Christmas Presence

Well, that’s it. Thanksgiving’s over. Not even 24 hours after eating that last bite of mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, Americans rifle through circulars, plot their Black Friday buys, and break out the Christmas trees and hand-painted ornaments. To some, Christmas means everything to do with faith, hope, and the birth of a savior. To some, Christmas means cookies, candles and flights back where you feel truly at home. To some, it means giving—gifts wrapped in ribbons and bows, service at homeless shelters, or maybe just time and energy to the children you miss so much when you’re overwhelmed with the busy-ness of daily life. To some, it means a feeling of loneliness and loss, a time to remember those who have gone before you, a time to wish they were here to celebrate with you. To some, it means scarves, mittens and that first peaceful blanket of snow.

But what does the Christmas season mean to a working mother? I have celebrated Christmas for 25 years and I don’t think it has ever had quite the same meaning as it has today.
My son is seven months old. Every day, he amazes me with his belly laugh, his sweet spirit, and his playfulness. Every day, I wake him up—or he stays asleep and if I were him, I’d stay asleep at 5:30 a.m., too—and I send him off to his grandma’s. Every day, I drive to a high school where I teach English to over 100 ninth graders. I pour into the lives of these students academically and sometimes emotionally, and hope that my efforts are not wasted. When I come home, I have to make sure I have enough wisdom, kindness, and creativity left to give to the one child who truly matters.
That’s what Christmas means to me this year. When I was a child, Christmas meant sneaking around the house looking for hidden presents. In high school, the Christmas season meant sleeping in, listening to the latest CD, watching Price is Right reruns and pretending I didn’t have homework to do. As a college student, Christmas meant singing in my church choir, choosing next semester’s classes and buying the most romantic gift I could find for my soon-to-be husband. As a new teacher, the Christmas season meant a breather from my students, a good book on the couch in my pajamas, Christmas carols playing while I surfed the web.
Today, as a first-time working mother, it means starting new traditions. It means tracing my son’s handprint 15 times on green paper, asking my husband to cut them out because he’s better with scissors, and gluing them just-so to make his first little Christmas tree craft.

It means Christmas pictures in red sweaters.

It means reading my son The Night Before Christmas and showing him how to dig treasures out of his stocking.

It means his first ornament—a little glass shoe with all of his birth statistics written on it—donning the tree for the first of many years.

It means singing “Silent Night” as I rock him to sleep. It means being thankful that although I work full-time and mommy full-time, I chose a career that gives me 18 precious days in the winter and even more days in the summer to relish every moment with my son. It means my presence—just being there. Him and me. And it means giving all my love because I’ll never need to get anything for Christmas ever again.

*This blog was featured as a guest post on Liberating Working Moms.

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