This year, it’s going to be different. Like many fathers, I’ve felt a bit disconnected from the holiday season. It’s not that I don’t buy my presents and help with decorations. And it’s not that I don’t spend some wonderful time with my kids. It’s something deeper than that.
My eight-year-old daughter ran up to me the other day with great excitement and anticipation. “This Christmas is going to be the best ever!’ she shouted. I marvelled at her excitement, and I wished I could match her enthusiasm. She’d already found the spirit of the holidays, while I was mired in “things that I must to do.” The list was long. This holiday season, I’d be buying presents, coordinating family visits, updating lists and writing cards, doing decorations outside the house and in, volunteering, running a business, etc. etc.
There are times when it all seems like too much.
Fathers (and males in general) have a tendency to focus on goals. Rather than looking at the “big picture” of the holidays, we break things down into “what tasks need to be accomplished.” When one task is done, we move on to the next. And while this style does get some things accomplished, it reduces our capacity to capture the “spirit” of the holidays. The result is that many fathers have a sense of being on the periphery” of their families during the holidays. The tasks are done, but the spirit isn’t captured.
This scenario mirrors what happens to many fathers in their families-they feel outside of the “emotional core” of the family, and aren’t able to experience the depth of warmth, closeness, and love they want. They don’t have the skills of “emotional intelligence” that women have been learning from a very early age. And this dilemma is further complicated by the fact that fathers are working longer hours than ever before. According to the International Labor Organization, Americans work 1,978 hours per year, or a full nine weeks more that the average Western European. Thirty-eight percent of fathers reported that they usually worked fifty or more hours per week.
It’s easy to see why fathers can have a difficult time capturing the spirit of the holidays.
And while this may be a challenging dilemma for fathers, there are a number of things that fathers can do to enrich their experience this holiday season:
- Shift your thinking away from a “things to do” mentality to a “what does the family need this holiday” mentality. See things with a wider lens. Give this approach a week and see what happens.
- Volunteer to help someone in need this holiday. Take the kids and spend time enriching the life of someone who needs it. There’s no greater way to capture the spirit of the holidays than being of service to others. And your kids will experience something they’ll never forget.
- Do something this holiday that you haven’t done before. Bake some holiday cookies or create your own cards to send out. Expanding your creative skills can help you to “receive” the spirit of the holidays.
- Simply choose to have more joy, openness, and spirit this holiday. After all, most of it is choice! And, your kids are watching you very closely!
I crept up behind my daughter and tackled her, pinning her down onto the couch. “We’re going to have an amazing Christmas this year, you’re right!’ I told her. “What do you want your Christmas to be like?” She sat up and began to tell me all the things she wanted to do for Christmas, and about all the presents she wanted. I sat there with her and listened, forgetting all of the work and the errands that had been on my mind most of the day. She could sense that I was right there with her as she spoke.
And as I sat there listening to her, I felt like a spark of the holiday spirit was already on its way.
Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC, is a relationship coach. He is the author of “25 Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent Fathers” http://www.markbrandenburg.com/father.htm For a FREE ecourse for fathers, articles, and a FREE bi-weekly newsletter, “Dads, Don’t Fix Your Kids,” go to http://www.markbrandenburg.com.