“Look, there is Uncle Andy!” My six year old niece said as she flipped through the holiday movies her mom was showing her. She was holding one of my favorite Christmas movies, Elf. I I know it may be a little juvenile but Elf is a holiday classic in our home. Although I’m never sure how my niece or anyone else sees it, I’ve been told I look like Will Ferrell on several occasions. When my niece, without prompting, once again suggested that I resembled Buddy the Elf, all the reasons I love that movie Elf came flooding through my mind.
When we watch Elf each Christmas season it rekindles the excitement of childhood and the magic of Christmas time for me. I know it may seem silly to treat Elf as if it were some philosophical masterpiece, but to me, it brings to the forefront of my mind so many of the most delightful things about having children. Here are just five.
1. Kids long for, idolize and love their parents.
When Buddy finds out that he indeed is not an elf, and that his father lives in a magical place called New York City, he thinks nothing of the long journey ahead of him to reach his father. “First, he went through the seven levels of the Candy Cane Forest. Then, he went past the twirly, swirly gumdrops. And after that: he went through the Lincoln Tunnel”(Buddy). It always makes me think of my own kids running to meet me at the door when I arrive home from work. It doesn’t matter that I’m not always the perfect Dad.
When Buddy first arrives in New York City he finds his Dad (Walter), but his Dad doesn’t know who he is and they have the following exchange.
Walter: What do you want? Some money?
Buddy: No! I just wanted to meet you and thought maybe you might want to meet me.
It doesn’t matter to Buddy that his Dad is on the naughty list. He wants his father to be a part of his life more than anything else. Your kids are the same. They want and need you. They love you and hope for love and connection each day. No matter how far from perfect you feel the relationship is, it is always worth reconnecting, building, and strengthening your bond.
2. They are innocent, carefree, fun and honest.
These traits are precious! Elf portrays so well an example of an overworked father who has forgotten to enjoy his life. He has been so wrapped up in all of the details of a job, money and other monotonous tasks that he’s lost that something that is inherent in our children.
At one point Buddy sees the mail room in his father’s work building for the first time and says, “This place reminds me of Santa’s Workshop! Except it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt me.” Regardless of the mushrooms and dirty looks, Buddy turns the mail room into a place of joy. The first morning after meeting his Dad he says to him, “First we’ll make snow angels for 2 hours, then we’ll to go skating, then we’ll eat a roll of Tollhouse cookie dough as fast as we can, and then to finish, we’ll snuggle!” Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful day!
Maybe we can’t do all of those things, but we can certainly do one or two of them and do them more often. (Well, maybe not the cookie dough. I think I might vomit if I ate an entire roll, but it would make for a funny story.) Listen to your children when they glow with these wonderful childhood traits. You just might catch the bug and actually enjoy your life a little more.
3. Kids are naturally curious, creative and full of energy.
Encourage and direct their curiosity and energy wisely. Don’t squelch it. I find that too often we are upset about something our child has done when they were trying to be creative, kind or helpful. In the movie Elf, Buddy wakes early in the morning to build a beautiful, hand carved rocking horse. When he’s asked where he got the wood he looks sheepishly away as the camera pans to what remains of what used to be the entertainment center.
Now, I hope my child never strips down the furniture in our house without permission to create some piece of art, but I also hope that my children express their talents and know that I appreciate their interest and vigor.
4. Everything seems bigger, newer and more exciting to them.
Buddy: “Have you seen these toilets? They’re GINORMOUS!”
Now you know my mentality when it comes to humor. I laugh every time I hear this line and I’ve heard it a lot of times.
The novelty of life and its varied experiences are nothing short of miraculous to children. They see the splendor in the mundane. Dandelions are worth stopping for. Dump trucks are awe inspiring. The ABC’s and counting to ten are achievements that warrant a royal celebration. Toilets are GINORMOUS. They are able to find the joy and excitement in the smallest and most seemingly insignificant. They make the simple profound.
5. They are accepting and kind.
In the movie, Walter requires Buddy to take a blood test to determine if he is really his father. While Buddy waits in the doctor’s office, with a cotton ball pressed firmly to his finger tip, he visits with a little girl sitting next to him. He says…
Buddy: Actually, I’m a human, but I was raised by elves.
Carolyn: I’m a human… raised by humans.
Like Buddy and Carolyn, most kids refrain from judgment. They don’t care whether you were raised by elves, humans or baboons. It’s amazing to watch my eighteen month old daughter when any of my older boys start to cry. She will slowly walk toward them with a concerned look on her face and give them a hug. She tries to console and gently comfort her brothers and she is not even two years old. Our children can teach us so much about moving toward others rather than away or against them.
This holiday season as we watch Elf or other Christmas classics, let us remember the innocence of childhood and the blessing it is to be a parent. Find time to watch your children and take joy in them. Open your heart to them and the wonderful lessons they teach us. Christmas is a time to remember the birth of a precious child over two thousand years ago. The wonder of that miraculous event can be enhanced by recognizing our own privilege to be fathers and mothers to our own precious children.
Don’t forget to download your FREE copy of “5 Jump Starters for Powerful Family Cycles: Creating Happier and More Effective Parenting THIS Week!”