In my post-holiday haze, I feel like I finally have a chance to reflect back on the crazy rush of the past month. Part of me feels like I missed it. As I discovered, that’s what happens when you have Christmas with kids.
I used to have time to revel in the magic of the season. The twinkling lights everywhere, the smell of fireplaces in the air, the way everything just seemed transformed into something magical. Even the hustle and bustle at the mall filled me with warmth. I used to take my time deciding on the perfect gift for everyone, to rewatch all my favorite Chrismas movies, to simply sit and stare at the beauty of the Christmas tree in the living room.
Then I had a baby.
Last year, baby’s first Christmas, was a blur. With a three-month-old child, I was too foggy to remember much of anything. I’m lucky anyone got gifts.
This year was the first one I hoped my son could sort of participate in. No, he wouldn’t truly know what was going on, and there was nothing on his wishlist. But I thought he might be able to enjoy unwrapping gifts and playing with his new toys.
Unfortunately for me, this involved actually having time to wrap gifts and buy him presents. The holiday season went by in a whirlwind that rivaled last year’s. I didn’t have time to watch many Christmas movies, and although we did put up a tree, I felt like I never had time to truly take in its beauty. Present-wrapping occurred at midnight a couple of nights before Christmas, not because I wanted to hide them from LM (after all, we’re not doing Santa), but rather because I simply had no other time.
I’m learning over and over again that having a child just makes anything and everything else more difficult. This probably seems obvious, but it continually surprises me. Today I’ll go shopping, I think. Then a failed nap followed by a poopy diaper and a temper tantrum puts that idea to rest. This weekend I’ll bake Christmas cookies, I think, until a fever in LM turns into a bad cold for me and we’re all down for the count.
This is not a complaint – it’s just a recognition of how children change everything in your life in ways that you don’t even imagine until you have one. The day-to-day necessities of feeding, changing, and generally caring for a young one take up so much time and mental energy that it’s hard to do other things. Then you look back and say, where did the time go?
So Christmas came and went in a week of travelling around from one house to another, all filled with love and family and friends – but also with messed up sleeping schedules and bouts of crying and trying to get LM to eat something besides Christmas cookies and general parental exhaustion.
I felt like I didn’t really get to enjoy the holiday.
Then I realized that Christmas as a parent is no longer about you. It’s about your child. It’s about taking him to see family and buying him things that he’ll one day appreciate more than the box they came in. It’s about sharing with him the magic of the season and the lights on the tree and your favorite Christmas movies and songs (which will maybe one day become his favorite).
Driving home from my in-laws after Christmas, we heard Joni Mitchell’s incredibly depressing but very beautiful song “The River,” sung by Rachael Yamagata, on my Christmas playlist. As I listened to the song, a wave of sadness came over me. I remembered how I listened to it the Christmas after I got my infertility diagnosis, which occurred in October, and after we lost Samantha, which also happened in October. Those Christmases, as well as the ones in between, were such emotionally difficult times for me. I wanted a child so badly, and Christmas just somehow has a way of amplifying everything you feel, good and bad. I remember being at a Christmas party surrounded by children, and it was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears. All I wanted was a child to spend the holiday with.
And now I have one.