Rediscovering Santa Claus

One of my writer-friends posed a question to me the other day asking if I was going to write a post about Christmas this year. I laughed it off saying it wasn’t really my style, plus I couldn’t really think of anything snarky to say about my son pertaining to Christmas. That of course doesn’t count the numerous jabs I’ve been taking at him in 140 characters or Treeless on Twitter and the numerous statuses on Facebook detailing his buffoonery. But other than that, I got nothing.

Then a funny thing happened last weekend. As I watched the Wife and the Boy hang decorations on our mini table-top tree, I started getting a little mushy. Seeing him so excited to hang little ornament after little ornament, it got me thinking about the holidays and all the traditions and symbols that surround the Christmas season.

I was talking with a coworker just a few days later, when the topic of Santa Claus came up. They asked me if I had taken my son to get his picture taken with the jolly fat man in the red suit, to which I replied, “Actually no. He’s almost 3 and we haven’t even tried once yet.” To be honest the Boy has just started recognizing who Santa is, but he certainly doesn’t know, or care for that matter what Santa is all about.

My coworker went on to say, “Oh, you don’t know how lucky you are. At least you won’t have to lie to him that long, plus it will make it easier when you tell him Santa’s not real.” This got me thinking; why should I feel lucky? I’m actually kind of bummed we haven’t been able to do the whole mall-picture-5th-ring-of-hell experience; I mean it’s kind of a rite of passage for parents, and a tradition. Hell, I’m more upset about the missed opportunity to appear on awkwardfamilyphotos.com someday.

santa 3

Because who doesn’t need some of this in their life, right?

I remember the exact moment from my childhood that I first heard someone say Santa wasn’t real. I was 8 years old, and the daughters of the lady who watched me after school were making fun of their little brother (probably 4 or 5) for still believing in jolly old Saint Nick. They proceeded to ridicule and tease him telling them it was mom and dad who did all the Santa-related things on Christmas Eve. I was instantly crushed, and paralyzed by disbelief. The entire time they were picking on their little brother, they had no idea the kid standing next to them was having his heart broken from the news. As their little brother cried and refused to believe what they were saying, out of nowhere all the attention turned to me. The girls said, “If you don’t believe us, just ask Mike.” Their little brother, with tears in his eyes, looked to me for some sort of back up. Hoping and praying I would scream out, “DON’T LISTEN TO THEM!! SANTA IS REAL!!”, but out of nowhere the words just came out, “Oh yeah, I totally knew that already.”

It’s that memory that left me pondering; why do I ever need to tell my son Santa isn’t real? Who am I to make that decision for him? And further more; what if I’m wrong?

Look, I know I’m a snarky dude, and I like to shoot it straight, but if there is one time I’m going to admit this, it’s now; the Boy is my ultimate weakness. I’m never going tell him Santa isn’t real. Why would I do that? Why would I want to take that from him? Much like any part of life that has to do with belief or faith, shouldn’t this be a journey for him and him alone? Isn’t it ultimately up to him if he continues to believe in the man from the North Pole?

The really cool thing about having kids (and I’m serious; this is the only time of year you’re going to catch me saying shit like this) is that you get to rediscover everything in life all over again. I know what’s it’s like to be an adult, and it ain’t that fun. But everything he’s experiencing right now is off the wall awesome. Every time he finds a pine cone on the ground when we’re out for a walk and acts like he just found the fucking Holy Grail, it’s awesome, and I can’t help but get caught up in his excitement too. Whenever he sees a fire truck roll by and he gets so happy I literally think he’s going to lose his water in his pants, it’s amazing. So when I hear him get super excited when he sees a picture of Santa in a bedtime story we’re reading, and I see his beautiful little face light up I think, “You hold on to that buddy; don’t ever stop believing because the world needs more of that joy.”
It’s funny that it’s taken almost 40 years to learn that Santa is more than just the story of some fat dude in a suit who somehow squeezes his rotund self down each and every chimney, for every boy and girl, to bring them presents on Christmas Eve (not to mention somehow fitting in all the apartments and houses without fireplaces). Santa is a tradition; a symbol of all that is awesome about the holiday season. So what if someone tells you Santa isn’t real, I say keep on keeping on with believing. Would this world really be such a worse-off place if millions of people held on to the belief that probably the nicest person they have ever heard of exists, as opposed to being resigned to knowing their exhausted and cranky parents were the ones behind all the Christmas magic? I know one person is who definitely trying to keep that magic alive.

