Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A lesson in perspective from my daughter’s three-year-old classmate


I admit, I’m ill-prepared. It seems like no matter what, I can’t ever catch up with my to-do list. This is our first celebration in our own home, but the house is messy. I haven’t thought of our Christmas dinner, let alone shop for it. We’re still at the “turkey or duck? turkey or duck?” stage of the planning. Oh, who am I kidding? What plan?

Then there are the gifts of course. Is it enough? Too much? Did I miss something? Would she like this? Would he balk at that? Constant fret and worry. Until I went to Little Miss’ preschool Christmas party.


There were mostly kids and teachers, with only a couple of parents in attendance as it was held in the middle of the day, so I was an object of curiosity. I sat by the kids’ table and they were all over me, thrilled to converse with an adult. I was bombarded with:

“Why are you here? Look at my dress! Where’s Little Miss’ daddy? I’m Emily. What’s your name? My mommy is at work. My daddy is at home…”

Then I turned to another little girl who was also vying for my attention, and I asked her, “What about your daddy?”

She simply said, “My daddy died.”

All canned response evaporated in my mouth. Nothing I had in mind to say seemed to fit. I couldn’t process past the fact that she was only three. Like my daughter, whom I have so far shielded from words like death, dead, and dying. And here’s this little girl who had no choice but to live with it before she even knew what it really meant.

But she continued matter-of-factly, “My daddy is in heaven, and that’s my mommy over there.”

She pointed at the preschool teacher who taught four-year-olds.  She seemed to be my age, possibly younger, and my heart went out to her. Then it all came back to me - the story of a man who went missing last year when Little Miss first came to this school. He was found dead several days later, and the school prayed for the family during our first general assembly. But we were new then so we never knew who they were except that their family was closely connected to the school. I remembered the somber gathering. Even the tears.

Looking at the teacher who was smiling and laughing at the kids now, it seemed rather disconnected to the reality that just hit me. This would be her second Christmas without her husband, the girls without their dad, who was cruelly taken away from them. And here I am, fretting about gifts and dinner. Suddenly, none of that matters anymore.

We will have gifts. We will have dinner. But more importantly, we have each other. Because of that, regardless of the presents that we open or the food that we eat, it’s going to be a wonderful Christmas.


May you have love and joy this Christmas, and every day of the new year.