Dogs, Fireworks, and Cock-A-Doodle-Dos: My Wish for You This Christmas

The Christmas sun is setting here in La Punta, Puerto Escondido, Mexico.

I am relishing in the calm after the long-awaited, and highly planned-for celebration, that is Christmas.

Last night for Christmas Eve, we ate dinner at the incredible restaurant below our apartment.  Loyal to my Italian roots, I enjoyed a mouth-watering seafood spaghetti.  It made me feel closer to home, to my family.

The small, cozy space was filled with many people that we have met over these past two weeks. It was comforting to feel the energy of our newfound community.

Our family of four said Buenas Noches, and headed to bed at 10pm.

That’s when the locals began their celebrations.

We are quickly learning that there are no noise rules in Mexico. Literally, NONE.

The homes are designed to allow for ample airflow, so sound-proofing is at a minimum. Even if we could close all of the windows and doors, we would melt from the heat.

In Mexico, Christmas Eve is a HUGE celebration. Even bigger than Christmas Day.

Teenagers were setting off firecrackers into the early hours of the morning. Each sound startling us awake from our slumbers.

The hundreds of dogs that roam the streets were barking incessantly. The dog right outside our window didn’t stop until 4am.

Naturally, the barking prompted the roosters to crow. All night.

Between 4am and 5am, music played in the distance. Someone’s all-nighter…still going.

When the girls came into our room at 7am, it all went quiet. (SERIOUSLY?!)

Arjan and I are still reeling from the lack of sleep. Even earplugs couldn’t damped all of the noise.

But here we are: In Mexico, on Christmas Day. It’s all part of the adventure.

As parents, we spend weeks (for some, months!) preparing for the magical moment when our kids wake up to find gifts under the tree.

That one moment is EVERYTHING.

When you have kids little enough to believe that an obese man in a red-suit flies around the world in a sleigh delivering gifts, I do believe it that all of the effort IS worth it.

Their faces light up and it makes your heart swell. The wonder, trust and naivete of childhood is a beautiful thing.

Knowing that our Christmas would be away from home this year, I had gathered and purchased gifts months before leaving Canada.  In the spirit of being intentional and minimal, I was keeping true to our family’s values. And truly, our Christmas was just that: intentional and simple.

Our friends (yes – we are making friends!) cut off a mango tree branch that we used as a Christmas tree. We adorned it with lights and pom-poms  from apartment décor, and fastened together a homemade star from beach driftwood.

It is no Martha Stewart Christmas tree, but it is ours.

A simple gathering place celebrating thoughtfulness and family.

I was touched by the girls’ excitement at gift-giving this year. They had hand-picked and helped wrap presents for each other. The first parcels they reached for under the tree were the ones they had wrapped – eager to see each other open them.

What a precious age, this is.

These are the moments when you feel like you are doing a “good job” as a parent.

When they do something wrong, however, not a reflection of the parenting. No way, Jose! I will take credit for good behaviour ONLY. (We all do it, don’t worry!)

There were naturally moments of “Where’s MY present?!” and complaining about the stickers that wouldn’t stick to earlobes as “earrings”.

Sigh.

The trials and tribulations of being (almost!) four and six years old.

Kids will be kids.

We Skyped with family back home, enjoying the snowy landscapes and familiarity of Canadian Christmas traditions. Technology keeps us connected, and for that, I am grateful.

Grateful for the time and space to be apart, yet to still feel connected.

To be supported by loved ones, yet still given permission to live life in our own unique way.

These thirteen days in Mexico, have been transformative.

When we first arrived, I wanted to trade-in our kids.

FOR REAL.

They were constantly bickering and managing them 24/7 was making me LOSE MY MIND.

They were completely out of sorts.

A new place.

A foreign language.

No community.

Just the four of us.

Every day.

All day.

I have said this before, but I will say it again: It was INTENSE.

The kind of intense where I fantasized about leaving the responsibilities of my adult life and backpacking along the stunning Pacific coast. So enticing.

I wanted to escape from the madness. Really, really badly.

People run to Mexico and create new identities for themselves, right? I was in the right place to leave it all behind…

Of course, I didn’t.

We stormed, we argued, we fought as a family.

Together, we braved the busy downtown of Puerto Escondido, where we are the visible minority.

The whitest-of-white in a dense population of dark-skinned Mexicans.

People actually stare at us.

It is uncomfortable, it is humbling, and it is all part of the experience.

Gradually the arguments between the girls began to lessen.

Their imaginations blossomed.

We blossomed.

We all LET GO.

For me, the letting go has been

heart-cracking,

soul-opening,

life-changing.

The self-imposed rules that I have for myself are slowly being shed.

There were “shoulds” that I didn’t even know existed…they were just always there, in my mind: familiar and toxic.

I need to have this brand of yoga pants, and my kids are excelling at this sport, and we need to be “productive” with our time, and be sure to be polite, and don’t offend anyone, and what nut-free gluten-free dish are we bringing to the potluck….

It’s exhausting, isn’t it?

As a psychotherapist, I have done an immense amount of personal work. I have worked with my own therapist for over 15 years. I have delved into some deep personal SHIT. Believe me.

I always considered myself to be open-minded and non-judgmental, but this experience has taken it to a whole other level.

I am literally de-toxing my body, mind, and spirit.

I am barefoot and free in a place where there is no judgment. No “shoulds”.

The gentleness I am finding for myself is extended to others: to you, to my family, to my friends.

I am enjoying the simple moments with my children.

I am seeing my husband: truly looking him in the eye, connecting with him and being curious about his experience.

I feel liberated, like I am stepping into the woman I am meant to be.

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This is my wish for you on this Christmas Day:

Know that you are living your life in the best way you know how.

You are AMAZING.

You are finding your own way.

Embrace the journey.

Soak in the life lessons en route.

There is no right path.

There is only YOUR path.

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