January 24, 2015 Kami Velasquez
As the mother of six and grandmother of three, Christmas has been wonderful on so many levels throughout my life, but has also usually meant an immense amount of stress and extra work. When my youngest two, who are now nearly 18 and 20, were still nursing, my Santa work tired me out so utterly that Christmas mornings I felt like I needed toothpicks to hold my eyelids up. I couldn’t tolerate caffeine back in those days, not to mention the fact that it can pass through the milk and affect the milk supply.
One of the reasons I would end up so exhausted on these special mornings was that my biggest character defects is my perfectionism. I also had troubles delegating household chores. And when my kids did their chores, I frequently did quite a bit of touch up work afterwards, not realizing how self-defeating that is. It also makes the kids figure it’s pointless to even bother, if their mom is just going to do it over anyway.I excused my behavior by thinking I was giving my kids the gift of growing up with the time and freedom to be kids, participate in extracurricular activities, and play. I see now that this was a control issue. It was also because I wanted my kids to have the opposite sort of childhood than me when it came to chores.
But we did have many great times, sleepovers were frequent and fun, with my two babies enchanting my then 9 year old daughter and her friends. The friends of my then teenage sons enjoyed seeing my little boys as well. Babies have a way of enchanting everyone they meet. I had trouble saying no to requests for sleepovers, and even though I worked myself to exhaustion, I have always loved being a mom. Except for a few moments here and there, on those days where nothing seems to go right. But then that always passes.
My now ex-husband and I practised attachment parenting with my youngesttwo babies and found that quite rewarding, albeit it tiring at times. This may have also contributed to my Christmas Eve dilemmas. And at the time, I had taken a break from medical transcription and was just being a stay at home mom. I literally attempted to do everything for everyone. My oldest was already 20 years old when my youngest was born, so she had already moved out, but she still lived nearby, so naturally spent Christmas with us. Back in those days, I never had enough energy to take any family pictures. After working so hard to help pull things all together, I myself was barely holding it together. So regardless of how awesome those times were for the kids and how adorable they were and how rewarding their excitement was, I am relieved to be in a new phase now.
My oldest daughter made me a grandma two years after my youngest was born and has been the only one to become a parent so far. Her youngest, Loralai, is know 5 years old, and is sitting on my lap in the above picture. My 29-year-old son is sitting next to me, my two grandsons, ages 15 and 12, are in the background. This was taken on Christmas Eve, and the happy and relaxed look on my face is a reflection of how much more peaceful the holidays have become for me now that nearly all my kids are grown. For the first time in my life, I actually am the only adult on my lease. None of my kids live with me, but most live nearby and I see one or more of them pretty much every day. My youngest is absolutely wonderful and happens to be a star on the high school varsity football team. I also have a boyfriend of nearly three years who visits many times a week. His family lives out of state, so he was with them for this holiday. He has four grown kids of his own, plus six grandkids, so together we have a huge tribe! And that’s not to mention the stepkids we have helped raise along the way. We both have a certain way with people and are blessed to have found each other. Love is grand! We both love and are loved by many people and both have full lives, which makes the time we spend together ever more wonderful, because we are both hole and therefore not broken when we have to spend a few days apart. A few weeks is hard, though.
This last year may be the last Christmas all of my kids and grandkids and I are able to gather together for many years to come, so I treasured every moment, even the time out one of the young adults had to take when communication between a few of them got tangled and some feelings were temporarily hurt, but they all sorted it out. I was gifted with the role of being detached yet loving peacemaker. Focusing on Loralai’s excitement pulled us all together. The young boys are now too cool for jumping with glee and oohing and ahhing over their gifts. They do smile and their eyes twinkle and they do express their gratitude. Loralai shrieks with her enthusiasm and begins playing with her treasures right away.
I did still spend a decent amount of time buying and wrapping presents, decorating, cooking part of Christmas dinner (which we ate at my oldest daughter’s house on Christmas Eve so that we can kick back on Christmas day, my grandkids wake up and open presents at her house and then come to my house where all the rest of my kids come to exchange gifts. But now the pressure has lessened by at least 75%. No wrapping all night long anymore. No spending all night assembling bicycles. Instead, there is more time for enjoying our rituals. We have a family tradition of opening one gift each on Christmas Eve. I also love to read the story of the birth of Jesus from The Book of Luke and sing a few a Christmas songs.
I think my mom came up with the early present opening to help calm my siblings and me down, or perhaps it was because she couldn’t contain her own excitement. At any rate, it stuck, and will most likely continue for generations to come. She loved Christmas and always went overboard whenever she had the means, and she would cook at least ten to twelve different side dishes for our feast. The first few Christmases after she passed away seventeen years ago were very hard, but my kids wouldn’t let me just hide in a cave. They needed me and I needed them, so I willingly allowed them to pull me back out of myself, even if I happened to have done myself in with working too hard at making things perfect while not making sure I got enough rest myself. I learned over the years that taking care of myself first is essential, for otherwise I can’t function properly. I have had a few injuries to my spine, one while sliding down a short concrete waterfall in the Pecos River (part of a fish hatchery, and I slipped over a protruding metal pipe which crushed my tailbone) and one while on the ride Magic Mountain at Disneyland, and another while being given an epidural during labor. These injuries ricocheted into chronic pain and other physical challenges not worth listing, other than the fact that by the age of 45, I had five ruptured disks in my neck. So they took out three and put in a metal plate. Last summer I finally had the CT scan which showed my surgery failed. Two of my vertebrae are not connected at all and my spinal cord is compressed. So I have to be very careful and be mindful always of my posture, the amount of weight I lift and how much I do. Certain heavy tasks are out of the question. I had to mostly stop doing massages. But luckily, I was able to make it all the way through college and got my degree in writing a little over a year ago. I think it took so long for this condition to be discovered because I was so caught up in being mom and was stuck in survival mode. It took all that until I realized that full healing of my body, mind and spirit is not only essential, it has to take priority in my life.
So for the past year I am taking a break from formal education and also a sabbatical from practicing massage, and while healing I have the blessing of helping look after my darling Loralai. She is the sunshine in my family’s life, she brought all the extra sparkle and excitement to our Christmas. And despite all the attention and the special position of being the youngest in our family, she is well behaved and gracious, not spoiled at all. So the months of helping look after her while her mom is at work have been delightful and healing. And this woman is finally learning to put some self care in the fore front and now that I finally have some alone time, I have started my blog, and I feel it’s a great step in the right direction towards putting my writing degree to use and move towards getting into a good Master’s program.
Another thing that made this last Christmas less stressful was being on a tight budget. When my kids were younger, this would have created more stress. But now that they each have their own incomes and are all wonderful and generous human beings, they all took care of each other. And of me. I am loving this position as matriarch right now, and as two of my sons moved away during this last month and others may be moving away later this year, I feel like it’s a Christmas definitely worth documenting. For time passes ever so quickly, and looking back on our memories is such a rewarding experience. It’s so much more enlightening than collecting mountains of things. It’s such a great gift for our stories to be passed on from generation to generation.
Right now the still full looking moon is shining through my window on me as my crystals charge on the windowsill. This is my first night alone in several nights, and it’s very peaceful. The train is chugging by, tooting its horn and is just far enough away to sound lovely rather than overwhelming. I’m preparing for a busy week, with one of my goals being to complete my physical therapy exercises every morning. Little by little, I get stronger and stronger, and notice all the things each day brings us to be thankful for. Our families are the greatest blessing in this life.