Ode to Winter Joy

20 Dec

By Megan Arivella

I had just climbed into bed, exhausted after completing my nightly ritual of laundry, checking on my sleeping three and six year old multiple times, helping our Elf on the Shelf find a creative location to rest for the evening and deciding if tonight would be the night to skip the rejuvenating eye cream, too tired to apply. I slid into bed trying not to wake my sleeping, yet snoring husband and turned on my I-phone to quickly check my email.

First, however, I found it necessary to enter a contest online looking for photos of your child in Mickey Mouse ears. How could I deny my family a potential trip to Disney just because it was past eleven o’clock at night? After browsing the internet I checked my email, just in case my last minute Christmas gift purchases had shipped. Instead, I saw an email from my daughter’s teacher requesting that the children bring in snow pants and boots the next day, so all children could play in the snow.

Ironically, I received a similar note in my son’s backpack from his school about sending in winter attire so he could play in the snow instead of just standing on the pavement. This request could not be ignored. There was no way that my children could be left behind in these New England winters just because I was in bed, cozy and too tired to get up to write myself a note. I gently elbowed my husband and he groggily responded with a grunt. “Honey. Could you remember to tell me to pack the kids snow pants for tomorrow?” I asked. He responded a quick and foggy, “I’ll try”. In a mother’s terms, that translated to “I have no idea what you just said and won’t really remember to write you a note in the morning or even think to send the kids with snow gear to school”. Even the best dads can slip once in a while.

I kept myself awake debating if I could take the chance in remembering the next morning and decided against it. The note was written in big letters next to the lengthy grocery list I had written for food shopping. I wasn’t taking a chance on this one and going about it from memory like usual. I seemed to always return home forgetting at least three of the items I had gone there for to begin with. Yet, I should cut myself some slack because most of the time I have at least one child with me who argues to follow next to the carriage, not in it and secretly slides in items I do not ever have intention of buying. If my daughter is with me, she will beg for the pink ride on car attached to the carriage but refuse her driver’s seat minutes later. I then get left with the squeakiest and heaviest cart in the store with wheels still covered from the snow outside. It should have its own horn just so I can honk it as I come around the narrow aisles. Then again, my screaming children tend to warn the oncoming traffic as they beg for the holiday cookies with the sprinkles.

I consider myself a traditional parent who can appreciate holiday festivities and grew up wanting to invest time in creating wonderful memories for my own children. That being said, my son’s homework tonight was a family project. In the past, school assigned family projects equal four dominant individuals trying to work together with all different ideas. Someone always ends up crying. I can’t help it if it’s me most of the time. I don’t see myself looking for perfection, but maybe some semblance of a very well done project that follows the exact guidelines, with my personal touches. But then again, this was a first grade project which asked to draw a picture and describe our holiday traditions. This should have been easy.

When we tried to brainstorm ideas, nothing seemed original. Didn’t all children put out cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeers? Our most recent afternoon of assembling gingerbread houses must count for something. I didn’t think the Advent calendars I purchased every year seem out of the ordinary except for the fact that my children were allowed to eat chocolate for 25 days straight. We most certainly could write about how we bundle up the kids for a ride in Daddy’s Polar Express Ford F-150 to peruse the neighborhoods looking for elaborate lighted houses. Yet, that was a tradition we were looking to start just this year.

Our family did not seem exceptional but could be considered dysfunctional during holiday events and very often though out the year. But, it did not seem proper to capture any of that in this first grade project. So, we settled on mentioning our Elf on the Shelf, “Elfie” who seemed to get my kids out of bed at 6 am every morning as they looked for his new location within the house. We did mention the calendar full of chocolates which might explain to the class why my son bounds into his classroom full of energy. It was important to both my children to draw a detailed picture of the four of us around the four candles held in a wreath which symbolized our religious beliefs. Our faces were drawn smiling and my husband was thrilled to be included in this work of art. Accidently, my son “ran out of time” while drawing his family at Thanksgiving dinner the month before and forgot to include his father.

Despite all of the lists, headaches after food shopping, and all of the homework that as parents we have to be part of since our children are still so young, it’s not that bad. There is joy in the winter and what may seem like no big deal to us as adults, is truly an exciting time of the year for children. Tradition or no tradition, exhaustion or cheerfulness, (thanks to my morning coffee) my resolution is to focus on goodness, the positive aspects of my life and to remember that there is a child in each of us. It’s about time that I got my sled dusted off and joined my kids outside, snow gear and all. I just first need to write myself a note.

Megan Arivella, M.Ed, is a board certified counselor and school counselor, and lives in Haverhill with her husband and two children.