When it’s no longer January 1st …

We missed it.

We blinked. And we missed it. January 1st has already slipped through the cracks.

Sort of what happened at our house on New Year’s Eve. We were two minutes to the countdown, sharing a glass of bubbly (apple juice for Kids B & C), and thought – oh hey, we should put on  an actual timer. That’s when we realized it was already midnight. Cue the laughter.

My objective had been to put out a new post every day for 365 of 2020 (366, should you include February 29th).  I mean, the goal is lofty, and I’ve already broken it. Probably why I conceded early on that I’d try to blog daily, but be satisfied at “often”.

While I could run down the metaphor tie lines about how I’m not berating myself too deeply for missing day 1 of 365, and how that can set the tone on the entire year of not giving up, instead something else happened on New Year’s Eve, and I think addressing that is far better served.

Not two weeks ago, did we learn about a friend’s daughter who was involved in a tragic head-on collision during the winter storm back home outside of Kitchener. This child (yes, child) was just eighteen. And on NYE, the family made the decision to stop the fight. As they put it, they looked at the world through her eyes. And what sort of life would she have if they continued on this path?

The empathy. The heartbreak they must have felt feel. I don’t understand it. I can’t comprehend it. As a parent, as a human, the terror that rises up inside me thinking of handling a decision like this … I can’t compute.

But I can look back at how I’m raising my own children, and the decisions and sacrifices it has meant over my life. Each of my children came into this world under their own unique set of circumstances; some more challenging than others, none I would have “done differently”. These three have left lasting life markers on various points in my life, like little Northern stars that continue to guide me to my next decision.

Like what happened on New Year’s.

Anecdotally, I remember distinctly one year at a Busker’s Carnival back home in Waterloo when my youngest two wanted so desperately to ride the Ferris Wheel. I didn’t want to waste money buying tickets for myself, so I sent those two up alone. They were well above the height requirement, and it was a slow moving ride I could see clearly from my watching spot below. But the terror that rose up in me as I saw them clasped into their bucket seat with a rope tie, I can’t explain. And while the kids were perfectly safe, I – as their Mother – held desperately to my son’s ball cap and positioned myself along the ride as though I could catch them, if one should come tumbling out.

Listen, I understand this is a fully, and truly irrational thought. My children were safe; on a ride going extremely slow. And I don’t recall ever hearing of a ride malfunction at any Busker’s show back home.

But that didn’t put my Mom radar at ease until I had both of those excited, cherub faces back in my arms. (My son complaining that his hat was ‘wet’, undoubtedly  caused by the sweat of my palms.)

I was in this moment, reliving this moment, as I was listening to my son ask me about going out for New Year’s Eve on Tuesday night. And just as I did the moment back at the carnival, my brain went instantly into decision making mode. Positives versus negatives. Making the right decision because I’m his parent first, and foremost.

Back then, it was hard to let the kids take the midway ride because as parents, our goals and objectives are to keep them safe at all costs. But in the end, my rational side took charge, and I knew those two were completely safe to ride the Ferris Wheel.

On NYE, I was not as a confident.

We’re sometimes so bogged down by the idea that our children have to like us, that it stops or prevents us from making the hardest of decisions. The ones that make them super pissed off at us. The ones where we’re risking them closing down, and not wanting to speak to us.

That’s okay. I’d far rather him mad at me, then for me not to be able to talk to him ever again.

I thought so much about my friend’s daughter. She was somebody’s someone. A child who was wrapped, swaddled, and brought home from the hospital. She was nursed, taught to walk. Bathed, and babbled. Learned to eat, learned to speak. To ride. To be. To just be.

And now she’s gone.

There’s that visceral feeling again. The one that says, I don’t care what it takes to protect him. 

We ended our NYE on a high note. And while he was disappointed; angry, and yes, even pissed off that I stamped out his impromptu plans, he still rang in the New Year with a smile.

And while I’ll never know what may have happened differently had he gone and done what he’d fought me for (and listen, it involved being out of town, an hour away, etc.), I’m grateful I took the hit and held firm on my decision. Mama first. Friend second.

Mamas, Dads – hug them. They’re always newborns. Always. Every step they take, every challenge they face – it’s always new. They’re always testing you, and themselves. And they’ll always need us to be there to help with those tough decisions – even if it’s just providing input and guidance.

I’m sending so much love and light to my friend and her family. I cannot fathom their grief.

And I’m sending you helpful, positive prayers for another trip around the sun with your growing kids. Toddlers to teenagers, parenting might evolve, but it never stops being the most important thing we do.

— c ☆

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