This wasn’t Juniper’s first Christmas, but it kind of felt like it to us. Last year we were still in the crazy first few months of life with a baby — living on no sleep, recovering from labor, and just keeping our heads above water in the chaos. This year Juniper was able to participate in many of our holiday activities (or at least stay awake for them).
We have a very tradition-oriented family and so there are many things we do together to celebrate the seasons. Sometimes the “season” can be as simple as “that cold boring time” (aka: February — Potawatomi State Park hike) or “that time it’s supposed to be spring, but really isn’t” (aka: March — maple syrup tapping), but when it comes to holidays, it’s even more serious. In December there is St. Nick stocking opening, picking out our trees together, a Christmas day hike in the woods, and watching It’s a Wonderful Life in our pajamas with grasshoppers or hot cocoa in hand. But most important is Christmas Eve, with church followed by dinner and gifts at our grandparents’ house. This is where I’ve always found my Christmas spirit.
Every 24th of December my family attends the candlelight service at Sturgeon Bay Moravian. The tree at the front of the church is covered in hundreds of paper stars and we hold lighted beeswax candles, singing carols and waiting for the last verse of Joy to the World where we all raise our arms up high before extinguishing the flames. As a kid, I remember being sad the moment we had to blow the candles out, holding it just a little longer hoping to preserve that feeling of incredible joy and togetherness. One of the gifts of parenthood is getting to share these traditions with our children — getting to see Juniper mesmerized by the dark church filled with glowing lights, watching her try her first bites of my mom’s homemade pie, and hearing her elated giggles over her favorite toy (the step-stool intended for my office).
As a parent everything is more work, the holidays included. There is more stuff to carry and less arms to carry it with. There are nap schedules and picky eaters to consider, and gone are the uninterrupted board game marathons and quiet evenings under the tree. Instead we look up from our movie to debate whose turn it is to intercept Juniper as she climbs from floor to chair to table to access the bowl of Chex-mix. Everything is more work… but it’s worth it. And I don’t say this as a martyr like “it’s worth it so they can enjoy the holidays” or in an attempt at banking future happiness like “it’s worth it because once we make it through this we can enjoy our family as they grow older”. I mean it’s worth it right now.
If sharing traditions is the gift of parenthood, the power of parenthood is in a crazy form of selective memory. The day might filled with chaos as we discover which toys are small enough to fit in Juniper’s mouth, wrestle and bribe our way through diaper changes, and try to convince her to nap in unfamiliar homes while there is clearly a party happening next door; but when the day is done the only part that remains in our memory is the good stuff.
This past summer when Juniper was cutting her first tooth she had a particularly hard night. She was crabby, awake on and off for hours, and then she was up for the day at 5:00 am. I was exhausted and counting the minutes until 8:00 when I could drop her at the sitter. And the moment I pulled out of the driveway, leaving Juniper behind, I missed her. She kept me up all night, woke me up at 5:00, and I missed her immediately. This is the whole thing in a nutshell. Love makes good stuff more powerful than the hard stuff, even when it’s mostly hard stuff. And parenthood is a crazy sort of love.
So I’ll take the chaos that would normally unnerve me completely; we’ll stress-sweat through our dress clothes and say “no thank you; hand’s aren’t for hitting” for the thousandth time, and we’ll breathe a sigh of relief as we tuck her into bed. But I guarantee you as I lay down to sleep at night, Ben and I will reminisce about the best parts of the day and I’ll be flipping through pictures and videos on my phone, already missing that little girl asleep one room over.
Pictures above from some of our 2018 Christmas traditions.Â