I have been working really hard at being upbeat and positive this Christmas. I consciously remind myself of the wonderful things in my life – amazing kids, great friends, a rewarding job, an amazing community, etc. I don’t want to whine. I certainly don’t wish to have others internally groan and roll their eyes if I talk about how lame the holidays are as an only parent or a widow. I keep beating myself over the head with intentions of positivity and quotes about gratitude. I very often feel that I have reached the lauded grieving stage of “acceptance”.
But sometimes, just sometimes, I feel myself thinking, “This sh*t blows.”
I had one of these moments yesterday as I raced to my kid’s Christmas concert at school. Parking was terrible and as I ran down the road I could see pairs of other parents converging on the school together.
Inside the gym, I grinned maniacally at my kids trying to instill the feelings of “Mom, is so proud!” “You’re doing great!”
Briar stared back woodenly dressed in a floral apron whilst limply holding a large spoon. He was surrounded by numerous other five year olds who sang about Christmas baking and cookies for Santa. His look implied that he was truly annoyed to be forced on-stage with all the tres eager little girls singing their hearts out and shell-shocked little boys who mouthed the words quietly. Jeff would have laughed hysterically at the expression.
Liv looked so tiny sandwiched between two enormous classmates. Her little mouth framed each word perfectly and I felt that I could hear her voice clear above all others in the gymnasium. My eyes started to well thinking about the pride Jeff would have felt watching her long and gangling little arms act out the required motions to the obscure carol her class sang.
All around me parents stood together giggling at their children’s antics and video taping the show for later viewing. Some held hands and others took turns holding babies or getting cups of hot chocolate from the treat table for each other.
I know there were other “single” parents in the crowd….but at that moment, I could only see all the lovey Hallmark card families….And it made me want to spontaneously cry and spit on them.
I was afraid the kids would witness my melt down so I attempted to distract myself by getting Briar to smile. As I watched him stare back at me with a look that imparted his immense displeasure, I covertly administered bunny ears to the father standing against the wall beside me. I stuck out my tongue. I pretended to pick my nose. Nothing worked and I worried that he possibly was looking around and noticing, as I had, all the perfect sets of parents filling so many of the seats.
When time came for me to deek out the side door and head to work, I waved to Liv and mouthed “I love you the whole pie”.
As I ran up the hill back to my car, I had tears streaming down my face. It broke my heart to be the only parent witnessing my kiddos triumphs and insecurities. I hated, in that moment, those Christmas joy-filled parents and all that their togetherness represented.
I realize that, to my children, this is the life that they lead. That this is the one that Briar has really ever known and, that to Liv, it is now normal. But I felt angered and horrifically saddened by this.
I don’t want to be the ONLY one who loves them ferociously. I am sick of being the one who has to think up stories to bolster Briar’s belief of Santa when he comes home from kindergarten saying that a bigger kid told him that the man in the red suit is all a lie. I feel the injustice of having to decide on my own whether “re-belief” is the stance to take or not on my own. I don’t want to attend this shit alone.
And amid all this un-advanced grief, I know that I need to just accept that this is how life is now. That no amount of railing against Jeff’s death will fix it. But right now, I just want to cry and stomp my feet instead. Maybe tomorrow I will choose to force myself into positivity again….But right now, this shit sucks.