So in all my 6 Words harvesting and cavorting with stellar bloggers, Rory of Time Out for Mom tossed a question my way – then suggested it might not make a horrible post.
What’s Christmas all about for a dad?
It might not be the Black (Ops) Friday shopping or Poinsettia patterns or Advent calendars our wives might do, or the wish lists or accelerated sweets consumption and dreaming our kids might do (well, maybe on the sweets consumption … ) but for dads, Christmas is more than just a time the NFL playoffs begin to take shape and your NBA team’s aspirations for the playoffs begin to take shape.
There’s Santa. There’s the challenge to pick that perfect gift for a special lady. But mostly, it’s Christmas. It’s taking your role in creating the magic.
Like our dads did, and the dads before them. All the way back to Napoleon and Charles Ingalls, probably.
It’s stringing up Christmas lights for some dudes. Wearing the beard and red suit for others. Still some keep the “real” eggnog flowing. But like most sporty guys, I’m all about the tradition.
Some are as sacred as the parquet floor at the Boston Garden, Cubs fans firing the enemy’s home run balls back on the field in defiance, or my soccer teams celebrating each victory by buying their coach double bacon cheeseburgers.
OK, so I’m still working on that last one …
I do love the role as the one who must taste-test all this gingerbread madness, too. As for the shopping: I’m one of those who does his shopping through the year, and socks it away. I stay as far as I can from Black Friday!
Traditions that are important to dads:
1. Christmas tree decorating
We’ve had a few adventures when it comes to the conquest of the Christmas tree.
Cats have toppled our tree. We found a lizard in one – from a tree farm in Tallahassee we visited wearing T-shirts and shorts.
And for our first Christmas as parents, we got an assist from an angel hiding behind a week of stubble.
With a new family at home, including a one-month-old daughter, I set out to find the biggest, baddest tree $20 could buy. Pretty trees need not apply.
I handed the crisp bill to the tree farmer at the farmer’s market in Asheville, explaining that I had a wife and child at home waiting for the mother of all trees. Yes, I understood that even then, in 1997, $20 couldn’t go far.
He nodded to an unpriced band of trees against the wall. “All them are $20 each,” he said.
They were majestic Douglas Firs. $20 should have bought me a bough.
Without a pinecone.
We always get pizza on the day we decorate the tree. Everyone helps, we put on the Christmas music, and each of the kids puts the “my first Christmas” ornament on. And yes, the pizza is integral to this tradition. It.just.is.
What goes into a stocking ought to be both magical and practical.
Santa puts a matchbox car in each of my girls’ stockings. I know they’re girls, but I love that they’ve always played with them. They should include things that Santa would know, like favorite candy, hairbands, games. But also copious amounts of candy and frivolity.
A cool thing about my kids: Their wish lists are a good blend of dreamy and quixotic and down-to-earth. Because life ought to be that way too, right?
Also, gawk, feel up and drool over the stockings all you want, kids.
But you can’t touch until you have a healthy holiday breakfast of …
3. Christmas morning chocolate-chip pancakes
With eggnog in the batter. Always.
This happens after presents are opened, but before the stockings are ransacked. Stockings should include teasers, stuff that sticks out just so, or leaves an indistinguishable bump in the fabric … something to stoke the imagination.
There’s no imagination necessary with these pancakes. They’re fluffy as your grandma, rich as your uncle, and chocolately as your past 17 dreams.
The secret, if you’re wondering, to embedding the chocolate chips properly into the very fabric of the pancake is this: You must fling, with enough force, each chip angrily into the body of the pancake. You cannot be shy about this.
Just like pizza on decorating day and well-stuffed stockings and just enough magic to ensure the kids realize the holiday comes from these traditions and not from the Apple Store or J Crew or the mean streets of Wal-mart.
We might not pin on Pinterest or remember to buy cranberries on our Coke Zero run, but we dads, we’re Christmasing, too. Even if it smells more like pepperoni than gingerbread, even if it makes noise, not music, it still makes magic.
We dads are all about the tradition, after all.
And nine days out from Christmas, we’re at our seventh-inning-stretch glory.