My wife, two sons and I just did this, literally. We arrived at the in-laws house just minutes ago after a car ride across three states. A surprise trip to their place to spend Christmas together. This will be the first time in a few years that we, along with my brother-in-law, will all be in the same house for the holiday. It’s sure to be a great week.
I’m sure many of you may have similar plans with your family and friends as well. Some of you are getting ready to fly across the country while others may only be driving across town. For us, the total time on the road was about 11 hours.
It’s amazing how many different emotions can be experienced during an 11-hour road trip with two fidgety, elementary-aged boys. Of course, we played the usual road games like “I spy” which help pass the time and keeps everyone’s mood up. Then there are times, though, when the distance and being restrained in the back seat becomes too much to handle.
In those moments as a parent I get to see how my sons and I really communicate. Even if ‘the discussion’ starts out calm, there comes a point where no amount of reasoning can explain to a child that we do not own a teleportation machine and he just needs to sit there and watch out the window. This is when it sometimes becomes necessary to use a tone and volume of voice that can convey to the child that we are done debating and this is the last thing I’m going to say about it.
I will spare the details but if you have a son/daughter or have ever been a son/daughter you’ve experienced this same situation. You know, then, the emotional response that this type of communicating invokes within a developing young person. Normally, they end up with a red face and watery eyes. This sort of thing is part of the wild ride that is the parent-child relationship.
This isn’t my point though. It’s what I said a few minutes after this.
As the sobbing was winding down, I looked in the rear-view mirror to let them know that they needed it to stop. That we were going to be arriving at grandmas soon and I didn’t want our ‘discussion’ and the resulting emotions to cast a bad vibe over our reunion. I said you need to wipe your eyes and clean up your face. I was telling him to put on a happy face.
No doubt there are many people this time of year that are preparing to put on a happy face just so that they can get through all the family time and holiday gatherings. It’s natural; we want people to believe we are doing fine and had a great year. It’s painful though. It’s not what we want to do. Whether it’s the result of a silly spat with your kid or something deeper, we carry to these parties some sort of baggage.
No words written here can stop you from putting on your happy face. I only want to encourage you to in that the reason we celebrate this time of year is to remember the coming of The One who can truly remedy our hurts. Do you really want a happy face? Search after a happy heart.
“A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit.”
From the Lawrence family to yours, ‘Safe travels and Merry Christmas!’
Jake (and Nancy, Isaiah, and Malachi)