When I was a kid, Christmas was my favorite time of year. As an adult, I get a little overwhelmed.
See, as a kid, you worry about getting presents and hanging out with your cousins. To me, that’s what Christmas was.
But as an adult, I have to worry about making sure presents are bought and wrapped for virtually everyone I know in some shape or form. And I’ve gone from the guy that sits in the back of the limo (the kid in the family) to the guy who drives the limo for other people (the head of the family). So get-togethers are much more about work than play.
This year was particularly stressful, in that I was building gifts for my wife and son in the basement in my “free” time, I was traveling to Baltimore to secure my 2016 cash flow, and working on a dozen other things that were taking up way too much of my energy.
On top of all of that are the family gatherings.
My wife comes from a big, extended family with several branches. So when Christmas rolls around, the vast majority of the 2-3 week period during and after Christmas is spent with various groupings of her family members.
Add to that my family and you might as well just hole up in a basement until the middle of January. Because if you don’t, you’re going to have to go to somebody’s house for something.
And now that we have a kid, every trip becomes a production. We were incapable of making it on time to a 6pm get-together on a Tuesday night. That’s how overwhelmed we’re getting this time of year.
Not only am I frustrated with the lack of down time, I’m also frustrated with the lack of family time. Note that I’m not talking about extended family – I mean my wife and son.
Through all of this, we are able to spend a few hours together, just the three of us, on Christmas morning. That’s it.
And it’s not very long, because late Christmas morning is already booked, so we have to open gifts and then start taking showers to get ready for the day.
I wanted a break. Badly.
As New Year’s Day rolled around, my wife’s family invited us over for dinner. I was burned out of my skull. I just wanted a break. A reason. Anything I could get to give me a valid excuse for getting out of it so I could stay home and relax.
I had been sick with a nasty respiratory infection since Christmas Eve because I work alone from home and my body doesn’t know what to do when other people are breathing on me. That didn’t get me out of anything.
As I grumpily went about my morning on New Year’s Day, I couldn’t help but notice how congested and wheezy my son was. He had developed a little cough, not unlike my own.
Feeling that he was okay, and it sounded more dramatic than it was, I silently rejoiced when my wife canceled all plans to go anywhere so that we could rest at home.
Did I feel guilty about that? Did I feel bad because I was celebrating my son’s discomfort/pain? Nope.
He was happy. He was playful. He was everything he always is. He just had the occasional cough.
Until, you know, about 1:00am.
After midnight, when my wife and I went to bed, she decided to go sleep on the floor of his room next to his crib so she could keep an eye – and an ear – on him.
At about 1:30am, his cough and congested had gotten so bad that we took him to the emergency room.
After spending an hour or so at that hospital, we were transferred to the children’s hospital half an hour away from there – so I had to watch my baby boy get strapped into a stretcher for the ambulance ride.
We were at the Children’s Hospital until 6:30am, as my son had developed a nasty case of croup and an all-over body rash.
And after the long day, we had to take him back to the emergency room a second time, as his rash returned with a vengeance and he was still gasping for breath.
As I write this, it’s 11:40pm on January 2nd. I’m running on fumes at this point.
Thankfully, my son is okay. We have some medication for him, and a game plan to help him deal with the bad congestion. He’s going to be fine.
But as we discovered the rash on his body at the first hospital, and I sat and watched my son confusedly weeping into his mother’s shoulder because all he wants to do is sleep – I became racked with guilt and started to cry.
I forgot one of the most important staples in all of the world: every time you want something, you have to take it from somewhere else.
This universe is finite. There are limited resources.
If you want the world to do something for you, something else has to change.
When my son was pathetically sobbing, I understood that in my desire to stop doing one thing, I wound up having to deal with something far worse than a few more hours with family.
My son was miserable. And in a roundabout way, I had wished for that.
It was the reason we got out of going to the family dinner. I wanted a reason, and I got one. It turned out to be a sacrifice I was not comfortable making.
Here’s an easy example of what I mean: many people want to be rich. They see rich people and think “Boy, it must be nice.”
But celebrities have to trade in their privacy. How many do you hear about not being able to go to the grocery store without being discovered?
Or athletes? I’ll agree that most are overpaid. But they spend their time training and traveling. They don’t get free time, or even family time. They just get the paycheck.
It doesn’t mean you can’t have hope for success, or a wish you’d like fulfilled.
But be careful. Be mindful of what you are hoping for and what you are searching for. Understand exactly what you are asking, and think of the other end of the transaction.
Last example: there are students in America protesting for free college tuition. When their ringleader went on the Neil Cavuto Show, she was asked this question:
“How are we supposed to pay for free tuition for everyone? Where does that money come from?”
You know what? She didn’t have an answer – or at least not a credible, thought-out one.
We often think about what we want, but we also have to be careful not to ignore what we’re taking from.
Think things through – entertain all angles of what you want.
Because like I realized as I held my whiny-but-sleeping son while laying in a hospital bed earlier, what you’re sacrificing to get what you want might be more important.