Today, despite fighting a stomach virus, we took the time to set up our little fake Christmas tree and Nativity. We also lit the second Advent candle and said our prayers. In the midst of it, things seemed a bit chaotic, but when it was all done and said and Olivia, Luka, and I were watching the flames, a few moments of silence happened and it truly felt wonderful.
I’ve always been the perfectionist. It seems like a gift to those who don’t have it, but really it can be a massive hindrance in life. I see flaws in everything I do and others do. It’s difficult for me to be happy with anything unless it is absolutely, picture perfect. Try to do motherhood like that. You’ll be stressed out to the point where you won’t even enjoy your kids. A lot of the learning I’ve gone through as a parent has been to be able to simply let go. I’ve had to teach myself to let go of the things that weren’t perfect, let things be a mess, let them be unsightly, all the while I’m twitching on the inside. It hasn’t been easy, but I really believe trying to squeeze a child into your lifestyle of perfectionism is cruel and unusual punishment. Kids can’t really experience life that way.
While we were getting into the spirit of things, I had to fight all that instinct to control it all. I would have loved to send Luka and Olivia out with the dog while I took my time to evenly design where each plastic bulb would hang. The reality was Olivia hung up two bulbs before she quit and began to drag the stringed beads around the apartment. I tried to manage the whole thing until she came back and wanted to help. Then came the Nativity, which I thought she would like the most. “Olivia, look! It’s Mary! And this is one of the Wise Men… now, do you want me to tell you the story about this?” She didn’t. She really just wanted to knock over the porcelain figures to get to the lamb and pretend it was a dog. It’s fine, it’s fine. Then we got ready for bed and turned the lights down and gathered around our Advent wreath. We had Olivia choose which two we would light. After lighting them we said the prayers and then sat there for a moment just looking at it. Her face was peaceful, attentive, mesmerized by those tiny flames.
Old Mariah would have been upset that we had a fake tree, that it was small, that we didn’t have a variety of ornaments, that the ornaments we did have were plastic, that Olivia was throwing them around, that we didn’t have lights, that we didn’t have decorations elsewhere in the home, that Olivia already chipped one of the Nativity figurines. All these things that paint the picture of the perfect Christmas home. Things I grew up with. Things that make it feel like Christmas for me. Now I really try to focus on what are the things I should let go of and what should I hold onto. What is most important? It isn’t any of those things, even though they are indeed contributing to what is important. This is why we specifically bought the cheap Nativity set so that we could let our kids play with them in full knowledge that some pieces (if not all) will be broken. This is why we spent very little on the tree and ornaments so that when our kids abuse it, we don’t care as much. It is important that Olivia experiences these things in a positive, beautiful, fun way. That she gets to be a part of it. She doesn’t actually understand all of it. She doesn’t actually care about the Holy Family as much as she cares about the animals right now. And all that is OK.
What is most important is that we carry on the spirit of Christmas in our family and everything else is just tinsel on top. What is most important is that doing these things brings us closer together in love and charity. What is most important is that we give that love and charity to others. These are the things to hold onto and pass forward to our children so that they carry them in their hearts forever.