Elf: Rediscovering the Magic of Christmas

Elf: Rediscovering the Magic of Christmas

The holiday season can actually heighten the lonely and painful feelings that single parents often have. The magic we used to experience (especially when our kids were young and our family was intact) is now a thing of the past. And because of that pain and the things we’ve gone through, we can become stuck in that. Some of us can even slip into a season of bitterness, comparing our lives to others and even the way our own lives used to be. We do our best to put on a happy face for our kids, but that’s often a stark contrast to what we’re feeling on the inside.

So how do we regain the sense of magic and wonder at Christmas when so much of what we identify with reminds us of the pain and dashed hopes we’ve experienced?

Living in the Tug-of-War

There’s a definite tug of war that exists for solos during this season.  As a single parent, it can be easy to lose the magic we used to have at Christmas. If you have full custody, you might be overwhelmed with all the responsibility of solo parenting (while not having anyone to share the load with). At the same time, you might be trying to cling to all of the festivities and activities of Christmas that bring you joy.

For Solo Parent Amber, she desperately tried to cling to things that made her feel good: Christmas music, baking cookies, and making the holiday special for her kids. “I remember one of my first Christmases after the divorce, putting up the Christmas tree with my kids and going through all of the ornaments. Sure enough, there’s an ornament of our first Christmas together way back when. I felt that tug of war in my heart . . . what do I do? Does it go on the tree? Do I tuck it back in the box? I tucked it away and left it in the box but the kids noticed. They were like ‘Mom, you forgot one. We have to put this on the tree!’ I just took their lead with it. But there’s a bittersweet tug of war between what once was, what’s now, and what our kids need.”

If she lets it, Solo Parent Elizabeth can fall into a mopey and victim mentality, getting stuck in the pain of what was.  “The first year, I felt like I was basically dead inside and just grasped onto whatever I could. The second year, I kind of went into it a little bit more. The third year I cried more than I have ever cried. It felt like I was finally allowing myself to grieve and to be honest, I didn’t think I was going to come out of that season alive.” The holidays can be a rollercoaster of emotions.  “I just want to have fun and experience the magic and live in the present knowing this might be the last year of real magic the way I’ve known it with my son. I want to soak up every single second I can get. It’s definitely a tug of war: I can very easily go back and forth between a dark place to capturing every moment, living in the present, and trying to enjoy what I have right now.”

Elf knows exactly what this is like. He’s on this quest to find his father and the way that things were supposed to be. And he’s disappointed along the way. Time after time he gets debunked, put in security jail, and was even hit by a taxi cab. He leaves Santa and the perfection of the North Pole to go find his real dad. For Elf, it was the idea of wanting to return to a restored relationship in the way it was supposed to be. And along the way, he helps those in his life rediscover the joy and the magic of the Christmas season.

4 Ways to Rediscover Your Christmas Joy:

1.  Look for the sweetness

Looking for the sweetness doesn’t just mean sticking to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup. When you’re looking for the sweetness of the Christmas season, you have to remember that it’s not all about the pain you’re experiencing. It’s about being present and creating that joy for your kids as they bask in the wonder of Christmas.

Solo Parent Elizabeth tries to savor the sweetness with her son at Christmastime. “I know it may be different for those with older kids, but for me with my son, it is so sweet how he looks at the world. We have these little sweet moments in the Christmas season that we have every year. It’s just about him and the magic he sees and being able to capture that with him. On top of that, there is space to grieve. For myself, I do have to take time to grieve. But it’s only in making time for that grief that I can really experience the full joy as well.”

We have to be present, fully there, with our kids. The sweetness, the magic, happens in moments, it’s not in the whole picture being reconciled for your life. You have to be deliberate about looking for these things. When you’re present in the moment, you’re more able to experience the sweetness that exists there as well.

We’re not going to get to this place where it’s going to be completely resolved. It’s never going to be perfect. But our job is to be present and to look for the sweetness. Look for the magic. If our kids are propelling us towards that, just be fully present in it. And embrace it.

2.  Practice traditions - old or new

Whether your Christmas traditions include watching Polar Express and baking cookies, looking at Christmas lights while drinking hot chocolate, or watching Elf and decorating the Christmas tree, keeping your traditions alive is so important. If participating in older traditions without your ex makes you sad, create new ones with your kids. There’s a million different ways to celebrate the season. And just because life looks different now doesn’t mean you should abandon them altogether. Keeping your traditions alive will help fuel the joy in your children and in turn, help fuel that joy in you as well.

3.  Be a kid again

Be silly. It doesn’t all have to be serious. If you can take yourself back to a time when you were a child and have that sense of wonder and play with your own children, it makes life so much more fun—especially during the holidays.

It’s no accident that Jesus said, “To enter the kingdom of God, we need to become like little children.” There’s something about that innocence and wonder about letting yourself be a kid again. If you can get out of your head and let yourself experience it, there can be so much freedom.  

4.  Recapturing the awe of Christmas

We can all learn a little something about recapturing the awe of Christmas from Buddy the Elf. And it starts with taking time to notice the things around you. Remember that not everything depends on you. You don’t have to get it right, or even check every box. Let God be God and let Him be big enough to take care of every single thing you need.

We’re human, we’re going to make mistakes. Christmas doesn’t have to be “just right” or perfect. Our kids are going to find joy in the season if we can just show up for them and let God bring some of that magic to all of us.

We have so much of our lives to be serious. Things just get heavier and heavier the older we get—especially as single parents. If we can just stop for a minute and enjoy ourselves, recapture the awe and imagination, it can be so good.

The God of the universe came down to earth to be with us. He made himself small to show us just how important we are. You can’t help but feel a sense of wonder and awe from just how much He loves us.

It’s miraculous when you think about the complexities of life and all the things we struggle with that steal the magic of Christmas. They’re so insignificant compared to the awesomeness of God and awesomeness that we have in being parents.  And just like we delight in our kids and want them to experience joy and magic—God delights in us the same way. He longs for us to experience those things.

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