My six year old had a presentation earlier this week about family traditions. Somehow I missed the newsletter that was sent out several weeks ago that talked about this presentation. Instead, Violet told me about it late last week and said a by-the-way, we need to make a poster too. Cue stress.
I kept wondering why we were told last minute until I arrived to watch Violet’s presentation and another mom told me about the newsletter. Yes, it’s my fault for not reading it. I ALWAYS read their newsletters and help prep for projects so we’re not doing them last minute. But, since I’ve been working more this school year, some of those things have been falling through the cracks.
No worries. Violet knew exactly what she wanted to talk about for her family tradition. Macy’s birthday. That’s right—while all the other kids were going to be talking about their various Christmas or Hannukah or other winter holiday traditions, my little one wanted to talk about her dead sister. I admit that I tried to talk her out of it.
I shouldn’t have, though. Violet is stubborn and knows her mind. She insisted it could be ANY family tradition and this is the one she wanted to share. So we made a small poster (because I was too sick over the weekend to go to the store and buy poster board) and chose pictures and she decorated everything. Plus she wrote in one of her journals what she wanted to say.
I still felt wary. I asked her if her teacher knew that she was going to talk about her sister. She said yes, then she said no. So I pulled aside her teacher before the presentations to give her a heads up. Her wonderful teacher just nodded her head and said that Violet had cleared it with her. Why did I feel so out of the loop? Why did I still feel wary that she was going to tell a roomful of six and seven year old kids about death?
I don’t know. Like I’ve said before, I didn’t have any trouble talking about Macy when I was pregnant with her or after she died. Granted, I may have talked about her through tears, but I talked about her. Now I’m more private. Because she would be turning eight years old. And I feel like people would judge us for honoring her sister.
But why should I worry? I shouldn’t. The reality is that I do sometimes. And I do feel a little bit mommy guilt (on both sides!) that I tried to talk Violet out of talking about her sister. This presentation was important to her for a reason.
And she knocked it out of the ballpark, including during the question and answer session when someone asked why Macy was sick. (She had heart and lung disease.) Huh? (Mommy stepped in to say her heart and lungs didn’t work properly. She had trisomy 18, an extra chromosome which made her sick etc.) Even better were her classmate’s questions. “Which Disneyland do you go to?” “Which Cemetery is she buried in?” I love their tender hearts!
Our family tradition is to take off work and school on Macy’s birthday. We go to the cemetery and then we do something special as a family to celebrate her life. There’s cake involved too. Because, no matter what, she’s still my baby. In other words, we celebrate her life. What I realized is that the other kids talked about the same thing: celebrating life through Christmas or Hanukah games, making holiday cookies, going to visit grandparents, and having special family vacations. A celebration of life indeed.
Every year I get a little sad before the holidays. It’s likely common for a lot of people, but I think it may be more common for those of us who have lost a child. I do my usual Target run and stare at all the Christmas trees and try to decide if I have enough decorations for her cemetery. Then I try to talk myself out of buying more. Then I justify myself and end up getting her a little something. Why not? She’s still my little girl. If you see me frozen in the middle of the Target Christmas aisle, that’s me going through my inner battle.
So when I saw @artcampla’s (her site) Instagram and blog post about making an advent calendar with her little one, an idea started to form. Why not make a Macy calendar to get me through January? January is when Macy was born and it’s something to do with the end of the holidays and the memory of her birth/death day that makes it tough to focus on anything for me. I figured if we made a similar envelope-style calendar countdown to Macy’s birthday, I would feel good every day.
I bought all the supplies and the girls and I will be working on this project over their upcoming school break. What will we put inside the envelopes? I haven’t fully decided yet. I thought about putting in special focuses every day—so we could focus on what the four of us appreciate about each other. Or focus on a family-centered activity. But I’m not sure if we would realistically have time to do said activity. My other thought is to put in book quotes that inspire us. And sprinkle in a few treats for the girls here and there. In reality, we may end up doing a little bit of all of these things.
Thank you to Art Camp LA for the great idea! We are usurping it and making it our own.
To all of you who are missing a loved one, I wish you a peaceful holiday season. xo