December 30, 2019

8:30 a.m.

Zaragoza, Spain.

I am watching my daughter open her first Christmas present with my wife’s help.

Although there’s no snow on the ground -- something I am definitely not used to on Christmas -- I can’t count many moments in my life that beat this one.

I loved Christmas growing up, and still do today. As a kid, I loved it for the presents, but as I’ve grown older, I love it more for the good cheer and making memories. If you know me, you know I am always laughing, smiling, and most of the time, the most positive person in the room. Well, when Christmas comes around, I feel like everyone matches my energy and I love it.

I grew up in a big family and Christmas was always kind of hectic, but a good hectic. Every year, our parents would wrap presents at the last minute -- literally minutes before we opened them. Our relatives pushed for my family to come to their house for Christmas get-togethers, so we were always on the move. And of course, there were regular fights between siblings as a result of gift envy.

No, you can’t play with it! Santa got it for me!

It was chaos. But it made our Christmases unforgettable. Christmas brought my family closer together and that’s why I’ve always held it close to my heart

As I fast forward to present day, I find myself playing Santa Claus for my wife and daughter. What a feeling it is. Although I am no good at surprises for my wife (out of fear that I might get the wrong size or color for her), I’ve found it works just fine to find out what she wants, pick the number one thing on her list, and tell her to close her eyes while I wrap it. She is never surprised lol. As for my daughter, she is only eight months old, so she doesn’t understand the concept of Christmas yet, but wrapping gifts for her and seeing her joy in playing with new blocks, a rattling toy and light-up drum makes it all worth it.

You don’t think of these things as a child. You don’t think about a time when you will be wrapping gifts for your own kids. And when that day comes, even if you have thought about it in adulthood, you’re almost not prepared for it. My wife and I just looked at each other after we opened the presents for our daughter:

We really just had our first Christmas as parents.

An unbelievable, even shocking, feeling to say the least.

The moment and the day were perfect. From the traditional pancake breakfast made by my wife, to the opening of presents, I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. There is, however, one aspect of Christmas that’s a shade bittersweet.

It’s just the three of us.

There’s none of the craziness of those big childhood Christmases.  

Don’t get me wrong, spending Christmas with my wife and daughter (and hopefully, other kids in the future) is amazing. But until I decide I don’t want to play basketball overseas anymore, we will never have a Christmas with our families. And even when I do decide to retire, we will either be moving to Canada (where I am from) or Australia (where my wife is from) to live. Therefore, one of our families will always be missing us on Christmas.

We are grateful for our lives and the ability to have Christmas as a group of three. Not being able to spend the holidays with other family members, however, does play on our minds. Whether it’s birthdays or holidays, we FaceTime all immediate family members from both sides, then text extended family members and friends because we aren’t able to see any of them.

What’s hardest to accept is that our families don’t have the chance to celebrate these special times with our daughter. FaceTime is great, but it’s not the same as being there. I plan to play for another 8-12 years. My daughter will be deprived of certain things that most kids get to experience every day. She won't be able to run around family houses with her cousins. She won’t be able to eat a piece of candy I told her she can't have, that grandma will give to her anyway. She won't be able to create bonds with her uncle and aunts. She will know them all and know they are family. But until I put the basketball down and move back home, she will only be able to experience our families for a month or two each year.

We are blessed to live the life we live. We are happy. These are simply some of the things I’m reminded of during the holidays.

That being said, I say this.

Celebrating Christmas for the first time as a father is one of the most memorable moments in my life. I sat there and prayed, thanking God for allowing me to have this moment as a father. He has given me more than I could ever ask for.

Happy Holidays to everyone, I hope your Christmas was just as special as ours!

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