A Father's Journal: Ho, ho ... huh? Holiday newsletters' spin can be dizzying
Around this time of year, we get holiday letters from around the world. Mostly they are from parents telling us how great their children are.
When I was young, my parents received these letters. They'd read how their friends offspring cured cancer, solved that misunderstanding in the Middle East -- even invented Cool Whip.
My Mom and Dad would then glance over the letter at their screaming, filthy, biting children -- one of whom had accidently glued an eye shut -- and just shake their heads.
Since Laura and I have become parents, we've received many of these letters. Each one touts the accomplishments of offspring. With the exception of one.
The K. family from Sacramento, Calif., tells it like it is. It is not a spoof or funny letter; instead they just explain on three, single-spaced, double-sided pages the real ups and downs of the family. Warts and all.
I am very good friends with the children of the missive writer. For years, they would beg their dad to cut out the bad parts. They demanded veto power on anything written about them. They did not get it. Year after year, we were treated to divorces, disagreements and normal family frustrations.
Problems were not the lone focus of the letters; they were just stated matter-of-factly along with the highs. One year, Mr. K. wrote that his son had gotten a divorce and that they were now actively trying to help him "find a new mother" for his children. Their family's Christmas letter was our favorite. The way he wrote was refreshing in a weird way. I know his children fairly well, so there were no big surprises. Except the "actively finding a new mom" phrase, which Laura still talks about.
This last year was sad for their family, as their matriarch died. Her husband paid tribute to his wife and then wrote how his grandkids were working their way through college with full-time jobs. Not bragging, just as a necessity. I finished reading it, and then called home to my daughter, who is home on college break. I called at 3 p.m.
"Are you up?" I asked.
"I have been up for hours," my daughter replied.
"Really? What have you done so far today?"
"I took a shower."
That was it. By 3 p.m., she had taken a shower.
"Please say you did something else," I begged.
"I watched some Netflix," she said.
My biggest newsletter fear is that I'll get one from the parents of 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai, of Pakistan. She won a Nobel Prize this year. My daughter took a shower ... before 3 p.m.
Personal hygiene is important, but it is not chocking up any points for us on the newsletter circuit.
Maybe newsletter points are a thing of the past. Over the last few years, we have been getting fewer and fewer of the traditional newsletters. I think social media is replacing them. We already instantly know what people are doing, and they know what we are doing, so no need for the dying art of holiday newsletter writing. We practically go on vacation with them -- we see their pictures before they get back. We are in the laboratory when their children cure cancer.
We always joke about my niece, who once had her Facebook status as "On the beach in Florida." It was true. We knew that. What she failed to mention was that it was cold, it was northern Florida, and she was with her grandmother and an overly anxious rescue dog that is afraid of doors. That did not make it onto her Facebook status or to her family's newsletter.
My wife feels I am sometimes too hard on my daughter. She may not have won a Nobel Prize, but she is clean. Clean, and well rested.
I wonder how I can spin that on next year's holiday newsletter.
Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Friday. He can be reached by email at Tlawlor@mcommunications.com.