Here's a little bit of holiday goodness from our friends at PBS. You'll want to play this one on repeat, we promise. Happy Christmas, Supersisters. May the next few days be so merry, so bright.
This is Carter when he was a little boy, when he still had all his baby teeth, when he was too shy to let his tears out, before he had learned how to cry.
Now he is seven and he is finding words for his feelings. He knows how to say when something is off. He knows how to be curious when he has no idea what could possibly be wrong.
The other night we were having dinner with friends when we heard a horrible wail coming from upstairs. Carter was crying, and Dave and I both instinctively jumped from our seats to see what was going on. We found a very repentant Madeleine talking to Carter gently, our friend's bewildered son and Carter nearly shrieking, saying over and over again, "I am NOT a baby."
I wish I had a dollar for every time Carter cried his eyes out over being called a crybaby. The irony is too sweet. The best we can do is scoop him up in our arms and silently smile.
Since it was already way too late, I decided to take Carter home and put him to bed. The ride home sounded like this.
Carter: I hate Madeleine. I HATE HER. I wish I were an only child.
Me: I'm so sorry, buddy. I know the only people who can really hurt your feelings badly are the ones you love so much. And I know you love Madeleine so much for you to feel this sad right now. I'm so, so sorry.
Carter: I hate her. (sobbing) I really, really hate her. And she's so, so mean to me. I can't take it anymore.
Me: I know you have been very patient with Madeleine when she wants to play rough. And I know you really hate that kind of playing, right? It's not your way, right?
Carter: It's not. And I hate it. I really, really hate it.
Me: Buddy, I'm wondering what it is you need from Madeleine exactly. Do you need her to be kind to you? Or more gentle? Do you need more respect?
Carter (very quiet): I need kindness. I really need kindness. And I need respect.
Me: I know it. You DO need kindness and respect. Everybody needs it so, so much.
Carter: What's respect again? I know I need it, but I forget what it means.
Me: Respect is when someone listens to you very deeply and takes you seriously and believes you when you say what's important to you.
Carter: I need respect.
Me: You do.
Carter (now wailing again): And I need LOVE. I need kindness and respect and LOVE. I really need love.
Me: You do, buddy. You need love. And you have to have it. You can't be okay without love. You really need that.
Carter (still crying): That's true. I HAVE TO HAVE IT.
And I need cereal. And milk. Do we have any milk?
(we are always out of milk)
Me: We can go get milk right now. Right now.
We wander around Safeway in silence, me and Carter, looking for milk, holding out for love, wondering what can be done about this request and this Madeleine who loves Carter so fiercely that sometimes it hurts.
Me (walking back to the car with Carter trailing behind): What do you think you can do about Madeleine?
Carter: I think I can write her a letter.
Me: That sounds good.
Carter: But I have to eat my cereal first.
Me: Fair enough.
We go home, eat cereal and Carter passes out--long before the still worried Madeleine comes home to find out where she stands. There is no letter, no conversation, no resolution really. But the next morning? I can feel the kindness and the very real understanding that you can't be okay without love. Whether you're the crybaby or the one who always plays a little bit too rough. Not even a little bit okay.
And for now that is more than enough.
We went to see Santa yesterday. I know. On December 21. Like he isn't busy enough already without having to add some last minute work on his plate that is sure to remove any and all hope of sleep for the elves between now and Thursday.
There were 75 people in line in front of us. HEY!!! Our Santa is the REAL Santa and he is worth the wait. In fact, there were intense negotiations this year and our Santa who has been at this location for supposedly 19 years parked his sled elsewhere due to salary issues. Introduce public outcry, petitions and angry phone calls to the mall and our Santa with carefully placed rosacea was back on his throne for the entire term of his reign, to the tune of 30 g's for 6 weeks work.
Don't knock it. Thanks to this Santa, the 9-year-old girl in front of us was in her 5th year at this mall and still believes. Bless her heart. I mean, I believe too, but I'm not in elementary school anymore. The world is a rough place full of disbelief.
The woman behind me was not so cheery. She lamented about being tortured by the commercialization of Christmas and being forced to do all those things she swore she would never do when she became a mother. They were taking the kids to Machu Picchu for vacations, for heaven's sake. If her kids wanted to go to see the mouse in Orlando, they could do so after they turned 18 and moved out of her house. Her husband had dragged her here and she was furious.
