It was one Christmas holiday long ago that I finally figured out how to handle all the stress and I also learned what was really important. So many times we strive for perfection in everything that we do and we lose sight of the fact that what really matters is the hearts and minds of those we love. We care more about appearances than we do people and especially, at times, our children. As I write this I think about something that meant a great deal to me that Erma Bombeck said:
“If I had my life to live over... There would have been more "I love you's" and more "I'm sorry's"
. . . but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute . . .
look at it and really see it . . . and never give it back.”
― Erma Bombeck
My daughter actually read this to me one day, not because she was trying to tell me something at the time but she just loved Erma. Erma Bombeck was one of my daughter’s favorite reads I believe because she had a sense of humor similar to mine. I am the type of person that has always tried to handle stress with humor and I have been said to stretch the truth on occasion. But in my defense it was always the truth I just embellished a bit to make it lighter and funnier, that was my way of getting it off my chest without having people run and hide every time I came into the room.
Anyway, back to the Christmas holiday that I learned to let go. Our home was the go to for holidays because my mom lived with us. We also had a bit more room and I enjoyed decorating and cooking. My side of the family would always get together on Christmas Eve for our celebration because my in-laws insisted on having Christmas day and so was the case with one of my sister-in-laws also.
One of my brothers traveled in from another state with his four children and my other brother lived in town with his two kids. This particular Christmas they all showed up and asked me if I would mind watching the kids for a few hours because they had some last minute things to do. I agreed, though I do not know what I was thinking at the time. I was the only adult there with eight children. My daughter was a very mature twelve year old at the time and I did get loads of help from her. But I was also trying to get all the appetizers done, the main meal, the rolls, the desserts, etc. and at the same time I was trying to keep the kids entertained. Their ages ranged from like three to twelve, three girls and five boys. There was a mixture of tears, brawls, and boredom amongst them all so I was desperately trying to figure out something to do.
At first I tried to organize them into playing hide and go seek and gave the older ones each a younger child to be responsible for. I told them to stay in our yard only and I tried to go back to my work. I found however that I was at the window more often than not and it was not long before I got a visit from the squealer of the bunch about who was doing what wrong. After that there were more tears and arguments and I was getting really nervous about how I was going to finish my perfect Christmas Eve dinner. I started to get irritable at this point but then I realized how excited all the kids were to see each other and that their little minds and bodies could not contain all the emotions they had going on. At this point I stopped to pray and ask the Lord what I was going to do, at first it was out of frustration but when He began to speak to my heart I felt His peace.
The Lord gave me the wisdom to ask those sweet little children to help me. I had to let go of the idea of my perfect pristine Christmas meal but the Lord helped me to realize what was most important that day. When I told them they were all going to help me with the dinner they jumped at the chance. The little ones worked on the white chocolate covered pretzels. As they dipped the pretzels into the chocolate they got way more on their hands and in their mouths than on the pretzels but they were having a blast. The next group up were making the ham and cream cheese on flour tortilla shell rolls of which we ended up with about half as many as we should have because for every one they made they ate one. The older kids were in charge of putting together a couple of casseroles and putting cookie dough on the baking sheets for baking. At this point the kitchen could have been declared a disaster area and the house condemned but we were all laughing and truly having fun.
When their moms and dads came home they were all so excited to tell them how they helped prepare the meal and they were anxious for them to try their particular dishes. Nothing looked like what I intended it to originally and when I set the food on the table the family knew better than to do anything but brag. It was actually one of the best Christmas Eve celebrations we have ever had to this day. As the kids have gotten older they still talk about that time and how much fun we had. And to top off the evening my mom brought out the old silent reels of home movies of my brothers and I. The kids were so entertained watching those movies and we all laughed until we hurt.
I can not take the credit for coming to the realization of what was really important that Christmas Eve. But in my frustration I realized that I needed help and I turned to the Lord for help. He showed me that the children were way more important than anything I was doing. Since that time I have tried to take the advice that Erma Bombeck left us with and I have, by the grace of God, let go of perfection for the sake of those I love. I am so very happy that I was given this revelation because it has allowed me to stop and think of the needs of others over how a perfect house, a perfect meal, and keeping things on a tight schedule. When it is all said and done, at the end of life, what is really important? Do we want our children and families to remember the perfection of our meals and home and how irritable we were or how we loved them and spent time with them and laughed with them?