First Santa and Now this

MY FRIEND’S SON, upon learning about the indelicacies of procreation, put his head into his hands and said, “This is too much. First Santa and now this!”If I had been there I’m not sure how I would have handled that angst. I probably would have nodded and said, “I feel your pain bro.”

“Then my 14-year-old Meggie and 16-year-old Julie would have cringed in embarrassment.

“Bro? God, mom.”

Seems like most things I do embarrass my girls, “This letter, my—god forbid— dancing, and my too-loud laugh during movies. So I might tend to agree with my friend’s son who, at a young age, was beginning to see what growing up was all about. First, learning to read, then learning to read Spanish. First friends, then friends that are girls. First middle school, then the gauntlet of high school.

I hope, if I’d been there, I would have reassured him that “things” don’t always go from bad to worse. In most cases, if you look closely enough there is good that comes from life’s inevitable changes. First adorable babies, now interesting teens. First clueless innocence, now balanced intelligence. First, new job, now successful career, “That’s really what my mother knew when she said to me growing up, “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all this minute.”

She knew life was about tradeoffs.

Her memory, tricked by dementia, is like old Velcro; worn out and unreliable. I think if she could remember her lessons from the past she’d humbly say she got it right for her era. She gave up an early career for family and later career success. She gave up her independence early to a man who has now devoted his life to give her independence, and she took the time to teach her children about love so that later their own families would feel that same love. I’m so grateful for her tradeoffs that it often takes my breath away.

Getting back to my friend’s son, I’ve always wondered if the immaculate conception part of the Christmas story is the church’s dodge so that there’ll never be a messy conversation about private parts and family matters. Now I’m thinking it’s just another way of talking about the tradeoffs of life. First, magical thinking and then the magic of giving. First, celebrations being all about gifts then understanding it’s about connecting with loved ones—the latter is so much longer lasting, so much more the-gift-that-keeps-on-giving.

So, if given the chance, I’d say to children understanding their first tough tradeoffs in life, “Yep that’s how it goes. But chin-up because first it’s Santa, and now this!”

– Ann Garvin

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