It is Christmas time here in Erie. Again. Being in my forties has brought about the awareness of age old patterns in life. The passing of the seasons, the rights of passage, the holiday traditions that help ground us all as both individuals and a society are all to visible to me now. I have come to embrace this sameness with both relief and more than a little bit of weariness. I mean, we have the same harvest, winter and spring traditions that come every year and more or less these marking of seasons are celebrated by all cultures just under different names and pretenses. This commonality grounds us all but I am starting be over it.
My reasons for being over Christmas especially is that my eldest daughter has moved into Middle School this year. She is a sweetly gullible, soon to be 12-year-old whom still enjoys the childhood magic of the Christmas season. She actively looks for Randall, our reindeer elf, every morning and squeals with glee along with her sister when they find where I have decided to stash him. It brings a smile to my face every time. Yet, I can hear the strain in her voice as a little disbelief is starts to creep in. This is partly my fault caused by all the times that I have forgotten to move Randall. It is also a function of our current societal norms that seemingly rushes our children to act more like adults at earlier and earlier ages. I can see the suspicion on her face as we encounter the 34th Santa this holiday season and I grate at her comments on the varying quality of each Santa we encounter. Overall, this is a function of her growing up but is also tied to the inundation of the commercialized holiday season that seemingly starts right after Halloween.
Growing up today can be hard at this age and my daughter is acutely aware of the difficulties. This year she seems to have made a conscious effort to give it one last go as a child. She chides us when Randall doesn’t move. She beams when we encounter the Santa that is more authentic, replete with his fluffy, homegrown beard and natural jolly girth. She belts out her favorite carols with younger sister. She wants to believe!
Yet the magic is being assaulted daily by the not so subtle ads on TV that deal a jab at this wonderous childhood belief. Her peers that already know the truth land a hook to the body. Don’t even get me going with all the adult themed shirts and decorations that jadedly make fun of the season and are a big uppercut to child wonder. The knockout blow that I think hurt the worst was when one of her teachers was discussing the travails of forgetting to move his children’s Elf on a Shelf. This was a moment stolen from a parent that admittedly stings. Her innocence stolen in a glib passing comment. My heart still goes out for the stinging hurt I know she felt in that classroom. Growing up sometimes sucks, I guess.
I am starting think that this revelation is something that maybe I have personal difficulty with myself. It is probable that my own outlook on traditions and yearly repetition has caused me to reflect on my life more than I am accustomed. The sameness and the routine is something that usually grounds usand gives us comfort. It is quite possible that Christmas and the myriad other yearly traditions I now fret about haven’t changed all that much but my role in it continues to evolve. I am now a parent of tween and both myself and my daughter have to adjust expectations for holidays and our respective roles during those holidays. Maybe we both want to have one last go at the special magic of a childhood Christmas. All in all, the decision is ours to make. Time to create the real magic again. Merry Christmas.