The past week has been hard. I won't sugarcoat it. I haven't been on Facebook much at all, even my mommy-groups that I work in. I just haven't felt up to interaction.
Real life hasn't been much better, I've been with people out of necessity of course, but just exhausted.
Christmas falling on Tuesday has been weird since yesterday was the first day Jeff had off for us to do any preparing together. We went yesterday to get what is needed for Christmas feast, and thus found ourselves at Aldi on Christmas Eve. As we were finishing, a lady near us in the aisle spoke to us. "Sir, Sir, would you mind reaching that case of soda for me and putting it into my cart? I have two bad shoulders and can't reach or lift." So of course Jeff got her soda and put it in the cart. I asked if she needed help with anything else and we chatted for a moment, I told her my mom had a frozen shoulder and that I understood the pain and immobility. She said that she had had 3 surgeries on one and was waiting to get a titanium joint, but meanwhile, the other one had dislocated.
We wished each other, "Merry Christmas", and Jeff and I went to check out.
When we got outside I saw her trying to put her things into the trunk of her car so I went over and asked if I could put the water bottles and sodas in for her. She accepted and we chatted for a moment. I asked if there was anyone there to unload when she got home. "No honey, I'm a widow and never had children. No family around here." I must have had a look on my face because she put her hand on my arm and said, "Oh don't you worry about me, my Friend never leaves me or forsakes me." I told her I knew that was true, but wished I could follow her home to unload the groceries for her. She said that she has a system where she slides the items to the top of the trunk and then she has a cart to put them on to bring into the house.
She asked if I had children, I told her "Five" and her eyes got misty, "Oh how blessed you are!" We chatted for a few more minutes and then, quite naturally, we hugged each other and I began to cry. "This is my first Christmas without my mother." She hugged me tighter. "I know, I know," she said, "but she sees you, she sees the children."
It was hard to walk away but she told me, "Go on, your husband is in the car waiting for you, and you have so much to do. And I am fine--and you will be fine. And we each have our griefs, but we aren't alone. When I need help, someone always shows up. The same for you I think." One more quick hug and I did walk away.
Oh yes, so true. Over and over and over again, when I need something, someone shows up. Some would wonder, "Oh I bet she was an angel!"
But maybe, and even more beautiful, we were just two broken humans who were there for each other, for just a moment, giving each other a Christmas miracle.
This season of gatherings and events can be very stressful for little ones- and for their mamas! Sometimes going into situations armed with a plan can reduce our anxiety. I don't mean to borrow trouble and worry about what people might say or do, but merely to become settled in your mind before you arrive.
“I do not owe anyone an explanation about why I parent the way I do.”
“I do not need to defend my choices.”
“My child is loved and thriving.”
“My priorities are different from other people's, and that is OK.”
Also remember that your baby is not a toy which must be passed around or shared. They are a person with needs and the right to have those needs respected. If they need to be in your arms to feel safe, you are not “selfish” or “overprotective” to continue holding them for the duration of the event. I highly recommend baby wearing for situations like this. Requests to see baby are easily met with, “Oh he is so happy and safe right now, I don't plan to move him.”, and then turn so that people can interact with baby while still on you.
This absolutely applies to older children as well. A toddler or preschooler should not be made to hug or kiss or sit on laps of people when they don't want to. Body autonomy is one of the most important things for our children to value at an early age. Their body, their rules. This is not an excuse to be rude, so do teach your child how to execute a proper handshake or high five. Alternatively, a verbal greeting is also completely polite and acceptable.
A great way to deflect criticism about your parenting is to simply not engage. For too many people, engaging equals negotiation, so far better to simply give one stock answer. “Is that baby still nursing?” “Is that baby still sleeping with you?” “Is that baby still waking up 17 times a night?”
All of these can be met with a smile and a, “Baby is developing brilliantly, thank you. Did you see that sale on chicken thighs? I totally stocked my freezer with that price!”
I know that it gets lonely to not be able to truly share the hard bits of the parenting journey (because as much as we love it, there ARE hard bits) with those who are supposed to be loving and supportive. This is a very valid grief to feel. But the wise thing to do is to not arm unsupportive people with information that can be used against you. In some relationships there may be a time when a face to face is needed and hard things discussed (Why can't you support my parenting choices? I feel like I can't be honest with you when you turn the things I share back on me). But rarely are the holidays the right time for this kind of serious interaction. Visit your favorite parenting community (or message me), get a breather, and purpose to stand strong in your convictions and not allow curmudgeons to spoil the season for you and your family.