ve put on this holiday season. I need it to be perfect, and well, that never seems to end well.
I didn’t realize how much of a picture of the perfect Christmas I had in my head until Monday night when I found out something wasn’t planned as I thought it would be. I broke down into tears and practically shut down. After talking it out with Lloyd and trying to reframe it, I realized the next few weeks were going to take a significant amount of radical acceptance.
As I thought back about how this anticipation had grown into an expectation, I remembered I wrote a bit on Christmas 2012, and I went back and read what I’d written. At that point I was making medication changes that were necessary before I could get pregnant. We didn’t know how I would react to the med changes, and there was still a good chance that we would decide that pregnancy was a risk with my health that we weren’t willing to take. I wrote:
I really don’t know what’s going to come. Some days I’m ok with that–others not so much. But, at Christmas time–even before I was married–I always think about how much more fun Christmas would be with my own children. Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrating Christmas with my nieces and nephews. But there’s something so magical about setting up traditions for your own family and watching your children’s eyes sparkle on Christmas morning.
I snuck away with my five-year-old nephew this morning. He had been told he wasn’t allowed to come downstairs until 7:45. At about 7:20, I heard his little voice. I’m not even sure what he said, but I knew he’d been sent back to his room. I snuck in and found him sitting on the edge of his bed, staring at the clock. I asked if he’d like to read a couple chapters of Stuart Little (which we’ve been reading at bedtime while I’m here) until it was time to go downstairs, and he said, “Yes, please. That will make the time fly.” And we snuggled in his bed for a blissful 15 minutes of reading before the craziness of the day ensued.
For today, that’s enough. I probably wouldn’t have gotten that moment if I had been the mom. So, today, the first snuggles on Christmas morning went to me, and I’ll take that. Some day I’ll see the magic in my own child’s eyes–birthed or adopted; in the end it won’t matter one bit. We just have to take the journey to get there. No shortcuts allowed, unfortunately. And after all, isn’t the journey where the best stories lie?
Well, we certainly haven’t taken any shortcuts! What a journey these past four years have been. Re-reading this passage really helped me realize how long I’ve been building this picture of the first Christmas.
I went to therapy this past Wednesday ready to work through some of this “perfect holiday” anxiety bubbling to the surface. When I arrived, though, I was thrown off a bit when my therapist told me it was time to do our quarterly treatment plan. I hadn’t seen her in three weeks due to Thanksgiving and a week of illness with the baby and me. The last thing I wanted to do was go through the mundane process of reviewing the last treatment plan and creating the current one.
But, it turned out that creating the new treatment plan forced me to articulate a goal. That goal has become my new mantra for this holiday season. “My goal: To radically accept that the holidays won’t be perfect so that I can be in the moment and enjoy the magic when it comes.”
I’ve seen some magic already–putting up the tree, joining Lloyd’s family for their yearly trip to the library’s Festival of Trees, and planning our own new traditions. When the anxiety over perfection starts to sneak in, I will work to breathe then remember to radically accept that the holidays won’t be perfect so that I can be in the moment and enjoy the magic when it comes. Because it will come. The magic can’t be forced; I just have to let it come on its own.