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.