And now, as you read Brian's words, may I remind you how much I love him and how lucky I am to share the journey of parenthood with him?
Christmas confessions from an exhausted Dad
guest post from Brian:
Every year during Advent Tamara and I watch the 1946 classic It’s a Wonderful Life. I have a visceral reaction to the part of the movie where George Bailey’s life begins to unravel. It’s right after Uncle Billy inadvertently hands the villain, Mr. Potter, eight thousand dollars that belong to the family business.
On Christmas Eve George returns to his loving home to find the family busily preparing for the big day. It is chaos. The four kids are being, well… kids –- asking questions, playing piano, running fevers, George is stressed, the cops are coming and all hope is lost.
What makes me cringe is the way George Bailey treats his children. He is grumpy, mean, remorseful and desperate. At one point he sputters, “Why do we have to have all these kids, anyway.”
I cringe because I am George Bailey, or I was anyway.
It’s not often that our worst moments get caught on film as a lasting monument to our pride. I am lucky enough to have two such monuments: wedding pictures with
me sporting a mullet and a video of Christmas 1997.
Tamara’s family was on mission in Korea and we were determined to keep every family tradition with our four kids in front of the mounted video camera to send to Asia.
One family tradition is to read the Christmas story from Luke 2 while the kids bring each character of the nativity to the stable at the appropriate time.
In our twenty-seven-year-old-parental-wisdom we decided to keep this beloved family tradition using the hand-painted ceramic nativity set that we received for a wedding gift and that we hope is used well after Tamara and I are gone.
Four kids, ages 6, 4, 1 and 17 days, a priceless ceramic nativity, a stressed out dad
and a video camera.
Seriously. Bad idea.
I scolded, growled and snatched Baby Jesus out of the hands of an innocent child. At one point during the morning, I threatened to cancel Christmas. Yep, Christmas cancelled on account of kids being kids. I was George Bailey.
I make jokes about the mullet – “ceremony up front and wedding reception in
the back”. I’ve made rules about the video. No showing to anyone but family. No watching it when I am around. No taking it out of the house.
I was not a very good dad when my kids were young. I was selfish. I wanted to have perfect kids so people thought I was perfect. My heart was not for my children. My heart was for me.
Somehow we as parents need to imagine the kind of people that we want our kids to be and work to raise that kind of person. Easier said than done, right?
I want my kids to be human. I want them to be kind, helpful, faithful, funny,emotional, expressive and real. I don’t want them to take themselves too seriously, be afraid to fail or be perfect.
Christmas morning 1997 was a turning point for me as a father. I did not like what I saw on the video. I still don’t.
Tamara and I began to read and pray. We talked to friends and family whom we wanted to model as parents and respectfully ignored those we didn’t.
I sought counseling and emotional healing. I confessed my sin, shame and fatherlessness to God.
When our kids were old enough, I asked them to forgive me for that Christmas and other days like it. They did.
Our kids are now 22, 20, 17 and 16. They’re not perfect, but they are human.
We have a wall in our house with pictures of our kids. The middle of the collage reads, “We might just be the luckiest people alive.” It reminds me of the final scene in the movie. The crisis has passed, George wants to live again and the town has rallied to help their friend. George’s brother, Harry Bailey, closes the movie “To my brother George, the richest man in town.”
And we never did break that nativity. Lucky.