26 December, 2013

Thank You for Making it Special

My son gave me a cold for Christmas. It's been well over a year since I suffered the indignity of this much snot. Right when he was born, come to think of it. My already easy going holiday became much more low key because of it. I also got very reflective. Very, very reflective.

Not to throw him under the bus, but my husband wasn't much help. Super stressed at work and fighting a nagging injury that won't heal rendered him tired and grumpy and only up for a few things. So, despite my cold, it fell mostly to me to do the things like find the decorations, bake the bread for breakfast, buy all the groceries, and cook a turkey dinner. And change the diapers and make sure there was real food consumed among the sugar. I am as tired as the up-early and burnt out by noon child in all of our homes right now.

So, back to being reflective. This holiday, seven years into motherhood (eight if you could being pregnant), I've realized that if it wasn't for Mamas Christmas would really, really suck.

Yes, the fathers do a good job with what they do, and there are a few who adore Christmas and go all out with their ugly sweaters, hot wheels tracks, and light shows. There are also fathers who are alone and do it all themselves and turn out some very magical affairs. But it is the Mamas who make it special for the vast majority of us.

Mama is the only who buys or loads the advent calendar despite the fact that it drives us insane both that they beg for candy every day this way and that it forces an impatient countdown we have to live with for twenty five days. Mama is the one who bakes - with or without the kids along side - for countless teacher gifts, neighbours, Santa's plate, and all the leftovers we likely eat ourselves. Mama is also the one who usually remembers the teacher's gifts. Mama is the one that remembers the random statement about yet another useless toy and gives up her precious babysitter time to drive across town for it.

Mama is also the one that gets the stockings out and makes sure there are oranges in the house to stuff in their toes. Mama buys the candles to line the table so the meal feels extra fancy to a five year old. Mama makes sure the party dresses are clean just in case someone wants to dress up for dinner.

And then Mama is the one who has to say no to TV for the few days of holidays. And Mama makes sure everyone gets outside for sledding even though the new toys, and their wrappers, beckon. Or Mama is the one who gets up early when even though the kids stayed up late they awake wired and ready to go.

The traditions are the family's, but it is Mama who makes sure they happen each year. It is Mama who sacrifices her time on the beach to make pyrohy in a vacation beach rental because we always have pyrohy on Christmas Eve. It is Mama who makes a second batch of Christmas Tree Bun because your family devoured it before Hubby got any and it is his family's deal anyway. It is Mama who makes collects toilet paper rolls to make personal Christmas Crackers.

Making the holiday special is far from a thankless task for a Mama. It may the one time - whether it is Christmas or Yom Kippur or Eid or Festivus - where our work to do things for our family is truly noticed and appreciated. So much work, but worth every late night, every elbows up shopping trip, every flour covered nose, every sticky floor to see the light on their faces at something truly special, the giggles of a family treasure, the insistence on the tradition. I don't care that I didn't get a single thank you - other than the quiet one when she got to play without an audience. Actions speak louder than words and I know they had their moments of glee and I had something to do with them.

It was only this year, perhaps clouded by the whiskey I was using to kill the cold virus, that I realized just how much my Mom did to make our holidays special. And just why it hurts when that day comes when your kids don't show up and let the Mama do her job. When we grow up and move away we change the traditions, we take away the opportunity for Mama to make us feel special. We think we're doing her a favour, easing her burden. We don't understand her lamentations about how things just aren't the same anymore. We don't realize that we've taken away a chance for her to deliver without thanks, to make us feel special by doing the Mommiest of Mommy things.

So, to my Mom, thank you. Thank you for your endless baking of rogalki and whipped shortbread and Christmas Jewels, for spending a week in the kitchen to cook two meals that we practically inhaled, for doing the dishes while we played an old version of Trivial Pursuit or Life while Dad shouted out the answers, for making spinach dip every New Year's Eve, and for snuggling us when the party after midnight mass got to be too much. Thank you for letting me steal some of those traditions for my family. Thank you for letting me come to this realization myself. Thank you for bringing special to me.

Merry Christmas.

20 comments:

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

A lovely and heartfelt paean to your mother and that which you learned by her example and continual modeling year after year. And now to see your kids imprinting those same traditions must just light your internal flame of love.

Happy Holidays, Cheryl and the whole Arkinson family.

cambric cotton, pins and needles said...

