It’s almost Christmas. Yesterday I sat down with the kids and told them how this week will unfold if everything goes the way I suspect it will– that there will be fun but also boredom; sweet moments but also snippy responses from siblings and parents with cabin fever; excitement but also hints of the blues, maybe. I reminded them that Christmas morning will come with presents under the tree, but also visits to two separate nursing homes, where my grandparents wait out the ends of their lives without knowing what day it is.
I wanted my kids to be prepared for the everydayness of this week–the truth that, even with the sparkle of the season, there’s going to be plodding and flashes of frustration. Even in the happiness, there might be secret (or not-so-secret) undercurrents of grief and insecurity, as there are for so many of us. I wanted them to understand, when they’re slightly let down after ripping the last package open, that having mixed feelings about all of it is OK.
Because I feel that way, too. And so do most people I talk to about this season of high expectations. It’s only when we accept that joy will steal up on us while we’re not expecting it, that it will be interspersed with normal–even banal–things like loading the dishwasher, standing in the doorway of a hospital room, or serving cookies to someone who can’t quite chew them the way she used to, that we are set free to celebrate the baby who was born in a drafty barn on an ordinary night.
*For another take on helping kids set reasonable expectations of the season, see this.*