Slow down, look around, and experience holidays like a child again


The Ghost of Christmas Past recently visited upon me memories from the 1970s. There was a G.I. Joe action figure that stood a foot high and an Evel Knievel motorcycle that sped across the hardwood floors of our Midtown home. There was the “A Charlie Brown Christmas” special that aired one night and one night only. If you missed it, too bad: It would be another 365 days until you had another chance.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. What I’m wondering is whether the holidays of my youth were a simpler time.

As a father of four, I’m besieged now with lists and commercials and expectations that may be unrealistic. I’m afraid that I’ve become a curmudgeon in my 40s. I worry that these are my pre-Scrooge days and that it won’t be long before there is nothing wonderful at all for me this time of year. Traffic is worse, stores are packed, children are demanding, and money is tight. There is an elf on our shelf requiring constant attention.

It was with this ground-down, bitter attitude that I fell into conversation with a friend the other day. She and her husband have a 2-year-old, and she spoke about his view of the holiday with her very own childlike wonder. It was as if she were a Dickensian ghost taking my hand to help me recall my own kids’ first hints that something special was afoot. How exciting it must be for that toddler, newly aware of his surroundings, to find a tree inside his house. And with lights on it!

The magic of this season is easy to forget with the drudgery of school and work, basic needs and responsibilities. That stress can carry right into the holidays when the demands of kids become actual numbered lists.

The greatest gift we’re given as parents is the opportunity to see the world through our children’s eyes.

We all need to try and experience the time as they do. Like Rankin and Bass’ television special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” we need to stop-motion. Slow down, take a step back, and find the time to appreciate the decorations, the good deeds, the genuine sense of goodwill that comes gift-wrapped each year at this time.

We were able to slow time down the other night. I watched as the kids decorated the tree with their mother and told the stories behind homemade ornaments. They helped each other reach the highest spots, and my son made hot chocolate for everyone.

Afterward, in the glow of the tree’s lights, we sat around and watched that modern-day classic, “Elf.” In the movie, Santa Claus says to Buddy the Elf, “Listen, some people, they just lose sight of what’s important in life. That doesn’t mean they can’t find their way again. Maybe all they need is just a little Christmas spirit.”

Those are words we all could take to heart. Regardless of your faith, your beliefs, your station in life, there is something wonderful about this time of year. It reminds us of what’s important in life. So slow down and take a look around this season, and try to remember how it all looked when you were a child.

Merry Christmas, from my family to yours!
Link to The Commercial Appeal