Nothing says Christmas more than a group of children dressed up and ready to present their version of the Nativity. And what says Nativity more than a dog, a lion, a tiger, and a skunk? Oh, my! When our church does something, we don’t skimp on anything.
Between the larger-than-life angel wings, the full band behind the kids singing “Silent Night,” and the liberties taken to include even the youngest children, our church went all out to make this an experience to remember for the entire congregation.
When it was decided to make the younger children whatever animals they wanted to be, we quickly realized my son, Cristian, would be a lion.
My mom, who loved crafting almost as much as she loved her grandson, decided to combine the two and make a mane for her little lion. It was definitely a labor of love as she punched at least a hundred holes in a paper plate and tied pieces of yarn through those holes.
I had been set to just cut two eyeholes—and one hole for Cristian to breathe through—in a paper plate, and let him color in a face, which wouldn’t have been as fashionable.
We had prepared my son for the play, and he even practiced with the kids in the basement playroom before it was time to come upstairs.
I thought we were golden when Cristian rushed through the double doors and down the aisle to sit on a step and wait for the rest of the kids. But he then sat down in a chair and crossed his arms.
Instead of a happy little lion ready to sing and roar, I had a pouty little lion who wanted nothing to do with the whole thing. I immediately knew what was wrong. It wasn’t stage fright. He was in sensory overload. I remember thinking: I would like to be able to watch my son participate in the Christmas program at church with all the other children.
As for my little lion, he sat at the back of the church and watched all his friends sing and dance and recite their parts, while he chomped on a candy cane.
Our wonderful church family turned their cameras away from the rest of the children and made sure to get a few shots of my son to add to the bulletin boards and memory books. No one said a word and no one judged—except for me.
I was sad for my mom, who spent so much time making his mane. I was sad for Cristian, who had practiced and missed out on this opportunity. Unfortunately, I was saddest for myself because I lost out on being a mom who got to say things like, “You did such a great job up there!” and, “Look, there’s my son up there!”
I needed a jolt of the true holiday spirit in the worst way, and luckily my little lion knew that. Or maybe he realized I needed a reality check. He climbed up in my arms and gave me a sticky sweet kiss on the cheek and nuzzled my ear.
As the kids sang and the pictures were being snapped, I looked over at my son and whispered that I was proud of him.
I know, after everything else I have written, why would I say that?
Cristian knew to take himself out of that situation to avoid a meltdown. He left his mane on the entire time, despite hating having things on his head. He saw that his mommy was sad and came over to cheer her up, which was a huge step for a child who had never noticed or cared what other people were feeling.
Celebrating Cristian’s milestones, regardless of whether or not they were milestones to anyone else, has become my new normal; and my son has become my handsome, wonderful, active, normal little lion who makes my life worth living.
It was during times like those I would look up and thank God that He trusted me so much to put my little boy in my life.
My son has been teaching me important lessons I would never have learned without him—I don’t need to keep up with the Joneses, the Smiths, or anybody else; everyone works at his or her own pace and no one has to be the first to cross the finish line; and life’s not always about quantity—sometimes life is about quality.
He has been teaching me patience (because Lord knows, I need it). He has been teaching me compassion—and how to slow down, a little.
George Strait sang a song about how it’s not the breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away.
“Thank you, Pooh Bear, for constantly taking my breath away.”
One of my Facebook statuses had stated that I wanted a Christmas miracle. Little did I know that I had that miracle all along.
“Cristian, you may not have been what I dreamed of, but you are my dream come true.”
“Holidays: My New Normal” is an excerpt from the new anthology Mom for the Holidays: Stories of Love, Laughter, and Tantrums at Christmas and Hanukkah. Visit them at momfortheholidays.com! You couldn’t ask for a better gift to a fellow mom!