Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas is like Florescent Lighting, OR, How the Holidays Reveal Every Flaw

Every one tells you how the magic of Christmas is once again revealed when you have kids. This is BS. For a few reasons. Allow me to elaborate.

Reason #1: My husband. He's nosy as hell about where the money goes even though I am not a woman who spends money with abandon. It's annoying when he wants to know "What is this $1.76 at Circle K?" but I make allowances since we have caught fraudulent charges this way.

HOWEVER. I am now a "stay-at-home-mom." This was a joint decision, made in the best interest of the family as a whole. As in, not necessarily what is best for MOM, but what our kids needed and, well, since we decided to procreate and all, time to suck it up and commit. This ended the era where Mom (previously known as Laurel) earned an actual paycheck. Joint checking gained an entirely new significance. Gone are the days when Laurel could purchase a nice-ish gift for that boy she married and have any reasonable expectation of surprising him. This is how she was reduced to asking her dad to pay for this year's gift with the promise of paying him back as soon as the gift was opened. A bit humiliating, truth be told. Dad was a really good sport about it, though.

Reason #2: My mother. I've discovered that my mom has a bitch streak as wide as an oxcart. This should not surprise, really, since my sister and I both sport healthy bitch streaks. But Mom? Honestly, you would think we were Jewish or Catholic based on the reverence we (and everyone else) share for my mom.

Mom is over the holidays. Fair enough, as she has spent every single Thanksgiving and Christmas in the kitchen for the past forty years. BUT. She has two able-bodied adult daughters and one son-in-law who are all bang-up cooks. And a nephew who is a professional chef. As in, New York and Chicago's coolest restaurants sous chef. We volunteer year-in, year-out to bring/cook anything and everything. My dad even offered to have the holidays catered this year. Mom has refused each and every overture to take some of the holiday burden from her tired shoulders. And then she gets pissed because she is doing all the work. The pathology surrounding the laundry room is perhaps even worse.

Reason # 3: My dad. Holy hell. He lives in a bubble. The only reality for him is the one he is in that very instant. I'll be juggling dirty dishes, whatever casserole my mother has granted me permission to be in charge of, and a six-year-old and three-year-old who are wild as bats because SANTA IS COMING TONIGHT!! and from the computer room I hear, "Laurel?"

"Yes, Dad?"

"Can you help me with this for a minute?"

Inevitably, the "this" is related to email. I have never been able to explain to him how Microsoft Outlook is a program. On your hard drive. It downloads email from "out there" and puts in on your computer "right here". If you do not use or link it with an online server, then the email gets pulled from the mysterious internet and only exists on the computer you downloaded it to. I've tried analogies, like how voice mail from BellSouth is different than an answering machine. No love. This has been going on for years.

I swear he's a smart man. He just gets wrapped around the axle on something and you can't dislodge him. He always comes back with: "But I have Outlook on the computer in the office. Why don't these messages show up there?" Nothing I say will penetrate the frustrated conviction that because both computers have Outlook they should exhibit the same information.

Reason # 4: People who should be here and aren't PLUS people who shouldn't be here and are. My grandfather was a Christmas staple. The holiday didn't start until he and his wife arrived. Seriously. It just wasn't Christmas until Pappy pulled up in his big gray sedan and wheeled their suitcases into the guestroom. He died almost three years ago and things haven't been right since. I mean, less right than they were for the previous three years when his wife had Alzheimer's and was so fragile in any space outside her own home.

Then there are the widows and orphans. I am SO GLAD that we are this sort of family, but it does make me, erm, bitter when I'm ready for all the extra people to go on home. Someone doesn't have family for the holiday? Can't afford to travel? Recent loss in their family? They'll be at our house. I really, really love this about my family but I'd like a year where we can wander around with no make-up and pajamas all day.

We talk about inventing a holiday for this express purpose. We won't tell anyone else when/what it is. It will be our family holiday. But I'll be damned if my mom does the cooking or my dad brings his computer.


  1. I used to have sympathy for all those women who "became" SAHMs for the good of the family. Until last night. My wife was talking with her mom, cousin, and aunt about where they would go to lunch today to celebrate Cousin's birthday.

    Every restaurant Cousin mentioned from her google search yielded, "Oh, I [like|dislike] that place. I went there for lunch with some friends back in [some time within the last three years]."

    Every restaurant, I swear. And we have /lots/ of restaurants around here.

  2. @ Pete: Ha! I have not been out to lunch since I had a real job. Like, gender specific clothing/paycheck/benefits kind of job. I mean, besides a Chik-Fil-A with a great playground. And Chuck-E-Cheese absolutely does not count.

    Well, I did go to a deli with my mom and kids over the holidays last year. That really drove home the point that SAHMs should not go out to lunch.

  3. I was sipping coffee when reading Reason #2 and laughed so hard it almost came out my nose. I had to refrain from further sips throughout the rest of the post, thank you very much.

    You should mess with your dad and get him an iTouch or some other fancy gadget. Then you can explain the concept of wi-fi and why it only shows you the weather at home and Starbucks.

  4. @ Rick: If I gave him an iTouch he would come completely unglued. Smartphones also terrify me with respect to Dad. I can hear it now.
    "But this phone has that wi-fi internet. Why are these messages different?" While he's reading a text message.

  5. Could NOT stop laughing!! I think we share some relatives.
    P.S. Take heart - some day you will get to go out to lunch again - and your food won't come with toys.

  6. My wife is the SAHsoM (with furry children). We're working more on getting me some private time than on money issues. Having human children seriously complicates the heck out of it. My hat's off to both of you.

    Sounds like interesting control issues abound. Very familiar with that here. What if Dad kidnaps Mom while you guys cook dinner? Get them both out of the house.

    Maybe the cloud thingy will fix Dad's issue. Then all of his files will be available from everywhere. I can just see you explaining clouds to him.

  7. WARNING!! I could be a lot more nosy! BTW what is that $100 check to Fabio the "pool guy" for anyway? We don't even own a pool!

  8. Oh, ah, that. Erm. Yeah, he came out to look at the yard and tell me where we could put the pool, if we decided to get one. That's it. It was supposed to be a surprise.