New Dad Diaries 32: A Christmas Carol (Dad edition)

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Chronicling life as a new father to his beautiful firstborn child – daughter Thea – Chris Kerr’s goal is to provide all men experiencing fatherhood for the first time with some invaluable tips and tricks as they are learned – the hard way. This week, something a little different: a fictional tale of a struggling father at Christmas based on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Dads – we know this time of year can be tough… 

CHAPTER 1 – A wonderful, terrible day 

Christmas: It was the best of times, and the worst of times. It was a season to be glad, a season to be sad. It was a spring of hope, a winter to mope. It was a time to live well, and a time of great hell. It was full of jolly roaring, and moments of great mourning. It was a time to be loved, a time to be lonely, a time to be with many, a time to be the only. Christmas came every year, a time to look forward to – and to fear. 

It is a time of great contrast, for fathers like Charlie, one moment so happy, then so gnarly. He’d be up and then down, smile then frown, for poor Charlie would be swimming; then he would drown. His emotions were all over the place, he’d feel like a good father, then a disgrace. For Christmas was great but oh so tough, the contrast made him feel weary and rough. 

One Christmas Eve, sat in his chair, another contrast appeared, his worst nightmare. Whilst Charlie’s kids were up and excited, he was depressed by past Christmases blighted. So, he beat himself up, tore himself down and let his thoughts cause him to solemnly frown. “How can I have so many reasons to be glad, yet this special time be nothing but sad?” 

Weary and tired, Charlie did pray, “Help me God, I don’t want to be this way.” Worn out by it all, he fell fast asleep. But he could not rest, for God took him deep… 

CHAPTER 2 – The ghost of Christmas past  

“Come with me, Charlie. Do not fear. I need to show you something so things become clear.” Drawn to his kindness, Charlie took the stranger’s hand, and out the window they flew to a faraway land. Although they travelled only a few miles, they landed years before when there were no smiles. 

Charlie, here’s what I came to say: You are who you are because your dad ran away.”

Not this, please”, Charlie protested. “It was a long time ago, it’s a memory I’ve rested”. 

But the stranger saw his heart, and he knew that Charlie’s statement just wasn’t true. For on that cold, fateful past Christmas Eve, his dad rejected him and chose to leave. This left poor Charlie, then only five, with his poor heart broken, in a fight to survive. 

It was a long time a go and now I am a man”, said Charlie protesting at this stranger’s plan. “It only gets me down now and again, and I only shut down when I can’t stand the pain.”

The stranger agreed and yet came near, to whisper great wisdom into Charlie’s ear: “This is like a childhood scar on the old, it only hurts when it gets cold.

On they did travel, through Christmases gone, only stopping when things seemed to be wrong. The mocking from his class about the dad he did miss, and the romances lost with those he did kiss. They saw unpulled crackers from loved ones lost early, and the hurtful words from relatives surly.

Its no wonder dear, Charles, Christmas gives you a heavy heart, for they were often ruined by the enemys dart.

CHAPTER 3 The ghost of Christmas present

What we just did was important, my brother, but now I must hand you over to another.” And so, a new stranger did quickly come, with a new message for Charlie, feeling so numb.

Charlie, my boy, it is time to see, how thy past is catching up with thee.”

Before Charlie could say, “That’s enough”, the stranger took him to see something tough. Off they flew back to Charlie’s house, into the hallway to see his dear spouse. She was in tears on the phone to her friend, “Poor Charlie is broken, and impossible to mend. It’s Christmas Eve and we are supposed to be happy, but his mood is so bad it makes us feel crappy.”

Poor Charlie’s heart sank, he felt dismay, and it was made only worse seeing his children play. His beloved daughter turned to her brother: “Whats wrong with Dad, hes not as happy as Mother. He ignores us at will and does what he does. Maybe he doesnt want to be with us.

It suddenly hit Charlie that he was an absent dad too. That’s not what he wanted, but what could he do?

The stranger came close and spoke loud and clear, to make sure it was a message that Charlie did hear: “A broken heart when you are grown, will never be kept just yours alone. Be brave and courageous and deal with your pain, so that a nice family won’t lose their father again.

CHAPTER 4 – The ghost of Christmases yet to come

The second stranger then quickly did part, leaving Charlie with a heavy heart. But soon came a third who didn’t say a thing, he just pulled Charlie close and under his wing. For where they were headed would hurt Charlie a lot, but he needed to be warned so he could stop the rot.