Cara Day, the founder of Daychild (daychild.org), is that person. Daychild is an educational online resource to assist parents in offering the very best options with trying to connect with their children in positive ways, especially for the busy parent (i.e. pretty much all of us these days). Mrs. Day is an educational therapist, life coach, and mother of 4, not to mention a fellow San Diego, CA native.

Cara reached out to me last week and presented me with her latest video on how to keep kids believing in Santa Claus for as long as possible, and I think it’s a pretty cool idea.

For even more videos from daychild.org check out their YouTube channel

So I say – why not keep the idea of Santa alive for as long as possible? After watching Mrs. Day’s video, along with seeing my son’s excitement over the past 2 weeks, I really feel like I’m rediscovering the excitement for Santa all over again, and I can’t wait to cultivate that excitement in my son.

To all my awesome Preachys out there, thank you so much for reading all my stuff this year. You have made this past year an unbelievably exciting time. And don’t worry; I’ll be back in 2015 with my same old snarky stuff. Besides, the Boy is turning 3 soon after Christmas, to which the Wife and I will be entering a new ring of hell. But for now, have a Happy Holiday and a very Merry Christmas from the Preach family.

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Dear ScaryMommy, Marginalizing Dads is a Scary Mistake

Since becoming a father, I, like many people, have spoken up about dads playing more of an involved role in the upbringing of their children — as well as how this increased involvement is still not only being downplayed, but even ridiculed by so many. And being the kind of person who loves to whip out my soapbox from time to time, I never have a problem when it comes to defending fellow dads.

This year has been unofficially deemed the year of the dad. We’ve seen some pretty big strides taken to help break down the stereotypes of the idiot dad, but it still feels like we have a long way to go. For every hip and cool commercial, like #HowtoDad from Cheerios and the call to celebrate dads with Real Dad Moments by Dove Body Care, we still encounter examples of dads being marginalized on a daily basis. Some men even face particularly harsh criticism; such was the case with baseball player Daniel Murphy, who took off the three days of paternity leave granted to each player by the MLB to attend the birth of his son. Because that paternity leave conflicted with opening day, Murphy was subjected to major criticism by many in the media. Even long-time family traditions like apple picking are not safe from those who would like to drum up a laugh at dad’s expense. Don’t believe me, just look at the picture below: Continue reading

That Time My Marriage Almost Ended, And Why That’s a Good Thing

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In the fall of 2012, my 3 year marriage to the love of my life was moments away from being over. My wife and I had many heated arguments during which the dreaded word divorce was shouted with such anger that, to this day, I continue to wonder how we came out the other side.

But much like that dreaded first step into a cold swimming pool, I know it’s time I take a deep breath and step off the side of the pool if I ever want to enjoy the freedom and joy that comes from a refreshing swim. Yes, it’s going to suck at first, but in the end there is a much needed benefit. For me, right now, the benefit I’m looking for is the unblocking of my mind; a release from the baggage that continues to weigh me down and impact my well-being. Allow me to back up a bit before we move forward.

Like many first time parents, that first year of my son’s life was really hard on the Wife and me. For reasons we couldn’t pinpoint, our history of meeting in the middle and balancing out one another, was eluding us.

We dealt with a great deal of stress during October-December of 2011. My Wife sadly lost her grandmother, we had a scare at 20 weeks where we thought our son was coming early, family drama throughout the holidays, and finally a couple we associated with gave birth to their son about 5 weeks before us, and named him the same name we were going to name our son. Yes, it’s laughable NOW to think of how worked up we got over the whole naming situation, but try explaining that to an almost 8 month pregnant woman.

