It was our first Christmas with just one little in the house. All our teenagers have begun their own way in the world, but we were looking forward to having them all home for the holidays. What parent doesn't dream of having all their kids under the same roof, re-establishing the level of noise, traffic, and hunger to which we gradually become accustomed during 18+ years of raising humans?!
It became evident to me early on that our daughter would struggle this season. With severe anxiety and OCD, she "peoples out" quickly. I try to follow her lead with regards to how often she visits, how many people will be present, etc. I also try to ensure there is a quiet space provided for her to get away, and check in often if she needs to step away or is ready to go back to her own little home. Still, a mother has to try to include her girl in Christmas celebrations.
The starving student was first to arrive home for the holidays, bringing his adorable other half with him. They settled in easily, and presented their plans for the next few days. We found that celebrations with her family coincided easily with our plans, so neither of them would miss anything.
Next came the mancub, with his other half. She is also precious; together they are the picture of young love. They bring the humour and spontaneity I often wish for, as it seems to have disappeared over the years in my own marriage. Their plans lined up easily with ours as well, and I was pleased that the coming and going provided times of rest for the girl who desperately needed to feel loved this season.
I found it was a balancing act: sharing in the excitement of the 5-yr-old, listening to the hopes and dreams of the young adults, entertaining and just being present. Emotions can quickly become a roller coaster, and the serenity can turn to senility if you let yourself worry about every. little. thing. Somehow, we found our way through Christmas Day with no arguments or tears ... save the girl whose significant other refused to show up.
For the first time this year, I had completed an online Advent Bible Study with the ladies from my church. I truly believe it prepared my heart for all that Christmas would bring this year. It is strange to welcome one's grown-and-flown children through the door and realize they feel like guests here. It is fun to realize we can be friends with them now; our days of effective parenting - for them, at least - are over. It is amazing to observe their choice of life partners, and to watch all the personalities mesh. For me, the best part of the day was watching them all sit tightly together on our couch/floor and catching up on each other's lives since the start of the school year.
We have worked hard to get to this day. I have worried myself sick that my teenagers fought so badly they would never keep in touch after leaving home. I see now how needless that was; they are doing fine. The siblings who live close often have supper or attend hockey games together; sometimes they pair up for a road trip to see the one who lives away. There is a generalized belief that the middle child of any family is neglected, so it is especially delightful to see that our middle boy appears to be the "glue" of their circle, always knowing what is happening in everyone's world. My heart actually swells with pride, watching them all do life together, even from a distance.
At the end of the day, I sank into bed with the 5-yr-old. I was exhausted, the child not so much. I couldn't shake the image of the tears in my daughter's eyes as she prepared to leave. Showing me the last text message received from her boyfriend, the hurt gleamed in her eyes. She just wanted to be worth the effort. And she deserves that much, and so much more! So I played the mom card.
"Immanuel, Jesus Christ, You'll never let me go;
My Shepherd King, You're watching over me - Immanuel."
The words rang out clear from the YouTube video on my phone, and I began to pray. That Immanuel, God with us, would come and be with my girl. That she would sense her Prince of Peace holding her heart and know her worth. That God, who fashioned her in His image, would allow her to see her own true beauty. That as His love shines on her, it begins to show as a twinkle in her eye. And there in the moonlight, Immanuel showed up. The 5-yr-old fell to a sound sleep, and my own heart was quieted.
I spoke with my girlie today. She sounds much better after a good night's rest. We laughed at how Jordan is dating a girl who started as his brother's best friend, and Zach is dating a girl who started as Michaela's best friend. Perhaps she should examine her brothers' friends and choose someone who already works well in their circle, we said with a laugh. And then we discussed the possibility of her coming home for a (shorter) visit today. With all the boys and all the noise. And Immanuel.
I am so grateful for all this season has taught me! Immanuel - God is with us. Cheering our success, correcting our mistakes, and sitting with us in sadness. We cannot escape His grip ... but who would want to?! The hands that hold the world, hold my world together ... and my heart sings. "Immanuel ..."