When December Feels Weary

It occurs to me that there are many voices whispering into the ears of new(ish) parents, particularly around Christmastime. For one, there is the reality that we are not getting any younger, that these babies are precious and this time is weighty. Make the memory! Seize the day! We have only seventeen Decembers left before they’re out the door forever!

But there is a quieter thought that arrives, and it sounds to me like a tiny seed of grace: This is not the time.

This is not the time for extravagant gingerbread houses, for downtown lighting ceremonies, for late night caroling. We’re still eating-leftovers-while-standing-by-the-sink, after all. Still stashing back-up pacifiers in our coat pocket, our glove compartment, the cup holders. We’re still sipping cold coffee on the counter, forgotten, then remembered. We’re still attempting a finished sentence. We’re still finding avocado in our hair. We’re still waking all hours of the night, still teaching our babies that we will bend for them, that the weight of their cries will not end us, will not break us. That we will still rise in the morning, a little tired, a little disheveled, eyes half mast.

(I believe this is a lesson far greater than sugar cookies.)

Still, there might be a small sadness in your December this year. You might see other parents weaving through nativity scenes, nary a tantrum in sight. You might see bundled up kids sledding down hills. You might see mothers smiling at their dressed-up angel in the Christmas program.

You might want to wish it away for a few years so the magic can begin. No, this is not the time, you’ll think.

But what if it is? What if this is the time, but for something beyond the candy canes and mistletoe and sleds? Something that feels quieter, simpler, more expectant? Something that pulls us in, offers rest, if only we’d pay attention?

In the midst of a swirling, larger-than-life season, we’ve been offered small babies, small children. Our tendency is to usher them into bigness, to lead the way into something grand, to pull them into our own story of greatness – of tradition, or worth.

And yet: I’m wondering if we’ve got it backwards. If perhaps we need only to let them be small, and to let ourselves be small with them.

I do not intend to glorify the work of motherhood, nor present this as a season of martyrdom. I mean only that it is December, and I see that many of us are burdened – parents and nonparents alike – weary, thickened with responsibility and grief, or sheer overwhelm. Many of us left feeling hopeless, by our own circumstances, by others.

And through the endless prayers and longest nights, of grappling and searching, of sorrows large and small, it seems there’s no room for much else – Christmas magic or otherwise.

But perhaps that’s the point.

For when there was no more room, we were given a stable.

May we all offer space for a quiet blessing this year: a gentle word, a fresh promise, a kind deed (a long nap). May we know it when we see it, swaddled and sure.

Merry Christmas, mamas.

  • “To let them be small, and to let ourselves be small with them” Your words lead one to this momentarily realm of all-encompassing grace. I keep on coming back to your page for more.

  • I love how you articulated this! It is an itch to bring the littles into the big world and “she will have so much fun staying up late and going caroling” or “she will love to watch the Nutcracker for three hours!” and really she would love to dance around the Christmas tree with a fire on and her wooden baby Jesus and stuffed lemur playing together! So, that’s what we shall do this December! So good!

  • I love this so much. I’m currently working on not passing down to my kids that Christmas is stressful. That seems tricky when that’s just about all we see, but I’m determined. Thank you for continuing to encourage us <3

  • Merry Christmas, momma. May you find the quiet, the cheer, the peace and the joy you and yours need most. Hugs!

  • Thank you for sharing this Erin! Such life giving words! We just brought a new baby home, and our oldest is three. So we have not gone to any Christmas events or done alot of Christmassy things as I’m re-learning how to be a newborn mom and also fumbling with this mom of two gig. Its so hard to see all the dried oranges, salt dough ornaments, made from scratch goodies. But I feel Christmas has already come to our little family, the hope and contenent of bringing a new baby into this world that started a long time ago. Thank you for sharing refreshing words for the weary soul.

    • Oh this is SO so beautiful, Hannah – and CONGRATS on such an exciting transition! I expect your advent season will be especially lovely this year, with or without the salt dough. :)

  • Erin,
    I was screaming in my head, ‘YES! YES!’ throughout this post. Thank you for your kind, beautiful, thought-provoking words. You are a gem, my friend.

  • Thank you for this post. I have a 2-year-old, a 3-year-old, and I just found out I’m pregnant with our third. I’m sick as a dog and exhausted and it’s hard to see all the Christmas posts. But I’ve been trying to live by the motto “let every heart prepare Him room” and instead of filling every moment, just looking for the magic that naturally comes this time of year. We’ve been spending a lot of time on the couch watching Christmas movies with our Christmas tree lights on. The best part of little kids is that they have no expectations. A half gallon of egg nog is Christmas milk and early pajamas followed by a drive to see Christmas lights is an adventure. Im actually enjoying the holiday season a lot more this year.

    • oh mary – congratulations on your sweet pregnancy, and shoot – your mantra is so very perfect. prepare we will! i’m of the christmas light drive variety as well – it’s so very magical to the littles, and so very simple for me. :)

  • Thank you so much for this! I have been secretly wishing for my two boys (18 months and almost 4) to be “big enough” to do all the Christmas-y things. But you have reminded me that their being small doesn’t make Christmas any less special. I need to slow things down in my own mind and let them enjoy the season in their little boy way, not the “mama thinks this is how Christmas should look” way.

  • Thank you Erin! I don’t celebrate Christmas as I’m Muslim but holiday time with travel is stressful! Thanks for the down-to-earth post to just enjoy them when small. This is not the time. I love that. I love also how you wrote a while ago the baby is your work.

    My 3 month old is adorable and is my work and I just got hired as a VIP kid Teacher who gets to teach English online to Chinese kids! And I haven’t officially booked anyone yet and thinking about hours to offer gets me stressed. I need to tell myself it’s ok if I start slow. It’s ok if I just savor this baby and a nap (oh how I rely on them!!). It’s ok to work at it and it’s ok to know when it’s okay to know that it’s not my time to overwork and get unnecessarily stressed and just make do.

    Thank you Erin!

    • oh reem – congratulations on your new job! what lovely, flexible work – you’ll thrive, i’m quite sure. and i love your mindset to savor it all the way. i’m learning it’s very possible to do both – enjoying your kids and your work as well. so much love your way!

  • I would also like to second all of these sentiments for mothers of teens or adolescents who might be mourning the slower times…maybe now is not the time to be knitting by the fire while your kids play around the tree…maybe you are busy with homework and field trips and new kittens and adding in all the “shoulds” of the holiday season is putting you over the edge. For us too, a gentle word, a fresh promise, a kind deed. Yes, yes, yes. Thank you for this meaningful encouragement, Erin!

  • Oh the blessing of your words! Thank you. Sending love and light to you and yours. xo

  • This truly touched me to my core. My babies are not babies anymore, yet I remember my weary December’s like they were yesterday. Your writing is whispered prayer. For all the mamas out there, find the magic in the eyes of your babes. Merry Christmas.

  • Pretty much summed up my feelings. I have a 1.5 year old, and new york is freezing. All I wanted was his cold to go away so both he and me could sleep and have a restful christmas. Bless you mama !

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