Posts Tagged ‘Dad’

“Santa Claus is coming to town! Santa Claus is coming to town!” At least, I think he is…

Christmas is a week away. Clara is now three years old, Shepard is sixteen months and next month a new child will be away in a manger putting any thoughts of a silent night well into the rear view mirror for the foreseeable future. But the idea of having three kids age three and under is not the primary thought occupying my mind this Holiday season (I’ll deal with that in January). Rather, it is the realization that three years into this journey of parenting, the white elephant in the room remains what to do with Old Saint Nick.

Jaime had a classic Santa experience believing until around age seven or eight. She has fond memories of believing in a larger than life figure who displayed extravagant generosity and being comforted that someone was looking out for all the children of the world, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds. When Jaime figured the ruse out, she wasn’t upset, but instead delighted in assisting the faith of her younger siblings.

I, on the other hand, was that kid on the playground who was telling your kids that Santa was a hoax resulting in angry phone calls to my parents about how I was ruining the magic of Christmas. You see, my father had been a true believer in Father Christmas. When he found out the whole thing was fake, he felt deep in his soul that he had been lied to and when he recounts that moment, one can still hear the pain in his voice. I imagine his childhood anger dwarfing Miles Finch’s fury after being called an elf by Will Ferrell. What really got my dad going was that his own parents had deliberately duped him. He vowed that day he would never lie to his own children in such a manner. So, naturally I shared my father’s disdain for Kris Kringle as I was never given a chance to believe anything but anti-Claus propaganda.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bitter about my own childhood Christmas experiences. We had a great time and I don’t feel I lost anything by not believing in the jolly benefactor in the red suit. We still had presents under the tree, still opened stockings, still belted out “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” But I want to believe there’s a third way. Something beyond deliberately lying to my own kids on the justification that the entire culture does it and therefore it must be okay, but leaving room for childlike faith to soar and grow in the goodwill of mankind, the supernatural, or both.

Presumably, the argument could be made that the whole Santa production is really for us parents and the enjoyment we receive from manipulating our children and then vicariously experiencing their wonderment. I don’t buy this theory entirely though due to the sheer number of folks who pleasantly recount their credence in the charm of the North Pole. Plus, if it were really all about Mom and Dad, it wouldn’t make sense to forgo all the credit for the awesome gifts and transfer the gratitude to an anonymous bearded senior citizen.

Then there’s the whole religious element. The origins of Santa Claus include a mix of semi-Christian mythology and history, but gradually he has become, at least to some degree, a symbol of the commercialism of the season. Some even protest Papa Noel as an anti-Christ figure, the icon of secularism that threatens to swallow the birth story of Christ. Even though Santa is an easy anagram for Satan, I don’t subscribe to any ill-will toward Mr. Claus and dismiss claims such as these quite easily; perhaps because my particular faith tradition was more concerned that December 25th was being celebrated as Jesus’ actual birthday without any “Scriptural authority” or common sense (shepherds don’t typically hang out with their flocks outdoors in the winter).

For a while I thought perhaps I could take an M Night Shyamalan approach to the whole Santa dilemma. You know, pull a “Sixth Sense”, never actually speaking about the guy, but not denying my kids the experience of believing. Then when they figure it all out they could look back and realize I had never actually said Santa was real. They could then replay their whole childhood looking for the red doorknobs that would have tipped them off sooner to the secret of Santa. But while I believe myself to be decently clever, my kids are pretty smart cookies and I recently had to resign that this plan is not feasible in the long run.

So back to the drawing board. But speaking of cookies, I am completely down for eating a plateful of warm chocolate chip cookies with a tall glass of milk each Christmas Eve. So count me in… for now.

In mid-October, Jaime and I traveled to the Dallas-Fort Worth area for four days to participate in Mission Alive’s Theology Lab (which I hope to share much more about) and then I was off to Florida for three days traveling for my job. The sum total of flying around the country, some recent changes at work, the onset of my Seasonal Affective Disorder and finally Halloween resulted in a very chaotic few weeks of recovery.

Things got so busy that I didn’t even have time to shave. However, my facial hair hasn’t drawn too much attention for luckily it’s Novembeard! “No Shave November” is gaining steam as the month in which men, either for charity or just because they can, pledge not to shave for the month (or longer). I read somewhere that “No Shave November” has its organized origin in a 2003 Australian charity event, but certainly the idea of growing out a winter beard has been around as long as Father Time’s grizzled thatch.

Growing up in Southern California, I was unaware of the custom of seasonal bearding as we didn’t really have seasons. But I quickly became aware during our first autumn/winter in Montana in 2004, that the winter beard is no small matter. In honor of the opening of hunting season usually around September, all the real Montanan men and all those who wish to be, strike up a silent accord to let their stubble free as an expression of their God given masculinity. As the bristly whiskers become face swallowing tufts, wives kiss kissing goodbye until the Spring and the neo-Esaus head into the woods. It’s all quite entertaining. I definitely gave it a shot once or twice, but really couldn’t get past the itching and came to grips with the fact that my beard thickness is less than ideal. While some unshorn men could easily be mistaken for beasts or World Series closers, I feel my best attempts pale in comparison to Nixon’s five o’clock shadow.

Clara shows her feelings toward Novembeard's whiskery kisses

Yet here we are again. The cold weather beginning to bear down and my mixed feelings about to shave or not to shave. On one hand, we live in a hairless culture. We are bombarded by literally thousands of advertisements a day and unless the product being pushed is lumberjack related you will struggle to find any full bearded dudes in the commercials. So, it feels as if not shaving equates to laziness or being unkempt. On the other hand, just taking a week off from the razor is freeing, letting things be as nature designed, at least before the dreaded scratch kicks in. But I must admit each of my fall beard attempts begs to answer a deeper question. How do I measure up?

We all consistently compare ourselves to others, but I find particular intrigue in comparing myself to my father. There is something almost primal about wanting to understand where you come from and Dads, when they are around, are often the best source of that information. Specifically with my Dad, I grew up looking at a framed picture of a fully bearded Randall Fisher in a close-up engagement style photo with my mom, which I’m guessing was taken shortly before they were married in August 1982. My parents look happy in the picture, and how could my Dad not be when sitting next to a beautiful young lady and sporting a blond beard a lion would be proud of? If my time stamp of the photo is accurate, it would make my Dad 27 years old in the picture, the same age as he was when he got married. The same age I am now.

I frequently noticed that picture in my adolescence and wondered if someday I would be able to grow such a beard when I was 27. I suppose now I can find out, if only I could get over feeling like a scrub and the feeling of incessant itching. I doubt I’ll be able to last all November, especially since I got a head start by beginning the shave boycott in late October. But until the razor gets its revenge, I’ll be smiling as I recognize that my annual beard attempt is a tribute to the great Montana men I have grown to love as well as proof that after 27 years, I still want to be like my dad.