I remember the old movies depicting the chaos and excitement of children waking up early and rushing to check the Christmas tree for presents, just as the sun comes peeking over the horizon. Then, the parents slowly, but happily, wake up and join the children on Christmas morning.
Compared to our house, with 10 (yes, TEN) children, those scenes resembled a solemn funeral procession compared to the cyclone that hit our house at 5:30 AM on Christmas morning. Sometimes our parents would join us. Other times my father would sit up, grab an ashtray, and light up a Camel or Viceroy before giving his blessing to proceed without him and my mother.
As the oldest siblings, my sister Cathy and I would maintain some degree of order as we tried to keep the younger animals at bay and distribute presents in an orderly manner. Within a few minutes, paper would be flying, screams of joy could be heard, quickly followed by fights breaking out over who touched whom, and which toy was the best or doll was the prettiest.
The leadership lesson I learned was to surrender and stop trying to control the situation. Allow everyone to enjoy the moment. Make sure no one was hurt. Then supervise the clean up a couple of hours later, when the adrenalin had dissipated.
Many Years Later
It seems that Christmas was always destined to be an interesting time for me. Many years later, after college, medical school, residency, joining a small medical group, a failed marriage, two adopted children and starting my own practice, I met Kay, a sweet and engaging respiratory therapist. We married and melded our two families – her three girls, my son and daughter.
How does this relate to leadership?
Well, in many potential ways. It was always a busy time. Balancing kids from two families adds another dimension of complexity to life. But we made it through fine. We have my extended family of parents, nine siblings, their nine spouses, 30+ nieces and nephews and a few grand-nieces and grand-nephews to spend time with. Then Christmas morning with the immediate family (Kay, me and the kids). Then some time with Kay's side of the family, if it works out (her parents are deceased, unfortunately). That helps to instill focus and patience.
Another challenge has been that Kay's birthday is on December 25! She tells an interesting story from her childhood. It was always difficult for her parents to make Christmas special for her and her three sisters, while also making her birthday special. But, her mother tried to make it exceptional by bringing home a personalized birthday cake. One year, her mother brought home the birthday cake and when it was opened up, it was decorated with this on top:
The apparent mix-up at the bakery did not help dispel the thinking that Kay might have a god complex, since she insisted she was born on Christmas day!
Special Christmas Thoughts From Others
There have been some really nice sentiments shared by various bloggers recently. Here is a sampling of a few that I enjoyed reading.
One More Special Story That Reminds Me of Christmas
Here is a wonderful story – not about Christmas per se, but about the spirit of Christmas…
Most readers seeing this will already have made it through Christmas, and possibly the New Year. I hope this holiday season was a joyous one, and that each year gets better and better.
Thanks for listening.
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See you in the next post!