I have not made a Christmas list in many years, possibly 25 or more. It is very true that the older you get, the less you care about material things. I remember about 13 years ago when my husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told him I wanted a day, just one full day, when I did not wipe anything. As a mother of a baby and a toddler at the time, I was thoroughly done with wiping faces, hands, bums, the highchair tray at least 4 times a day, washing dishes and wiping down the countertops. I honestly thought that on Christmas Day he was going to formally take over those duties for the day, but the opening of gifts came and went and he said nothing. It was honestly the only thing I’d asked for. Inside I was furious and I remember that I took a quick walk after Christmas breakfast was finished and all small hands, faces and kitchen surfaces had been wiped down. Later that day, I told him how disappointed I was that he hadn’t taken my request seriously. He truly did not get it. I still wipe a lot of kitchen surfaces on a daily basis, but the young children phase of my life has passed. What remains true is that the things I want the most cannot be purchased with any amount of money. They include health, safety and feeling loved and respected.
Like most people, I went into the 2020 holiday season with feelings of trepidation and forced hopefulness. There was very little to look forward to this Christmas. No cozy indoor celebrations with neighbours and extended family. When my children ask me what we’d be doing over the next few weeks, I just shrugged my shoulders and thought to myself, “making it through the damn day like we’ve been doing for months.” But remember, I practise feigned cheerfulness and hopefulness for the greater good of the family because I have learned that this is what mothers do if they don’t want the system to fall apart.
In December, I found myself thinking about what I would put on a wish list if I made one. My list would have two sections. The first section I would label as things I want, but there is no possibility of getting.
There are only two items on that section of the list.
- I wish my mother hadn’t died.
- I wish my daughter could someday be completely healed.
The other section on my list could be labelled as things I want and are possible, but are not probable at least in the near future.
In no particular order, here are the items on that section of the list.
- I want to reconnect with friends that I’ve fallen out of touch with. I’m sure many people can identify with this one. Over the years I’ve grown distant from people who at other times in my life meant the world to me. Nothing happened per se, we just stopped seeing each other. We might exchange an email once a year, or like each other’s posts on social media, but it’s been years since we actually saw one another in person. When Covid restrictions are a thing of the past, there are no fewer that a half dozen friends that I need to make an effort to visit in person. I don’t want such a meeting to occur because someone is ill or dead. I want to see my dear friends under good circumstances and rebuild connections.
- I hope my mother-in-law has the will to persevere through the current Covid restrictions. She lives in a retirement residence where they have imposed very strict guidelines where leaving and visitations are concerned. We were not able to see her at all over the holidays and this is breaking her heart and her spirit. My father-in-law died after a short hospitalization in May, so now she had to face the first Christmas without her husband alone. This reality weighed on me every day and there is so little that we could do other than to bring her comfort and happiness. She is definitely a victim of what I call Covid’s collateral damage.
- I want school to return to normal next year. For my own children’s sake, for my students and for myself, the current situation needs to change. I am a teacher and the conditions that we’ve been forced to work under last fall were draining at best. There are very few school aged kids who are well-suited and well-served by online learning, and my own two children do not fall under this category. They learn best by being face-to-face with their teachers in a classroom where collaborative learning with their classmates is possible. On a purely selfish level, I want my daughter to start high school in September under normal conditions. Given what she has been through medically in the last four years, she deserves a proper fresh start for high school. Her illness and brain injury not only left her with academic difficulties, but also social ones. I hope for her that she can finally find a special friend in high school because she has not had that in a very long time.
- Lastly, I want my husband and my son to repair their damaged relationship. I can’t even say exactly when things changed, but their relationship is currently broken. They barely speak to one another and when they do, it’s usually because one of them is angry. My family may have weathered the storm of my daughter’s brain bleed and stroke, but we all came out the other side changed and damaged. My son turned 13 that year and as expected, he has grown more distant from the family over the last four years. In order to survive the early days of my daughter’s brain injury, we had to create a space in our home where my son could hang out without driving his sister crazy. I never expected that nearly four years later, he would still spend much of his time hidden away there. He does not eat with us anymore (the sound of his chewing drove my daughter nuts) and he does not do activities with us anymore. We see him when he comes out of his “cave” to get food or pat the dog. The activities that used to bring my son and husband together – hockey, football, travelling at least once a year together to watch a professional sports game – don’t exist right now. To makes matters worse, my son has given us precious little to be proud of over the last few years. He hates school and is a chronic underachiever academically. He lacks drive and motivation. This is very difficult for my husband and me to understand because as teenagers we were not like that. It is a constant source of stress in our family. While I feel obligated to be eternally hopeful that one day soon, he’ll “grow up”, my husband is of the mind that he’ll never amount to much and that in just over a year, he will no longer be our responsibility. It’s pretty sad all around.
I used to look forward to Christmas holidays. This time of year was very special and full of joy in my family when I was growing up. When my own children young, we had very happy holidays and for that I am extremely grateful. Last year was the first Christmas without my mother, and I naively believed it would be one of the most difficult I would ever have to face. Now a year later it was even more challenging to face 2020’s Christmas season. Being eternally hopeful and optimistic is exhausting but important. I know I cannot reasonably expect to experience a level of happiness that comes anywhere close to that of years ago, but I hope that some of the items on my wish list will eventually come true.
Part time teacher of French & Spanish, full time mother and wife. I love walking my dog, reading and travelling with my family when the world isn’t in the grips of a pandemic. If hoarding ever becomes truly necessary it will be coffee I stockpile, not toilet paper.
The raw and real emotion you’ve portrayed here is beautiful, Allie. LIke you, I have a broken realtionship with one of my children (now an adult), and I can feel the pain in every word you’ve written here, because I’ve lived such a similar story. I do remain hopeful, but have realized that repair is only possible if both sides value the relationship enough to try…and I may wait forever for that to be true. Know that you’re not alone as parents in this…talk to me anytime…and keep hopeful and giving the love! xo