There’s so much you learn as you grow old, especially when you’re a parent. The holidays are one example of how things constantly change over time. When you’re a child, Christmas is a time of excitement, surprise, wonder, and imagination. As the years pass, you learn what the magic of Christmas is all about. To borrow a line from The Polar Express, you stop hearing the bell ring, and it loses some of the luster it once had. It’s not bad, but it is different when that happens. Unfortunately, today that happens a lot faster than it did in my day.
You begin to hear the bell once more when you become a parent, only it’s not on Christmas Eve, it’s on Christmas Day, when you see the bright smiles on the faces of your children and the jubilant expressions as they marvel in what Santa left for them under the tree. Those are good times indeed. But then your children grow older, and they stop hearing the bell ring. Those anxious Christmas Eves, making cookies for Santa and spreading reindeer food, are no longer new. Their interests are more into what their friends are doing that evening. Christmas day is still exciting, but in a much different way with a different slant on the reactions.
This can be difficult on parents at first, but you can’t blame them for that. When your children are small, they love everything they get. As they grow into teenagers, they learn to not be as excited about every little thing, even perhaps to the point of being particular. To parents who had grown used to the excited responses of their children’s early days, this comes as quite a shock. But, never fear, it’s just part of the growing process. Children feel they must tone down their excitement now that they’re almost adults, and this understatement comes off as more mature to them. Then, as the years pass and they get older still, they learn a portion of what life is about. They experience the struggles and sacrifices of life, and having to earn what you get, along with the value not only of things, but also of how much it means when another person thinks enough of you to get you something special for this very special occasion. They still don’t hear the bell, but they’re beginning to have a more complete understanding of what this season is really about. When the day comes and they marry and have children themselves, they’ll begin to hear the bell ring once again.
It’s all part of the cycle of life. All part of what age gives you to experience, enjoy, and ultimately accept. I’ve learned that family size, contrary to what all the holiday movies express, is not as important as what the family shares together. Oh, it’s nice to have a large family who can get together during the holidays and celebrate, but that, too, can have a stressful component to it. I’ve learned small families can have just as much fun and joy this time of year. The key, I feel, is in the traditions. Whether it’s long-standing family rituals that children loved when they were young, lost interest in when they became teens, but then found joy in all over again when they became full fledge adults; or, new ones that you create that better fit the family as it is now. Yes, traditions can bring people together, give you something to look forward to year after year, and anticipate with your own level of excitement. That’s always been something special for me and my family. And it makes me proud that my children appreciate these traditions and fully comprehend their value to our family.
So whether your family is large or small, filled with young ones, or teens and adults, everyone can find joy in their heart this time of year. After all, we’re celebrating the birth of the One who came to save us. We all have our own traditions with regard to how we honor this occasion, and that’s part of what makes each family unique and special.
May you all have a wonderful holiday season, a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, and in your own way, may you hear the bell ring once more.