As the craziness of the holiday seasons engulfs our reality it is so easy for us to become caught up in the business of it all and in so doing in fact nullify it all. Despite your background or religious preference December has become a time of holiday and celebrating family. We organise our lives around trips to visit long lost family members – be it granny up the road or a cousin in another province – as well as travelling to distant corners of the world. We may not even have to travel far but “getting together” and connecting with each other is what is on all our minds. We race around purchasing gifts, arranging menus, organising food and entertainment. We become so caught up in organising this amazing family get together that we do in fact often miss the family in it all.
This may simply outplay in that as we are finally all gathered that we are in fact all too tired to actually enjoy each other’s company or with all the planning and scheming and imagining, the day doesn’t go quite as we expected so disappointment, hurt and resentment knocks loud at our door – leaving a bitter taste in our lives. These can however be avoided by simply resting well and choosing to keep our minds on the reality that we are all human and that things will therefore not usually play out as we imagined. So keeping expectations real can allow us to experience these family times as something to treasure – even if they are not perfect.
A deeper concern however, is that in the business of this all we totally miss each other – especially our little people. We are rushing in and out to shops, baking cooking, organising outings and playdates and the holidays are bustling and happening all around us. We are all together – in the same house – most of the time, and yet do we really stop and truly see one another.
In his play Our Town, first performed in 1938 Thornton Wilder perfectly captures this in a scene when Emily asks to return from her grave to visit her 12th Birthday. She is then seen observing the day from the future. Her words capture so much that we too often don’t wish to acknowledge:
“Oh, Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me….. I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another….. I didn’t realize. All that was going on in life and we never noticed.”
How easily the days and years slip by. How easily it is to provide our children with a beautiful home, amazing food, friends, entertainment and toys beyond their wildest dreams but if we stopped and asked them what they truly desired more than anything else – they would say they would give it all up for your time. All our children – and aunty and granny for that matter – really want from us is our love and attention. They want to know that they are more important than the food being presented just right or the table being laid perfectly. They want to be a part of our lives. They want us to stop running and take the time to push them on the swing or sit on the floor and draw with them. To include them in our shopping and let them help make an imperfect pudding or set the table with us – including the name tags that they have lovingly scrawled out for each guest.
So as we bustle about creating the perfect day don’t forget about the people that are all a part of your reality. People that love you dearly and wish for nothing more than to have you share that love with them. The challenge here is to take a moment in this craziness to spend a quiet moment with each of our special little people. Bake some biscuits with your daughter or make a puzzle together. Single out one of your children to cuddle up on the bed with to watch a movie or take a slow walk around the neighbourhood or simply take the time to stop and listen to what they are trying to say to you – as Sally Clarkson experienced – you may be suitably surprised by what you hear them say.
As much as we try to convince ourselves otherwise it’s not the perfect roast but rather these little intimate moments that our children will remember. And above all its these times that weave into creating relationship with each of them something that will become the fibre who you are as a family. Something they can hold in their hearts as they grow – knowing my mom and dad loved and valued me more and beyond their “to do” list. So let’s be challenged this holiday to not become so caught up in organising family time that we miss the Family in it altogether.