The biscotti baked, the bows on the boxes, and the Christmas brunch menu planned, I was happy as I awaited the one time a year when my sons return home from opposite coasts. My joy evaporated when one of my homeward bound boys got stuck in an airport over a thousand miles away. There were a dozen other passengers ahead of him, each desperately hoping to get a seat on the next flight out.
I commanded my sinking heart to rise up and listen to my rational mind. He’s an adult. He’s capable. He’ll figure it out. He’s lived away from home on his own for years. The lump in my throat still crept up hours later in the day when a co-worker asked, “What time do your kids get in?”
Silently embarrassed by my emotions at a typical travel debacle of a grown man, I made an effort to regain perspective. I remind myself of the three families I know who will not celebrate this season with their young adult children because of recent untimely, unfathomable deaths caused by a deer that leapt onto the highway, an accidental drug overdose, and a brain aneurysm. I was guilty of being grumpy instead of grateful.
All parents, consciously or not, long to protect their children, including protecting them from disappointment. When parents are divorced and when their children are young, the desire can be exacerbated during special seasons. When it’s our holiday, we are vulnerable of too high expectations, too much spending, and too much trying too hard. Whether the failure to select the just-right gift that delights or to have the perfect gingerbread house, we can angst.
The survival of our species has depended upon the drive to keep our babes free from harm. My brain acts as though a saber-tooth tiger is about to devour my child simply because my heart wants my child near, safe, and home.
Within twenty-four hours I am situated on my sofa in between my children sorting through a stack of photographs from the days when they were toddlers living with their parents under one roof. We reflect on the memories of birthdays and Easter egg hunts. They ask questions. We analyze our attitudes about our family history. Best of all, we laugh. In this moment, my children are securely right beside me, and there is happiness all around being home for the holidays.
Here’s hoping that you surround yourself with those you love and those who love you, feeling safe at home in your heart this holiday season.