Look closely at this picture, and it pretty much tells you everything you need to know about this weekend’s Christmas Tree tagging adventure. First, there’s never a dull moment around here. Second, the Griswold’s have nothing on us. Nothing.
This is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown: waiting for the shit to hit the fan.
Because among the dozen or so photographs I have on my phone of all of us smiling and posing in front of a picturesque field of evergreens, is this little beauty. And this little beauty tells the real story.
See in this photograph, one of my sons is smiling, the joy and excitement of the upcoming holiday season almost too much to keep inside. (A Christmas tree! A Christmas tree! I haven’t even worn my Batman costume yet and we’re tagging our Christmas tree!) Nevermind that I pulled him away from a brawl with his brother and demanded through clenched teeth that he smile and stand still for just one damn second so I can document how much fun we’re having. He’s doing it. But then over there on the left, do you see? Do you see my other son, the one who’s wearing the look of an ape about to attack? If he looks like he’s about to whack the smiling son upside the head, spit in his ear, plant his face into the pines or sucker punch him with a balsam branch, that’s because he is.
These boys. They are always at each other. Always. And it can be – and usually is – so. freaking. exhausting. Stop hitting. Stop throwing your brother to the ground. Stop calling him names. Stop tripping him. Stop tackling him. Stop making annoying noises in his ear. Stop. Stop. Stop! Sometimes, just sometimes, and only in the darkest recesses of my mind, I wish I could do this:
I know. I know. That’s disgusting. Abhorrent. But Jesus, come on! I really don’t wish to cut off my son’s arms or carve out their mouths. But I do wish sometimes that I could make them obey, follow me around like a couple of mindless little yes men. Yes, mom. We’ll listen. Yes, we’ll behave. Yes. We’ll do whatever it is you want us to do. Yes. Yes. Yes.
But that’s not real life. The above photo of my two sons, however, is.
Life is not perfect. It’s flawed. And yet we still try and capture the moment as if it was all unicorns and rainbows. So we can post our picture-perfect escapades on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and get just the right photo for our holiday cards. That is also exhausting. And disingenuous. And so boring.
So instead of deleting the memories which may not be so idyllic, I’m going to keep them. Because the scenes of us all smiling and posing in front of a field of evergreens – while much more presentable and acceptable – don’t tell the whole story. They don’t tell our story. Yes, of course, there were moments of family harmony, but many of them came after the clenched-teeth experiences of parenthood. And I don’t want to forget those either.