I’ve been thinking a bit about Mary over the last week or so. You know, Mary… as in the “Virgin Mary”, “Mother of God”, the one who gave birth to Jesus. She is the mother in the Christmas story, so I thought we should take a moment to think about the world’s most famous mum.
My sister gave birth last week. I was reminded of just how scary and traumatic childbirth can be. Even though the Christmas Carols like Silent Night and Away in a Manger make out as though the first Christmas was an idyllic nirvana of peace and tranquility, with cattle gently lowing over a sleeping baby Jesus, the reality is that Jesus’ entry into the world is likely to have been anything but peaceful.
Let’s just think about what that night would have really been like for Mary.
She was most likely a young girl of 14 or 15. She’d just traveled all day to Bethlehem and she’s camped under the house with the animals, about to give birth for the first time – with no epidural, no gas, no heat pack, maybe not even anyone to help her deliver the baby. Then, as if his safe arrival into the world isn’t enough of a miracle, she has to figure out how to look after this baby! (It’s not as though she had a breastfeeding DVD with little animations demonstrating correct attachment techniques and five different positions for burping.) So whether she had an angel telling her to chill out or not, I doubt Mary was feeling completely peaceful. (If you want to get a sense of what it might have been like there’s a great childbirth scene in the movie Children of Men that pretty much nails it.)
Then, just as her second degree tears are healing up and she’s getting used to feeding every three hours, cooking Joseph’s dinner with her one free arm, and functioning on four hours’ sleep a night, a rumour gets around to King Herrod that a new king has been born in Bethlehem. So Herrod orders that every infant under the age of one be killed. So Mary and Joseph pack their bags again, pick up their newborn and hike over to Egypt to get away from the crazy King. So not only was Mary a new Mum at 14, she was also a refugee, living in a foreign land. And on top of that, she’s got this added anxiety that this child is going to be someone really special. So every time he gets a temperature or a runny nose she’s going to be thinking, “Well, you better get better.” I mean that girl was under some serious pressure. But she did what she had to do to protect her son, to nuture him and shape him into the man he turned out to be. Only to watch him die thirty years later.
So whether you believe in the virgin birth or not, it’s not so hard to see a miracle in that first Christmas. And it’s not difficult to understand why Mary, the mum of Jesus, is still revered 2000 years on. Good on ya, Mum. And Merry Christmas.
We went to our first ever community Christmas Carols this week. In spite of the fact that my hair was set on fire by Santas beard when I was about five, I have great memories of Carols by Candlelight, so I was keen to subject Birdy to bad singing and local primary school concert bands (Ouch – painful!).
Sadly it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The concert bands were as bad as I expected, but there were no candles (maybe because they’re a fire hazard), nobody joined in the singing, the fireworks didn’t go off (because it was too windy), and worst of all, kids kept getting lost all night.
If you can picture this you’ll understand why: There were a couple of thousand people packed onto a big oval, with no thoroughfares. Trying to get through the crowd was like trying to part the Red Sea. Then suddenly, it got dark and parents couldn’t see their kids any more. (I have my suspicions that some of the parents may have sipped just one too many glasses of champagne with their gourmet picnics.) I saw one little toddler running around crying for her mummy. I ended up following her around for about five minutes until she found her mum. I met another mother whose daughter was missing for 40 minutes, and there was also an hysterical little girl on stage who couldn’t find her parents. Not the most relaxing way to spend an evening.
Fortunately, I didn’t lose my child, (her not being a crowd-lover has its benefits), but Birdy was quite upset by seeing so many kids who had lost their Mums. It had obviously never occurred to her before that she could lose her Mum, and when we got home she kept asking me “Why did the little kids lose their Mummy’s?” So I explained that they had been playing and then it had suddenly got dark. “Yes but why didn’t they stay with their Mummy’s?” she wanted to know. “I stayed with my Mummy.”
Anyway, it’s come in quite handy when we’ve gone Christmas shopping this week. All I have to do is say, “Stay close to Mummy so you don’t get lost,” and now she actually knows what I’m talking about.
