As I ate my breakfast this morning in the dark early hours of the day, I was admiring our Christmas tree and thinking "that is our best tree ever!" and that brought back a memory from my childhood.
Every single year, after the tree was decorated, my mom would stand back and admire her handiwork and say "that is our best tree ever". I am thankful for a mother who was such a positive person, spoke mostly nice things and kept the ugly thoughts to herself, and who saw the world through rose coloured glasses much of the time.
I can remember going out with my dad to get a tree. We were city people, so we bought if from a lot, but it was a real tree, everyone still had real trees. If it was just Dad and I doing this errand, I was thrilled. I worshiped my dad and time spent in his presence to this child was as good as 'an audience with the king'. He would ask my opinion about the trees and make me feel that this was a team effort. When we got the tree home, we would put it up together as a family, at least that is what I remember.... My mom would put on Christmas music and attempt to make this a memorable part of the season. To me it was.
I then contrast this to some of my own first married Christmases.... not one resembled this until my girls were old enough to really take part. Sometimes we actually went out together as a family and chopped down our own tree, but other times getting their dad to get the tree somehow ended up being a tug of war and by the time the tree was in place, I was often full of resentment and disappointment. But the girls made up for that as they were enthusiastic and very useful decorators.
When you have so many happy childhood memories, it is hard to measure your adult life beside that. If I could interview my own mom right now, she could probably share with me some of the tensions she experienced during the Christmas season as a wife, and mother. But she put a good face on it and made it happy for her children.
So, for awhile decorating the tree became a chore which I did not look forward to. But when my girls got to be around 8 and 10, they totally took over and it became a wonderful memory again. I would put on the Christmas music and make the hot chocolate and sit back and watch them have fun doing it. It was a chore to me, but a joy to them. I just enjoyed watching them have fun, and to any mom, who doesn't enjoy watching her children have fun?
Many, many years later, the first Christmas after my mom died, both daughters were fully grown, I can remember another Christmas tree. I was away for a few days in December, not looking forward to my first Christmas without my mom, and suffering from yet another bout of depression and when I got home, there was the tree, all done! My youngest daughter had done the whole thing for me! What a present!
As an adult, the tree is mostly just another chore for me, but as a mom, I wanted to make some magic for my own children, and so it continues. And now, as I perform this 'chore' I look at some of the decorations with new eyes, the eyes of a grandmother, and I think about how the little ones will enjoy certain decorations over others.
I leave you with a question: how does a good parent balance providing their children with happy Christmas memories but at the same time, realistic expectations? If you have any ideas on this, please share!
I do have my own answer to this question though, and it may be the same answer I will give to most questions, and that is this:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight."
God is always the answer.... for everything!