The Dadball Era’s Guide To The Holidays
Quite suddenly, out of nowhere, I’m tired of Christmas movies. I’m tired of breakfasts with Santa and brunches with Santa and the Santa Express at Sullivan’s Hardware. I’m tired of shopping for LEGO and wrapping the LEGO and then hiding the LEGO in elaborately designed hiding shelters in the basement, the kind that require a retina scan to enter. I’m tired of keeping up the ruse. I’m tired of trekking out to the Speedway to see the lights, but not the same lights we saw at Newfields. Different lights. Different nights. Same idea.
I’m really, REALLY tired of moving that stupid Elf of the Shelf every morning in a panicked frenzy because I forgot to do it before going to bed. I’d like to move that thing into the garbage disposal. The one kid in the house who still Believes might be in for a rude awakening, but so be it.
I’m tired of the hoopla and the hysteria and the parties and the planning.
The whole thing has become entirely exhausting.
It did not used to be this way. Christmas with little kids, in the beginning especially—that is the cocaine of parenting! It will fuel Herculean efforts of Yuletide dragon-riding, and it’ll do that for years. You could drive the gang to Norway and back just to see a real-life reindeer and think nothing of it. ANYTHING FOR THE MAGIC OF THE SEASON, MY LAD!
But going into the second decade of it … man. Oof. That high, I fear, is gone. All of the sudden, I’m the washed-out Christmas junkie shivering on the couch, rocking back and forth and mumbling violent nonsense about refusing to watch “The Polar Express” again, that believing in anything is for suckers. I just want to take naps and eat ham by the fire. That’s it.
This was all a worrisome development, truth be told. Such bah-humbuggery is not in my nature. Or at least it wasn’t. So I consulted one of the wise elders of Dadball Local 157, maybe the wisest, the parent of two high schoolers. Had my heart grown 2,000 sizes smaller since last year? Am I dead on the inside? Am I on the path toward becoming a Stephen Miller-like gollum? (“Look away from me I’M HIDEOUS!!”)
Or is this the natural progression of things?
“Oh it’s definitely natural,” he assured me. “You should see Christmas morning over here: It’s like Arbor Day.”
It was both a comforting and terrifying talk, all at once. And the bottom line of it was this:
The magic gets replaced by the exhaustion which gets replaced, in the end, by varying forms of apathy. (“Hey dad, tell quote-unquote Santa to just give me cash.”) Nobody had ever explained this progression to me, which is why I’m saying it here. It is a sobering and quite non-merry discussion this time of year for sure, but it is necessary and for the public good!
To my fellow exhausted parents of middle-schoolers: rest easy, friends, you are not evil. You’re just tired. You’ve run the good race.
And to all you hyped-up parents of toddlers zipping around the galaxy from one Christmas event to the next, no matter time or cost or effort: keep riding that dragon, you lucky bastards. Ride it until it bucks you off. Because it will. Because that is the natural order of such things, for better or worse.
Merry Christmas, everyone! Be safe out there. It’s brutal.