Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown
Bedtime theology with the 7 yo...
(Just before watching A Charlie Brown Christmas)
Me: So in this one, Charlie Brown is trying to figure out the true meaning of Christmas. What do you think is the meaning of Christmas?
7 yo: Lots of presents!
Me: Well, yes, but what is the true meaning?
7 yo: Parties where you get lots of presents!
Me: Yes, but what is the deeper meaning? (Starting to worry a bit)
7 yo: Underwater parties with lots of presents!
7 yo: You said deep.
Me: (Laughing). That's clever. But do know the meaning of Christmas, about Jesus, right?
7 yo: (Slight eye roll) Yes, yes, of course, mom.
Me: Oh, okay.
The thing about my parenting style is I want to do a good job, which is often an asset but not always. I'm a recovering perfectionist, a straight-A student in high school. I cried when I didn't make first chair flute in middle school band. As an adult I'm slowly learning not to make the perfect the enemy of the good.
I really want to do a good job of Christian parenting, too. I want to infuse my children with Bible stories, moral lessons, experiences of service, anti-racism and so much more. I want to flood them with Biblical literacy, historical and textual criticism, feminist theology and an appreciation for world religions. I want to make sure they REALLY. GET. IT. But sometimes they just want to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Parenting often feels like an exercise in managing my own worries and expectations for what my children are and will become. As it turns out, my kids are probably fine and so are yours. My son didn't need to rehash the Biblical story of the incarnation on a weekend night. He probably got more out of the fact that we were all gathered around the TV together, bowls of popcorn in hand for family movie night. I keep being amazed that our children pick up as much from what we do as from what we say.
One of my favorite lines from A Charlie Brown Christmas is when Lucy offers her take on the "meaning" of Christmas: "Look, Charlie, let's face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It's run by a big eastern syndicate, you know." The line is so left-field that I laugh every time.
I worry that my children are too obsessed with what they're getting for Christmas. I worry that they keep eyeing the growing pile of gifts under our tree and complain if one has more than the other. I worry there might be a meltdown on Christmas Day if someone doesn't like their gift or thinks their siblings' gift is better. I worry they'll grow up spoiled, ungrateful, inwardly focused.
I probably worry too much. We have told the Christmas story. We have lit the Advent candles. We have decorated the tree. We have made cookies exactly once. We have shopped for toys for a child in need, the kids helping wrap packages with too much tape and imperfectly folded corners. It is enough. It's okay to say this is good enough and to slow down. It's okay that this Christmas and exactly nothing else about this year is or will be perfect. It is enough, and we are enough, my fellow parents and sojourners in faith. Merry Christmas.