Last week after preschool pick up I took a deep breath and schlepped all three kids into the grocery store to buy a brisket. I was wearing the baby, had my 2-year-old in the cart, and let my 4-year-old walk (three minutes into him wandering off to eat raw green beans, he was relocated to the back of the cart). I got all the way to customer service only to realize I left the receipt for an item I needed to return in the car. So I went back and forth shaking off the frazzle and wandered through the aisles trying to remember my list amongst the boys hitting each other and the baby fussing.
At the check out counter, I was working really hard to not let it get to me. To not spend my time wondering if passersby were judging me for the circus that is my life. And instead of hushing and shaming my kids, I told myself everything they were doing was completely age-appropriate, and it was my choice to take them into a grocery store at naptime o’clock. Somehow the honest truth was calming enough for me to smile and wish the cashier a happy holiday.
As I was leaving a woman approached me with a smile on her face and she said this, “I just wanted to tell you, I am a Mama too and you are doing such a great job. I just bought some c-a-n-d-y canes; would it be OK if I gave them to your boys? If not it’s totally fine. I just wanted you to know I’m so impressed.”
I declined the candy, because giving them sugar just seemed like the worst possible idea, but I smiled and thanked her. Her kind words made my day.
Over a year ago I wrote about encouraging one another in our parenting journey. #YouAreAGoodMama is forever my credo to other women. Over the last year we added a feisty but adorable daughter to the mix, and my two hands have never felt fuller. But the one thing I’ve noticed since adding a third child is that almost every time I am out with all three kids, someone tells me I am a good Mama. My proverbial bucket has been filled by strangers more times than I can count, and it always comes when I need to hear it most.
And this week, I needed to hear it. We all need to hear it.
No matter what faith you are, “the holidays” are just days, nights, and minutes unless someone makes them magical. Mamas and Daddies are hanging lights, frying latkes, and positioning elves (and mensches?) in mischievous scenarios. We’re buying craft supplies and agonizing over our budget to squeeze in one last wish. We are using every last space in our mind and minute of our day making magic for our kids. We are standing in lines, and drinking extra coffee, and powering through a sinus infection because we love the crap out of our kids, and we want nothing more than to see their eyes twinkle with happiness.
Being the magic maker is hard. You are carrying the burdens of the year on your shoulder. The loss of a child, a job, a mother; newly divorced and wondering how you are going to make it as a single parent. Those burdens and more are swirling around in your mind, all the while needing to place a smile on your face for your kids.
There is no extra time built into your week full of laundry, lunches, and homework for all of the planning required to turn an ordinary day into a magical memory. There is no medal or prize. Pinterest doesn’t jump through your computer with a congratulatory hug for the popsicle stick menorah craft you pulled off with 16 4-year-olds. The snowman-shaped pancakes don’t give a standing ovation when you plate them up.
We live for the slightest chance that our kids will remember this magic. They might clap for five seconds. Eat one bite. Throw them on the floor and ask for cereal. And you will probably make them again because when your kid grows up, she will have children of her own and at winter’s first snowfall, she’ll remember the magic you made and say this, “My Mama used to make me snowman-shaped pancakes just like these when I was a little girl.”
December is a time for hustle and bustle but if we really look and listen, we can see the magic being made. Watch for those Mamas with busy hands and hearts full; tell them what you see.
This Hanukkah we lit candles for the miracle that happened when one night’s worth of oil burned for eight days. Let’s hope that tiny bit of oil fuels every Mama out there these next few weeks. You are making magic. You are a good Mama.