My Christmas reflection for this year highlights acceptance and fortitude. Having 2 kids is wonderful, but it is not easy. I constantly question my parenting skills and always seem to be in a cycle – good days, okay days, bad days. Kevin is inquisitive, emotional and highly sensitive, and at the same time, very active and imaginative while at play. Nina is turning 2 in a few days and has been having a few battles asserting her independence, but at the same time trying to cope with having a brother whom she has to share everything with. All of this, she expresses using a high-toned scream that attracts everybody's attention.
Our Christmas started early. Tim was bound for a training in Washington DC for 2 weeks so I decided to take the kids to Calgary to visit my sister Teresa. I’m glad we went – since we were not going to spend Christmas this year with my family (Tim and I alternate every year). Talking to my sister about our childhood, about our family, then about our struggles and triumphs raising children made my trip worthwhile. Although her children are almost all grown up, just having someone who understands what I am going through made me feel good. Having someone assure me that whatever worries I have will even get worse – and that worrying will never, ever end, also gave me the strength to carry on. Kevin and Nina had a great time with their cousins, and just being in a new environment gave them a break from Winnipeg weather and our usual routines. They were really good there – slept through the night without any issues (well, except that it took longer to tuck them in), ate well, played well, and left Calgary having good memories and wanting to stay longer.
Halfway through December, we drove to Fargo airport (4 hours) in North Dakota to save $200 per ticket to Pittsburgh. I realized that if I prepare enough music, activities, games and stories in the car, the kids wouldn’t even ask for the iPad. Sure enough, they were good in the car ride – we wanted to save the electronic gadgets when it was too hard for them to endure the trip. Our plane was delayed, as it always is when we travel with kids, we missed our connection from Chicago, and we had to drive to Grandma’s house which was about 2 hours away from the airport. All in all the kids were great though – with a little bit of Gravol, and iPad, they were golden. I don’t think we even had a meltdown after about 16 hours of travel.
The kids always love to be with the grandparents, and vice versa. It was the kids’ chance to get spoiled, to eat chocolates and ice cream all day long and to scream in their sleep, knowing that their grandparents would take them in their bed. Kevin has been having issues with sleeping alone the past couple of days before we left for Calgary, so it has gotten worse while we are here. I figured, we will resolve all these issues when we get back to Winnipeg, and the kids would remember how crazy their parents are when we get “home”. Good luck to us.
We drove to New York City close to Christmas Day to spend time with Tim’s brothers and we had a great time with everybody. There were a lot of meltdowns – from my kids I mean. Most days were good, but these kids chose to both be tired, cranky and display a crying frenzy as we were getting ready to sit down for Christmas dinner. Now that was very embarrassing! I felt so bad that everyone in Tim’s family had to witness that – and of course – what can a Mom do – but to smile and to apologize for the kids’ behavior.
The kids missing in action. Where were they? In little corners of the apartment, trying to calm themselves down.
The next day we went to Christmas mass, and the kids only waited until the 2nd reading, until the crying and screaming began again. Nina wanted more singing after the psalm, and Kevin wanted to play with his Christmas toys. I whispered to him - "This is the house of God" and he quickly said - "but I don't want to be in the house of God!"- out loud. We were out of the church in 2 seconds. They both cried, and I walked them back to the apartment, without talking to them, with such a heavy heart. And when I thought that the worst was over, a lady called out to me and said - "It's freezing cold woman, why aren't your children wearing their gloves?" and whispered to herself, "Stupid mother" in a very pleasant New Jersey accent. Well, the church was 2 blocks away, and of course I've forgotten their gloves, so there you go. That lady was right, I thought.
When we got back to the apartment, we sat down and talked about what happened. The kids were sleep deprived and tired from all the traveling, but I told them how disappointed I was with their behavior. Kevin quickly said - "Tomorrow will be a new day, Mommy. I'm sorry." We all laid down on the bed, and napped together.
I had some time to reflect on our way back to Pittsburgh (the drive took 12 hours due to heavy rain and snow). I realized how I have been so mindful about what everybody thinks of my children – their attitude, their disposition, their response to authority – I think I am more worried about what other people think about my parenting. Does it really matter? Why am I so self-conscious? Is it because parenting is my only job right now, and if I suck at it, what kind of person am I?
I don’t think I can please everybody, and I know that whatever I do, people will have opinions about raising kids, but I know who I can please – I can please the one who actually made everything possible this Christmas season, the one who gave me my beautiful family. I can strive to please my husband and my children, because they are the ones that matter. I can strive to be a better mother, even if the whole world thinks I'm not. I will try to do our daily routines with more joy in my heart, and as we enter a new year, I would like to be constantly reminded of these questions – am I raising my children to be good followers of Christ? Am I raising them to be grateful of their blessings and sharing their blessings with others? If they have tantrums in public because they are overtired, sleep deprived, and homesick, do I blame them for that?
I have resolved that every time we are having a bad day, I should always look at the bigger picture and choose my battles. What matters is that my children feel loved, secure, safe and always forgiven. What matters is I give them the best care that I can provide. What matters I strive to correct them and constantly remind them of respect and honesty.
People around me will always judge, and mothers around me will always make me feel that their children are far more perfect than mine, and look down on me while my children are at their worst behavior. Non-parents will always think how ridiculous I am for raising such bad-mannered, spoiled brats. And random ladies will always think of me as a mom who never puts on gloves on the kids when it's just 0 degrees. (We live in Winnipeg, you know...)
All the chaos of traveling actually made me realize how sensitive I am and how senseless my thoughts have been about parenting. I thank God for time for family and for blessing me with new realizations. I pray that I may never judge other parents or look down on other families who can't seem to put their act together.
I told my father in-law about this and he showed me a beautiful response to my reflection :
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.