Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Visit to St. Nick, and the Christmas That I'm Enduring

I had a different kid a year ago. I had a kid who I bribed to do her schoolwork. Who took every instruction, whether it be "brush your hair" or "please pick up that piece of paper from the floor" as an invitation for a fight to the death.

Who refused to visit Santa.

This year, that same kid sits down and completes all of her schoolwork every day without prompting. She has her moments, but she's a genuine help most days. She even brushes her hair!

The other kid, mind you, hit her tweens the second that she turned ten, and she's now my kid who sneaks out of her schoolwork and wanders off to play when she's given a chore.

But she's still very much a kid at heart--they both are, really--and this year, hallelujah, I was able to get them both over to Santa's couch for a nice little visit:

It was a Christmas miracle.

Of course, you can't visit Santa at the Children's Museum without doing all the other stuff at the Children's Museum, too!

I didn't realize something until we were in the dino dig pit for the thousandth time in the children's lives and a friend whom we'd met there asked me how this set-up is different from the real dino dig site. I looked around us, blinked in surprise, and said, "Huh. Not much, actually!" The experience of digging, chipping off the matrix from the fossils, is pretty similar to what it's really like to expose fossils in the field. The walls around the pit contain a 360-degree panorama of what actually does seem to be our South Dakota dig site. And outside the dig pit is a wall with more fossils to chip out, and those fossils are embedded into a bank that is just about identical to the actual bank that we actually dug actual fossils out of!

Every Christmas, and again in February, the museum transforms its stairway into a slide!

Last year, one of these kids would NOT ice skate on the pond.

This year, however?
Yeah, she seemed to feel okay about letting loose.
 This one's always okay with letting loose!

I'm not going to lie--this Christmas is hard. I feel guilty every time I mention how hard this year as a whole has been for me, because there have also been so many amazing and wonderful things. I mean, how petty does someone have to be to call a year in which they went on a cruise to Alaska "hard"? It feels gross to call it such. Babies are dying in Aleppo. I'm lucky and I know it.

And yet... this year has been hard. This Christmas is hard. Not even a minute ago, in response to something casually cruel that Will said (despite her attitude change, she *is* still a tween...), I looked up from this computer and said to her, "I'm not going to tell you that you can't feel the way that you do, because you can, but I will tell you that you're feeling that way because you're immature. I would give so much to be able to see my grandparents again, and one day, when you're more mature and it's too late, you're going to feel the exact same way."

The last time that I saw my grandfather was last Christmas.

So I'm really not trying to make this "the best Christmas ever" or any of that other crap. I'm just trying to get through it. I'm putting on my game face as well as the holiday music. I'm faking it until I make it. I'm doing all of the other cliches that describe what you do when you need to make something great for your kids while you, yourself, are feeling deeply sad.

It's a fortunate thing, though, that when you deliberately try to give happiness to your kids, they have a tendency, the little ice skaters and Santa's lap sitters and pretend dino diggers, to give it right back to you.

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