Bad Santa

bad-santaChristmas is definitely more memorable when your kids are young. We had some fun traditions back then, including a few that might now qualify as “psychological abuse” in 17 states.

The first would occur after attending Christmas Eve Mass.

Our tradition would be to ride around the local area to check out the Christmas lights and displays with the Christmas songs turned up to ‘hood bouncing volume, before heading home and allowing the grandparents to give the boys early Christmas presents.

The boys, feeling the freedom of having the church obligation completed, and knowing full well that grandchild presents awaited, were usually quite patient and relaxed as our search for Lights of Christmas progressed. But after 30 minutes or so, their facade of patience would start to crack.

So I would start heading our old Dodge Grand Caravan towards home.

Of course when the kids recognized the more familiar streets and neighborhoods; they would know we were getting close to Christmas Present Time.

So each time we got really close to our house, I’d go right past the street or turn in the opposite direction, announcing to Mom that here was a house up the road I wanted her to see. If I turned down our street, I would make several loops around the neighborhood, sometimes slowing as we approached the driveway, then going right on past to the accompaniment of much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

By the time we got home, the kids were near emotional wrecks, and Mom and I could hardly keep from laughing out loud.

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Our next fond memory of “enhanced interruptive techniques” was experienced on Christmas morning …

Every Christmas one of the kids (usually that Mischievous Middle Child) would bounce onto our bed at 6:30 sharp. We had no illusions that the little termite hadn’t already been downstairs peeking, so we would waited to exact our own little brand of revenge.

After our MMC crowed one Christmas Eve about how early he was going to wake me up, I felt the dawning of a brilliant idea!

That night once the Children were nestled, all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums dance in their heads, I stealthily tied bungee cords from their bedroom doors to the stairway railing across the hall!

(Yes … Four out of five firemen would probably not recommend such a prank, but our house was virtually new back then. Very low risk, trust me!)

That was a fun Christmas morning with Carol and I giggling like sixth-graders as the wails from the MMC’s bedroom went on for roughly 10 minutes. Finally our resourceful little termite pried his door open just enough to squirm his body out his bedroom door. To his credit though, he immediately went downstairs to snoop at what was under the tree before heading back upstairs to free his fellow inmates.

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Most Christmases we made the boys wait at the top of the stairs as Mom and I prepped for the morning’s cyclone of torn wrapping paper and discarded bows. We took our grand old time getting our faces ready, usually with one keeping an eye on the inmates while the other was brushing their teeth.

Then I would head downstairs for the Official Opening Ceremony.

You may think I’m kidding, but that’s exactly what it was!

I would prattle around for 20 minutes, getting the coffee going; lighting the tree; fiddling with the old shoulder-held VHS recorder; and putting the dog out for her morning constitutional. All the while the kids are pleading, “Dad, hurry up!”

Which of course that just made me move a little slower.

Finally, I would have everything ready, the VHS recorder in position; and the kids would start creeping down the steps. And then I would launch into my Christmas Morning Speech

It was usually a thing of beauty. Like a condensed senatorial filibuster …

“Mom, he’s doing this on purpose!”

I would set the stage for the day’s event and provide the viewers with an elaborate description of the tree, the number of presents (with a few “Oohs” and “Ahhs” thrown in to turn the screws a little tighter), that day’s participants (by now the boys were pleading with their mother to shut me down), and then a lengthy description of the weather.

Once the wailing had subsided, I would end my speech with a “Merry Christmas to all!”; and the boys anticipation would be at peek levels …

Then I’d say, “Dammit, somethings wrong with the camera/tree/coffee maker.”

The cacophony of wails was both heart rendering and side-splitting funny.

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Now for those who might think such acts qualify me for The Grinch that Stole Christmas, let me assure you that these stories are repeated year-after-year during our holidays together. Like it or not, like me or not … They are a small – but funny – part of our family’s Holiday tradition!

Merry Christmas to all, and make sure you can get out that door before you Sugar-Plum Dance!

Ode to the oldest son

Just 24 years ago today the first of our three family installments landed after just 16 months of married bliss.  He was an unscheduled development.  We didn’t couldn’t wait as long as we had planned, being newlyweds and all … a nice spring Sunday … brunch with friends … a few mimosas … You get the picture idea.

But – make no mistake – we were ecstatic!  Legend has it I had a smile so wide, Tom Cruise was jealous. (Maybe just a bit too far a reach there.)  It wasn’t a totally smooth delivery, as Carol was hit with a rather severe blood pressure issue (preeclampsia).  Our relief was palpable, although it would be several more days before Carol was out of the woods. 

As a parent, you eventually learn that every child you are blessed with is totally different in at least several readily apparent ways.  Of course, you don’t actually learn that until #2 arrives; they get their feet under them; and promptly tear asunder the confidence you had that the whole parent thing is figured out!  But it’s a lesson you tend to learn at the wrong end of the diaper.  

Michael wasn’t exactly a walk in the park either as a baby.  It took us a while to figure out why he kept throwing up his formula once the breast-feeding tap was closed.  And we couldn’t figure out how any human being of any size could scream non-stop on a car trip – any car trip – especially that two-hour drive from hell – Philadelphia to Long Island.  After he suffered an anaphylactic reaction from licking a fork with raw egg drippings at around 18 months, the light finally clicked on and he was diagnosed with food allergies. Yet another parenting lesson learned.

Our oldest turned out to be our most athletically active child, our most independent, our costliest insofar as activities and boondoggles go, and our most frustrating – most recently anyway.  But after taking a year-and-a-half off from college to figure things out, we’re proud to say he’s back on track and pulling down some decent grades. 

Michael has also landed himself an exceptionally bright, lovely, level-headed girlfriend (Sorry, J!), who seems to have his best interests at heart and manages to keep him focused and on track.  (It’s true that behind many a great man stands a woman … with a cattle prod.)

No, it hasn’t been the smoothest ride.  There have been times we wanted to go all Homer Simpson-on-Bart with him.  But in the end, he’s turned out to be a considerate, well-mannered young man, who knows the importance of work ethic and responsibility.  He has the good sense to realize his current life will go far in determining his future success; and Carol and I wish him nothing but the absolute best in that regard. 

Maybe those parenting lessons took after all!

Happy Birthday, son!!   

Love, Mom & Dad