Charles Dickens words could well apply to Christmas for many people here in Australia. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness.” From my point of view Christmas is one of the best times of the year. Christmas is a time for family. Christmas is a time to be happy. Christmas is a time to give.
Christmas is a special time when children are celebrated, perhaps because we are celebrating the birth of the Christ Child. The fact that Christmas Carols are playing in the supermarkets and malls always gives me a huge lift.
Occasionally I still hear in the shopping mall one of the carols that the Marshes recorded for Christmas from the Australian Heart. Hearing these songs replayed gives me a personal lift as well knowing that my career as a record producer and musician was not in vain.
I remember as a ten year old child, the wait for Christmas to come at the end of the year, seemed never ending. The fact that our home was hopelessly divided by marital discord did not dampen the joy of Christmas for me as a child, because the hope still burned for better times ahead.
For other people Christmas is the worst time of the year. It is so for many separated fathers who have been denied access to their children by vindictive mothers. PerthNow journalist, Kate Campbell, gives some examples in an article called Dads in Distress support group provides fathers a safe space.
“For Tim* the end of his marriage came violently, when his wife pulled a knife on him and repeatedly punched him in front of one of their children.
Describing the last few years of his marriage as “hell on earth”, Tim says his wife became increasingly violent and volatile, controlling the finances and socially isolating him by dictating who he could talk to — a role reversal from the usual domestic abuse cases the public hears about.
He went to the police station after the latest attack, but said once again the authorities didn’t believe him despite having a black eye.
“Since then it’s been a constant battle of trying to see my children,” he said, adding he last saw his kids six weeks ago and until recently had been living in a homeless hostel. “She’s told me I’ll never see my kids again.”
At this point, Tim’s voice wavers, the tears start to flow and the outwardly macho-looking man hops up to grab some paper towel — the nearest thing to a tissue he can find. But he’s not afraid to hide his emotions in this environment, in fact they’re welcomed. And he’s not alone in his desperation.”
From my own experience, and looking at the resultant suicides in 90% of the cases, it is the fathers that suffer more through this process than mothers but mothers also suffer as well. I remember the story of volunteer court helper who worked with men going through the horror that the male of the species endures within the Family Law Court Child support system.
He told the story of a mother who had been locked out of the house and out of the children’s lives by a vindictive father. She was so broken hearted that she committed suicide. As Bettina Arndt says, “No gender has a monopoly on vice.” The pain and loneliness of family breakup is non-discriminatory. Christmas just highlights the pain.
So applying the Charles Dickens quote, “that is was the best of times and the worst of times,” to Christmas could well have more than a modicum of truth to it. For instance, we know that one in three marriages break up in Australia and that defacto relationships with children fare much worse. We know that there are over one million children who go to sleep each night in Australia without their biological father in the home. Just the pain of fatherlessness for these children at Christmas time would be massive on its own.
Christmas can be a difficult time for intact families too as the very act of coming together exposes the unresolved tensions that often exist in families. So what is the answer?
We must actively pursue what demographer Mark McCrindle has found out that people love more than anything else about Christmas and that is time spent with family and friends. We must also find out how to make that time successful.
First things first – let us all agree to make time spent with family and friends our priority this Christmas. Once we have agreed on that let me give you five keys to make that time both successful and happy!
- Accept that the Spirit of Christmas is all about Giving and not receiving.
- Accept that you are not perfect, neither are your fellow family members and friends, so you must forgive and forget.
- Do not drink at all this Christmas or at least drink in moderation. I guarantee you will have a happier Christmas and you will have no regrets!
- Make Christmas a time when you reach out to the lonely and those without a family and put the Spirit of Christmas into action.
- Read the original Christmas story in the Bible with your family or go to church with your family or do both because the only way you can really find what Christmas is all about is to go direct to the source.
Have a great Christmas
This year I would like to give you four free songs from the ‘Marsh Family’s Christmas Album’ to make your Christmas that bit happier. Produced by Australian Heart Productions you can download them onto your phone or iPad and play them on Christmas Day or before.