Unbridled Joy

You have not seen unbridled joy until you have watched the movie “Home Alone” with a seven-year-old boy. The 1990 holiday classic is absolutely brimming with things near and dear to young boys’ hearts including bb guns, toilet humor, large spiders, and children outsmarting adults. Listening to my son laugh uproariously at the downfall of the burglars reminded me again of how beautiful and unrestrained children are when they’re happy.

My oldest daughter and I went caroling with some of her friends in the week leading up to Christmas. It was hysterical. Ten girls plus a few assorted brothers and a troop of parents, galloping up and down the street from house to house. Well, the parents weren’t galloping so much as just trying to stay close enough to the herd to prevent any traffic mishaps as they dashed from one side of the street to the other.

The girls would stampede up to a door and ring the bell while shouting song suggestions at each other at the top of their lungs. Eventually a consensus of sorts would emerge and they’d belt out an off-key rendition of Away in a Manger or O Christmas Tree, usually losing the melody (and often the words) about halfway through. Feliz Navidad was a particularly impressive train wreck.

They didn’t mind in the least. The exhilaration of being out together in a pack – coupled with a massive sugar rush from pre-caroling cookie snacking – made them utterly giddy with happiness.

Kids don’t hold back their joy. They aren’t worried that they’re laughing too loud or singing out of tune or generally getting carried away. They emote with a completely unfettered abandon that is glorious to behold.

The flip side, of course, is that joy isn’t the only emotion that children keep close to the surface. They’re also extremely willing to share their frustration, disappointment, and exhaustion with everyone in a ten-mile radius of their tiny, over-whelmed bodies.

We ask a lot of little people during the holidays. We ask them to smile for pictures, sit still in church, and resist the urge to gift-wrap the cat. We ask them to hug relatives they don’t know, graciously accept gifts they didn’t always ask for, and moderate their cookie intake. But above all, we ask them to wait. And wait. And wait. Is it any wonder that by Christmas Day they’re on the brink of meltdown?

My family had our share of stumbles over Christmas. There were arguments over new toys and disagreements about mandatory sweet potato consumption. The transition back and forth between two parents in two houses is a little harder on a holiday when what the kids want in their hearts is to all be together in one place.

But the joy. Oh, friends, the joy. The wide eyes at the sight of the bulging stockings. The shrieks of  -“they’re HERE!” – as beloved family arrive. The karaoke dance party (yep, we do Christmas right at my house). Christmas is a pretty wondrous season all on its own, but when you have the privilege of spending it with children, it’s even better.

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