Through the blessing of my first marriage, I have three precious daughters. They absolutely mean the world to me. I've been through so much with them.
The eldest of the three is my daughter, Chandler, 12, almost 13.
Through the blessing of my second marriage, I have three wonderful sons and another daughter. They absolutely mean the world to me, though it's sometimes perceived to the contrary. And if you think having your own kids is rough work, try being a step-parent.
The youngest of the three sons is Logan, 12, almost 13, and 10 days younger than Chandler.
My Days As A Tween
I recall those days of my life. We were in Atwater, CA. I had the world's biggest crush on Julie Nelson. She didn't have one on me. I was in band. I played the drums. I wanted so much to have my own drum set and a rock and roll band. I wanted to have a black '57 Chevy that I worked on in our garage there on High Street. (Yeah, I know, I couldn't drive). And I thought I knew it all.
Nowadays, my perspective on life has changed. I'm older now than my dad was when I was that age. And there are many times still that I ask my tweens to do things with me that they object to because as Chandler oft puts it, "I have friends and I want to keep them."
And so it goes. I encourage things that a few years ago, Chandler would have been all over. Now she won't touch them, even if she were dying.
Case in point, my playing Santa in our front yard. Ricky, 17, our eldest, won't go near the front yard when I'm out there. He won't call me Santa either, which is bad because it ruins it for any of the other kids around that he'd try so hard to quash the spirit. Jerrod and his squeeze came and sat on Santa's lap in the sleigh last week. That was fun. They were all smiles. Happiness!
Chandler, while she'll come outside, absolutely refuses to get up and sit on Santa's lap. You don't know how much I wish she would. After all, this is the sweet girl who used to ride with me to her sitters in the a.m. and we'd sing about her being a Daddy's girl. I'd give her the front page of The Montgomery Advertiser on the ride over and she'd stare at the front page, not able to read a word, but mimicking her daddy. This is the same child who would ride around with me on golf carts at Jubilee City Fest when I was site director, who wanted me to see about getting the Dixie Chicks to our festival and knew the key questions to consider were 1) How much are they? 2) Are they available? And 3) Do they play outdoor venues? She was four.
Logan, surprisingly, came out front to see Santa Friday night before going to gymnastics. It was nice. He wanted and did sit in Santa's lap and told him (me), he wanted a skateboard for Christmas. Saturday night, he was back out there again, this time offering cookies to the children who came by, offering Christmas pencils, playing with the younger kids who wanted to go inside Santa's Workshop and pretend to be part of such a fantastic enterprise.
When I came in on Saturday night, he stopped me and said, "I just wanted to tell you what a nice thing it is you are doing for others." You don't know how special that was to me. Logan and I have had our rough spots over the past four years. It'd been a while since he'd had a dad in his life and it took some getting used to when a man was trying to shape him.
The twins, Reagan and Haley, 10, have become so helpful to the Santa process out front. Haley is a born photographer. She's got that natural pose for holding the camera and has a good eye. She wants a camera for Christmas, (I think that's what she told Santa….) And she deserves one. The first week we were out doing Santa I heard Haley tell one of her friends, "I'm so lucky." Her friend asked her what she was lucky about and Haley's answer was, "Are you kidding? Look around."
Ashleigh, our five-year-old, is so into Christmas. The spirit is alive and well in this young one.
If the unfortunate were to happen tomorrow and I should not wake, I can pass to the ages knowing I've instilled something that's going to live in the hearts and minds of my kids for many years to come. And without having to say so to my kids, they have each told me (well, Ricky hasn't, but that's okay) that what's happening out in front of our home on Friday and Saturday evenings, warm or cold, windy or calm, snowing or …. well don't push the rain point, our family is about doing something nice for others.
We don't make money off of Christmas in our front yard. We do this to do something nice for others. And my kids have testified to that without me having to explain it. They've been able to gather this by seeing first-hand how other children react to coming to see Santa, to the happiness it brings another child to give them a cookie after seeing Santa, to see the surprise in the eyes of a parent who has a child/tween offering them hot chocolate on a cold winter's night and ask for nothing in return.
To me this is the true gift and joy of Christmas. It doesn't matter what will be under the tree for me. It may still for my kids, but in the end, I know that I've given them something much richer than they can imagine right now; the gift of giving. As the days of their lives pass, it will become more and more apparent to them that the special things we do in front of the house will mean more to them than what they got inside the house under the tree on Christmas morning.
Until then, I still have one tween who won't sit in my lap, and one who wills. And I thank God for both of them. Merry Christmas, kids.