I want to tell you all a story, and I'm going to tell you that at first is a bummer, but that is not my intention. Stick with me on this, and I think that it will encourage you.
It's just that my history is not that bright around the holiday season, and it has affected me for the last decade or so, but that is changing for the better.
When I was a child and teenager, I loved the holiday season. I would participate in singing, performing at my church Christmas pageant and take part in food drives. It was a time of year when a young person would briefly feel the cold outdoors, run into their warm home and look at their gigantic Christmas tree, and think that all is well.
I then became an adult.
The world is hard when you are the sole provider to a family, more so when you are a single parent. I have had to scramble to do whatever I could to keep myself and still provide for my two sons. In the past I was attending grad school, and also had a day job, and to supplement I would also work a part-time job, and for a few years that part-time job was retail sales. Even after grad school and my subsequent divorce I would work for companies like Best Buy, Nordstrom, even a travel agency to pay bills and try to provide for my sons.
Yet year after year I remember not having any money for gifts, for heat, for rent, you name it, despite all of the work I was doing. I would have smiling college kids come up to me and pay $1000 for a gift or trip, and say "Merry Christmas!" and I had to say, "Merry Christmas" back because it was my job. My problems weren't their problems, but doing that time after soul-sucking time began to wear on me.
I'll admit that I questioned my role as a provider many times. I told myself that I was a horrible father, that my work was worthless and that all the pictures of smiling kids with a ton of presents under a tree was all that was wrong with the world. I was so low that I would just cry.
Leave it to the holiday season to throw me a curve ball.
My oldest son, Deacon, is scared of speaking on the telephone. The fact that he has autism is something that either causes or amplifies his fear. I remember trying to speak to him about four months ago and he screamed so loudly that I dared not try it again.
On Saturday I received a call and saw it was my son's mom. I was wondering if something was wrong because I had just dropped my son's off, and so I picked up.
"Hello?" I said. "Deacon wanted me to call you and say hi," said his amused mom. She too knew that this was a big event for my 7-year-old. I asked to speak with him, and she put the phone up to his ear, and instead of screaming, he began to giggle. "How's it going, little man?" I asked. I heard more laughing and then an excited "Daddy's on the phone!" from Deacon. He was so happy to talk to me. He quickly handed the phone back over to his mom, and we talked about how great that was, and went along our evening.
It was at that brief moment that I realized that both of my son's don't care about big trees or a ton of gifts from their dad. They don't care how, at every holiday season, things seemingly to go wrong for me. They don't care about other families and all they get.
The only thing my sons care about when it comes to me being their dad is that I be their dad. That I am there for them. That I am responsible and love them. That I work as hard as I can to provide and not neglect them. They don't care about me paying for trips to Rome when they get to college (although that would be nice). For now, they just want me. It was humbling, it snapped me out of my holiday depression, and it was a wake up call for me.
For those of you struggling this holiday season, whether it be financially or emotionally, don't get caught up in the hype. Don't get bogged down in the idea that you have to be a Wonder Dad or Wonder Mom. Your kids, they already see you as that. Love them, and the rest will follow. I hope you all have a great holiday.