Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Brings out the Best in Us, Right?

Let’s talk about frugality today, because I was a terrible parent yesterday and I don’t want to talk about that.


Aw, hell, let’s talk about that and then talk about frugality tomorrow.  I always feel better when I vent my feelings online.  Better than eating my feelings, right?


There’s no one in the whole world who knows how to frustrate me better than my own family.  I imagine this is true for most everyone; after all, you spend more time with your family than with anyone else, so they know which buttons to push to get you immediately riled up.  And some of us (me) are more raw than others.  My emotions are rubbed and rubbed and rubbed until I have no choice but to cry and bleed and yell in pain.


Our Christmas tree, which we bought four years ago, is dying.  No, it’s not a live tree!  It’s a pre-lit, and I know that some of you are going, “hold it right there, Amelia!  Pre-lit sucks.  Get a [live, u-cut, they-cut, whatever other falling-needles option is out there] and stop ruining the spirit of Christmas!”  Hey, I don’t judge your Christmas choices.  I grew up with a “fake” tree and I don’t want to water a tree or vacuum needles for the next four weeks, okay?


But.  Of course, there’s a “but.”  Half of the lights on the top of the tree went out last year, and we went the whole season with a partially-lit tree.  It looked awful, and made me feel sad every time I glanced at it.  I should have tried to fix it last year, but Jamie was teeny and needy, we went to my parents’ house for the holiday anyway, and I didn’t take the time.  So the yesterday I hauled the top off of that tree and proceeded to examine every light in hopes of finding the culprit and replacing the burnt-out bulb.  No such luck.  Well, I thought, this shouldn’t be too bad.  I’ll just take the strand that doesn’t work off and re-string the top of the tree with a new strand!  They’re only $3 at Fred Meyer, anyway!  No big deal.


No, it is a big deal.  Turns out that our throw-away culture extends to things that should be easily fixed, too.  Not that that is any great surprise.


The light strand is held onto each branch using clips which, after about five, started to make my fingers hurt.  Then, I noticed that the strands were ALSO held on with twine, making this task one that will take a lot more time than I have with children to entertain.  THEN I realized that the lights I bought to replace the dead strand were red and not white (ALL the boxes were red, so the red lights on the red background of the box looked clear.  I don’t know what the clear lights looked like on the red box because I obviously didn’t see them).


This was the point when Jamie woke up after having only a 45-minute nap.  If you have a young toddler, you probably know that 45 minutes is not long enough.  He was cranky and sad.


Also, Tony was gone watching the Seahawks with my brother, because Sunday is football day, which, when you have young children, might as well be “Dad’s personal day.”


Charles was in a touchy mood, too.  Lately, he has required telling 60 frajillion times in order to do something.  “It’s time to brush your teeth, Charles.”  “Charles, please brush your teeth because we’re leaving.”  “Charles!  I’m going to count down from five and if you’re not brushing your teeth, you will lose your toy!” “Five, four, three, two, one!”  (I take away the toy.)  (Crying and screaming ensues.)  “You lost the toy because you didn’t do what I asked.”  “But mommy, I didn’t hear you!”  Multiply this scene six hundred times each day.  The kid gets in the zone playing and honestly does not hear me.  I’ve started taking toys away before I even ask him to do something, so he has to do it before he gets the toy back.  This, of course, results in tears, but fewer tears than if I asked first.


Yesterday, Charles asked for a candy after lunch (we still have Halloween candy – but only the stuff I don’t like, obviously).  I told him to put away his Batman mask and then he could have a candy.  Charles threw a screaming, kicking fit.  “I want a candy!!!!”  He hit me.  I picked him up to carry him to his room for timeout.  He kicked me.  I shut the door.  Jamie crawled up the stairs.  Charles opened the door, tackled his brother, and thumped him on the back.  I had to revoke Charles playdate for the day. 


Why is it that the consequence often results in my suffering as much as Charles’?  I didn’t get to see my friend yesterday afternoon because I cancelled the play date. 


It was just, hmm, not easy.  None of it was easy.  It was a cold day with nothing fun happening, and I probably should have put on a movie and tried to snuggle with my boys.  I was tired and by the end of the day, I felt like both Charles and Jamie would have gladly traded me in on a new mother, one who wasn’t such a bitch. 


The tough part, the part no one tells you and so few admit out loud, is that being a good parent sucks.  It’s really hard to enforce rules and enact discipline because you love that little person so much and you just want them to be happy.  But they have to grow up.  They have to learn boundaries.  They have to brush their teeth in the morning and complete tasks before getting candy and keep out of the kitchen when mom is cooking and refrain from hitting their little brother or throwing toys and the wall in anger.  And you, the parent, have to teach them these boundaries and make sure that the kids grow to respect them.  And it’s really not fun and you’re going to be the bad guy quite frequently.  Here’s hoping that it will all turn out okay in the end and they won’t resent us forever, right?


Yesterday was hard for me because I had two fatigued children who just couldn’t get what they wanted.  And I was sad about that damnable tree.  I would love for Christmas to be beautiful in our house, but the reality is that I have very little room for decorations and those two monkeys (and the boisterous dog) destroy nice things, so the tree is pretty much it.  And without the lights on top, it looks like crap.  And yes, I know that Christmas is so much more than a tree, but come on, I deserve to feel good about my tree.  I deserve to feel like the house is moderately presentable and festive for the family that is coming to us for the holiday for the first time.


I told Tony that if we can’t have lights all the way up to the top of the tree, then we wouldn’t have a tree this year.  He said that’s ridiculous.  I said I don’t care.

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