Tonight as I finish up some gifts for my grandkids and nieces, it makes me smile, but with tears in my eyes, to remember waaay back to this time of year when my own kids were little and I was a single mom. At around this time I’d be wrapping the last of their gifts and doing a mental survey of what they’d open the next day. Every Christmas Eve my heart would ache as I thought about how excited they were to wake up to see what Santa brought, and each year I would make myself a promise that the next year would be different and I’d be able to do more.
The dress up clothes that I had bought from Goodwill had been washed and the huge box was carefully wrapped in the comics section of the newspaper with a big red bow. My fingers were still stained with the food coloring I had used to color the play dough I had made to create colors you couldn’t find in the stores. The stockings were filled with their favorite candy, erasers, sparkly pencils, and always a new toothbrush. No matter how tight money was, it was important to me that they had stockings that Santa had filled. We had spent the week before painting wooden ornaments and singing Andy Williams Christmas carols, the same ones my mom and I used to sing to when I was young. Before they went to bed Christmas Eve we’d set out cookies and milk for Santa. Before I went to bed, I’d have to remember to take a bite out of them and drink the damn milk (I hate milk) to prove Santa had really been there.
Some of those years the kids and I celebrated Christmas morning with my boyfriend. His kids and mine were friends and all close to the same ages. His kids lived out of town, and because he had the means to, he overindulged them when they spent Christmas with us. I thought my heart would break as his kids opened a JVC complete stereo system, while mine unwrapped a knock-off brand boom box. All the gifts his kids opened were the ones I had only wished I could have gotten for mine. I said goodnight to my kids on many Christmas nights with a lump in my throat wanting to hug them and tell them how sorry I was that I basically sucked. Bless their hearts – they always seemed happy with what they got and assured me they had a great Christmas.
Those days were hard, and my heart goes out to you single moms who are short on time and money and scrambling to pull a Christmas together for your kids. You’re tired and frustrated and probably right about now are beating yourself up. But guess what?
My daughter is now the mother of a 4-yr-old, and I see her beginning traditions with her son, even continuing some that she grew up with. She stays up half the night making him presents. She sent me a text with a picture of Andy Williams Christmas album that said “It’s not Christmas without this”. My son is in his 30’s and doesn’t have kids yet, but when I mentioned that I might not do stockings this year, he looked at me like I was crazy. “Oh no, you HAVE to do stockings”. So off he went to do stocking shopping.
My kids are my heart. They make me proud every day of my life. They are happy, caring and loving adults. All those years I thought I was screwing up, failing them and falling short, I wasn’t. You aren’t either. Start Christmas traditions and keep them going every year. No matter how dumb or insignificant they may seem to you, they are stamping themselves on your kids hearts and providing them stability and consistency. Play up the mystery and wonder that is Christmas. It’s the little things…Have your brother or a friend call them and pretend they’re Santa. Write them a letter from Santa and mail it to them. Wrap the presents from Santa in different wrapping paper and tags written in “Santa” handwriting.
Keep doing what you’re doing. The kids may not react the way you’d like them to. They may seem disappointed with their gifts. But know this. They will carry those memories with them and some day will understand why you did what you did, said what you said, and how hard those times must have been for you, but you loved them right through them anyway. My kids remember most of those cheesy gifts, but very few of the more expensive ones.
Make memories. Be creative. Just love your kids and do the best you can and believe me, it will be enough. You’re doing a great job. Believe in yourself.
Merry Christmas, and God bless you and your little family.