At Christmas I tend to assess the year that has passed, and I become reflective about what might be in the year ahead. Not on New Year’s Day itself, not on my birthday. I do this at Christmastime each year.
Here’s what’s getting me about this one: It’s my last Christmas before my oldest of four kids officially enters the teen years, and it’s also my last as the mom of a real "little one." For me, age 5 is the cutoff for that. She turns 6 in June.
This is the child who, for some reason, really believes that I’m 23 — and yes, I let her (duh). I asked her the other day if she wouldn’t mind please just staying 5 years old forever. She looked at me and in the very sarcastic voice she’s learned to employ said, "Oh, and what, — do you want to stay 23 forever?"
This is why I don’t want her to grow up.
Anyway my kids keep asking me what I want for Christmas. I, of course, tell them I want perfectly behaved children. We all know I’m not getting that.
And I don’t really want it anyway.
So then I tell them I’m just so thankful for what I have. Sure, it’s hard raising four young kids on my own, but they give me such joy and energy it’s like they deplete me and fuel me all at the same time, and I’m so grateful! In fact I’m thankful that my children are so boisterous and full of life, dear friends refer to having my family over as a "Hart attack."
My kids think that that’s hilarious.
I’m thankful that they bicker and fight, and play and love each other through it all. I’m thankful for our closeness as a family– even when it doesn’t look "close" at the moment!
I don’t need anything else.
Well, I tell them all this, and they still press, "But, Mom, what do you WANT?
Okay, I give up. Kids, here’s my Christmas wish list:
I wish to live more in the moment, enjoying each day without regrets about yesterday or fear for tomorrow.
I wish for your laundry to be "magically" done and perfectly folded, and to find its way to always neatly organized closets and drawers.
I wish for the adversity you children have been through in recent years to be sanctified to you and to make you fuller people more fit for Heaven.
I wish for a floor that would somehow automatically suck-up every piece of dirt and dried spaghetti noodles and squished grapes that you kids drop onto it.
I wish for you to find joy in the innocent pleasures of childhood.
I wish to never, ever, be whined at again by any of you kids, and I wish for patience for the million more times it WILL happen.
I wish for an evening assistant that could get you through homework and teeth brushing and complaints about early bedtimes — but leave the quiet tuck-in chats to me.
I wish each of you could get a taste of how deep and forever my love for you is EVEN at those times that in a moment of frustration you complain to me you wish you had a "different mom."
And most of all I wish you could know how much your "I love you, Moms" mean to me. But you can’t really know until you have your own kids, and they ask you for YOUR Christmas wish list.
Well, there you go, my little ones; that’s my "Christmas list."
Oh, and by the way, I don’t really wish for my youngest to be 5 forever — though I wouldn’t mind staying "23" myself.
But I do wish in the year and years ahead to enjoy these stressful, wonderful, crazy, exhausting, energizing days with my children — especially as we enter a "new phase" in 2007 — with the passion and joy each day, even the difficult ones, deserves. Because as one wise sage said, the days are long but the years are short.
And from my family to yours, we wish you Christmas blessings and a wonderful new year.
(Betsy Hart is the author of the forthcoming "It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting Our Kids — and What to Do About It." E-mail her at letterstohart(at)comcast.net.)