Thursday, December 15, 2016
Today is a day to hug our children tighter, too
By now, you've probably read the viral story about a little boy who died in the arms of Santa. The original article, written for the Knoxville News Sentinel, recounted how Eric Schmitt-Matzen (a mechanical engineer who moonlights as Santa) got summoned to a hospital by a nurse to comfort a very sick 5-year-old. As I write this, the newspaper is no longer standing by the account, saying it cannot independently verify it. Schmitt-Matzen, speaking with The Washington Post and Time, has maintained the story is true and local TV station WBIR has verified some key facts.
I have no idea what the outcome will be. All I know is that even if it turns out to not be true—ultimately the best possible scenario as no boy will have died, although it would raise concerns about how news spreads—it's illuminated something important.
I read it on Monday night, once the kids were asleep, and I sobbed. Afterward, I walked into Max's and Sabrina's rooms and kissed their faces, then I reached through the slats in Ben's crib to caress his. In the morning, I hugged them all tighter, surely as many other moms did to their children. I felt deep pangs of sadness for that child and his family as I saw more headlines crop up in my news feed.
And then, in the days that followed, I returned to my previously scheduled life in which I am primarily focused on caring for my kids and wholly forget to appreciate them.
The life that is a blur of dressing them, feeding them, cleaning up after them, safety-proofing them (mainly the baby), packing backpacks, giving snacks, driving to school and/or yelling at someone that they better rush or they are going to miss the bus, calling a teacher to talk about them, helping with homework, signing them up for activities, driving them to sports, filling out forms, coordinating hangouts and carpools, making sure they have enough clean clothes especially their favorites so someone is not grabbing it out of the laundry and re-wearing it dirty although at some point who really cares, taking them to pediatrician and dentist and the occasional specialist, dealing with the insurance company about said specialist appointment, refilling prescriptions, helping them with their iDevices (and on occasion asking them to help me), buying supplies for school projects, buying toys and crafts and gadgets, buying new clothes and shoes and underwear and socks and accessories, repeatedly saying "No, I am not buying you any more tops/jeans/sneakers/chokers this season" to a certain child, repeatedly saying "No, I am not taking you to another visit to the fire station this weekend" to a certain child, buying sports equipment, buying birthday presents, buying other kids birthday presents, locating their missing socks/homework sheet/tech devices/ponytail holder/sports equipment/whatever, getting them haircuts, bathing them, brushing teeth, bedtime, OMG.
Caught up in the whirlwind of the to-dos, must-dos, doo-doos, oops-forgot-tos and stop whining won't yous, I neglect to just plain appreciate my children. To be sure, there are plenty of occasions when I adore their cuteness, charm, smarts, hearts, personalities and quirks. But I am never fully thankful for my kids' existence until tragedy strikes, either in my own circle or in the news. And then, for a precious small time, I acknowledge that my children are what matters most to me in this world and how lucky I am.
But it shouldn't take a tragedy to do that.
There's a piece of advice I always give to brides: At least once or twice at the wedding, stop what you're doing and for a minute or two really look around. Take photos in your mind. Absorb. Appreciate. "It all goes by so fast," I tell them, "and putting yourself on pause will help you better remember."
Childhood goes by so fast, too.
I am going to take my own advice and pause during the busy days to savor my children. I will take some of those mental snapshots. Maybe, when I think to do it, Ben will have a snotty nose. Maybe Max will be slumped on the couch watching yet another fire truck video. Maybe Sabrina will be glued to her phone, texting a friend. But for a moment, I can be grateful that they are here.