It's 10PM on a Saturday night, and I'm writing this article. Another exciting evening in the life of the Longs, you say? Well, it was actually quite fun. My 15 year old son is over visiting his 16 year old girlfriend (boy, does that take getting used to), so my wife and I took our 10 year old son out to see the new Harry Potter movie, and then had dinner with him. Funny how the older you get, the more you appreciate nights like this. Family has never seemed more important. This is especially true when your first child hits that point in life where he needs to separate himself a bit from his family. Its all part of growing up, I know, and needs to happen. But it's hard to get used to, and it makes those times together as a family just that much more precious. Don't get me wrong; my 15 year old is a good kid, and I'm very proud of him. But I recognize that he is hitting a new phase of life, so while I make sure he and I spend time together ( I have to force this time together stuff, but it's worth it for both of us ), I also appreciate the fact that my 10 year old son still wants me to read to him at night, and to do things with his Dad.
You hear from those parents who have gone through this before you that you need to enjoy every moment with your kids, because too soon, they're raised and gone. I'd be a wealthy man if I had a nickel for every time I'd heard that. But oh how true it is that you turn around and suddenly they're young men stepping out on their own.
Somehow, for us at least, there is no more important family time than Christmas. Decorating the house, breaking out the Christmas music, getting the tree. Yes, we still buy a real tree every year, because Melissa and I both grew up with parents who made a big deal of Christmas, and getting the Christmas tree was a ritual that we've passed on to our boys.
We have one tradition where we make a Saturday or Sunday before Christmas our "special night". We take the boys to Takaoka for dinner, then to a Christmas movie, and finally out for a ride to see the best Christmas lights on display at various homes in the City. Its one time I can guarantee you our 15 year old won't want to miss, despite his being a bit too cool to be seen out with his parents these days.
Yes, traditions are very important for our family, just as they are for many families around our area. That's why I try to make it a point to remember just how tough it must be for our young men and women who will be overseas this year, serving in our armed forces. For many of them, they'll be spending Christmas away from family for the first time. For others, the tradition of being away from family during the holidays is one they hope not to keep experiencing for much longer.
Either way, we owe these young men and women a debt of gratitude for their service to our country, especially at a time when so much uncertainty faces our nation. They are fighting for our country and for the freedom of others in far away places like Afghanistan, Bosnia, the Philippines, and, perhaps soon, in Iraq, so that we can enjoy peace and freedom at home.
So, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to each and every one of you, and to your families as well. Let's remember to say a special prayer of thanks for being Americans, where we enjoy the religious freedom to enjoy this most important holiday in our own personal way, with our own personal traditions. And remember to say a special thank you to those who are serving our nation abroad so that some day, perhaps in our lifetimes, all men, women and children on this earth can truly enjoy peace and goodwill toward all.