It happened one December when my children were all small, and our entire family numbered six. I can’t tell you exactly which year it was, but I do know that we lived in Illinois. Jonny was born before our first Christmas there and Rosie wouldn’t present herself until shortly after our move to Georgia, so I had just four children, and all of them very young. I’m also quite certain that David, who was serving as an Army recruiter, wasn’t home very much and I was parenting solo after a lovely three-year period of family togetherness in Germany. I was probably pretty stressed, and definitely short-tempered.
That’s why, one December morning just before Christmas, I woke up one morning with no voice.
It was one of the strangest things I’d ever experienced. There was no other illness, no pain or discomfort of any sort – just silence. The doctor said I was fine, and the children took full advantage of my inability to scold them. The inconvenience was extremely irritating, and if it was possible to get any crankier, I’m sure I managed it.
That was also the first year that Brenna and Delaney expressed an interest in getting gifts for each other. I hadn’t actually thought of it, as it wasn’t something we’d done in my family growing up, nor David in his. Christmas was about getting, not giving! But they wanted to purchase gifts for each other and so I accommodated them. On Christmas Eve, they put their gifts under the tree and went to bed, happily anticipating the morrow. Meanwhile, Davey and I put the rest of the gifts out, and Santa made an appearance, and those two little gifts got buried under the piles.
On Christmas morning, the girls came downstairs, so eager and excited. They ran to the tree and started throwing gifts aside. I thought they were looking for gifts for themselves, and I was trying my best to yell at them for their greed and rudeness, but a moment later, they emerged from beneath the tree, triumphant, holding in each of their small hands…
…the gifts they’d chosen for each other.
They were delighted. Those were the only gifts that mattered to them, and I thank God to this day that I wasn’t able to ruin that for them, and all these years later, it is still their most treasured part of Christmas.
And me? I was very much humbled that morning, and the lessons I learned have stood me in good stead:
- Find out what is actually going on before making judgements;
- There are graces to be found in the midst of every trial; and
- My children are better people than I am.
Laryngitis for the win.