Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Merry Christmas from the depths of my anger

Christmas Eve 2012, our first with Isabella, found me at the CVS Minute Clinic getting tested for strep throat. I remember still having the thought that I'd make it to the 11:00 church service that night. Of course I did not make it, instead downing tea and whiskey trying not to make that the Christmas of the Needley Throat. In the exhaustion of the next day's events (and feeling the stress of the past month finally lifting from me), I cried to my mom about how grateful I was that she and my dad, despite never having a ton of cash, ALWAYS found ways to give us wonderful, memorable Christmases. My first Christmas as a mom was my most exhausting one, no doubt, but the joy I felt Christmas morning was so unlike anything I'd ever known, it left me a sobbing mess.

This year, with two kids living with us, I knew Christmas would be a little more stressful, but I knew Christmas morning would come and I'd have double the high. In 2013, we officially joined All Saints Church in Pasadena, and we actually started making church part of our weekly routine in September, so for the first time since I left Ohio 13.5 yrs ago, I had a church in my new hometown to not only go to on Christmas Eve, but one where I felt HOME. Some of my favorite Christmas memories include church on Christmas Eve, and I was excited to take the girls this year.

I know all of you other moms have impeccably organized calendars, white boards full of reminders about who is to be where and when, and you rarely if ever mess up a time somewhere. I'm not that mom, despite my best efforts. So I thought the family service on Christmas Eve was at 5:30. That was the plan, to take the girls to the 5:30 service. 

All Saints is a huge church, so you have to arrive early on holidays to even get a seat. They do eventually close the doors if they reach capacity, which the do for almost every holiday service. So we got there around 4:45, armed with coloring books and snacks for the kids.

Christmas angels

Gina held our seats while I ran around with Maddie, because the best way to get her to behave is to force her into exhaustion. She eventually gets too tired to put up a fight. There weren't a lot of other kids there - turns out, the family service had been at 3pm. I didn't want to put them in the church-provided childcare that day, and neither did Gina. They go to childcare every Sunday - I wanted them with us on Christmas Eve. Most of the parishioners commented how beautiful they looked, how sweet they were, yada yada yada. They held it together really well during the service - they were super fidgety and asked a few questions out loud, and Maddie sang Happy Birthday to Jesus at a few inopportune times. I excused myself and Maddie after the sermon at some point when I felt she was too restless. We ran around a bit and came back. Overall, they were great for being 2 and 3.

As we were leaving, we got more compliments on how cute they were. We went across the street to Pasadena City Hall to check out the Christmas tree. As the kids were running around and I was trying to snap some pictures, I heard a voice behind me, loud enough for me to hear, but quiet enough that I wasn't sure it was directed at me.

"You know that place you just were, All Saints? They offer childcare." 

I turned around to see a woman who was approximately 175 years old. Her son or grandson was with her and he had a look on his face like "Just go ahead and shoot me now." 

"I know," I said to her. "We wanted them in church with us."

"Well, they were very noisy." 

I'll be screwed during the zombie apocalypse because my real fight instinct takes way too long to kick in. The phrase "What I SHOULDA said was..." is all-too common in my phrase ammo. 

"Yeah, well, they're kids."

"Well, it was very distracting." 

"Well, they are parishioners too." The grandson/home health aide nodded, clearly on my side, begging me to have mercy on him. At this point she was walking away, and this is when my fight instinct finally kicked in. I yelled after her, "IT'S CHRISTMAS EVE!" She mumbled something else and it was then that I lost it. I yelled at my family to get in the f*cking car, we were going home. 

I got in the car and slammed the door and started sobbing. Gina took over with the kids and got them into their car seats while I sat helpless in the front seat with my head in my hands. "Aunt Katie, are you so sad?  What happened to Aunt Katie?" was what I heard from Maddie.  "What happened to mommy?" from Isabella.  "Some old bag was mean to mommy at church," Gina said, which made me laugh for a moment, but it did nothing to curtail the 90 minutes of utter despair I felt on the ride home and once we got home.  Christmas, my absolute favorite time of the year to be a mom, re-experiencing the magic with my children, and I was a ball of rage. All of the small stresses of the past six weeks flooded over me, and I was hit with a familiar feeling I try to ignore, that NO ONE knows what it's like to be where I am, where we are, mothers by law but not biology, trying to be just as much to those girls as their biological mothers would be if they could be, and always feeling like I'm falling short, that their tiny minds are already racking up resentment toward me because I yell at them too much, I lose my patience, I cry, I get frustrated and annoyed, I expect more from them then they are able to give, and on and on and on and on.  I was sunk, for ninety full minutes, during dinner and bath time and bed time.  

Footy jammies! Come ON!

Wine helped. Going through the motions helped - we gave them their Christmas jammies, we read "Twas the Night Before Christmas," Gina rocked Isabella as I cuddled with Maddie until I felt her fidgety little body relax and drift off.  I emerged from the depths slowly, like a hibernating animal sniffing for the first signs of spring.  I began to regret my anger, to regret allowing some million year old lady ruin my Christmas, ruin my kids' Christmas.  But the great thing about kids this young is they forget stuff like this quickly, and as we slept, Santa brought a bunch of presents, and when they woke up, Christmas happened just like it was supposed to for them, a morning full of cinnamon buns and presents and magic and "Looky! Look what I got!" As long as their Christmas is good, mine is good.  And it was lovely. 

What is still the most annoying to me is THEY WERE ACTUALLY REALLY WELL BEHAVED IN CHURCH!

No really, I'm over it.  Promise.

"Whoever you are, where ever you find yourself on the journey of faith, you are welcome here." -All Saints Church

"And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." -Matthew 18:3


Kim Tracy Prince said...

"I know all of you other moms have impeccably organized calendars, white boards full of reminders about who is to be where and when, and you rarely if ever mess up a time somewhere. "


Right. Yes. This.

Megt said...

Our pastor has a saying (It's probably one they tell at pastor school) "If you want a quiet church, you'll probably get one."

A quiet church is a Dying church, and at ours we are Soooo grateful for the sounds of little people all year round.

Please know that she was probably a lonely, old woman who in some way thought she was being helpful, or maybe just felt entitled to say her piece. But I bet there were 50 people who were marveling at how wonderful your kids were. Oh, and I honestly think every momma has these worries and wishes.