We Three Teens

teensIt’s late afternoon on Christmas Eve and a classic holiday scene is playing out at the Rich home . . .

The sink is full of dirty dishes and Mom yells downstairs, again, to remind her teenage son it’s his job to clean the kitchen to get ready for company to arrive. He doesn’t hear because The Fray is blasting from his bedroom. Though they’re supposed to be wrapping gifts, two teenage sisters are sprawled across the couch hypnotized by an iPad screen and laughing about something “AmazingPhil” is doing on YouTube, until Mom comes over and yanks the device away and tells them it’s time to get off their yoga pants and help make Christmas special, dang it!

Too bad Irving Berlin and Mel Tormé are dearly departed or they’d be fighting over the rights to use this scene as inspiration to compose a catchy new Christmas tune. It might go something like this (sing to the tune of The Christmas Song):

Dishes stacking in an open sink.
Jack Squat ditching on his chores.
Alternative rock blaring up from downstairs,
And folks stressed out ‘cuz no one cares.
Everybody knows, two turkeys lounging on the couch,
Won’t help to make the season bright.
Tiny shots of Diet Coke on the go,
Will help Mom stay awake tonight.

Christmas Eve is a lot different now that I have teens instead of tots.

They don’t want to open hand-sewn matching pajamas to wear on Christmas Eve. They don’t want to help make cookies to leave for Santa—though they do want me to make some so they can eat them—and they know Santa will still bring presents to kids with messy bedrooms.

I’m trying to adjust my holiday expectations and traditions to fit my changing family, but it’s tricky.

When my kids were little, having them help make cookies, wrap presents and prepare the house on Christmas Eve was festive, but actually more work for me. But they were excited to help and it passed the time and channeled their energy in anticipation of Christmas Day. Now my kids are old enough to actually be helpful with Christmas preparations and traditions, but their enthusiasm has seriously waned.

Though I didn’t feel my expectations for help and/or participation were unreasonable this Christmas Eve, by late afternoon I found myself impatiently confiscating yet another screened device my kids were all conglomerated around. Before I could make another empty threat about returning gifts, one of them said to me, “It’s Christmas Eve. Go away.”

So I did.

I locked myself in my bathroom and soaked in the tub while watching a sappy Christmas flick.

The kitchen wasn’t clean when company arrived. Some gifts never got wrapped, so they didn’t end up under the tree. But we did enjoy a nice meal and a reverent reading of Luke 2. I hope those are the things my kids remember about that night.

They’re growing up fast.

They’ll be gone soon enough and if I want them to ever come home for Christmas they need good memories to draw them back. I don’t want them to be haunted by visits from “The Ghost of Christmas Nag” who looks suspiciously like their mother.

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