There has been no shortage of excitement in this house for 40 days, but now it’s time for it to go. Normally on the twelve feast days of Christmas, I am tenderly handling every ornament and card and wistfully enjoying the peace the season brings. But, this week peace was not what I felt at all.
The other day, when it was 20 degrees outside, my 12-year-old granddaughter left the house in a short-sleeved shirt and no shoes. When I called her back to suggest she wasn’t dressed for the weather, I instantly regretted it. The exchange of reasoning between the two of us was exhausting. (okay, just exhausting for me)
I spent the rest of the day wondering why we argue so much.
It bothered me enough that I talked to Mike about it. I shared a litany of things I’d said to her over the past week, and used an impersonating voice when I gave her responses. He looked at me like I had two heads, then took a long, deep breath.
“Seriously, you don’t know the answer to this one?”, he asked cautiously. I could sense I wasn’t going to like what he said, but it was too late.
‘This has nothing to do with you”, he explained, “or what you’re saying. She doesn’t care if she’s right or wrong. She just likes to argue.” “In fact,” he said, “She Loves to argue.”
“She literally told us that at dinner last week,” he said, emphasizing a word 12 year-olds use in most conversations.
I remembered that night. We were asking her about her fake husband Jason, a character in a class assignment where she is an imaginary librarian in Helena, Montana. She and Jason (a computer programmer ) have two young girls and a cat and live near a lake- with a wooden deck that overlooks the water. Part of her assignment was a slide presentation on the Christmas shopping they did. One of us asked how Jason liked his presents.
“You guys, stop asking me questions about Jason,” 12 said. “He’s not real and I only have to answer questions that are part of the assignment.”
“So you don’t know anything else about him and you’re married to him?,” her Papa asked.
“But you invented him…”, her mother added.
“Well, I know this,” 12 responded, “in real life my husband will need to be super smart. Because I am very competitive and I love to argue.”
He was right. She said exactly that. But it didn’t make me feel better. I mean, Mike’s revelation only made it clear that 12 was never going to stop arguing with me, no matter how much it upset me. So I slinked off to my office to sulk…or pray.
Sometimes when a problem is impossible to solve, it’s because the answer is right in front of you.
I relived all the arguments I’d shared with Mike and the details of each one. In every case I was reacting to the one thing that was NOT part of the problem. Want her to wear a coat? She’ll wear a coat. Want her to clean her room? She’ll clean her room. She’ll always have something to say about it, but she never gets upset. The only person who gets upset is me.
And that was my problem, not hers. It takes two people to argue, so if I could just stop reacting to her need to have the last word, there would be no arguments.
And that made me kinda happy. Happy enough that I started feeling peaceful again and remembering the story behind these twelve days. That in a time of strife and struggle, a savior was sent in the form of a tiny baby; born in the most pitiful of circumstances, with only a trace of credibility to his name. And, despite the prophecies of angels and testimonies of shepherds who witnessed the sight, the Magi were guided to the baby-12 days later- by a bright star.
Seeing his meekness, among the brilliance of that light, the wise men instantly understood everything.
When something you’ve been looking for appears out of nowhere; or when something you’ve never understood makes sense because someone else explains it; when something you’ve been doing forever suddenly gives you no satisfaction at all, we still call those epiphanies.
There’s no guarantee that an answer will come and sometimes there’s no explanation for why things happen. Sometimes things just seem brighter, when you stop seeing them as dark.
And that was my tiny epiphany- accepting that I was coming from a place of fear. All of 12’s questions and protests reminded me of how quickly she was growing up. I was afraid that if she didn’t need me to tell her why she should do things, maybe she wouldn’t need me at all. Now I know better.
Wishing you flashes of brilliance and peace, this day and all days.