Just two weeks out from Christmas and all around I can see stressed out holiday people. Parties and tree lightings, open houses and gift exchanges, trips out of town……..opportunities abound to socialize, or perhaps obligations abound to socialize? It is easy to get caught up in the fever of it all. This afternoon my son stopped by to return a borrowed table, his three girls were belted into their seats of his car in my driveway.
As I walked him out of the house to his car, he said, “Mom I have been turning down all these party invitations…” I heard the apology in his voice as his sentence trailed off. “There were three just for today …I guess I am not being very social. I want to build the girls a new playhouse.” I noticed as he said that the tone of his voice began to lift. “This time it will be waterproof!” As he described the specifications of this new, better playhouse, I scanned the interior of his car. The girls’ eyes were bright with excitement. Clearly they were onboard about the new playhouse idea!
Intuitively my son chose the right audience in me when he mentioned his concern over turned-down invitations. My immediate response was to agree, that he needs to consider himself. I knew that during this week he had spent at least two days out of town on business. I stood a few moments longer at the passenger door as he climbed in. From the back seat I could feel the vibration of excitement emanating from eight-year-old Ashley, eager to share her morning with daddy and her sisters. Next to her was her chatty two-year-old sister, Caroline, all cinched into her baby seat, pointing and exclaiming to me in her baby talk ways. In the driver’s seat sat the eldest, eleven year-old Elizabeth, who was getting some behind-the-wheel coaching from her daddy in my private driveway.
All afternoon I replayed that sweet scene. My son apologizing aloud for wanting to devote his day and his energy to his little girls, teaching them adult skills, and building them something of delight, instead of hiring a baby sitter and running around to parties with people he scarcely knows. It does not seem like much of a conflict to those of us on the outside looking in. We know that those three little girls will be grown and gone in a heartbeat. These days are the “good old days” he will look back on in the future. How wise he is to spend the time and energy as he chooses with his loved ones, instead of in social obligations.
During my decades in the college classroom one of my favorite sayings to my students was to command them in a strong tone, “Get out of the House of Should and into the House of Choice!” They would look a bit stunned and then when I followed up with “Stop shoulding all over yourself!” they burst into laughter. But they listened. There is some serious truth in that idea. Maybe during these holiday weeks you can do that a bit more. Choose where you want to put your time and energy. Let us stop running on automatic pilot saying “Yes” when we really want to say “No.” Let's strive to make joyful decisions.
I think my son was wise to invest in his girls. I hear him hammering across the street just now. How ironic, I talk about the House of Should and he is literally on the slope of his yard, just across the road from my home, building a House of Joy.
My husband, Ken, spent all day yesterday with his friend of forty years who will soon be ninety. They attended an eight hour marathon of high school football at Anaheim Stadium. They had a marvelously good time. All he could talk about was the incredible lust for life his friend has. Ken came away convinced that a life well-lived must come with a big dose of adventure and joy.
Please live in the house of joy! Why don’t we promise ourselves that we will do that this season as well. Perhaps do this all year long? Our time on the planet is so short. We deserve to enjoy the majesty of life, to thrive as we live on this beautiful earth. We owe it to ourselves to remember the thrill of Christmas when we were five years old. Happy Holidays to you.