My wife and I recently introduced the Mensch on a Bench to our home. The Mensch on a Bench is a Hanukkah tradition like the Elf on a Shelf. Just like the Elf on a Shelf, the Mensch travels around our home, watching over us each day. Our Mensch doesn’t cause mischief or anything–by definition, he’s a person of integrity and honor, and he’s supposed to inspire good and generosity in our family.
When our son woke up and first discovered him, he immediately said, “He’s fake. He’s not real.” I thought to myself, “Is the holiday magic over? He’s four and he’s already a cynic like the rest of us?” My wife and I wanted to create something new for our family, and it didn’t even last five minutes.
Thankfully, with some quick thinking, we explained our Mensch’s magical powers. And when my son went to the bathroom, I quickly moved him to a different perch. With wide eyes, my son exclaimed, “Where’d he go?” The game was on. Both kids have loved discovering our Mensch as he explores our home on his way to the first night of Hanukkah. We have a new holiday tradition. Better yet, my four-year-old still believes in holiday magic.
My kids are two and four. This is the first year that they can really experience the fun of the holidays together. To see the holidays this year through their eyes gives me new perspective and joy amidst the tide of consumerism, the family squabbles, and the extra calories of the season.
Would you volunteer to put up Christmas lights at 7:45 am on a 41-degree Tuesday morning? My kids would. Both gladly carried strands of lights around our porch. They smiled as I asked them to go behind the bushes and help hang lights. With frozen fingers and rosy cheeks, they jumped with glee as I plugged in the lights for the first time. No amount of tangled lights and frosty temperatures could dampen the memory I now have of that morning hanging lights with my kids.
I relish the excitement they have seeing the little train around our tree and the enthusiasm they have each time they discover a new favorite ornament on our tree. I love the wide-eyed happiness they have as they see our deck wrapped in lights and say, “Daddy, come look outside! It’s Christmas! Look, look!”
I can still see them dancing and singing at the Columbus Zoo Wildlights. And what fun we had walking through Worthington Mall as it became a journey to the North Pole. I’m even excited to pack them in the car and run errands because it turns into an endless discovery of snowflakes on rooftops and snowmen waving from front lawns.
Seeing the holidays through their eyes brings little surprises and joyful moments each day.
I know it’s cliche to say that we should all experience the world through a child’s eyes. But when that child is yours, it’s tough not to be swayed by that cliche. Of course, these December days aren’t all gleeful holiday cheer. We’re still stuck inside, playing the same games, reading the same books, and trying not to drive ourselves crazy as the sun goes down at what feels like 3:45 pm each day. But this first year seeing both of my kids so happy, so excited by the holiday magic around them–and enjoying it all together!–I can’t help but get a little swept up in it, too.