Photo: These are the moments that we mothers live for. The sweet times, when toddlers aren’t beating each other up and fighting over toys. Of course, they are fleeting moments… every so fleeting. But for a few sweet moments on Christmas morning, my boys were perfect.
I apologize for not writing on Wednesday. Believe me, it was not for lack of trying. Every year, I cram way too much Christmas into Christmas. Having a young family, everyone just wants a piece of us. I cannot tell you all that we’ve been through, but I can tell you this: Ursa Major loves Christmas. The change in routine is simple invigorating for him.
Ursa Minor? Not so much.
On Christmas Day, I had a very sleepy, grumpy, overwhelmed 19 month-old in my lap screeching on and off for most of the day. It didn’t seem to matter what toy, what food, what beverage, what funny face or friendly set of arms were offered to him… he needed to be in my lap or The Husband’s lap, and he was just not a happy dude.
As a matter of fact, all of the travel and crazy that we went through did not please Ursa Minor at all. He had his moments, but as we bounced from family gathering to family gathering, missing a nap every single day but for the snatched moments in the car-seat, Ursa Minor just became more and more agitated.
Case in point? Last Sunday’s brunch with the Mill and her sisters. Not only were all of the aunties there, but so were the little cousins, and there was a lot of running and yelling and screaming. And toys going everywhere. And picking ups and hugs and kisses from strange people. And people going in and out of the house. And strange food being offered and eaten. And mommy not paying any attention and daddy trying to get the boys to do new things. Eventually, I walked into a room where my son was standing up and falling down and having a fit… sorta on purpose, but also sorta because he was totally exhausted and overwhelmed.
I got some milk into a sippy cup, picked him up, took him to the guest room, him screaming and yelling all the while. I changed his diaper, put him in the sleep sack, handed him his milk and read him his two favorite books. He gingerly drank and listened, though he could hear the other kids yelling and carrying on downstairs. When I put him in the crib, he immediately stood up and screamed “I want out!” Being a mom who has been through sleep-training twice, I soothed and laid him back down, shushed him, turned out the lights, and walked out of the room.
He screamed in an octave that I’d never heard before and then threw up. Of course.
And that freaked him out, so he screamed some more.
So I cleaned him up and the mess, while he screamed. There was a party going on downstairs, remember? So I had no help…
When I was done getting him and the room clean, I picked him up and took him to our room, which was quiet as compared to the guest room. I laid him down on our bed, closed the door and laid down myself. He gave me this look that I wish I had a picture of. It’s like his face just said an entire paragraph on his behalf. Something along the lines of “Thank you, for the love of God, I can finally rest.”
He curled up next to me, gave one big sigh, and immediately went to sleep.
He slept that way for two and a half hours.
At the time, I was thinking about the duty I’d taken on. I didn’t have my cell phone with me for entertainment and I wasn’t tired. I was praying that my husband or someone would notice that I was missing and come look for me! (Didn’t happen). Instead, it was me and this baby, like old times when he was just a little bitty thing, laying in the bed, letting time pass.
What is peace, and who gives it? Is peace something we create? Is it something that we can give to other people? Is it something that can be taken? How do we know it when we have it? Can it be sustained? Can it, as we Christians are taught, last for all eternity? Can peace be won, through the important sacrifice of a single significant soul? Can it be bought? Is it something that can only be found in the most meager of corners or lives?
My favorite pastor at our home church in Maryland, gave the sermon on Christmas Eve and he started with questions similar to these. As we read the passage from Isaiah telling the story of Jesus’ birth, who gave him a set of beautiful and poetic names, specifically “wonderful counselor” and “Prince of Peace.” My pastor started wondering about this idea of “Prince of Peace,” as we know that the world that he was born into was most certainly not peaceful, and it wasn’t peaceful during his life, and, let’s be frank, it hasn’t been peaceful since. My pastor addressed the non-believer, wondering out loud on their behalf if this idea of Jesus being able to bring “Peace on Earth” is some sort of over-sell. “It’s a legit question,” he mused with his hand on his chin.
