Christmas Spirit

The book, The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary  has made something blatantly clear to me and that is, I am a long way from being a conscious parent.
I am particularly unconscious once I become frustrated, or experience fear, or an old buried hurt of mine becomes reactivated by something happening in real time.

It is really interesting.
If it were not my own life, I might even be entertained by just how interesting it is.
But it is my life and when I become so unconscious that I end up shaking and slapping my teenaged daughter on Christmas eve--I know that this is not entertaining.

I lost it a few hours before Christmas mass on the 24th.

But first, let me backtrack.
I often allude to my dysfunctional family of origin, however when I was growing up, Christmas brought out the best in us.
Not only was I wowed by the idea of Santa Claus but growing up in a large family (nine kids + 2 parents) we were somehow trained to be thoughtful of each other.
We practiced Kris Kringle, where in the beginning of the Christmas season we would draw one name and secretly give notes and little treats daily to our "baby" until the big reveal on Christmas day.
For Christmas, each one of us would save up and use all our money to shower gifts on each other.
We were not wealthy...so were not wading in excess during the holiday, and we truly found joy in sacrificing for each other. (At least that is how I remember it.)

In the house I grew up in, Christmas was meaningful.
From Santa we got one special thing, from our parents, usually one item of clothing,
from each other, something small but thoughtful.
It was nice.
Food was simple but we enjoyed our Christmas staples.

(Today we still joke about the tins of hard candy--lemon drops--our mom would purchase for all of our school gift exchange needs--we used to get anxious that whomever drew ours would hate it)

Here I am today, a grown woman, mother to two teenagers.
I experience agitation and hyper sensitivity to self indulgent behavior and thoughtlessness.
Trying to duplicate the warm and fuzzy feeling of Christmas I had growing up, I instituted 'Secret Santa' not only for my side of the family but for Steve's as well.
The more uncooperative my children were about helping me replicate thoughtfulness, the angrier I got...until the unpleasantness came to a head on the 24th.

Miraculously, we made up in time for mass and by the time we started our tradition of visiting friends and celebrating Christmas by ourselves close to midnight.

The next day, the 25th, Steve woke up with the flu.
So the girls and I left him home alone on Christmas day to be ill in peace--and we made the drive to visit Steve's family, who gathered at his parents' place 75 miles away.
We had a nice Christmas meal and did our Secret Santa which was mostly a pleasant experience.
My bro-in-law Tim drew me--and I loved how he playfully put a lot of creative thought and effort into my gift.
That to me, is the spirit of Christmas.
I loved it.

Unfortunately there was one unpleasant exchange that happened and I will write down the lessons I learned from it:

1. People who are angry, tend to invite anger directed at them. (I think I carried residual anger from the previous day--and also maybe I was resentful that Steve was sick on Christmas day)
2. Things that make us angry today are not really about what is happening in real time. It is usually about an unhealed hurt from when we were young. When D snarked about something I got her, I think I was reverted back to my young-shamed-tin-of-lemon-drops-gifting-self.
3. We can use these present day triggers to heal our past by identifying its root--and gripping it tightly in our hearts, allowing ourselves to fully feel it, before letting it go.
4. Angry adults, were hurt children. (but they don't have to be. See #3)
5. Understanding someone's pain, does not mean not setting up boundaries.

The book, The Conscious Parent, is not only changing how I view parenting but it is also changing me as a person.
Granted that I am far from being constantly conscious, I am definitely becoming rapidly aware when I am unconscious--and my teen agers, they don't let me forget it either.
Such is life.
I am a work in progress.