“‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year.’ Except maybe not for parents.
Parenting is hard. Parenting during the holidays is harder. Parenting during the holidays the year of a pandemic is infinitely harder. The holidays are coming quickly. Our socially-distanced Halloween has already passed us by. The holidays are coming – Thanksgiving and the ‘hashtag thankful’ posts, Christmas, and the wishes for ‘No presents, only your presence.’ The holidays are coming, which I can confidently say for all parents of the world spells out an extra level of stress and an extra layer of guilt, guilt, and more guilt.
It’s the money, it’s the time, it’s the traditions. Even in 2020, where everything is pretty upside down and pretty much nothing has been as it usually is. The holidays are coming and for me, this means a reminder to be THANKFUL. All caps, italicized, underlined, bold, no exceptions. Be thankful, or else. Be happy you have your children, be grateful you have purpose, enjoy every moment. They tell you, ‘Oh, these moments pass in the blink of an eye.’ ‘Oh, honey, eat that baby up while she’s little’ and my favorite at 6 months pregnant, ‘Wait until the next one comes. You will miss these days!’
That’s a little hard for me lately. Okay, pretty hard. Really, really hard. I am definitely beyond grateful to have my healthy, energetic, Christmas-loving toddler in my life. She’s my reason for being, my muse. But I am pregnant, we are living through one of the craziest things I have ever witnessed, the holidays are stupid stressful anyway, and I am already the proud owner of what I call ‘a Velcro kid.’ Yep, you’ve heard of the helicopter parent, you’ve heard of the feral child and the lawnmower parent. I have my own special variety. The Velcro kid.
What’s a Velcro kid? Well, you know that noisy stuff they stick on to baby shoes to ensure they fasten? It’s ridiculously noisy to unfasten, but particularly useful for all things child-related. A trademark for the fastener and originally used by NASA, Velcro is a wonderful invention that allows for two items to be attached without permanently attaching them, like kids’ shoes.
It’s also a really good metaphor for the way my child molds to me every moment of the passing day. Don’t believe me? As I type this, she is laying in my lap, pregnant belly and all. She is bigger than 2, yet not yet 3. A baby in some ways, a girl in others. She is spritely, vivacious, and unfortunately and overwhelmingly attached to me at all times. While I type, she nudges at me, quietly urging me to ‘hold-a-my-hand’ (which means hold my hand in toddler speak, in case you don’t have the joy of a tiny minion in your life).
She is always touching me with at least one body part. I do everything one-handed because the other hand is hers. And these days (thanks, pandemic), she is with me 99.999% of the time with few breaks. She is with me in the bathroom, she is with me in the shower, she is with me as we go to bed each night, and sees me every hour. I haven’t gone more than a weekend from seeing her in her lifetime, and I rarely go a few hours between seeing her. Because she is my Velcro baby, and she needs me.
During this holiday season, it feels particularly strong and mildly sickening. We live in North Carolina, where the weather is getting colder and making for few places to play outside. There are few indoor places to play in at this rate. If you do have your kid do an activity, you’re potentially exposing them. If you don’t, you have to amuse them in the confines of your home, unless the weather is decent enough to toss them outside. We are in our three-bedroom home almost exclusively and she has more energy and destructive passion than a spinning top on Christmas morning.
When she isn’t chaos embodied, she is in my arms. She is intertwining her feet with mine. She is stroking my back, rubbing my hair. It makes me wonder if her love language is somewhere between physical touch and getting what she wants. I get busier and she gets clingier. With a new baby on the way, it’s even worse. Have you ever puked while your child tugged on your pant leg? Ask a parent, they quite likely have. This scenario is my life:
‘Mama, need milk. You hold me? We play.’
‘Can you wait just a minute? Mommy sick.’
‘No. I neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed you, Mommy. Now.’ Cue crying here. Snotty, dripping, crocodile tears.
‘Just set boundaries.’ I hear you, I know. I’ve tried. We have a few. Daddy does bedtime. He tries. Parenting is balancing being miserable and immensely grateful in the same moment of time.