Having some distance, I am able to look back and recognize these were simply excuses for our troubles. The real reason we were having issues is because we weren’t communicating. Simply put, we weren’t talking, our communication was broken. At least not about the things that didn’t involve sleep training, feeding and diaper duty. We neglected to communicate about the stuff that mattered most: Us.

So fast forward almost a year later. Our son was very difficult in his first year. No, that’s not fair to him. He was typical baby, maybe a bit more cranky than others, but normal nonetheless. It was his parents that were not well.

Unresolved stress from the prior year, was now growing with the addition of new stress. It all continued to pile up – stress of a cranky baby, a very difficult bout of postpartum depression, my own person life-long struggles with depression. And thanks to the continued presence of social media, it felt as if all we saw were other couples with children the same age as our son bragging about how awesome life was, and how kick-ass they were at being new moms and dads. I swear to everything holy, if I saw one more “#Blessed,” coupled with a pictures of an angelic baby with smiling, seemingly well-rested parents, I was going to go on a homicidal rampage.

We spent more time sitting around hating the kind of parents/people we weren’t while being angry at each other, that we failed to invest even one second in our marriage and, even more importantly, ourselves.

We tried, on occasion, to be that better person and support one another, even in our supremely broken state. Most days, unfortunately it was an exercise in futility.

But, even in all our brokenness we knew we still wanted us to work. So we took steps to fix us. We sought outside help, and dedicated ourselves to being better with each other. Was it easy? No fucking way. But nothing good, nothing that matters ever is.

I bring all this up because the Wife and I were having a discussion while out to lunch recently – a discussion that floored me.

Wife: You know, I’m kind of thankful for all the crap we went through two years ago.
Me: How in the hell can you say that?!? What good can you possibly have gained from that? We threatened each other with divorce.
Wife: Yeah, but we didn’t do it. And besides, look at all the good in our life now. None of that would be here if we didn’t go through the dark times.
Me: Oh, bullshit. I just cannot agree. You don’t think we would be happy or in a good place if we didn’t almost ruin each other.
Wife: In a way, no, I don’t. Neither one of us would be on the path we’re on now without our rough time.

I left lunch in a fog of confusion and disbelief. How could she see what we went through as a good thing? Our son was almost a statistic of a broken home before he even knew what a home was. But as I sat with it for a while, I got to thinking that maybe she had a point.

Since her bought with PPD my Wife has worked very hard at changing her career/life path. She is now tirelessly working on becoming a birth educator and eventually wants to open a center for women that will focus on every need during pregnancy and post-natal; she explained that this is a path she most definitely would not have embarked on if we hadn’t experienced the rough period, especially if our experience was similar to the #Blessed people because the motivation to help others would have not been there. She also pointed out my renewed desire for writing as an example of how things have gotten better. Yes, I was writing/blogging before my son, but I had little direction. Now I have found that direction, started my own website (PapaDoesPreach.com) and have even formed relationships with other mom/dad bloggers. Many of those relationship have helped me see that parenting, as well as cultivating a marriage, is a rough and sometimes messy process, but at the end of the day both worth the effort.

From time to time friends have remarked how they think the Wife and I are the perfect couple, and how they one day hope to have what we have. They wonder how we do it, how we manage to be so great. I just hope after reading this, they now understand when I simply answer with, “it takes hard work” that I really mean it.

My Wife made the point during our lunch conversation that we should celebrate the fact that we’re better with each other. Are we perfect? Not even close. Do we still have room to be better? Of course – there is always room for growth. But all in all we are a team again. Before the pregnancy funk we made a promise to each other to always value one another the same way we did before we found out we were going to have a baby. Just as we did the day we said our vows to each other.

Because at the end of the day, “we were” before “he was”.