Panic. Sheer Panic. I was okay until I walked in the church and saw the table after table full of people….our ward Christmas party. Our family has been collecting warm clothes for the homeless shelter for a while so we could donate them at the Christmas party. My husband was suppose to take the kids while I rested because I had been feeling under the weather all week. But alas, Jed had big projects due was at work…again…and he wouldn’t be home till late.
So, for the sake of our service, I braved the church and dumped our bag full of givings out on the table. Once that was done, I ducked into the nearest door, kept my eyes down to avoid eye contact and got some food for me and my kids. We made our way back of the hall and sat all alone at a table.
It was a weird mix of “don’t talk to me” and “please anyone talk to me.” I am not sure why I panic sometimes. Truth be told I think I feel like I am being suffocated by the expectations people have – who I should be, who they think I am, how they are misreading every move I make. Rationally this is silly, because who knows what expectations they have and more likely they are more concerned with themselves than me. But in the midst of being sick, managing two small children who just want to run and eat brownies, and my physical and emotional exhaustion, I didn’t have time to analyze out of my panic.
Sister R came up and said hello. I longed to talk to her, to share some warmth, but all my protective layers were already up and all I could manage were a few one word answers. She walked away and the internal mantra started “what an idiot you are. Why didn’t you talk to her? You are so rude. People think you are so rude.” And then up and running were my kids and I was off again to guard the brownie table.
My son wanted to sing with the primary children who were getting ready to perform for everyone. Since we were all the way in the back, he was scared to walk to the front by himself. I was scared as well to walk all the way to the front. I gathered my courage, held his hand and walked him about 3/4 of the way to the front and was then paralyzed. I couldn’t walk any further in front of this crowd of people. The panic started to rise. Just then, young women S came through the door and offered her hand to take Riley to the stage. My heart swelled at her kindness to help my son for me.
After their performance of songs, I stayed at the party as long as I could bear. And then I took two bawling children out to the car. They wanted to stay and, in a way, so did I, but I wasn’t sure how. I wanted to bawl myself.
After running some errands, we finally turned onto our street. We pulled up in front of our house and I stopped the car. No Jed. The house was dark. No comfort. I couldn’t make myself go in. Riley heard me crying and said, “I miss dad too mom.”
So we drove around for about 30 minutes looking at the Christmas lights in our neighborhood. It gave me time to regroup, to mourn that this day that had totally SUCKED, to mourn the fact that I fail often at being a mom, a friend and a christian. And it gave me time to figure out that I am the only one around for my kids and I better get a grip on things and recenter.
When we finally pulled into the drive at home, instead of putting the kids to bed because it was so late, we dug out the Christmas decorations and put them up. We decorated the tree. We put on Christmas music for dancing (Riley has learned how to do a few moves and he took my hand and said “come here big girl” as he started dancing with me). We tackled each other and finally laughed and laughed and ended the night with a late snack of cinnamon life cereal by candlelight.
Panic. It’s true. It robs me of moments sometimes. I am not all things to all people. But for a small moment, at the end of a long night, I was a something to two small people.