Because she’s also the baby who hiccupped rhythmically in my stomach, our early connections of thumping and bumping and humming, two people as close as people can be, a mother and the child in her womb, yet distanced, patiently awaiting being able to look eye-to-eye, face-to-face. She’s the baby I almost lost during childbirth, who fought to survive, to be with me. She’s the newborn that was injured, jaundiced, with a heart murmur, forced out of the womb at 37 weeks. She is the baby that saw both parents go back to work, one immediately, and Mommy just 8 weeks later.
She was small on the growth chart, brilliant and intelligent, yet struggled with physical milestones like gaining weight. She’s been easygoing when going from schedule to schedule. She’s fought ear infections and struggles with constipation, she fought RSV for well over a month, she loves to read and learns quickly. She likely has ADHD, but a diagnosis has been delayed because of the pandemic. She carries on. I’m amazed by her daily, and watching her go through each daily struggle reminds me why I struggle. I’m constantly reminded of the miracle she is in my life.
But Lord, please don’t remind me to love every moment when she’s being a turd monkey in the store, screaming and throwing things at Target, all around causing a ruckus. When you see my swollen stomach, my waddling and dragging my limp-noodle toddler, when you hear me gripe about being touched out and tired, consider it a Christmas gift to me by refusing the initial comment that comes to your mind about how lucky I am. I can guarantee you, I know I’m lucky.
I’m lucky to have my children and my health. I’m lucky to have my husband. I’m grateful for our home. I’m grateful my child is healthy and has the ability to throw herself on the ground. You don’t have to tell me twice. Reminding me I should feel grateful only adds an extra layer to my already guilt-ridden self. I’d implore you to look at a parent and their screaming child and smile (behind your mask), an understanding between us that you understand.
When you see a child holding on to a leg, or an arm, a purse, screaming to be held – that could be a Velcro kid like mine. They might just be having a bad day. Chances are, if you see a child during this holiday season, they probably have lost something this year and need extra love, even if they’re being a jerk. They could have lost a family member or friend to the pandemic. They probably didn’t get to go to school, at least not normally. They may have lost their normal coping mechanisms to stressful situations, like sports activities, or in-person therapy. They likely have rarely gotten to play on a playground this year. Or they’re like my child, who is stuck like glue to their mom, didn’t get to go to preschool this year, occupational therapy was postponed, no longer has scheduled activities, and hasn’t had a playdate in 9 months, with a baby brother on the way. Kid has her reasons.
It’s a wonderful time of year, sure, but it’s got its issues too, just like any fixer-upper. My message to parents this year, amidst this lovely time of the year, is I understand. I feel you. I know the pressure you’re under. And if you’re a bystander to one of the moments I’ve described above, with kicking and screaming and threatening Santa won’t come if someone doesn’t stop crying, I’d implore you to have some extra kindness this year. Just a little extra, whether you’re on the internet or in Target or wherever trying to figure out how to survive this year’s craziness. Because chances are you could run into a needy Velcro kid, with a mom that would really love a break, with a cup of Starbucks coffee in hand, and someone not staring at her while she sits on the pot for once.
I’m that mom and this year, I’m bringing grace to the Thanksgiving table (for me and you, and my cute kid!) and putting kindness under the Christmas tree (like paying it forward in the Drive-Thru and not judging people on the internet). It is the most wonderful time of the year, after all, right?”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Megan Hutson Prestridge of Asheville, NC. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more from Megan here:
‘The tears started running. ‘How much blood has there been?’ I didn’t want to go to the ER alone. ‘That’s a nice tree, Mama.’ My husband bought it the next day.’: Mom decorates for Christmas early after miscarriage scare
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‘I see you tired of trying to reason with your child. I see you crying in the bathroom, wishing for an ‘easy button’ to press.’: Mom to ‘strong-willed’ child says ‘there is light at the end of the tunnel’
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