Mary for a Day

One of the greatest things I love about my Jack and Jill of America family is the ability to expose my daughter to different cultural and historical events. So I was excited about them asking her to dress as Mary in the Langston Hughes nativity scene on the Christmas Parade float. Now, please understand that this was a learning curve for me. Somewhat embarrassed to say, I was unfamiliar with the Langston Hughes nativity scene. Langston Hughes, the poet and playwright…yes, a special nativity scene; not so much. Thank God for Google.

So here’s what I learned, the Black Nativity is a retelling of the classic Nativity story with an entirely black cast that was first performed off-broadway on December 11, 1961. It was full of traditional gospel Christmas carols, and was one of the first plays written by an African-American to be staged there.

Our local Jack and Jill of America teen group decorated the float and we were instructed to dress children according to the characters and mothers to wear traditional African American clothes. Now, at just 3-years-old, my daughter has only seen two parades. I mean the way I see it, she has a lot more living to do. The way she sees it, she is late coming to the parade party.

“I never been in a parade before,” she reminds me. “I’m so excited.” Her excitement preceded her knowledge of wearing a special costume. Like most toddlers her age, dress up of any kind is the “bees knees.” She loves it. “Morgan, would you like to play Mary on the parade float Saturday?” “Who’s Mary?” I make a note to myself to tighten up on making it to Sunday school and remind her that she was Jesus’ mother. She then asks “do I get to dress up?” When I tell her there’s a costume she jumps in the air and I guess by her reaction she’s down for whatever.

When her costume arrives, she asks to try it on and as I suspect it’s about two sizes too big. She’s so tiny so in true momma fashion I stay up late the night before with needle and thread making intro to sewing adjustments. I also find a baby doll and wrap it up in a white blanket and introduced him as “Baby Jesus.” I explain that she is a mommy and she has to keep him warm and safe while we are on the float. She assures me that I have given her a menial task and she’s got it and will be in character at the appropriate time.

When we board the float, she is assigned a spot at the front and is told which one of her friends is portraying Joseph. “Who’s Joseph?” she asks and once again I am reminded to set the alarm clock early enough to make Sunday school. “He was Jesus’ dad on earth,” I respond. I remind her to wave, to smile and to keep “Jesus” with her at all times.

As soon as the float starts to move, she throws Jesus on the floor and in true diva fashion stands up, uses both hands to wave to both sides of the crowd, throws candy, blows kisses and shouts Merry Christmas to parade goers. I remind her about being Mary and ask her where baby Jesus is? “He’s on the floor, because Joseph wouldn’t take a turn holding him,” she says. “But don’t worry mommy, he’s okay. God is taking care of him, I promise.”

And in between chuckles, I too make a series of promises. I promise to remember her excitement and joy when she experiences something new. I promise to be there for as many of those moments for her as I possibly can and Lord have mercy, I have got to get my baby to Sunday school.

Nativity

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Forever, Ever?

Sleep

In an effort to lovingly kick our tenacious three-year-old toddler out of our bed, we agreed to let her sleep in her 1-year-old brother’s room. Now, I have to give you a little background.

My daughter has NEVER liked to sleep by herself. She will take mommy, daddy, or the dog; anything she can feel breathing as a partner. She will boss you around as she tries to find her perfect comfy spot for the night. She tells you which way to lay, what arm to prop up her head, no pillows, no covers, and the list goes on and on. When she finally drifts off to sleep and we tiptoe out of her room, we are guaranteed about four solid hours before we hear her two little feet finding their way to our bed. If we lock the door, she will knock and patiently camp out in front of her our room until sunrise. I have even caught her sleeping in the dog bed in the hallway hoping we open the door.

Now Baby G is her polar opposite. He doesn’t want anyone to cuddle with him. He likes his own space and his own room. He is very regimented and sleeps through the night. So, our first thought when she asked to sleep in his room was no. We feared messing up his routine. But she begged. “Mommy, please let me sleep in BaBa’s room. I won’t wake him up. I promise. Just let me try it.” So the compromise was, she had to bring in her toddler mattress and sleep beside his crib. She also absolutely, positively cannot wake him up if she has to go potty in the middle of the night. If he wakes up, the deal is off and she goes back to her room by herself.

I am knocking on a wooden Elmo table so hard right now, because after seven nights in a row, bedtime routine is easier and our bedroom is shy a toddler. So it came as no surprise when during bath time a few nights ago Morgan announced “I have decided I am moving into BaBa’s room.” I laugh and ask her what she is talking about. “I am sleeping there forever,” she says.

“Well Morgan, I think its great that you love sleeping in your brother’s room but you can’t just move in with people without asking them. You have to talk to brother about this first. She turns and looks at him and asks, “Baby G, can I move into your room, FOREVER?” And he looks her dead in her eyes and leans his head all the way to the right until it touches his shoulders and mumbles inaudibly. My training in nonverbal communication tells me, he is not 100% on board with this request, but his smile says he will think about it.

We are quickly approaching two weeks of this arrangement and despite trying to figure out how to make this out of place toddler mattress in the middle of the floor not look so out of place, it seems to work. After baths, snacks and prayer we give Baby G a cup of milk and Morgan lies on her mattress tucks herself in, rolls over and is out like a light within five minutes. We put him in his crib say goodnight and love you and walk out until about 7 a.m. the next morning.

Tonight, after she rolls over she says, “Mommy BaBa really loves me and is so happy I am in his room.” And I ask how she knows, “Because at night when we are sleeping he looks at me and smiles,” she says. “He even smiles in his sleep.” For all I know, she could be right. One thing is for certain; I’m smiling too, especially in my sleep.