It was the perfect tree-finding day — stereotypical flakes of snow floating in the air. A sturdy dad (me) ready to lead his two charges into the forest of holiday cheer, with my wife by my side, inspired by my Christmas-time leadership. We would find the most epic Christmas tree, and the four of us would decorate it in perfect harmony; my children and wife would let me know how swell I was as we decorated our conquest and sipped on hot cocoa. I created a Norman Rockwell print in my mind as we headed out to the tree farm, ready to perform this annual ritual.
Unfortunately, no one in my family had the same vision.
At the farm, I parked next to a small forest of Christmas trees. We took the kids out of the car and headed to pick a tree. Elizabeth and Noah, my four and two-year old children, weren’t as enthused — they wanted to be carried. To keep everyone happy my wife Heidi and I each picked up a child. As I closed in on the perfect tree I set Elizabeth down. She grudgingly agreed to walk as I assessed the potential family fir. But the time available to select the right tree, like the timer on a detonating device, was quickly slipping away. Noah was fussy, Heidi was tired from carrying him, and Elizabeth was complaining that it was cold. In a rush I picked a tree, placed my hand on it and turned to Heidi.
“It’s okay,” she said. In marital code, that means “I’m exhausted. Please finish this as quickly as possible.”
“Do you want to look at another?”
“This one is fine!” she said, with Noah squirming and crying and Elizabeth whining in harmony. I lost it — I was the time bomb, ready to explode with holiday angst.
“Fine! Let’s go! Christmas is cancelled!” I picked Elizabeth up like a football and walked to the car.
We left the tree farm and I drove away, not taking my eyes off the road or speaking to anyone, particularly my wife, who, with just a look would convey to me how wrong I was. A few miles down the road I gave in, looked at her and told her my disappointment. I wanted things to go a certain way and it didn’t happen. She was understanding and told me that I had to be patient with the kids and understand their timing is not always the same as mine.
She also pointed out how ridiculous I was. “You can’t cancel Christmas.”
I decided to go back and redeem myself. We were going to find the perfect tree. With renewed purpose, I looked to the back seat to tell the kids the good news. They had fallen asleep. It was a picture that Norman Rockwell would have been proud to paint.
Matt Reger is the sleep-deprived father of two. To send Reger a comment or question, email firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line
“Diary of a Dad.”