Christmas Decorating and The Case of the Vanishing Teens by Cindy Haney
I used to LOVE decorating for Christmas. I loved the annual ritual of pulling out all of the boxes and sentimentally reminiscing about each mantel decoration, light-up gingerbread house or 20-year-old tree ornament.
Ahhh, the fragrant aroma of cinnamon spice wassail and blue spruce pine.
Toasty scenes of family togetherness through frosty window panes.
My two little girls in matching red velvet dresses, drinking peppermint hot chocolate and warming their round rosy cheeks by our crackling fireplace.
The anticipation of Santa Claus and all of his magic, not to mention the piles of toys, he will bring.
And let’s not forget the excitement of “pajama runs”. That’s where we put on our pajamas and drive around the neighborhood “oohing and ahhhing” over all the rooftops and lawns resplendent in twinkling, flashing, shining displays of happy Christmas cheer.
Ok, that was then. This is now. And decorating with teenagers is anything but cheerful.
My two girls are now miniature, wanna-be adults who’d rather be at the dentist having a root canal then stuck in the house with you and all of your stupid Christmas cheer.
Now I freaking hate decorating for Christmas. Kill me.
I turn into an angry military sergeant barking out orders to my small army of “should-be” elf helpers who are, at this moment, now acting like tortured Guantanamo Bay prisoners. My indentured servants are now being forced to *GASP* put down their various texting/Facebooking/Instagramming/Spotify-ing devices and pretend to enjoy this Christmas crap.
Even my lazy husband would rather be eating sausage balls and watching a football game than decorating this stupid tree. For years now, the only one in my family that gives a crapity-crap about decorating is me. Oh sure, they enjoy it, once it’s all done, but when it comes time for the actual labor, everyone magically disappears.
So with hopeful but insubstantial optimism, I imagine that surely it will be different this year. THIS YEAR, they will get off their couch-sitting, screen-staring butts and suddenly WANT to help. This year will be different!
Wrong. So. Very. Wrong. And so disappointing.
Just as soon as I pull out the boxes, everyone mysteriously vanishes. Despite my best efforts using sentimental Christmas music on the radio, pine-scented candles, offers of chocolate-covered cherries and pecan pie, nothing works. The same little girls who used to beg to “help mommy” every Christmas, are now eye-rolling lazy sloths who can’t believe I am making them help now. So, just like every year, despite my utopian Hallmark Channel family-time fantasies, it turns into a deluxe super-extended sucktastic four hours of me yelling, threatening and barking out orders, military-style.
I share the unrealistic idealism of Clark Griswold in the “Christmas Vacation” movie. Clark’s wife tells him at the beginning of the movie, “Sparky, you build these things up in your mind and they are impossible standards for anyone to achieve.” Maybe so. But is asking for a few hours of your teenager’s time to spend on an important family tradition really too much to ask? Seriously? I think not.
What makes me so angry is that I can’t make them care. Because they just don’t. When we went to pick out the tree, they just stood around and texted friends while they waited for us to pick one out. When it came time to pull out the “special” ornaments, which are the dated ones — one for each year since our family began in 1989 — they yawned and made up excuses to disappear from the room. Apparently, this is the most boring four hours of their entire lives. Which is why I turned into a screaming psycho…
“If you don’t turn off those smart phones right now, put on a happy dadgum Christmas face, and get over here and start fa-la-la-la decking these halls, I’m gonna spank both of you with this wassail ladel!! (Never mind that they are both taller than me and can outrun me.) Anyway, this is not exactly the kind of Christmas memories I was hoping to make.
Maybe I should just accept the fact that the teenage years are a time of enormous self-centeredness and having warm, cozy family togetherness is very last thing on their “to-do” list. Their focus is on friends and fun… fun that doesn’t involve mom and dad and stupid Christmas rituals. Maybe the problem here is me. I am having a hard time letting go of the enthusiastic little girls they once were.
Looking back on my own teen years, I at least have the wisdom of experience. If my teen years are any kind of measuring gauge, it won’t be long after they leave the house for their own lives at college, that they will begin to remember and maybe even miss those lame holiday rituals. They may even appreciate and laugh at all the years that Mildly Disturbed Drill Sergeant Mom forced them to have fun at Christmastime.
I truly hope so.