The anticipation is mounting. I don't know about your kids, but my kids have Christmas radar that is unprecedented. Sure, my 5 year old can count down days, but even my two year old seems to know it's imminent.
It's my favorite time of year. I love everything Christmas is about. I love the constant reminder of the miracle of Jesus. I love the music and the shopping. I love the giving. I'm a merry ole St. Nick myself, making my list and checking it twice to ensure everyone is taken care. Our Santa - he doesn't know naughty or nice - he knows grace, and that's a Santa I can respect. I love the look of our kids faces on Christmas morning. (More on this in a coming post. I can hardly control my excitement!) I'm like a little kid at Christmas... mostly because I have kids.
But I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy unwrapping a package, feeling as if someone thought of me, the thrill of the unknown beneath the shiny, pretty paper. But I'd also be lying if I said I remembered many of the gifts I'd been given. Sure, I can look around and say, "Oh yeah, so and so gave me that for _____", but I couldn't make a grocery list of the loot I brought home last year. Over the years, there's been a few gifts here or there that have stuck out to me. I remember what Aaron gave me during our first Christmas as a couple, and of course I remember his proposing on my birthday. I remember a ridiculous gift here or there, and one or two that left me feeling like 'why did you bother?', but all in all, it's one big blur of 29 Christmas' of stuff. Stuff.
I can remember a few years ago, B was a newborn. All I wanted for Christmas that year was a full night sleep. I remember that, and I meant it something fierce. Of course, that meant some other sorry soul would be sacrificing his / her said sleep to provide mine, but I need not one wrapped gift under the tree had someone been willing.
All of this came tumbling back through my brain the night of my birthday dinner last weekend. The hubs and I, the kids and a friend were having dinner at a local restaurant. Seated at a table next to us was an older couple, a younger couple, and a young couple with a newborn in a carseat. No other kids, and the older couple seemed to be the parents of the two young couples. It seemed to be a Christmas gathering. (I've picked up some of my husband's people watching knack.)
Like clockwork, the moment the food hit the table, baby awoke in a fury, and I could see the exhaustion lace the face of the young dad. And THAT is when it hit me -- this crazy urge to take that baby from that man, (whom I was sitting just a couple feet from), wish him a Merry Christmas and tell him to 'ENJOY your meal, man!'. Because sometimes, that's just all you need or want in life. Of course, we never articulate it because voicing your exhaustion must mean you don't love your kids as much. At least, that's what it makes us feel like. Especially for new parents.
Now I will mention, I somewhat shocked myself. Normally, people want to take quiet sleeping babies and hand them back when they cry... I took it as another sign mine are growing up... taking a crying baby seems like a blessing at this point.
I mentioned my thought to my husband, who probably thought I was crazy, but he - oddly - understood my sentiment. I mean, it's almost every time our food comes, we've prayed, and I have that first bite on my fork that A announces, "I need to potty." Almost. Every. Time. So we both get it, but still, there's something weird about a stranger asking, "Hey sir, why don't you let me hold your baby so you can eat your pasta before it gets cold."
Anyway - I'm making a short story longer than it needs to be. Bottom line is, dad quickly jostled baby over to mom who whipped out her nursing cover and I knew my time was done before it had started. But the sentiment was there. I would have held that baby. I would have.
Fast forward to a few nights later and the newborn at a friends house started crying in his swing, like instinct I ran and scooped him up. It was something about the challenge of soothing the crying child (who later needed his momma's necessities too, but I did calm him, by golly) and about the pleasure of loving on a baby. I don't know, I still don't fully get it, but these back to back occurrences got me thinking.
Did I desperately, five years ago, need a full night sleep. Yes. It would have felt like my greatest gift at that point. Today, though, my greatest gifts (aside from Jesus of course) sleep soundly in their beds at night. They hug my neck and call me 'mommy' -- or 'mom' sometimes, which is okay, but not near as fulfilling for some reason. I've just been overwhelmed with this sense of thankfulness for them lately. At the end of the day when I am flat. out. spent. and I know I need to get A up one last time to potty before bed, I relish in that sweet limp little body pressed against mine in the fifteen steps from her bed to the bathroom and back again. I love whispering to her, again, that I love her, knowing she'll never hear it, but feeling satisfied that my thankfulness for her is expressed through it. And lately, when my not quite so little anymore boy comes and crawls up next to me and nestles in... my heart quite literally aches for the love and thankfulness that I feel... and my throat swells as I look at him and see how fleeting time is.
Gifts. You know, I just thought five years ago the best gift ever would be a full night of sleep. The real gift was the reason for the need for the full night of sleep. (Not that I wouldn't have taken the sleep itself...)
People keep telling us to cherish every moment and to not blink, and I would say, I'm heeding that advice with every breath of my being and trying to fill each moment with love and with a thankfulness that these will be the days that I will one day long for again. May I never feel as if "I'd missed them."