In a little over a month I will be 44; Hope will be 16 in 6 months and in a few short weeks we will begin our 4th year as a little family.
Last night was our third Christmas together; and without question, it is our most meaningful, impactful Christmas yet.
Each of our years together have been amazing, but they have been fraught with grief, painful healing, flashbacks, emotional challenges and just, well, challenges that are largely invisible to our IRL friends and family. I can’t even say that one year has been harder than another; they’ve been hard in very, very different ways.
I would like to think I’ve gotten better at this momming thing over the years, but sometimes I just screw up royally. It makes me sad, often frustrated, usually furious with myself. I tend to give myself very little grace, a horrible characteristic of my perfectionism.
And then there are the times when I feel like I nailed this momming thing. In those moments, I am enormously grateful for this community, for my family and friends, and for my God who never fails me even when I’m at my lowest, most miserable place.
Holidays, all of them, even frigging Earth Day, can be tough around here. They are triggering; they bring about thoughts and memories that I have had to make room for in this life Hope and I have created. Despite her age; Hope’s emotional age is much younger, and she doesn’t always have the words to explain what she’s feeling or why. That is often really, really hard to deal with.
This year has been no different, right down to our unnecessary visit to the urgent care earlier this week. But there is something about this Christmas that is different.
Maybe it’s that I made the conscious decision to spoil her and buy lots of material things. Maybe it’s that I’ve gotten modestly better at making my own jokes about our challenges during a holiday that is always bittersweet. Maybe it’s that my love and joy about the recent birth in my family has finally manage to overpower my own infertility grief. Maybe it’s all the folks around us who we managed to bless with a little something sweet from our kitchen. Maybe it’s my own preparation for the end of the Year of the Try and the beginning of the Year of the Stretch. Maybe it’s that Yappy is with the boarder, and I realize that I am as attached to him as he is to me.
I don’t know really, but I’m seriously emotional because something is different this Christmas.
I am so emotional, and I cannot stop crying.
I think it might be that I have achieved a deeper level of love for my daughter. A better explanation is that this surly teen has really just gotten to me.
It’s funny; we love our kids right? I loved Hope the moment I first saw her picture. My heart has broken for her a million times during the last three years. It aches every time I think about what she has endured in her young life. It swells when I see her march in the band while I sit on disrespectful bleachers. It races when I have to chastise her or discipline her. It seems to stop when the tells me about her crushes.
My heart beats for her. but the reality is that often I still guard it…a lot. Hope has a lot of issues and I spend an enormous amount of time managing said issues. I do it because it needs to be done and because I love my daughter. That said, I often take a hard clinical approach to case managing our life. There’s a calendar to keep, appointments to schedule, medications to dispense, meetings to attend, testing to have done. I am a natural fixer, so all of this is firmly set in my skill set wheelhouse, but as emotionally exhausting as it can be; there is a part of my heart that I keep really, really hidden away from parenting Hope.
I think this Christmas got to that little chunk of my heart and soul this year.
Hope gave me one material gift this year, which she purchased when we were at a jewelry show together. It was so thoughtful; she has such a kind heart. I cried.
When she prayed over our Christmas delivery pizza feast, her prayer made me cry; her love for her family—all of it, first and second family—is so deep.
I went a bit hog wild with gifts this year, but her unabashed joy at an inexpensive robe from Walmart zeroed right in on that hidden away part of my heart. She wore it all night, dressed it up with jewelry, used it as a cape running up and down the hallway of the condo building, and fell asleep with it on late last night. She said, “It’s fantastic!!!” She just emerged from her room with her robe on.
I feel that in my chest.
One of my biggest gifts to my daughter was an investment account. We are by no means rich, but we are comfortable. We are blessed, but I know that my daughter hasn’t always known affluence. Sometimes it is hard for her to knit together the history of financial marginalization with the resources available to her now. I sat her down and explained to her how I would teach her so she would always feel financial safety. It’s humbling. So many of my friends and I talk about investment as a way of building wealth. We talk about being financially free. It is humbling to think of money through my daughter’s eyes and realize that this is another way I can teach her to just feel safe.
I cry both for the need to teach her about this kind of safety and that I’m in a position, blessed enough, to be able to do so.
I am overwhelmed by with joy, gratitude, love, and hope. Being Hope’s second mother is the best thing I have ever done in my life [ugly cry]. She has expanded what I know about love. She has taught me things I never thought I needed to know. She has forced me to grow even when I resisted. She has taught me selflessness. Of all the things I have done in this life, guiding her into adulthood will unquestionably be my crowning achievement. Everything else will pale in comparison.
This kid has changed me. This journey has changed me. It hasn’t always been pretty. It doesn’t always feel successful.
But there was something about Hope in that robe…that unmasked joy of a silly robe…It reached that part of my heart that I always protect for my own sanity. It opened the flood of my tears.
I love her so much it hurts.
So, I’m weepy this Christmas morning, and that’s a good thing.
Merry Christmas & Happy Hanukkah.