This is the first day after Christmas family togetherness, December 30, 2014. The last family members left yesterday morning (the 29th). We don’t have Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day around our house. We have Thanksgiving and Christmas WEEK. Not that I’m complaining—never—but I will admit I adapt very well and very quickly to the sounds of silence. This morning I luxuriated in the opportunity to stay in bed until 9:30, and then indulged in two mega cups of coffee. Now I sit in my favorite writing chair and see the limp stockings, the unlit children’s Christmas tree, a ripped open box, and the wads of tissue paper in Christmas bags…and, as always, I wonder how I could have improved our time together.
Once again, I examine my mothering habits. Did I seem relaxed while the family was here? Did I show love impartiality to the grandchildren? Did we have enough “intentional time” when we tried to focus on the real meaning of Christmas? If habits and patterns are more “caught than taught,” did we demonstrate the ones we want to see repeated? Were the emotional needs of each family member met?
As our family matures, it becomes more complex. At least it seems that way to me. Perhaps the presence of two still-single sons makes me much more sensitive to everyone’s emotional needs. I find it hard to give myself completely to the grandchildren because in some weird way I feel that the single boys still need the comfort and love from me until they find their life’s mate, and I can’t satisfy it the way I can for the little children. I find myself trying to figure out how to do the equivalent thing of snuggling on the couch and reading a book to sons who are adult men who, until they find wives, need the emotional closeness that a mother provides. It makes me sad to feel inadequate at being able to meet their needs.
I finally realize why it’s sad when I began to take down the tree. It’s like another opportunity to get it right has passed and I failed. Like our big opportunity to share deep connection with one another came and we let it slip through our fingers.
It’s times like these that remind me a mother never retires. At least I can’t. No matter how much I love my daughters-in-law and our grandchildren, I still feel like a mother hen when our boys are here. I still want to gather them under my own wings, just to make sure they’re safe and loved and happy.
In many ways, Christmas is hard to me. Hard because it’s the opportunity for everybody to feel the presence of the Divine Love that delineates the season, yet so few people are aware of it. Hard because the flurry of activity makes it go by so fast. Hard because I never feel that I’ve done enough to fill everyone’s emotional tank. I feel guilty because we have so much and we don’t share enough with those who don’t. Guilty because I never got out the cards and messages I wanted to send to the many endearing friends we’re blessed with.
As wonderful as it is, Christmas has become a time of emotional overload. So I deal with it the same way every year. I incrementally pack up and put away the evidences of Christmas season—strip the tree, store the nativity set, fold the stockings. I try not to dwell on the closing of the season. It’s hard to burn the tags that say “From So-and-so to So-and-so” because I know that by finding them again next year will bring back sweet memories…but one Christmas of memories is enough at the time.