How many kids can I piss off in one week?

Back when they liked us.

It’s the time of year when the air is crisp and it’s possible to catch refrains of holiday carols or tantalizing smells drifting from someone’s kitchen. For many the world is filled with more holiday traditions and preparations and nostalgia and whimsy than they can shake a stick at.

Unless you’re 14. Then the world is mostly full of people trying to piss you off.

The statement “I’m bored,” can be such a siren to parents, calling for the lamest of responses. Beckoning for attention: Come, sink into depths from which you’ve no hope of ever emerging once again sane or whole.

Kid says: “I’m bored.” Parent mistranslates: “quick, give me something productive and/or healthy and/or fulfilling that will make me a better person with a life rich and full of meaning.”

“I’m bored” is actually “take me to WaHooz so you can sit around thinking how great it is to be my mom while I play shoot-em-up games in a noisy arcade on machines that belch out streams of paper tickets, which I’ll redeem at the counter for plastic handcuffs and fake barf.”

It’s only Sunday of Thanksgiving break and woe to the person who suggests some sort of routine which includes regular practice of the violin and a daily, thirty-minute break from video games to read a book. Any book. Or magazine. Even a copy of the most recent Game Informer (the store publication of crap-you-can-buy-but-shouldn’t-buy because it has the “Rated M For Mature” sticker that can be ignored until mom happens to notice).

Some kids aspire to be the fat, bearded guy in a red suit.

“Seriously, mom, even Game Informer isn’t ‘reading for fun’ if it’s forced,” this from the kid who just moments before was working up a big crank in anticipation of the boredom he faced the coming week.

The other one, the mostly still-sweet pre-teen, was busy throwing a sulk of his own because we announced we were going to the movies on Monday to see a special screening of Elf (which we also own) after dinner at his favorite downtown restaurant.

“Why do we have to do so much family stuff?” He said. His reaction brought us up short. It’s not like we’re making the boys sit through The Nutcracker or a six-hour, live concert of Handel’s Messiah this year. And, what’s wrong with family stuff all of a sudden?

2005_boys_with_santaThis would be Buddy the Elf on the big screen with all the lines we love, like the ‘Four Food Groups: Candy, Candy Canes, Candy Corn and Syrup,’ and the ‘the sea of swirly twirly gum drops’ and plenty of soda and goodies of their own. Here was our kid acting like we’d suggested stretching him on a rack smothered in honey, man-eating fire ants dropping from the ceiling.

Family stuff? Huh. I remember a few times when I’d had about enough family stuff myself. Times when Mike and I daydreamed about taking off to warmer climates for the holidays, refusing to play road crew to our less than grateful prodgeny in our family’s effort to pack in every Santa visit, tree lighting ceremony and holiday concert it takes to build a childhood of memories.

But there are also years, like this year, when the memory of those lost seems closer than it has been other times, and I think about how fun it would be to watch Buddy the Elf while overdosing on butter flavor popcorn with my dad.

I wonder if it would scar my kids if I laid a colossal guilt trip on them about wanting to go to a movie one more time with my dad. Never mind that Dad, with his wonky hearing, hated movie theaters. A little bit of time with him over the holidays is something I’d put on my wish list.

I was prepared after church to launch a guilt trip about dads and traditions and family time. Forget the sermon. I’d been busy working up righteous indignation. I’d put people in their place. Don’t you give ME guff about FAMILY TIME, mister. This was going to be epic.

Colin foiled my plans.

“Sorry mom,” Colin said as we climbed in the car. “I’ll see Elf with you guys. I was cranky before because I was mostly thinking about lunch.”



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