“Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old fashioned Christmas……. we’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny fucking Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse” – Clark Griswold, Christmas Vacation
An uncontrollable toddler tantrum often leads to something being broken or an injury. Especially, when said tantrum occurs near Christmas decorations. Now, I fully understand my kids anger….. he didn’t want to watch The Grinch from the point we left off. Oh no, he wanted to watch it from the BEGINNING! An insane tantrum ensues and a stocking is pulled violently off the mantel bringing it’s steal hanger with it. Not to worry, the hangers fall was softened by my sons head. A nice peaceful Christmas movie night is now filled with screams and a bleeding head wound. The expectations I had for the evening are now gone, as I provide medical treatment to my wounded toddler.
We all have a lot in common with Clark Griswold in the movie Christmas Vacation. Griswold wasn’t insane per say, he was only lead to insanity after his expectations of Christmas were met with a plethora of unfortunate, yet hilarious, events.
“I don’t know what to say except its Christmas and we’re all in misery” – Ellen Griswold
We all hold certain expectations of the holidays. When you’re the father of small children, those expectations are often met with a bleeding head wound on a calm winter night. This begins to drive many of us mad.
I often plan exuberant family outings for the holidays. Certain events that would have made me quite happy as a young child. Now, I won’t get into it, but I had very few special holiday outings as a kid. Realizing this, I try to expose my offspring to warm fuzzy Christmas feelings. I want to fill my children’s memory bank with positive Christmas experiences. For example, nights by the fire place watching a family movie, a trip to a outdoor light display, or a visit to Santa. My efforts are often met with all out madness. They don’t go as planned.
“The most enduring traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin. ” Clark Griswold
One day, as I drove home with two pissed off kids from what I thought was a great Christmas family outing, I realized something. My kids don’t give a shit about my expectations, they just don’t. They can’t comprehend what it is I expect. They only know one thing and that is “how do I feel right now?” They don’t care about making memories, or following some kind of tradition. They care about getting that second piece of chocolate at an over priced museum cafe. They don’t care that I spent $58 to see a bunch of trees covered in lights, they care about running in the open field searching for a puddle of mud.
Realizing their lack of empathy, I began to understand that it’s not about me. I can’t hope to try and fill my sons memories with Christmas experiences I did not have as a child. I can’t expect them to be little humans I can live vicariously through. I can only expect them to be my children in this time and place. I can only expect them to make the memories they choose to make from the environment I provide. And those memories might very well be getting that second piece of chocolate or spilling juice all over my coat.
Now, there are lessons that need to be taught to my little trouble makers, but I have to realize they are little kids. I have to realize they are little kids that need to get their “wiggles” out. They don’t yet understand the importance of the things around them and thats okay. To them, having a melt down in the line to see Santa seems perfectly reasonable. Throwing an ornament across the room just might be the proper reaction in their little toddler mind. Although these behaviors need to be corrected, we can’t force perfect moments. We just can’t.
My expectations, just like Clark Griswold, aren’t always reasonable or even possible. We are dealing with the most unpredictable living being in our world, little humans. If I stick to the rigid outline of my holiday expectations, I will always be disappointed. If I understand that an evening might just come to an end after a bleeding head wound, I’ll be a far happier person. Not that I should expect bleeding head wounds, but kids are unpredictable. We can’t control what parenthood throws at us, but we sure as hell can control how we react to it.
We can’t force perfect moments. We can’t Griswold our way through important events in our lives; however, we may find that in the depths of chaos we see memories we did not expect. We may find that in those moments of utter frustration lies the exact memory we will look back on with warm feelings. In the depths of the unexpected we see exactly what we find true value in. So, go with the flow. Adapt to what is thrown at you. It’s a wild ride, enjoy it. Merry Christmas!
Efren is the father of two boys. He is a police officer and certified personal trainer.