By Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC
I was worried my kids wouldn't get to bed on time. It was close to the time they'd normally get their pajamas on, but it was a special night. Tonight was the night to decorate the Christmas tree.
When I saw the excitement in their eyes, my concern with their bedtime ended. While my thoughts were fixed on how crabby my kids would be the next day, their thoughts were on hope, promise, and the excitement of the holidays. On this night, hope and promise won out.
As I watched them running from the decorations to the tree, I began to feel their hope and excitement. I felt further and further away from the "everyday worries" that had bothered me moments before. And as I watched them working together to create something beautiful, something else happened.
I began to be filled with love for them.
I watched them for awhile longer, then said, "You know, you guys are great." Michael, my 6-year-old son, hesitated for a second. "You are too, Dad," he said.
It was my turn to hesitate. For a moment, I felt numb, and then the feelings came. Tears of joy and gratitude streamed down my face. "Thanks, buddy," I whispered back. Sarah, my eight-year old daughter, glanced at me and asked me if I was crying. "Yes, Sarah, I'm very happy right now," I told her. She walked over to me and gave me a hug. A second wave of feelings came, and I struggled to compose myself.
As I sat there hugging my daughter, there was a part of me that was concerned about my kids taking "emotional care" of me. It felt a bit uncomfortable to be crying in front of my kids, and it felt a bit odd having my daughter comforting me.
But there was something bigger here.
We were having "a moment." It was a moment where we felt how close we could be, and it was a moment when my kids were seeing my authentic joy and gratitude. A moment that we would all remember for the rest of our lives.
After "the moment" passed, we continued to decorate the tree with lights and ornaments. When we'd finished, we got back into the "daily routine" of bedtime preparations. When my wife and I had gotten our kids to bed, I reflected on the moment that had passed and my life as a parent.
I thought about how easy it was for all of us to feel unappreciated, disrespected, and taken for granted as parents. It sometimes seems that we do so much for our kids, and we don't get the recognition we deserve. When life gets hard, we often long for the past, or look to the future, but we avoid the beauty of the present.
And then a moment like this comes along. One of the moments that creates meaning in your life. The kind of moment that reminds you why you're doing all that you're doing. And when you experience this kind of moment, it's easier to live each day and each moment with joy and gratitude. It's easier to face the occasional drudgery of everyday life. And it's easier to remember why we were put on this earth: to love each other and to help create a better world through that love.
As you move into this holiday season, remember to open yourself to your own "moments." They can happen at any time, and they'll appear to you when you have the courage and awareness to open yourself to the present moment. These moments may be filled by joy or pain, but they should not be judged by how happy they make you. They should be judged by whether you open yourself to that moment, and whether this moment fills your heart and your spirit.
May your heart and spirit be filled with "moments" this holiday season, and may you teach your children to open themselves to this spirit as well.
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