As I stood at the kitchen sink, I caught bits and pieces of my husband’s conversation with his mom. She’d called minutes before, and with a sinking feeling, I was pretty sure I knew why. With good reason, our plans for Thanksgiving needed to change. I sighed as I thought of the cancelled plans and the missed opportunity for my kids to see their cousins – who are really more like their best friends. Beyond the disappointment of missing Thanksgiving with extended family, I dreaded delivering the bad news to my kids.
Like so many of us in this season of COVID, as parents, we’ve been the deliverers of more difficult news this year than we’d like to give our kids in their entire childhoods. And I’m not just talking about cancelled plans and other heartaches, but sometimes deep, devastating loss.
And so I did what any brave mother would do. I asked my husband to be the bearer of bad news this time.
Okay, okay, so I chickened out on this round of tough conversations. But I was in the room for it, and unexpectedly, I received my first gift of the Christmas season.
You see, as my husband carefully delivered the news about our cancelled Thanksgiving plans, I closely watched the faces of each of my three children. And as I studied their faces, yes, I did see pain in their eyes. And I did see disappointment flash across their brows. But those emotions were replaced with other feelings far sooner than I expected.
There it was, this shining Christmas gift, in spite of so much hardship and loss in these past eight months.
My kids expressed sadness at not seeing their cousins. They expressed understanding that it was necessary to follow the rules and keep case counts low so the hospitals could help sick people.
And then they pivoted.
“I bet we can make a good Thanksgiving meal here!”
“Do you think we could pick out some movies to watch during our break?”
“Let’s send cards to our family we won’t be able to see!”
It brings tears to my eyes just remembering their response, because, through all that has happened this year, my children have been built into sturdier vessels.
They have become children who aren’t afraid to express their feelings out loud. They are children who are learning, alongside their parents, to find means of lasting hope and refreshment in the midst of a draining season, whether that’s going for a walk, snuggling on the couch, praying, reading a good book, calling a friend, or serving someone else.
Their character, my character, has become more empathetic and thoughtful. We’ve been tempted time and again to self-pity and self-indulgence and keep stumbling toward the better ways of gratitude and generosity.
We pivot when our plans change. We fight for joy. We cling with a white-knuckled grip to hope.
By the grace of God, we are resilient.
To quote a wise friend, “Your children will be shaped by this year, but they won’t be scarred.” Yes, my family has been changed forever by the events of this year. But we won’t be broken.
To those of you who are hurting right now, my heart is with you. I’m praying for you. And I hope that you, too, will get to see unexpected gifts in your children and family this Christmas season.
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