It’s how I would characterize my pregnancy – an exercise in letting go, and practice for my life as a mom and stepmom.
I believe most would characterize me as an easygoing person. I adapt easily to new situations, I dislike turmoil and disarray in my life, I prefer peace and happiness. I do like a bit of order, but my house is certainly far from orderly (and this was the case even before having a baby). But during my pregnancy, I found myself more and more needing to “let go” of things that I had no control over, realizing that it was practice for my new life to come.
In pregnancy, letting go meant letting go of things that were out of my control: the way that I hoped to plan my birth, my overall health at times during the pregnancy, even how I might want to raise my child, since I would be co-parenting and have to take into consideration the needs and wants of my partner as well. As a mother, letting go of control happens every single day, and during this holiday season it was particularly important to simply let things unfold as they happen, and take in the simple, small moments that so quickly pass by.
Coming home for Christmas
In early December, Babe and I returned from a long, arduous month of travel, coming home just in time for the inescapable onslaught of Christmas carols in the grocery stores, long line-ups, insane traffic, and never-ending list of holiday errands to complete. As it was the small person’s first holiday, he was tiny and still a bit oblivious to all of the holiday chaos happening around him. Part of me was glad for this – he didn’t care if he received any gifts, whether the tree was decorated, whether we baked holiday cookies, or if we went to the Mummer’s Parade. Certainly these are all things that I wanted to do with him, and with his two sisters. They are the ones who would most miss out on any of these things. Their holiday spirit was undeniable and beautiful: it oozed out of their every breath right as they bounced around our home singing carols, whistling, and ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ at the Ikea snowflake lights that I managed to put in the window the morning of our arrival home from travelling.
And just as I wanted to make their holiday (and our small person’s first holiday) perfect, the list of errands required in order to do that began to mount. Shopping to be done, ingredients to purchase, knitting to complete, decorations to find. All to be finished within just a couple weeks’ time. The chaos of the season, I could already foresee, began to cloud the small and joyful moments that we hoped to have. And I needed to remind myself – early on – that not everything had to get done.
Because indeed, with a house full of children, and two adults who both have lives and needs and wants outside of the household, there’s a balance involved in making everything happen and work in harmony. Most days are anything but harmonious, and instead are a delicate balance in meeting everyone’s needs: driving that needs to be done, groceries that need to be gotten, food that needs to be prepared, time that needs to be spent with all of the children amidst all these “things that need to be done,” and hopefully a moment or two for a simple cup of coffee. Perhaps even a moment or two to spend with my partner, to ask how our days went and talk about something completely unrelated to the chaos of the household.
I wanted their memories, and mine, to be of the simple moments…
Into this beautiful mix of chaos and balance fit our holiday celebrations. Because just as it required a balance to get through a simple day, it required a balance to mix in all of the holiday preparations with the joy of the season. I didn’t want our children’s memories of the holidays to be filled with running errands and never getting anything done. I wanted their memories, and mine, to be of the simple moments: our small person trying to decorate a Christmas tree with his Grandpa, baking cookies with one stepdaughter, spending a day window-shopping and drinking hot chocolate with another stepdaughter, my partner chopping wood and filling our wood rack high while small person and I breastfeed by the fire, going ice skating under the stars as a family. It was all of these lovely, beautiful moments that I wanted our holiday season to be filled with. And I knew the chaos would still be there, but the more that we could step away from it and just let the holidays happen, the better.
In letting go of the idea of the perfect holidays, this was how our memories – and moments of joy – came into being.