by Kristin Baker Przybyla
With six kids, you can imagine that one income gets a little stretched. We even seemed to run out of money before we ran out of month when I was waiting tables at Denny's. Now that I'm at home full-time (five years of waitressing damaged my shoulders), and my husband took a new job that pays much less than his former position, we've had to learn new ways of stretching the paycheck even further.
My mom had a little saying when we were growing up: A "true meaning" kind of Christmas. She was a phenomenal single mother, but I never appreciated the sacrifices she made until I did a stint of my own as a divorced mother. We knew when she cheerily said, "This year we're going to learn the true meaning of Christmas," that things were a bit tight. We didn't complain (although she might remember that part differently, as I was a bit of a whiner!), and I remember all our Christmases as being happy and peaceful. She made sure we celebrated the true meaning every year regardless of how many gifts we were able to give or receive.
In the past years, I've adopted that little phrase as a lighthearted way to remind my kids that they are not all going to get iPods and bikes and Nintendo DS's on Christmas morning, but we will do what we can. I don't remember those sweet kids ever complaining.
But I'd forgotten to tell them we were going to have a "true meaning" Easter. We're at the very end of our paycheck, so I had to scrape together a few bucks for treats. After I put together their baskets, they each had four pieces of Easter candy. I felt so bad about this that my heart wasn't even in it to hide the baskets; I didn't want them thinking the Easter Bunny could be such a scrooge. I simply placed the baskets on the living room ottoman and called the kids in, apologizing to them over and over for such a meager stash, and telling them I'd make it up to them next week by buying a little more candy and having an egg hunt despite the holiday being over.
I'd expected disappointed expressions on their faces when they saw the pathetic contents of their baskets, maybe even a few tears. But the tears were my own, when I saw their faces light up. "Thank you, Mommy!" my five-year-old said. "Chocolate!" my six-year-old yelled, running off with his basket. The older girls assured me they also weren't disappointed, and started making plans for an epic egg decorating party and hunt for next weekend.
Later on, we quietly talked about what they thought the true meaning of Easter is. Probably because they still associate the "true meaning" phrase with Christmas, my six-year-old yelled, "Jesus' birthday!" My eight-year-old provided the answer with two reverent words: "The Resurrection." Then he offered me a bite of his chocolate caramel egg.
I'm grateful to my mom for instilling all those "true meaning" lessons, even during later holidays when our finances were much better. And I'm very thankful for my kids, for reminding me what Easter is all about, when my thoughts were only on how much candy I was unable to provide for them.