Mistletoe, Mothering and Teaching Kids Kindness

For me, the self-imposed pressure to mother perfectly cranks up at Christmas. Not only do I want everything to be perfect, everyone to be happy, for the family to enjoy the home fire burning ( literally), christmas music to be enjoyed, and the reason for the season appreciated- I also think we all deserve an escape from life’s challenging every day reality. I don’t over-” do” Christmas- I just want the season to be special and filled with lots of family tradition and fun.

We try to embrace the simple stuff. The fresh cut Frasier Fir tree, Christmas lights and blow up snowmen on the patio for the kids to enjoy, welcoming  Rudy our ” Elf on the Shelf”, making cookies , slowing down to enjoy holiday books and movies- and holiday crafting time as well. Yet still, the reality of life creeps in- the persistent cold that makes me worry about pneumonia, the over tired big sister, the every day realities that worry me.

This season, I want to take those worries- and the idea of honoring the reason for the season to count our many blessings. Every year at church, we adopt two ” angels” off a givng tree, girls similar in age to our two girls. It has become one of our holiday traditions, for which I celebrate, but at the same time self impose more of that perfect mothering pressure.

I imagine that if these girls don’t have much- that they also might be cold, and need some cozy comforting. The gift that they ask for- the doll, the bike, the Barbie -becomes a mini Christmas in a box as we include warm pjs, a winter jacket, scarf & mittens, a warm cuddle blanket or throw and then the assortment of toys. The last few years, when I start second guessing what I had chosen for my own girls, I have tried to think of our Christmas angels, and what little they probably have, and by contrast , how fortunate we really are.

So the other day, Zoe and I found ourselves in Target picking up medicine- and I was trying to slow down and enjoy her requests to see and touch everything holiday as she cruised the store in her power wheelchair. We ended up stopping in the snack bar for a drink, and encountered a youngish mom, with a toddler and kinder age kid in tow. Zoe immediately said hello to the younger girl, hoping to engage her. The older child just stared, and stared and stared. As we moved to get our drinks, she started badgering her mom with these words ” just ask her, ask her, ask her..” and I felt my fingers start clenching into fists. I felt all of the holiday warm glow slowly melt away and my defensive stance kick in as I waited. Zoe was very close, and I tried to move away from her a bit, anticipating that this Mom was going to ask me something about Zoe- and not wanting her to hear. So when the mom beganto speak boldy and expectantly saying.., ” She  wants to know what’s wrong with your daughter”  I was ready to reply, more strident than usual with what felt like my entire body trembling . ” Nothing is wrong with my daughter, she uses a wheelchair and you should teach your child kindness.”

Not my finest moment. No ” reason for the season” understanding  present at that moment, but really. Her diagnosis doesn’t really matter to strangers. Zoe is smart , socially aware, and 8 years old -she has feelings too. I want children to understand the simplest of concepts- sometimes people look different. We don’t stare, we don’t ask- we just accept. And if  necessary, discuss further  in private with a parent . Sometimes people’s muscles don’t work right and they use canes, walkers, scooters and wheelchairs to help them.

After, I was embarrassed by my anger, my defensiveness- as the reality of life crashed in to my bit of fun holiday” window” shopping with Zoe. I  prayed about it,  thought about it, even waited a few days to share the story with my husband. Zoe didn’t hear my reply, because I moved away from her, she didn’t even observe it- but I still feel it. I am sure my face burned red with anger, and my words were not calm, they were rushed and emotional- and they left an imprint on my heart as well. We all need to teach our kid’s kindness… and I could have led by example.

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