Let's face it, winter in Edmonton would get awfully dreary if it weren't for the joy of Christmas, New Years, days off together, and the rest of this fun stuff. What I love most about the holiday season (other than EVERYTHING) is the way that the traditions of this time of year connect our past, present, and future. This time of year we can bring our childhoods to life by revisiting some of our own traditions, live vicariously through our children as they experience the magic, and vividly imagine how these traditions will change as these little ones grow.
Sometimes life throws us on a wild ride. When Melissa and her husband decided to have children, they felt like they had themselves and their lives pretty well figured out… they had done plenty of travelling and enjoyed their share of evenings out cultivating truly great friendships. They had a solid foundation on which to build their family.
Yet looking back, Melissa has a feeling that most of us can relate to: that she wouldn’t recognize her former self if she was staring her in the face. It isn’t that any of us were less of a person before we had children, but the ways in which this role changes us are completely undeniable.
As much as we can plan the perfect timing for our big life decisions, the timing of our lives is not really within our control. As Melissa and her husband began to grow their family, they were hit hard with two terminal diagnoses in the family. During their first pregnancy, her aunt was diagnosed with leukemia. Shortly following their daughter's birth, her father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
The ordinary adjustments of sleeplessness, being constantly needed, and adjusting from career to motherhood were compounded with questions of how long, with rearranging lives and relocating, all while continuing to live life and anticipating a second child. While they were blessed to enjoy many more months together, they eventually lost both her aunt and her dad during her second pregnancy. The typical moments of joy and anticipation were swirled in a world of more complicated emotions.
It seems that facing the impending loss of your dad would be the worst time to adjust to a growing family, and it obviously wasn’t ideal, but both Melissa and her mother recognize that these children have been their saving grace in this time of struggle. A welcome distraction and ultimately the motivating force to strive to be an even better version of yourself (when the easier route would be to sink into an entirely justified depressive rut). With little eyes and ears absorbing everything, the choice to burden ourselves with anger at the tragedies we cannot control is much less attractive.
Not only have her children provided a source of joy through the tough times and the motivation to keep getting out of bed on the days that it feels nearly impossible; they have also been a reminder of the memories that matter.
When it comes to embracing traditions, Melissa worried that her children would be missing so much of her story in not having a chance to get to know her dad. When she and her husband moved back to their hometown, they ended up missing the window of time that they had left with her dad.
Now, despite not having his presence, she has found that she can enjoy the history of this place in a new way through the eyes of her children. Even memories that she had long since forgotten are reignited as she takes the parental role where her children represent her childhood self.
Driving past the same great big Christmas tree in the town centre that she had once craned her little head to stare at in awe there is a glimmer of a memory...
The memory of her father turning from the front seat back to enjoy her state of wonder. Now it is Melissa watching the same scene from her front seat.
The vintage rocking horse in the living room is the same one that Melissa herself grew up playing with. Their lives are a beautiful blend of appreciation for the past and engagement in the present moment.
These children have given Melissa access to her strongest self and her best self.
In turn, she is giving them a pretty amazing mother, and a childhood overflowing with love and patience and grace. She is embracing the messes and soaking up the crafting. She is loving these children in every moment and giving them the safe space to grow into their own best selves.
The thought of participating in these stories was altogether terrifying at first for Melissa. We are not generally very comfortable letting a stranger into our homes and into the truths of our joys and struggles… Not to mention the world of strangers who will have the opportunity to share in these secrets online.
So what would possess her to open up and share her story? It was the same thing that motivates so much of what we do as parents; to build a story that evidences for our children that they are loved entirely unconditionally and beyond the reaches of their imaginations. It is critical that they know that they are her greatest teachers and certainly her salvation over this past couple of years.
I would love to know...
How has motherhood changed you?
What do you need your children to remember?