Lighting candles, singing carols, attending a service, going out as a family on Christmas eve--this all sounded like a good idea at the time, not the kind of thing you imagine ending in tears. Anyway, it did.
As a parent, do you ever get the feeling that you don’t know what the hell you’re doing? Or maybe that what you’re doing certainly isn’t the right thing? I feel like that Every. Day. But my kids are fine. Fine enough, I think. I like them most of the time...But it turned out on this particular festive occasion, that they are the kids—we are that family—that breaks all the damn candles at the Christmas Eve service.
Honestly, I knew, I KNEW, the second that lady in her school marmy dress and put-on Christmas smile handed us those candles that they would either be returned significantly worse for wear or we would set someone on fire. And I was right about the lesser of those two evils. Even though my prediction should have mentally prepared me for this little eventuality, there I was head in my hands, tears streaming, holding three flaccid candles simultaneously in utter disbelief and total defeated acceptance that, yes, we were indeed that family that could not keep candles in tact for twenty minutes in church. My husband put his arm around me--he’s a kind man--believing that it was the moving rendition of Silent Night that pushed me over the edge, made me wistful about my dear old deceased mother. Maybe there was a bit of that, but mostly, it was those damn candles.
‘Why? Why? What grave error in judgement? What offense against the universe led us down this path of destruction? How did our kids lack such basic respect for property? They were probably going to be vandals one day, paying fines or worse for their participation in the defacing of some historic relic.’ I lamented all of this to my husband as we were driving away. He laughed and said they were really brittle and probably lots of them were broken. But I knew the truth...
Not a single one of those angelic boys or sweet little girls in their velveteen Christmas dresses with bows in their hair (with their skinny, successful, put-together mommies who never raised their voice) had so much as harmed a wick on any other candle at that service that night. They were doing it right, you see. Those parents would be attending university convocations and professional speed-skating meets while I bore the humiliation I deserved for being a total crap parent at my son’s parole hearing. We were that family, and my screw-ups made us that way.
We all have those days, but, today is a better day and though I still have no idea what I’m doing, I hold onto hope—hope that every family is that family for some reason or other. Maybe they are not the family that trashes the candles at the Christmas eve service, I think we own the honour for that one—but maybe they are the family that arrives 5 minutes too late for their daughter’s dance recital, or maybe they are the family that can’t exit any social situation without MAJOR meltdown. Maybe they are the family that drags their daughter kicking and screaming into daycare wearing only a diaper on the coldest day of winter. Or maybe they are the family who’s son, on his tester Kindergarten day, decides it’s a good idea to have a quick pee outside in a corner near a window in plain site of an active classroom—no, wait, that’s us again--but I digress, I AM hopeful.
I am hopeful that regardless of how badly I screw up, my kids will know I love them something fierce and that has to count for something. This evening as I was leaving to go out with a friend, my 8 year-old son somewhat uncharacteristically called out, ‘BEST MOM EVER!’ and, though my knee jerk internal dialogue was What evidence would lead you to such an erroneous conclusion, poor child? I know with every fiber of my being that he believed it. We are his family, the best he will ever know... the best I have ever known. And, even though we break candles at Christmas eve services, I wouldn’t trade us for the world.