Off to the future they did travel, and what Charlie saw caused him to unravel. First, only a few years down the line, Charlie was now coping with spirits and wine. His words had become slurred and very unkind, and to their effects he was totally blind.

The next damning scene that they came to see, Charlie’s wife praying under the Christmas tree: “In sickness and health I did commit, but Charlie’s behaviour makes me want us to split. Tildeath do us part I know I did vow, but its clear my husband doesnt love me now.

Charlie was startled and cried out to his wife, “Thats not true, you are the love of my life!” But he cried out in vain; she could not hear – this was a Christmas to come, in a future year.

The stranger then whisked Charlie away, years ahead to another Christmas Day. There in a doorway, his grown-up son did stand, his bags were packed, an exit was planned. As the snow fell, he walked to his car, leaving the front-door open, wide and ajar. Out ran his kids, who cried out in pain, “Dad, dont go, will we ever see you again?

What are you doing, my son?” Charlie did say, “Your poor kids will never get over this day!” Charlie sat down so hopeless and cross, and cried out to the stranger, “Please stop this loss”. But the stranger did nothing, so Charlie could see, that in terms of the future he alone held the key.

CHAPTER 5 – A new hope

The stranger disappeared, his leave he did take, for now it was time for Charlie to wake. To him this dream seemed so timely and strange, but Charlie woke knowing he had to change. There was no time to wait, it had to be now, and through the stranger’s wisdom he knew exactly how.

Down by his foot his children did stay, so he got down with them and started to play: “My son and my daughter, in you I delight. I think about you all day and all night.” Then Charlie got up and ran to his wife, “Please know you will always be the love of my life.”

Then in the corner of his eye Charlie did see, a letter for him under the Christmas tree:

Dear Charlie, we know we caused you a fright, when we visited you this Christmassy night. But we came not unwelcome or uninvited, we were sent by the one whom you have delighted. We are his messengers, sent with his utmost cares, to answer your most humble and earnest of prayers.

“Dear Charlie, you have much work to do; how this story ends, will be up to you. Your father leaving may have felt like the worst, but for your family this experience wasn’t the first. For his dad before him was violent and drunk, leaving your father’s heart full of junk. But just like your father, he was a good man, then something bad happened, that was not in the plan. His Papa died early in the midst of the war, leaving his heart permanently broken and sore. To have no father leaves a man empty and sad, so sometimes he acts in a way that seems bad.

This is the cycle we want you to break, for your wonderful familys sake. So, take action my boy, and break this curse, do it now before things get worse. You can start by stepping back into the past, forgiving your father, so your pain doesnt last. Thatll help you to make the most of the present, spending time with your family will make their life pleasant. And into the future the consequences do go, the great impact on your children, your actions will show. Theyll grow up secure with a foundation of love, giving them the life that was designed for them above.

We know what we ask will take great strength, but for your family, please go to this length. It will all be worth it, for one day youll see, your family now and yet to come, living happy and free.

From that day on Charlie strove to be, a great father and husband to his family. As the years went by and his kids grew older, the responsibilities increased onto his shoulder. For now when he sits down for his Christmas Eve nap, there are five grandkids who jump into his lap. Charlie smiles and pulls them in close, for this is the moment in his life he did love the most. He looked up to the sky and soon did remember, how his life changed for the better that fateful December.

God bless you everyone!

TIP OF THE WEEK: It takes a man of great strength and courage to deal with their issues. Christmas tends to highlight them more than most, for various reasons. I wrote this fable to say that it is OK not to feel OK. Too often, good men get plunged into a cycle of depression or otherwise because they struggle and then beat themselves up for struggling! Don’t get into that cycle. Life is full of setbacks, and I’d be more worried for you if they didn’t impact you. Whilst these setbacks may not have been your fault, how you live with them is your responsibility. A great man realises that, and gets help. You get to set the tone for your future.

P.S. Don’t do it alone, reach out to a brother (a mate, someone at church, a counsellor) – it will help.

Chris Kerr

Chris is a husband to Alicia and father to Thea, who is the subject of his columns on Fatherhood for Sorted.  In his spare time he works for a national law firm in an executive capacity and provides crisis leadership consultancy support for non-profits across the UK.  He attends Urban Crofters Church in Cardiff.  A keen weekend adventurer, Chris is regularly spotted in the sea or on mountains.
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