I’m pretty sure that all the lost kids got found again by the end of the night, but if you’re going to carols in the next few weeks and you want to save yourself some stress, I’ve got a few tips for you. 1) Choose a spot to sit in that’s easily recognisable for your kids (Like outside the ice-cream van) and stay there 2) Arrange an alternative meeting spot in case they get lost! And 3) Make sure you regroup before it gets dark!
Have you ever lost one of your children? Or do you remember being lost as a child? What happened? What strategies do you have for keeping your kids close in a crowd? Have you had any disasters at Carols by Candlelight? (Other than disastrous singing.)
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For the last few days, hubby has been telling me that Birdy has decided what she wants to buy me for Christmas. He’s been telling her repeatedly not to tell me and trying to explain to her that she has to keep it a secret.
Fortunately, there’s a Charlie and Lola episode that follows the same theme. Lola knows what Charlie’s birthday suprise is, and Charlie spends the whole episode trying to stop Lola from telling him the secret, so the surprise won’t be ruined. “It’s just like on Charlie and Lola,” Daddy’s been patiently explaining. “You can’t tell Mummy what you’re giving her for Christmas. It’s a surprise.”
So yesterday I dropped Daddy and Birdy at our local shopping centre to do the deed. Birdy was excited. She was trying so hard to hold it in. But just before we arrived at the shops, she blurted out, “We’re going to buy you some new pajamas, Mum.”
“Oh, Birdy! You’re not supposed to tell. It’s meant to be a surprise. Don’t say anything else.”
“They are going to be purple, Mum.”
So much for surprises. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts.
“Well that would be lovely, Birdy. I love purple pajamas.”
I just hope she doesn’t actually show them to me before Christmas.
We’ve had a very sad week. Our beautiful dog, Henri the Husky, died on Monday. He was fourteen, which is old for a Husky, but he’s been with my husband and I ever since we met, so it’s unthinkable that we won’t have him around any more.
On Monday morning, we were woken by the phone ringing. It was a neighbour saying they could hear Henri crying near their back fence. When we got outside we found him lying in a corner, unable to move, having great difficulty breathing and very swollen around the stomach. As soon as I saw him, I burst into tears because I knew that this was probably the end. It was quite stressful, seeing him in so much pain, waiting for the vet to open and trying to figure out how to move him, because my husband is on crutches. Thankfully, I was able to get a friend who lives nearby to help me stretcher Henri onto a blanket and carry him to the car. By the time we finally got to the vet, Henri had gone into shock, lost consciousness and he died a couple of hours later.
Naturally Birdy was pretty upset because Henri was a huge part of her life. We let her say goodbye to him after he died, but she just kept asking, “Why are we leaving Henri there, Mum?” She also kept saying, “I really love my old dog.” It was like she just wanted us all to acknowledge that he was special to her. All that day, she kept trying to find ways to express her emotions and her confusion. She asked me if Henri would get better after they put him in the hole in the ground. And she asked my husband whether Henri would be walking ‘where I’m dreaming’. Later that night, when I was out at a function, she just cried and cried and cried. But every time she cried, she’d make my husband cry more and vice versa. At least they were able to grieve together.
I think because we didn’t have a burial or receive any ashes, she’s really struggling to work out where Henri physically is now. And we’re finding it very difficult to answer her questions in a way that’s honest, but not distressing for her. We didn’t want to tell her he’s in doggy heaven, because… well… there’s probably no such thing. One tactic that worked quite well was when she said she wanted to see Henri again and I explained to her that she could still see him in her mind. Then I described to her some of the things they used to do together and asked her if she could see him in her mind. “Yes I can,” she replied. It seemed to give her some comfort to realize she could summon him on command in her minds-eye.
Several people have asked me if we’ll get another dog. I don’t think so. At least not for a while. When you’ve had the best dog in the world, well… you just can’t replace them.
Has your family ever lost a much-loved pet? What happened? How did you explain it to your children? How did they react? Did you get a replacement pet?
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