I hear you and I feel what you are saying. I have always made Christmas the very special event it should be for my five kids, while having no partner to help out. I've loved every tradition I started, the special breakfast, the table decorations, shopping with each of them to find a gift for each other etc,. Now as a grandma, my adult children have started to take over the reigns of christmas, I'm disappointed some of our tradition is now being replaced by other women ( daughter in-laws) who are forming their own family tradition. I know this should be so and I have also reflected on this and realised my own mother must have felt the same way when her children grew up. This is part of living, as hard as it can sometime be. Hope you recover from your cold soon and you can enjoy the rest of your holiday with your children, soon enough they will be adults. Best wishes Wendy

Sandy said...

Amen to that. You brought tears to my eyes remembering how special my own mother was.

JennX said...

Thanks I needed that! I was feeling quite put out last night, when, after doing all that, my hubs was sulky that I didn't pour 'his' tea. Sigh. My actions are/will be appreciated for a long time, and my mama did the same. We do it for ourselves as much as for others- don't we?

Rosyquilter said...

So well said and all so very true. I thought you could see into my life as I raised my family and how, even though things have changed drastically in our aging lives, I am still the same with making Christmas happen. The memories are all there of my childhood and my children's childhood and I too thank my mom and my dear departed mother in law for the wonderful family traditions that they created for us.

Tina Short said...

What a beautiful tribute to mothers everywhere.
You made me cry.... I lost my mom in October and thought I was coping quite well over the Holiday season until I read your post. We all miss her so much.

Jody said...

Well said Cheryl!!!!

Cristin said...

Thank you for saying all that. This was the first Christmas my 3.5yo actually knew what was going on, and I felt the need to make sure it was PERFECT - down to milk and cookies set out for Santa. And yes, I ate the milk and cookies after he was asleep. ;-)
Its a completely exhausting job, being Mama, but oh so worth it!

Pam said...

moms are the best! loved your post xo

Debra Graham said...

What would we do without Moms.

Birdblocks said...

Lump in throat dear, thank you for sharing! I'll call my mom TODAY. Hope you got over your cold.
Sweet thoughts from The Netherlands,
Groetjes, Merel

deb @ frugal little bungalow said...

Visiting from Kathy's Quilts and she was right...a great post! :)

Dona said...

This has been a tough month for me since a friend died the very end of Nov. My dh retired in June and he was my biggest help this year. He did a great deal of the decorating and present buying. Since both boys were not home to help he even went grocery shopping with me two days before Christmas. I do know he appreciates everything I usually do.

Thanks for the great article about mothers at Christmas

Karen said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying what all/most of the women of the house do at ALL events.

My husband did not come from such traditions.
My mom had traditions that I modified for my family. Everyone gets their special stocking with their name on it. The little gifts are tucked in the tree, and you get too look at them and wonder what they are. The variety of baked goods, and dont forget the sugar cookies, iced and sprinkles too.
When Christmas is coming to an end my dear husband says thank you for all of the special things you do for Christmas.

Come Easter, 4th of July, Thanks giving, or Christmas we women step up no matter our condition and make it happen for our families.

I say thank you to all of the women that make our family gatherings happen and oh so nicely.

God bless.

audrey said...

Love this post! I had similar thought during the last couple days building up to Christmas Day.:)

house on hill road said...

truer words were never spoken! happy holidays, cheryl.

Rachek said...

Had a little sniffle reading this - you are so right and it's easy to feel bogged down in all the preparations, but they do appreciate it, even if they don't often stop and say so! I have certainly 'borrowed' several traditions from my mum, and luckily still live near, so get to share some too! Thank you for reminding us that we make a difference!!! Happy New Year!

Sharon said...

My children are now 23-30 years old, and your post brings back the memories of those incredibly long days and very late nights when I worked to make Christmas happen, sometimes with anger and tears, wondering if it was worth all the effort I was putting into it all……..
This year my 30 year old walked in the house and asked "Do I smell gingerbread? Are we making cookies?" He remembered being pulled away from the tv to cut and bake and decorate, though not always willingly…
It brought tears to my eyes and I knew that at least some of the craziness of days gone by had been so SO worth it….and was remembered fondly by my son.

BJ is Quilting! said...

I have to admit, I get a little pouty at times when I realize all the stress I am going through to make Christmas special and dear husband is oblivious. Oh he is willing to help when I ask, but he just is clueless really. In the end though, I love doing it all for my kiddos! Happy New Year!!

Anonymous said...

I understand this was meant as a tribute to your mom and moms in general. But it's really left me wondering about husbands who don't pull their weight. I should probably go give my hubby a thank you hug for everything he does at Christmas.