About 36 hours ago, I gave up on Christmas. I feel like the Christmas spirit skipped my house this year.
I tried to force Christmas by pulling my family together. I got a plane ticket to get my mother to come out to spend Christmas with us but, in the process, I upset my sister and alienated my brother. And it was my own fault. Then my mom got too sick to fly out anyway.
So then I tried to buy Christmas. I went waaaayyyyy overboard on presents and the reality of that is going to haunt me next year. My kids can’t seem to understand why they can’t just have it all right now and have made it their mission to pester my wife and I until we cave. It’s like living with two addicts and we keep dangling the crack in front of them, just out of their reach. I can’t afford an intervention…
Then we tried to bake Christmas but we ate all the cookies. We tried to decorate the house Griswald-style but half of my lights won’t work.
Then I got an email from Carey Casey, CEO of the National Center on Fathering, about the meaning of home for holidays. He told me “creating a ‘home’ is about creating traditions and bonds that tie the family together,” and to “be flexible in where, when and how you celebrate.”
I wanted to wallow in my disappointment and the shroud of inevitability next year would bring. I wanted to turn my back on not getting what I wanted, on the holiday itself, and this cat is telling me to ‘be flexible’ and to create traditions regardless of where family is. And he’s right.
You know, it’s different when you’re a dad, when you’re responsible for other people. There are things you really can’t do because someone else is basing their actions, and their responses to adversity, on what you do. Curling up in a ball is not a good look for me and doesn’t send the best message to my son. Crying my eyes out over not getting what I wanted for Christmas is kinda pathetic and doesn’t teach my daughter how to handle disappointment. Neither approach is particularly sexy to my wife.
I asked my Facebook family (we all have one) how to get the spirit back. Someone told me “remember what the holiday is really about.”
What it’s really about? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
I’m reminded of that O’Henry story, The Gift of the Magi. It tells the story of Jim and Della, a young couple who practice selflessness to give to one another. Each has something precious them: Della has long, beautiful hair; Jim has a pocketwatch that belonged to his father and grandfather. In a beautiful turn of events, Della sells her hair to buy a platinum chain for Jim’s watch; Jim sells his watch to obtain ivory combs for Della’s hair.
That’s what it’s really about. Not Christmas lights and plane tickets, but selflessness and sacrifice, about giving of yourself to those who matter to you in a tangible expression of love. In ways they can see, and feel and touch. Children see fathers honoring their mothers with gifts. Those same children are encouraged to think of others, to be selfless, at a time when greed runs rampant.
So fine, I will be flexible. I will laugh at the fact that my freaking lights will not work (I’m secretly bitter), that we keep eating the cookies faster than my wife can bake them. I’ll Skype with my mom and put her gifts in the mail and see her for my birthday. I’ll make nice with my brother and sister. And it’ll be the best Christmas ever because that’s what it’s really about.
Gotta run—it’s time for me to taunt my kids with presents they cannot have…yet.