I love watching my children when they are wrapped up in the simple joy of discovering something new. My three month old has found his feet this week – literally! He’s just worked out that there’s something attached to the bottom of his legs, and his feet are the most amazing things he’s seen yet. Any time he’s on his back, he delights in putting his tootsies up in the air so that he can get a good look at them. And at 2 ½, my toddler is revelling in new discoveries and soaks up new information like a sponge. Today we stood out on the front deck together watching a storm approach. As the first big drops of rain hit she said, “Mummy, I smell something delicious!” What a delightful way to describe the smell of rain. The only new thing I’ve discovered this week is that fly spray sets off smoke alarms if you spray it too close.
In this new year I hope I can recapture that simple joy of a new discovery I so often see in my kids. I hope I learn something new about myself, something new about my God, and something new about the world around me. I hope I am brave enough to try a new activity or learn a new skill. And I hope that at least once this year, my face lights up like my daughter’s does when she smells rain, or touches a starfish, or tastes a fresh strawberry, or when my son looks at his feet…
I pride myself on my Christmas tree. I love having a stylish tree coordinated with my home. Each year I usually add a little, or change the colour a little, but this year I took something away. I noticed last Christmas that tinsel seemed to be on the way out, and this year all the designer Christmas trees are tinsel-free. I decided to follow the trend, but I couldn’t bring myself to pack the tinsel away in a box so instead I casually tossed it under the tree to cover the base.
My 2 ½ year old is right into Christmas this year, and loves singing along with carols. She likes a particular kids’ song which says there are “a million miles of tinsel wrapped around our Christmas tree…” This explains why every day the tinsel from beneath our tree mysteriously climbed up from the base and wound its way around the lower branches! To her, it just wasn’t Christmas without tinsel. (Pic is of her putting tinsel on the tree as a baby – I should have known.) I conceded defeat, and wove the tinsel back through our already decorated tree.
It made me wonder which things I can’t bear to be without at Christmas time. I could say it just isn’t Christmas without Mum’s homemade Turkish delight. I could say it just isn’t the same without leaving the tree lights on all night on Christmas Eve. I could say it just isn’t Christmas without being woken up at 5am by an excited toddler. But really – it just isn’t Christmas without Jesus. Those other things are important, but without Him Christmas wouldn’t exist in the first place. One day Mum won’t be around to make the Turkish delight, and my kids will grow up and want to sleep in on Christmas Day. Jesus will still be the reason for the season.
It’s Christmas Day tomorrow. We have a huge day planned which will be full of family, food and fun with our kids. It could be easy to go to church in the morning and not give the real meaning of Christmas another thought. But this year, each time I see tinsel on a tree, I’m going to remember that there’s only one thing I can’t do without at Christmas time, or any time. It just isn’t the same without Him.
It’s Christmas at my husband’s work today. You know, one of those “work” days when you have an extended lunch break for the exchange of secret santa presents and a bbq, and then it’s off for drinks mid afternoon. When I was teaching, the end of the year meant lots of gifts from students, Christmas cards in childish scrawl, and best of all – letters of thanks from parents. Those letters meant so much to me that each year I stuck them into a scrapbook.
As a full-time mum though, December is not marked by corporate gifts, Christmas bonuses or letters of gratitude. At the end of my first year of mothering I had a bit of a meltdown. When my hubby came home late after the annual Christmas drinks I lost the plot. “Where’s my Christmas party?!” I shouted at him. “Where’s my pat-on-the-back, three cheers for Cath, thanks a bunch for a job well done? I want thank you letters!”
Full-time mothering is a tough gig. As a teacher I paced myself based on the school year. The end of each term was a check point on the way to the finish line, and completion of the race was cause for celebration. I expected being a mum would be much the same, but I was wrong. This is a different kind of race entirely. It’s a marathon! One year ends and another starts without any pomp and ceremony for mothers.
There are two things I’ve decided to do about this problem. One helps me, and one helps others. The first is to adjust my check points along the race. I’ve made Mother’s Day my annual thanks a bunch occasion rather than the end of the year, and my kids’ birthdays are special markers too. My husband knows how important Mother’s Day is and makes a special effort! The other thing I’ve decided to do is to make sure I give my mum friends a pat-on-the-back, just in case they’re having an end of year meltdown too. And to my mum friends who, like me, have set aside their love for teaching in order to dedicate themselves to their own kids – I’m sending them a letter.
Summer has arrived. The sun is up early (as are the kids), the days are humid, and cicadas chirp on into the night. On hot afternoons my toddler loves to sit out on the front verandah and wash spoons. I set her up with a big bowl of cold washing up water, a tea towel, and every plastic spoon we own. She always has a delightful time “cleaning” the spoons for me, and ends up soaking wet!
Today the poor kid couldn’t do anything right. She was just into everything and most of my sentences seemed to start with, “NO….!” She’d been quiet out on the verandah with her spoons – too quiet. When I looked to see what she was doing my first reaction was to rouse on her, but then I saw her face. She was smiling innocently, and was so proud of herself. “I’m helping you Mummy,” she said. She had taken all the underwear off the airing racks and was giving them an “extra clean” in her dishwashing water! I took a deep breath and instead of yelling, thanked her for her thoughtfulness and helped her to squeeze the water out.
Life is certainly trying with toddlers, even when they’re trying hard. I think as mums we need to be able to look past their actions to see their intentions. Often their heart is in the right place and they are genuinely trying to please us, even if they don’t do things quite the way we’d like.
Our reactions can also leave a lasting impression. In praising my daughter today instead of rousing, I hope I sent the message that I appreciated her help and the initiative she showed. Perhaps it will mean that in the future she’ll be happy to wash a pile of dirty dishes, or clothes, without being asked. Just not in the same water!