Her daughter was 1 1/2 and the cutest thing you have ever seen. Of course she had the typical experience and was frightened beyond belief. Let's be honest here. This year was the first year Ethan didn't cry and look at Santa like he was an alien. Of course this year he had also figured out the drill and was ready with his list ("atwowheeledscooterabirdhouseandarobot,Santa") and didn't waste his time with actually breathing while seated on Santa's lap.
I get what that mom was saying. I just think sometimes we live in a tough world and it's nice to have hope. Even for a little while. It's no Machu Picchu, but it'll do.
How's your holiday going so far? Needing a little humor? A little love? A song or two to help you get through the craziness of the season? Enjoy this lovely selection of posts from around the web to make your days merry and bright.
Is there going to be a shiny new bike under the tree for a cute little guy in your house? This adorable video will be sure to remind you of your own days learning how to ride with your parent of choice running alongside down the hill.
For mothers needing a little more support during the holiday season, don't miss this collection of rants from mothers on the web who are right where you are, working hard to get everything together just in time.
Madeleine has entertained herself endlessly over the last two weeks by elfing herself and everyone she knows with this clever little tool. If Christmas cards are totally out of the question at this point, you might do just as well to send a little e-card with the elf-version of your nearest and dearest.
Hanukkah is just days away. Have you found your menorah yet? Here's a very helpful little video from a Jewish mom who is happy to share her secrets on how to celebrate Hanukkah on a budget.
It feels like everyone is cutting back this year, holding everything a little closer. Let's just say you could ask for anything, what would make your grown up Christmas list?
I'd have to say mine would be a mix of world peace with a magazine subscription thrown in just to make it interesting. How do kids always know what they want? and aren't afraid to ask. Maybe they are just better at dreaming than we are.
Do you want to try today? Here's mine.
A grown up Christmas list:
a vegetarian magazine subscription
a new start for our country where we all feel invested and can make a difference
a stellar year in my kindness work
a macro lens for my camera
guerrilla goodness moo cards
to know my neighbors better
lots of berries of every kind
the perfect pair of jeans
Okay, it's your turn to make a list in the comments. You can even be slick and leave the Supersisters page up so wandering family members and fellow gift givers can see. Do it, it's fun!
an unexpected handmade gift from a friend
a snuggling growing girl curled up in your mama arms all night long
slap happy children making stupid jokes from the backseat
old songs that make you feel hopeful and warm inside
a buddha baby girl quiet in your arms
a tickle fight with your kids and your neighbors
homemade chocolate chip cookies made from the recipe you stole from your sister
a Charlie Brown Christmas tree
a silly seven year old boy who's still waiting for his two front teeth
everything far from perfect, but plenty good enough just the same
What's making you joyful today?
Whoever decided that the mother should be granted responsibility for all of Christmas, I would like to strangle him. If this is just a law of the universe, I would like to protest. Would any one else like to stage a rally, a sit-in perhaps?
Shopping for presents, sending packages, creating memories, crafting meaningful gifts, parades and tree lightings, packing for a trip on top of laundry, dishes, vacuuming, and the icing on the cake, perfectly timed pink eye for 3 out of 6 family members. Why is it that there is always one moment during a holiday where all of it depends on you? and for that, you rant and rave for help or cry or wish you had some other position in your family. I pick Lucy's, she seems to be having the best time and is the most age appropriate ego centric.
I would be very happy to take lots of baths, play puppy dog and watch an ungodly amount of Martha Speaks.
What's the solution to the Christmas meltdown my friends? Phone calls to fellow supersisters to trade holiday horror responsibility stories, being pissy with your safest person (which is my husband), chex mix, and hiding for a while. Reading Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree or deciding if these are my biggest problems in my life than it can't be all that bad after all.
Have you had a Christmas meltdown yet this season or better yet, how do handle the curse of all of Christmas responsibility? plan ahead? don't have a baby 12 weeks before Christmas?
It goes like this.
Leah calls Madeleine to see if she'd like to come to some kind of activity or service with her at her synagogue. Madeleine is just about to give an enthusiastic yes when Leah insists her father or her mother need to talk to me on the phone. One or the other or sometimes both parents assure me no one is trying to convert Madeleine, that they are hardly Jewish themselves, that they're atheists really.
I tell them I'm not worried at all, and I'm not. In this family? If anyone at all decided they wanted to be religious, I'd be pleased as punch. All my efforts at spiritual formation have fallen flat from the very beginning.
