Thursday, December 19, 2013

Young Adult Christmas

I haven't written about my kids much because they're getting past the age when I can write about them without disclosing personal stuff. Their issues are different. When they were three and resisting potty training, it might have been funny to write about that, but they weren't reading my blog and neither were their friends. In fact, none of them were reading anything, so they couldn't even accidentally come across it. Now if one of them Googles "gender confusion" or  "prison bitches" they can find my blog. Also now their issue might be staying up at night upset about ___ and though I might find it funny and worth blogging about, they take it very seriously.

Yes, sometimes I find the things that they're upset about funny. Of course they're upset about ___. Everyone gets upset about ___ when they're fourteen, and now that I'm thirty___ years old and not fourteen I find it amusing that I was ever worried about such a thing. I don't laugh while they're upset of course. Just on the internet with you.

This is where fairness comes in. Because if they wanted to they could find my blog by Googling the term "magic space bears," read about how I find some of their anxiety funny, and then write a fair rebuttal in the comment section. Or start a blog of their own called "My Mother's Lies." But I don't think I have anything to worry about because if they Google "magic space bears" the first thing they'll find is Hyperbole and a Half. I can't help it if they prefer Allie Brosch to me. Still, I will leave ___ to them and continue to only slander myself.

But I will say that the mood has changed a lot in my house since the kids turned 10, 12, and 14. There are sometimes when I look at them that I can actually see their hormones chugging Red Bulls and doing mad skateboard stunts all over the inside of their bodies.

The skateboarders inside of them make them sullen and moody. I don't blame them. Their bodies have been high jacked. They're beginning to change from the inside out in ways that they feel their mother never properly explained. Because there, um, might have been some information she skipped.

"Mom, what is __?"

"Oh? ___? That's normal."

(Child looks horrified) "It is?"

"Yeah. I forgot to mention that part."

"How did you forget to tell me about ___???"

"Because I don't really love you."


"Just kidding. But you're not worried about ___ anymore, are you?"

For my complete parenting guide tips, look for my new book, When Mom Makes Us Laugh Nervously. 

Though my daughters' moods have been up and down I really thought that Christmas would even them out. Because you know, NO ONE gets bummed around the holidays. But really, it's usually such a fun time for us. We have our little rituals, like getting hot chocolate and going to see the lights in City Park. And running loose through the tree lot. They don't even look at the trees except in passing, they just run like maniacs through the rows and giggle, while I pick out our tree. Then I call them to me when I find one and we all vote on it. It's a giggly time in general I would say. They giggle when I take out the decorations, they giggle when I put up the lights on the house. They giggle when I get frustrated from untangling wires. That's a whole lot of smiling.

But this year those smiles have been replaced by mostly blank looks. And when it's not blankness it's frustration, as if they are all untangling wires in their heads. Mostly I think I've done a good job with not taking their bad moods personally. I know that they're all changing in complicated ways and it's hard. But I felt hurt when no one showed enthusiasm about Christmas this year. When the decorations came out and no one cracked a smile. When I mentioned stringing lights on the house and no one looked up from their electronic devices. I wondered if I'd done something wrong, or if I'd had more money I could buy cooler stuff instead of the same old stuff that we put up every year.

"The tree will be new," I thought.

I had an idea. I would take us all out to dinner, get some new decorations to replace the old ones that were falling apart and then we'd hit the tree lot. This was brilliant.

This was a terrible idea. First we argued for a half hour over where to eat. Whenever I mentioned a place none of them would agree on anything. Claire doesn't like Mexican, Emma doesn't like sushi or Chinese and Christopher doesn't like any place he's never been to before. I realized that the problem was that I was leaving it up to them so I announced that we were going to Applebees, they groaned about it and I told them just to be quiet and eat it. The main problem with this that I didn't mention is that I don't like Applebees. It was just the only place I could think of that was nearby and had a vast assortment of American and Americanized versions of ethnic foods for the kids to choose from. Which is why I don't like it.

There was minimal groaning during dinner, mostly from my 12 year old. Then we went shopping. More Emma groaning. So much that I couldn't focus on what we were looking for. Then we went to the tree lot.

There was no running. There were no smiles. They browsed through the trees. I watched them walking through the rows and considering the merchandise like grown people and was horrified that they didn't take the time to run wildly. It was a relief when my son finally grinned and said, "I'm going to look over here," and tore off running to the other side of the lot.

We picked a tree and by the time we tied it to the roof and drove home, I was too tired to decorate it. No one protested. So we gave it water and left it bare that night. And the next night. The day after that they went to their dad's for the weekend and I couldn't believe it wasn't decorated. I'm the kind of Christmas woman who has her tree, decorations and lights up within a week after Thanksgiving and here it was well into December and I had a naked tree in my living room. I thought about decorating it myself while they were gone but that just felt so lonely.

It made me wonder why it is I really do what I do at Christmas. Do I do it for them? Is all of this some kind of sacrifice and now I'm feeling like a martyr because, like the Applebees compromise, these aren't things that I really want? What is it that I really like to do at Christmas when left to my own devices?

So I experimented while they were gone. I took out the outdoor lights and began stringing them up. And I giggled. I drank hot chocolate. I played the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack. It turns out that the things I share with the kids are the things I really love to do, and I would do them anyway.

But I missed them. I thought about them the whole time I strung up lights. I realized that the things I really like doing might not be the things they like. The holidays are just like anything else. They don't have to like what I like. Soon they'll be old enough to make their own traditions and figure out what it is they like to do. I had been trying to force them to enjoy the same old stuff and it wasn't working.

I spent Saturday afternoon fixing up the house, and took pictures of the end result and texted them to people. I was like a kid proud of a drawing. I had decided to decorate the tree that Sunday before the kids came home, and then I got a phone call from Claire.

"What's up, kid?" I said.

"I miss you," she said.

"Awe. Well, I miss you too. Hey, did you see the picture of the lights I sent you?"

"Yeah, they look good! You haven't decorated the tree yet, have you?"

"Well, I was going to. You want me to wait?"

"Yeah, don't do it without me."

So I waited until they came home. It's a rare day when all of their mood swings line up in the same direction, but that day it was happy. We decorated the tree while the latest episode of "Once Upon a Time" played in the background, which is a little different for us. Usually it's something like Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, and not something with evil wizards, but that's ok. All four of us were smiling.

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