We hosted family Christmas this past weekend, and when I wasn’t scrubbing my house from top to bottom and fussing over a turkey and dressing and a last minute chocolate cake crock pot recipe I just had to try, I was worrying. About everything. Would my brother’s girlfriend’s daughter like her present? Would my mother-in-law realize I was truly incompetent in the kitchen? Would Miss E survive the hours of over-stimulation only the holidays can provide?
My daughter cried for 45 minutes before my in-laws even arrived, which is an uncharacteristic amount of crabbiness for my sweet-tempered girl. And she didn’t stop. The dressing went into the oven late. The pretty spread I’d planned was laid out by other hands while I whipped the cake together, stopping every 40 seconds or so to check on Miss E, who’d finally gone down for a nap after my mother-in-law sang her to sleep.
During dinner I cried to my dad that I was sorry he couldn’t see his granddaughter in better spirits, hardly tasting the sweet potatoes I’d promised him Miss E could try next year. When it came time to open presents she was feeling better, but I tied my nerves into even more spectacular knots as the battery-operated toys she’d been gifted for Christmas piled up in front of me. I felt helpless and tired and a victim of my own crippling expectations.
But I’m not a victim. I’m a selfish idiot. There are 20 (more) children who won’t be spending the holidays with their families this year, and 6 (more) daughters, sisters and mothers whose chairs will be empty. I’m ashamed of myself when I think of them, of their families. Every year I let myself get tangled up in all of the things that don’t matter, even this one, our first Christmas plus baby. My husband and I had looked forward to this so secretly when we knew we’d have a little one and no one else did yet. And if I screwed it up, it wasn’t because no one ate any veggies from the veggie tray.
What really matters? We’re healthy. We’re loved. And we were together.