Then Madeleine gets back on the phone, decides she wants to go anyway and has a wonderful time. That week, this week, and the next week. In no time, despite the endless disclaimers of Leah's incredibly nice, liberal and not very Jewish parents, Madeleine thinks conversion is the best idea since saving all her money with Carter to buy the Wii.
Madeleine: Mom, seriously, seriously. Can I convert to Judaism?
Me: Hmmm....Let me think about that. What's making you think you might like to?
Madeleine: Well, Jews have the best holidays and I love the singing and the dancing and the having a prayer to say for everything--did you know there's a prayer you can say for going to the bathroom?--that, and oh, I love Friday night dinners.
Me: Me, too. Okay, well, we should probably wait to talk to Dad and see what he says. There's no rush, right? I mean they probably aren't going to let you convert over night. I imagine it will take some time. There's probably some kind of big involved process, don't you think?
Madeleine: Oh, no, mom. Some guys--what do they call them?
Madeleine: Yeah, rabbis. Some rabbis make you wait forever, but there's one way you can do it that's really fast.
Me: Like a fast track to becoming a Jew?
If only the rabbis could hear us now.
The next conversation is on the phone again and it sounds like this:
Madeleine: Dad, dad, dad! Can I become a Jew?
Dave (after he makes her slow down and explain what she's talking about): I think that would be great. But don't you think that's the kind of decision you probably need to make when you're a grownup?
Madeleine, of course, is devastated, and feeling slightly persecuted.
She flails herself on the couch, despondent, while Carter and I watch her like television, wondering what we should do.
"Carter," she asks, opening her eyes for a moment. "Do you support me becoming a Jew?"
"I don't know what support is," he answers honestly. "I don't know how to help anyone."
Madeleine sighs, but she's not angry. "Mom," she says, turning to me with all the sobriety of an old soul. "Will you support me?"
"Yes," I tell her. "And I think Dad will, too."
This eases the pain for awhile and we turn our minds to other things like when we'll get a Christmas tree and if you can celebrate Christmas if you're Jewish and how problematic she thinks it might be if she becomes a Jew and then marries a Jewish boy and then loses her ties to the other religions completely and how nice it would be to be able to celebrate all the religions all at once instead of having to pick just one.
"I'm just that kind of person," she tells me. "I can't help it. I can't wait until Chinese New year and I just have to have a Christmas tree. Do you think we can get a Menorah?"
And I smile and nod and send her and her little heart, so full of wanting to belong and wanting to honor the sacred in each and every form, right upstairs where she'll sleep on all this and then some in her cozy pink bed. No matter what happens, I hope when she wakes she'll still be searching, still be hoping, still be counting on finding her place in a much bigger "we," in a space where her heart tells her there is always, always more.
We laid in bed staring at the ceiling early on a Saturday morning, every child still asleep.
"Do you wanna go...? I didn't even get to finish the sentence.
"No." he said quickly. We looked at each other with relief.
It was the morning of the local Christmas parade on a very cold and windy morning. The whole idea of dragging four kids out to sit in the cold for 3 hours sounded like a Christmas magic death wish.
We ended up making a fire, surfing the internet together while various children climbed in and out of our bed. It was blissful. Sometimes I wonder what we are thinking when we drag our kids to a hundred holiday events. Our happiest moments seem to be in a more low key setting: trimming the tree, wrapping presents, watching holiday movies together, just shootin' the breeze. There is so much anticipation and hype around the holidays but I think sometimes we might miss the point all together.
So here is a Supersister Holiday Challenge for my family and yours: Skip some event and replace it with something fun at home. Deciding the level of holiday intensity is up to you, some families still need to "do something" while others are happy to be quiet in a room together. I think we are going to play a new brain game Josiah and Jorge are currently obsessed with.
Got any suggestions for home and hearth family fun? Let us know in the comments.
This is the Christmas...
where 75% of the ornaments are hung at the eye level of a three year old Lucy.
when your 8 year old soaks up every holiday experience and tells you 1,000 times: "We are having a nice time huh mom?"
the magic of Santa is burned into a 5 year old dreamy boy's heart.
when you hold your tiny baby and think she must be as perfect as the baby Jesus himself.
when you are tired, tired, tired.
where you decide to go everywhere in your pajamas and a fleece pullover.
you are only mildly aware of how far behind you are with all there is to do.
you think about when exactly will you ever send Christmas cards.
when you decide everything is exactly as it should be and all is well.
What is this the Christmas/Hanukkah (or holiday) of for you my friend? Tell us in the comments.