When my kids were little, we had quite a pile of favorite, holiday-themed picture books we enjoyed reading at bedtime in December. Included in that pile was The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett. Many of you might have read this book to your own children or grandchildren over the years, but I’ll give a quick summary . . . just in case you haven’t had the pleasure.

In the book (which is beautifully illustrated), Teeka, a girl of the Arctic, had been tasked by Santa to get his reindeer ready to fly on Christmas Eve. Now, Teeka had never done this job before, but she was excited about it and was eager to do a good job. (In fact, the book points out that she wanted everything to be . . . “perfect.”) Teeka went about her new job from a position of authority and strength. She was bossy and demanding with the reindeer. She didn’t pay attention to the reindeers’ experiences or preferences. She even groomed them too hard in an attempt to make them look “perfect.”

As you can imagine, Santa’s reindeer didn’t like it one bit! They pushed back against Teeka, and in response, she upped her I’m-in-charge game. The harder she pushed, the worse the situation became . . . until one day the reindeer all crashed into each other in a tangled heap of antlers. Poor Teeka was beside herself. No matter what she did, she couldn’t free the tangled – and panicked – reindeer. 

“Teeka looked at the tangled reindeer, once so bold and free, and began to cry. “It’s my fault,” she said. “I’ve spent all my time yelling at you, instead of helping. I’m sorry.” And one by one she gave each reindeer a hug.

“Tomorrow,” she said, “we’ll go to work in a new way. No yelling, no screaming, and no bossing. I promise. Let me try to help you get free.”

And, of course, that was just the ticket! By being softer, more gentle, and looser with her charges, Teeka was ultimately able to deliver a team of happy, relaxed, and eager reindeer to Santa on Christmas Eve.

We actually referred to this story a lot when my kids were young – and not just in December. Teeka’s lesson is a year-round, universal one about gentle leadership, a case study showing why bossing isn’t helpful, and a clear example of the whole catching-more-flies-with-honey Thing. As Erin got older, I remember her commenting more than once that some situation or another was . . .  “just like Teeka and the antlers!”

So this season, if you feel yourself pushing too hard to make something “perfect,” remember Teeka and those tangled antlers!
Step back.
Take a breath.
Lead with gentleness.
And allow yourself to soften and relax. 


If you’re wondering what this “advent calendar” is all about, you can read my “intro” post here.