We’re flying home today after a month of visiting both sets of parents. Being in my mom’s home over the holidays was particularly evocative of Christmas memories from my childhood… I’m T’s age, standing on a chair in an oversized apron with my little brothers clamoring behind me for a lick of the beaters… We’re rolling the dough out on our round kitchen table, my mom using firm, quick strokes to get it to just the right size… Someone sticks a cookie cutter right in the middle of the pat, prompting a gently exasperated lecture on how we need to cut close to the side to get more cookies out of a rolling… We’re out of cooling racks, so my mom cuts up a paper bag and keeps pulling cookies out of the oven until our counters are completely covered with cookies… It’s nighttime, Daddy is home, and we’ve cleared dinner off the table and are settling down to frost and decorate (and snitch when no one is looking)…
Every Christmas we had homemade cut-out cookies, decorated by hand. As a child, it was one of those satisfying, dependable traditions necessary for a complete Christmas season. As a mom myself, I have to gear up for the mess of rolling out, cutting out, baking, frosting, and decorating cookies with little helpers on a sugar high. But I don’t remember the mess or the chaos in my own childhood. I remember the quality time with my mom and the anticipation of doing it all again next year.
My parents established so many wonderful traditions in our childhood, and my kids got to experience many of them this year: hot cocoa after sledding, cuddling up in blankets around the fire and reading The Long Winter on a cold winter afternoon, singing Christmas carols around the piano. I had a beautiful childhood, and I took it for granted.
As a stay-at-home mom, I put a lot of thought and energy into the day-to-day routines of our family life as well as the special seasonal traditions that we love. Much of my work is unseen–I don’t get a positive performance review for making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the 77th day in a row! And the extra efforts, like packing a picnic lunch to take to the park on a sunny day, or baking Christmas cookies together, or making paper snowflakes (and sweeping up tiny pieces of paper for the next week) are usually taken for granted by my kids. It’s rare that they will thank me for going to the trouble of enriching their childhood, but I don’t anticipate that they’ll even realize the depth and breadth of my work in their lives until they’re much older. As Bethany wrote last spring, part of my work is teaching them to express gratitude, and we’re working on that. At the same time, I’ve chosen to be grateful that, like my mom was for my brothers and me, I’m able to be such a constant in their lives that they don’t think twice about it.
Has motherhood made you realize aspects of your childhood that you took for granted?