Guilt-free Holidays or Let it Go

Holidays – Christmas in my case – are tricky times. I’ve been thinking of all the ways it has changed in my life from my childhood Christmases and Christmases as an adult.

As a child we had many Christmas traditions. My mother was very, very particular about how the tree was decorated. We had to smooth out every single icicle before we put it on the tree and only so much could lap over and it had to be symmetrical. I’m not sure I could call it fun, but I did enjoy the tradition of it. Presents were wrapped and put under the tree and we were allowed to shake them and try to discern what was in the pretty wrapping. Both my parents had beautiful voices and sang in high school and college choirs as well as in church so we would go to certain friends houses and sing carols at their doors as well as giving them a little box of goodies. Joy to the World was a favorite and we always ended with We Wish you a Merry Christmas. I truly loved doing that.

We also dressed to the nines in fancy Christmasy clothes. I can’t begin to tell you how much I don’t miss that. For years going to church all decked out on Eve was a big thing. I really loved it until it became so stressful because of our kiddo’s needs and for slowly we quit and now I’m so glad we don’t have to dress up and go anywhere on Eve. We just stay put and hang together. We’re starting a new tradition this year and the kiddos are wearing PJ’s and parents whatever they find comfortable. I’m super in love with this idea.

As I began my own family we tried to develop our own traditions. It was a struggle from the beginning. Daddy-O worked various shifts and we had to adjust based on his work schedule. He was rarely given the holiday off unless it just happened to fall on his usual day off. We tried to stick to the one present opening on the Eve and then stockings and the rest on the AM but after a few times when Daddy-O would miss one or the other because of work we gave up on the schedule and just celebrated according to when he was home.

After our last 4 kiddos joined our family we had to adjust again. Having wrapped presents under the tree just didn’t work. Just yesterday Callie found some presents I had wrapped and obsessed for at least 30 min. about them until we quickly took them to a locked closet. She finally gave it up. A little bump in her cannabis helped as well.

This will be our third Christmas without Shannon and really our fifth where we are still trying to find new traditions. The two years before her death we spent significant time in the hospital shortly before Christmas and stuff I had planned just couldn’t be done and our girl was still recovering from pneumonia one year and surgery another year. I doubt if any parent can say Christmas is the same after the death of a child.

I think the purpose of this blog is to remind me – you are allowed to say bah-humbug without guilt. If these traditional holiday trappings don’t particularly give you joy that doesn’t mean you are lacking. Find your own way as I am trying to do. Make it simple so it doesn’t stress you out. Don’t feel guilty about not keeping up with traditions that don’t matter to you anymore. I felt huge guilt about not caring about our tree until several of my kiddos sort of shrugged about it’s importance. It’s up and I like the lights, but the decorating etc. doesn’t fill me up. Spending time with my people does. Find what matters to you and put your energy towards that.

I wish you a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday and to all a guilt-free time with those you love.

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Complicated Holiday

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There are no big expectations in our house. Just good food and we love to prepare and serve good food. It’s kind of our thing. Also relaxing time with family. So what’s not to love?

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Well, for starters and finishers, there’s the history. Its ugly and lurid and how we tell the story, what story we tell, matters. It matters a lot. With adoption, adopters have been creating the script they want told about adoption rather than letting adoptees tell their own story. Thusly, those who colonized this country, have told the story from our perspective for centuries. It’s way past time for that to end.

My mother’s dear friend Elizabeth is indigenous. She moved away when I was in the midst of prime time-consuming parenting time and so sadly I haven’t talked to her in years. Her sister was Miss Indian America in 1971 and so via google I saw that she is listed as Cherokee which is what I thought I remembered but wasn’t certain. Elizabeth was so dear to me as she was one of a couple of my mother’s friends who helped provide “mothering” to me after the death of my own mother when I was 19. Her own mother died when she was younger as well and she raised her sister from the age of 11. One time we talked about how she felt a little lost when she passed the age her mother was when she died and I never forgot that, especially when I passed the age my mother was. I also remember her grace and peaceful demeanor and oh how I wish I would have taken more time to learn more about her and her childhood.

Here are several indigenous women I have been following and reading and I am hoping we can all at the very least begin to turn the script over to those whose stories have not been listened to as widely as they should. They are difficult at times, but like much in life it seems that in order to  learn hard lessons it gets ugly for awhile. The only alternative is to pretend the ugly isn’t there and history has shown us that that hasn’t served us very well at all.

