My seven year old was a mess last night.
Rolling around in his bed long past the time we normally shut out the lights, he tossed and turned beneath his blankets and jammies, as I snuggled myself up next to him in an attempt to calm him down.
“What’s going on, bud. You feeling upset?”
“Yeah? Is it hard not having your dad live here?”
“It’s just… I don’t know if Santa will come when I’ve made so many mistakes. I don’t know if I’ve been good. I make at least 20 mistakes a week.”
I cuddled my boy and reminded him that he’s always good: a sweet brother and a kind friend who is learning. I offered that any mistakes he’s made is a result of him trying, and that is what Santa really wants to see. Staggering through my dialogue with him, I tried my best not to say anything that would feel like it was the wrong thing.
After he’d fallen asleep, I adjusted his blankets, turned down his night light and walked the hall toward my bathroom.
It was there in the mirror that I could see his reflection in my own… an unsteady, uncertain kid, questioning if I will recover from all the mistakes I’ve made. If I’ll be forgiven for the messes I’ve caused or be able to wash away the messes that have been made by those around me.
My son is wondering if Santa will reward him, while I’m questioning if my future will.
His anxiety is a miniature form of my own, a constant thrum of impatience and jitters as I wait for the new year to come- with a promise of a fresh start and a slate that gets wiped clean, once the clock strikes midnight.
Mistakes. Ugh: the mistakes.
Divorce, sobriety, broken bones… tonsillectomies and car accidents and helping my children adjust to new normals as I navigate us through unchartered waters- all in my body that I constantly neglect. There are so many mistakes to be named that I can barely catch my breath.
And then there is my son, snuggled peacefully in his bed after hearing what I’ve told him: any mistakes he’s made is a result of him trying.
I’ve tried marriage and it didn’t work. I’ve tried drinking and failed at doing it responsibly. I’ve tried to protect my kids and wasn’t able to prevent them from experiencing pain.
Last night I couldn’t understand why my healthy boy (after a warm bath, with a belly full of food, earning perfect grades and loved by everyone around him) was lying beside me, preoccupied by the one marker of anxiety that his seven year old mind could cling to. But by meeting him where he was- unsettled in his bunk bed, surrounded by stuffed animals and fleece blankets and a pile of books, I saw my burden too: The waiting.
Waiting to forgive myself until the new year comes around. Waiting to be grateful for my body until I lose the 15 lbs. Waiting to appreciate my children until prayers are said at bedtime. Waiting for life to be perfect, to have all the pieces fall into place, so I can feel relieved of the mistakes that have stacked up behind me. I’ve been waiting to put the burden down. I’ve been waiting to remove the pressure from myself.
But my son taught me last night, that That isn’t something I need to wait on.
I’m embarrassed of my divorce, but I can be grateful for the friendship we’re working on. I want to make changes to my body, but I am appreciative of how much it has gotten me through. My parenting is far from perfect, but my kids are kicking ass at life anyway.
I don’t think there’s anyone I’ve spoken to in the last few weeks that isn’t ready to leave 2019 behind.
We have had a tough year..: a doozie wrapped up in 12 months, but I’m here and so are you.
So are we. It doesn’t take the turn of a calendar’s page to bring about change. The promise of gifts from Santa doesn’t direct the trajectory of our “good-ness”.
Lifting the burden of waiting begins with perspective and forgiveness. It is about presence and joy.
There will be suffering and we will screw up, but as my big brother said to me not long ago: the sum of our worst days does not define who we are.
We are still good. We are still forgiven. We’ve made mistakes but it means we’re trying- and that’s all Santa, and we, really need to see.