Happy New Year!
Being on the other side of the preparing-for-Christmas season (otherwise known as Advent), I finally have a chance to sit, catch my breath, and reflect on the last few weeks. We had a wonderful Christmas (celebrating over three days in three different states) and have enjoyed the last week simply hanging out at home enjoying each other's company (and, yes, the zillion Christmas presents the kids received). It has also been a prime time to finish Violet's potty training. Now I have to get her trained to wear pants again because we have been letting her run around in just her underwear all week. At least it was a success!
Advent is always part-joyful/part-stressful for me. Like most Christian parents, I struggle over that balance between the trappings of the outward exuberance and secular fanfare of Christmas and the inward joy and reflection of celebrating Christ's birth. I think Shawn and I did an okay job this year with the Advent season. I always believe we can do better (as in less parties, less pre-Christmas gratification, and less snapping at children because the cookies aren't turning out the way they should), but I also know we are leading our children down the right path when it comes to the true meaning of Christmas. The "Jesus stocking" was full of good deeds, the kids looked forward to the lighting of the Advent candles and the singing of carols and prayers each evening, and we gave of ourselves both in time and materials (singing at a nursing home, creating prayer cards to hand out, buying gifts for giving trees at school and church, donating food to the soup kitchen). Christmas is probably the #1 season of the year when I am so aware of the blessings in my life and all the goodness that God has given us as a family.
A week before Christmas, I accompanied Simon to his preschool Advent party. As we worked on crafts together, we found ourselves seated at a table with a particular classmate of his who has a . . . shall we say . . . overbearing mother. After nagging at her preschooler over his sloppy handling of the glue and foam angel wings, she snapped at him, "Oh, just let me do it." He then spent the next ten minutes fidgeting on his chair, staring off into space, and experimenting with how far he could bring his foot over his head while she focused intently on gluing each piece exactly perfect, straightening her son's photo on the ornament, then carefully applying glitter decoration. When completed, she exclaimed over her flawless ornament, "Now I can always remember this year at preschool!"
Following this incident, Simon and I took our "very obviously made by a 4-year-old" ornament and moved to another craft table, where we were seated with his main teacher. She was telling me how Simon told her about our upcoming Make-A-Wish trip, and she was interested in hearing more about Clare. I shared a bit, and we moved onto discussing Simon and his love of letters. I told her that Simon desperately wanted to learn how to read and has asked me frequently if I could teach him. And how I would love to teach him and would be so proud of him if he learned how to read at four years old, but that it would also not bother me or worry me whether he learned now or not. I ended with, "If there's one thing Clare has taught me, it's that children will do things when they're ready, and I just have to be there to support them and guide them in whatever way they need me to."
These two encounters back-to-back really got me thinking about how I live my life with my children. Am I always looking to what's next? What we've accomplished? Where we're going? I felt bad for that mom who had her perfect angel ornament which was really no reflection on what her child was like at four years old. I felt bad that she missed the point of doing the craft with your child, not for your child. We have learned so much in these past almost-nine years of parenthood. One of the things that Clare in particular has showed us is that the journey is just as important as the destination. Over the final weeks of Advent and Christmas, and now as we begin a new year, my Number One Resolution is to remember that - live the journey. Be there in the moment with the ups and downs. Focus on what I am doing right now in my life. What's going on in my home with my husband and children. What we are experiencing, whether it's good, bad, or in between. We'll get to our destination, some way or another. Live the journey.