It’s true that there’s a fine tradition of endless taunting that happens in our family, and I consider it something of a character-building exercise, sure, and my children endure it with a mixture of rolled eyes and exasperation, yes, but the truth is that I am ribbing myself as much as I’m ribbing them. There are times I feel like I’ve stepped into a music video because I’m not entirely sure how I ended up here.
And it’s mostly due to the kids. Not entirely, of course, but yeah, mostly. They change things. If I find myself uttering the phrase “I never thought I’d…” chances are, it’s going to be followed by something having to do with a person who once made my belly button pop out like a turkey timer.
This week feels especially rife with that sort of thing, for some reason. I’m not entirely sure why. I just know that it keeps happening.
Like, I was enjoying some quality slug time on the couch this weekend, watching Say Yes To The Dress when my darling daughter came along and started watching with me. Upon seeing a particularly hideous dress emerge from the fitting room, she commented, “I would NEVER get married in something like that!”
Rather than commenting on the dress, in kind, I replied, “Who’s gonna marry YOU?” instead.
“Thanks,” she retorted, unperturbed.
“You’re welcome!” I said.
I was never a person who dreamed about the girly camaraderie of having a daughter, fantasizing about shopping trips and pedicures and such. But neither would I have pictured blithely suggesting her future held infinite solitude (with the implication being she was unloveable). It just doesn’t seem… very nice… when I think about it like that. But of course this is just how we are, and I’m not being mean so much as I’m just good-naturedly paying her back for the trail of dirty dishes I often find throughout the house.
Later that same day, Monkey came bouncing around the corner and generally acting like a jackrabbit on meth. Theoretical-parent-me probably would’ve sat down with him for some quality one-on-one time and helped him to talk through his feelings and reach a desired level of calmness, but actual-parent-me knows that sometimes, Monkey just needs a physical outlet. Particularly when he’s standing in front of me VIBRATING.
I managed to interrupt an involved story about something he’s building on Minecraft by making the international symbol for Time-Out. “Go hang from your bar, please,” I told him. He began to argue. “BAR. GO. Five minutes. You can tell me after.” Monkey scowled and stomped off, but five minutes later he was a lot calmer. “I like you so much better when you’re all stretched out,” I told him, messing up his hair.
It occurs to me that someone overhearing that directive might picture something a lot more sinister than the pull-up bar installed in Monkey’s doorway, and the beneficial and calming proprioceptive feedback he receives from dangling from it for a few minutes.
(It also occurs to me that a dozen years ago, I probably didn’t know what “proprioceptive” meant.)
I think it’s the upcoming holiday shopping frenzy that has me reflecting on this stuff. Part of me misses the days of shopping for toys and picturing the joy on the kids’ faces as they rip paper on Christmas morning and truly believe Santa received their letters and got them all these fun things. This year I have family asking what the kids want and I realize that 1) this is the first year neither kid believes in Santa and 2) Chickadee wants gift cards and Monkey wants to go live in inside the computer. It’s just not the same as it used to be.
Last week I met a stranger at the far corner of a parking lot and he pulled two flutes out of his truck and let Chickie test them out. After some initial embarrassment over standing just outside the drive-through lane while playing scales, a decision was made and I wrote him a check and bid my daughter a very merry Christmas—her new flute is her gift this year, but she’s receiving it early because district band auditions are coming up. (And as seedy as it sounds, this was a well-researched transaction with a nice gentleman from a music shop several towns away, who was kind enough to drive into town to meet us.)
It doesn’t really rival the excitement of preschool Chickadee unwrapping her first REAL BIG DOLL MOMMY LOOK LOOK I LOVE HER, but it turns out I’ve become the kind of person who will take that sideways half-hug and “Thanks, Mom” tossed over the shoulder and savor it, nonetheless.
Besides… I also remember that the toys greeted with delirious joy on Christmas morning were often discarded and forgotten by that evening. And good old-fashioned familial torment is forever.
(I wonder if I can find some wedding-dress themed paper to wrap the flute up in for Christmas morning…?)