May your yuletide be merry and bright

In the movie Grosse Pointe Blank, there’s a conversation about the Buddhist concept of shakubuku, a philosophical argument designed to get you to challenge everything you have ever “known” to be true.

A swift spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever. I think I’m a bit like John Cusack’s character here, “That would be good. I think.”

In some ways, having a child is like shakubuku. Being a parent has altered my reality forever. And living with my daughter — watching her grow up and, at times, challenge my authority — sometimes feels like daily shakubuku.

I used to “know” that I hated Christmas. But then I met my daughter. I could see things in a fresh light — through her eyes. Children have no baggage. They do not see the spirits of Christmas past. They only see today. They only see that which delights them. (Like living with a tiny, tyrannical Buddha.)

This year we put up a tree for the first time since my daughter was born. (And certainly the first time for my husband and I in maybe 12 years.) It just seemed like an exercise in futility until she was old enough to both appreciate it and to understand language enough to grasp the concept that a tree is not for touching, “only looking with our eyes.” (Ask any parent of a small child how many times they have to repeat that or something similar all season long.) We only put soft ornaments and left the breakable ones in the box, just in case. But at two-and-a-half, she’s actually done pretty well. I’ve only found ornaments off the tree twice in about a month. Not bad.

More than any ornament, what seems to fascinate my daughter most are the little twinkly lights on the tree. We have spent quite a bit of time laying under the tree and staring up into the “preddy wites.” She can proudly name all the colors of the lights on our tree and can lay there for a half hour or more — an eternity in toddler time — pointing at different ones and exclaiming, “Green! Purple! Yellow! Red! Orange!”

My daughter has shifted my gaze on Christmas. I no longer crane my neck to look backward. And I spend less time fretting about the obligations and consternations. (And I am a big fan of Cyber Monday! Didn’t stand in line at a postal service once this season!) Instead, I revel in the small-scale wonder of a toddler’s joy. Christmas lights are pretty!

We have been enjoying the music of the holidays, too. My daughter nearly has Jingle Bells down pat. I barely miss the cookies and cakes that I’m not allowed; food allergies are such a Scrooge! But all that time (and frustration) in the kitchen would mean I’d miss more still moments looking at the lights, reading stories, and cuddling on the couch watching the Caillou Christmas special. (What did I tell you? Tiny tyrant.)

I feel lucky to be an architect of my daughter’s childhood. It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly. And I hope that as I strive to give her great holiday experiences that will one day be memories, that she will feel the echo of all the giggles and delight. But what she may not realize is how much she’s rewritten the script of my life and altered my reality forever — even about something as fleeting as Christmas.

Whatever your belief system (or lack thereof), I wish for you to have a happy winter season filled with laughter and love.

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