The Grinch's Heart Grows
posted by Amy

After seven years of feeling overwhelmed and unhappy about approaching holidays, I'm suddenly singing Christmas carols night and day. I'm not sure what accounts for my newly rediscovered holiday spirit, but I suspect it's a combination of factors.

For one, my youngest child is now five, which means that she's in the throes of Santa adoration, and I get to come along for the ride. She believes wholeheartedly in the holiday, even down to getting surprisingly thoughtful (and cheap!) gifts for her brothers and dad one day last week while we had some time to kill in the Rite-Aid. (We like to visit their pharmacy on a weekly basis during the endless strep throat outbreak that has been this fall semester. My kids are pink-medicine junkies.)

Plus, my sleep-deprivation level, which hovered around the Orange Alert stage for, well, WAY too long, is now coming back down to manageable levels, meaning the kids mostly sleep through the night, but my body is still figuring out that being On Alert At All Times is hazardous to its health. On the plus side, I get a lot of reading done between the hours of 2 and 4 a.m. Anyway, it turns out that I like Christmas better when I'm not woozy with lack of sleep, and I'm not as crabby about getting everything done when I actually have the time and energy to do it.

The other, more intractable issues, such as the complications of holidays when one of your kids splits his time between two homes and when some relatives can't be in the same house as others, well, they haven't gone away, but some things get easier with time, and others just get more predictable, which is easier in its own way. (Or not. I'm still figuring this one out.)

I know now, too, that someone will probably get sick around Christmas, someone else will most likely cry and whine about his present and why it's not what so-and-so got, and I'll have to get up from my own Christmas dinner at least five times to refill milk cups and settle sibling squabbles. In other words, my expectations, they are L-O-W.

But the other night, sitting in an auditorium next to Chip and listening to the kids in grades K-5 at Henry and Josie's school singing Holiday Songs With Few References to Actual Holidays, I felt all gooey and tearful. And it wasn't just because my kids were so damn cute, with their fierce faces they make when they're embarrassed, as they were in front of this enormous crowd of people.

The warm caramel feeling came a little bit from nudging Chip every time a new group of kids came on stage, saying, "Oh, look at so-and so! He's getting so tall!" and cheering for the neighbor's son, a shy fellow who had a speaking part he carried off with assured aplomb. It came from being in a noisy, crowded auditorium filled with tired parents and cranky babies and little girls in velvet dresses and boys in button-up shirts, people I've been seeing day in and day out for seven years now at the park and the school and the grocery store, and somehow just being able to feel thankful that I was there, sitting on a hard metal folding chair next to Chip, while next to me and in the rows all around me sat other parents and caregivers and grandparents I've shared moments of commiseration and laughter and plain ole bitching with over the past seven years.