But then he started talking about where peace lives. In the moments where the faithful tell their stories of redemption, or when they give comfort to strangers who have lost everything. He told of the peace found by the terminally ill friend who is able to state with a smile “no matter what happens, I win.” Peace, my pastor said, can always be found in the small places, the quiet places, in the places that are in plain sight but often go unnoticed. There is, indeed, peace on Earth…
So on Christmas morning, at around midnight, when Ursa Minor was up screaming again, and when he, again, wanted to be nowhere else in the world but curled up next to me in bed, I thought about the peace that each of us can give with very little effort. The small and loving acts that we perform every day that bring a little bit of peace to others. Be it the person who put a spoonful of mashed-potatoes on 300 dishes at the local food shelter during the Christmas holiday, or the mother who brought three gently-used coats to a coat drive, or the children who wrote letters to soldiers in far flung places thanking them for their service, or the nurse who read a passage from a book to the widow in the nursing home… peace reigns. Peace lives in each of us and we are often spreading peace without really thinking of it. These aren’t duties forced upon us, they aren’t even overtures done in the hopes of currying favor—these are the acts of good people doing the right thing so as to give comfort, joy, and light to others. You, dear reader, spread peace this week. Some way, somehow… even if it was just a “please” or a “thank you” or a warm and sincere smile. You, too, spread peace.
And peace is a gift. Just as those two quiet hours curled up next to a sleeping baby were a gift. (To think of all of the stress and worry that I’ve had over the course of this year… over the course of this month! What a blessing… and I didn’t even realize how wonderful it was until it was over and I was back to obligation and stuff to do.)
This is my last Quiet Thoughts post of the year, and it is quite fitting that it should be about peace. Peace, I think, is an inalienable right. Yet, it is something that is taken from people easily, either through malice or carelessness. It is something that is fragile, yet incredibly powerful when given the opportunity. It is something that should be protected above all else, in my point of view, though it is something that is elusive and probably impossible to some minds. I believe, though my faith, that peace is something that can achieved and that can endure without end. I believe, through my intellect, that peace is something that can be achieved and that can endure through the perseverance and stewardship of good men, and I believe that it can be spread beyond the privileged who have it and don’t always think about why. I believe, through this unpredictable and challenging year, that when peace can be found, it must be savored as it may not last and the hope of finding it again must remain powerful through challenging moments. Peace is fantastic motivation: to move forward, to hold the tongue, to pick up more, to keep trying, to speak up, to stay the hand…
On this Friday morning, my quiet thoughts go toward the eastern horizon and knowing that tomorrow I will move into my house. That’s right. Today is my last day as a renter. Unfortunately, my house is not ready for us, so I’ll be spending my nights and part of my days at my mom’s with the boys this week while the contractors finish up. It will be hard to be separated from my husband as he stays at the house to supervise and such, but it will be worth it. Hopefully, by this time next week, I’ll be in the house full time, unpacking.
For you, on this last Friday of 2013, I wish you peace. Whatever peace is for you, I hope that you have it for the sweetest moment. I hope that you’ll give the gift of peace to another person this weekend, too. I hope that you’ll remember that food pantries and shelters need food all year around, not just during the holidays. Or that you’ll remember that the person at the register at your grocery store or favorite fast-food joint or retail store deserves a sincere “hello” or “please” or “thank you.” I wish you a good strong cup of coffee or a pint of a good stout or a crisp glass of wine at sunset. I wish you a conversation with a long-lost friend or relative, a rogue text sorely needed or an email out of the blue. I wish you a knowing look from the love of your life, or an alluring one from someone you want to know better. I wish you the pleasure of knowing that the pressure of the holidays is over, and that the New Year is coming. And I’ll remind you: The beginning of the year is life a fresh and beautiful sunrise. Promised, perfect. I wish you a few moments this weekend to consider ways to prevent this beautiful opportunity from slipping away unnoticed. As with every Friday, I wish you love and joy.
Until Monday. Take care.