Kaitlin Curtice has two blog posts to which I would direct you. One is a list of books written by indigenous peoples for ages children through adults. For instance, I listened to the audiobook Heart Berries by Therese Mailhot from this list. It’s the poetic and agonizingly painful memoir of a young indigenous woman. A second blog post from Kaitlin is filled with resources to navigate this Native American Heritage Month and particularly Thanksgiving. She has also written the book Glory Happening which I am slowly making my way through as to savor it through this holiday season when we get so caught up in the busyness of it all and need reminders of the Glory in everyday life.

I encourage you simply to start. To begin to learn and listen with an openness to the voices of those who can speak for themselves of their history and experiences. We all need, want to be heard and so we all must also be listeners.

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Typical Mom

Dear Typical Mom,

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that when we lined up for seats on the Extreme Swings at the amusement park today your tween-age daughter got the seat next to my teenage daughter.

Sorry that your girl was too uncomfortable to sit next to my girl. That she was so uncomfortable that she traded seats with you, and very sorry that you let her.

Sorry you missed an amazing teachable moment with your girl.

You have no idea of the opportunity you missed.

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You missed teaching your girl that she should show respect to those who need a little extra loving care. Even if she was too freaked out to sit by my girl you could have, at the very least, modeled it for your girl. You could have talked with Callie, introduced yourself and your daughter – anything to show your girl that you valued my girl.

You missed knowing a girl, if even for a few minutes, that rode the Extreme Swings and then went to the children’s area to ride the children’s swing ride with just as much unabashed enthusiasm.

You missed spending just a few moments with a girl who demonstrates Satchel Paige’s “Dance like nobody’s watching” quote better than anyone. She jammed to a tune while she waited to ride on the Enterprise, a spinning ride that is vomit-worthy, while others backed away from her. I don’t know if it was because they didn’t want to be near her or because she is a brazen, audacious dancer and she never, ever gives the gawkers around her a second thought. She dances without regard to the stares because, well, because it truly is nobody’s business and unlike most of us, she embraces that. I absolutely adore that about her.

I’d say it’s your loss, but it’s my girl’s loss too. Every time she is ignored it is a missed opportunity to practice her social skills.

So, truly, I am so sorry. Sorry that you missed an opportunity to meet a person so uniquely made, a mold breaker to be sure. I know I’m biased, but I’m pretty sure you missed a one in a million opportunity.

Sincerely,

Mom who is proud of her atypical girl

 

French Fries With a Side of Flirtation

Today’s after church lunch at Culver’s, a fairly regular event, was quite amusing – to us and those observing us.  For some reason Shannie often cries when we arrive somewhere other than home until she settles in and decides to stop – generally 5 – 10 min. tops.  Today she was pushing 10 minutes, but finally settled.  That wasn’t the amusing part.

First Ella, Jacob, Christian, Callie and Jacob thought they’d sit at one of the high tables.  So, we grabbed two of them next to each other.  All this time Shannie is crying and people are staring.  Then Callie decided she didn’t want a high table and I convinced her to wait to move after her dad returned from the rest room.  Then we moved and Ella, Jacob and Christian stayed put.  Thankfully before our food arrived Shannie settled in and stopped crying and the staring became less obvious and more furtive, my preferred type of observation.

When the food came everyone settled in some and all was calm.  Pretty soon I noticed Christian was grinning ear to ear and glancing over to the counter gesturing and nodding his head.  Pretty soon he was leaning back with his hands behind his head and adjusting his shirt.  Jacob comes over giggling about how he’s trying to impress some girl.  Christian kept saying, “What? What?”  like – it’s all good, nothing going on here.  We all got the giggles and Ella was rolling her eyes and moving away from him.  It just became hilarious.  I don’t know if the girl said “hi” – she certainly didn’t approach him in any way.

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I teased him a bit about it in the van and when he got home he told Jacob she was his girlfriend.  I’m pretty sure that’d be news to her and he didn’t seem to know her name, so that makes it kinda tricky I’m thinking.  It was so funny to watch him attempt to impress her with his somewhat limited flirting skills.  Gotta admit – Christian had more game than a lot of 14 yr. old boys who’d never have the confidence to even look in a pretty girl’s direction.  She may not have given him the time of day, but he still enjoyed every second of the experience.