I spent half of today griping at my kids and the other half putting up the Christmas tree with them. The two activities may have bled into one another. Decorating for Christmas does not put me in a good mood; I would rather not put up a tree at all. The way I see it, it’s just more stuff for me to clean up.
Before we had kids we usually traveled for Christmas, so we didn’t even own a tree. The tree we have now we bought when our firstborn was a baby, because these are the things we do for our children. So today, I am thankful for motherhood.
I am not the same person I was before I had my babies. I wasn’t a bad person then. I’m not a saint now. But having these small people in my life has definitely made me a better person. Until I was responsible for an infant I was not so aware of every single decision I made. Up to that point, I was the only one who had to pay the consequences of any decision. Once I was The Mom, everything I did carried so much more weight. My child became a mirror to everything I said or did, and anything I planned to say or do.
Much like when I started my relationship with my husband and wanted to be a better person to make him proud, I also want to be a better person for my children so they see me as a positive role model. I want to make the best decisions for them so they have the tools they need to succeed in life. My hope is they have a happy childhood to reflect upon when they are adults, and one from which they feel like they have learned valuable lessons.
But every time my 8-year-old responds in a smart aleck way, I see myself. I see that I need to watch what I say around her and make sure she understands there is a time and place when that language is appropriate (and a time and place when it’s not). When my 4-year-old starts goofing off a little too much, I see myself. I see that I need to let her know that silliness is not OK when work needs to be done. When the girls fight with each other, I see myself. I see that they say things to each other that I say to them and I remind them that they are not The Mom.
I see myself in the things they say and do, but I also examine my world view against theirs. For example, I despise our Elf on the Shelf. I had a whole plan for him to send a goodbye letter to them this year and that would be that. But tonight, as she was getting ready for bed, my oldest says, “I hope the elf comes again this year. It’s fun.” And I died. And changed my plans to off the elf.
Because these are the things we do for our children.
Today I am thankful for motherhood and all the ways it’s changed me. Even if that means the elf stays.