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Not exactly warm fuzzies for Christmas

by Brian Clarey

Once column writers start writing about their kids, they’re done. Kaput. Out of ideas.

Tom Wolfe said that. Or maybe it was Breslin. Doesn’t matter.

What matters is that I agree with him, whoever he is.

With all there is going on in the world – a war on foreign soil, say, or a shift of power in Washington or a famous television personality shouting the N word like 20 times on stage or the preponderance of young starlets flashing their vaginas to the paparazzi – you’d think any columnist worth the salt in his veins could come up with something better to file than a piece about his large Irish brood.

Only problem is that it’s approaching Christmas and family matters have me on lockdown pretty much until the fat man makes his appearance.

And quite frankly, I’m not feeling it this year. The kids have been acting like wild animals since the spring thaw and if you ask me, all they deserve are unpolished rocks and swift swats on the butt this Christmas. And maybe one of those Life Savers storybooks.

And you’d think with the biggest present score of the year on the horizon they’d cool it, suck it up long enough to make it over to the “nice” list. But I’m afraid I’ve raised kids incapable of foresight. Either that or they’re not buying all this Christmas crap either.

Grumble grumble bitch moan humbug.

A couple weeks ago the wife and I secured a babysitter on a weekend evening – no small feat and one that occurs in my house with less frequency than menstruation. We had a nice hot meal and then did some late-night toy shopping. We hid the toys in the back of the station wagon – yeah, I drive a station wagon. In fact we have two of them, a concession we made right around the time our offspring started to outnumber us and our traveling collection of safety seats, extra clothes, diapers, car toys and snack baggies became impossible to contain in a standard four-door, let alone a sweet-ass soft-top Jeep.

And I should take a moment to say that my children are like raccoons or some other type of intelligent vermin with opposable thumbs: Each new day they paw over every inch of our living space, peeking in closed boxes, rifling through drawers, overturning hampers and garbage cans, removing every tome and novella from a five-tiered bookshelf. Like that.

So of course they found the toys within 12 hours of their purchase.

“They’re not for you,” my wife told them. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

I took them to the YMCA later that day to take their minds off the episode, and in the car (that’s right, a station wagon) my oldest asked me why we don’t have more children.

“Because we have the perfect family,” I lied.

This satisfied him for a moment.

“Oh,” he said. But he pursued the line of questioning.

“How does that happen anyway?”

“Mommies and daddies have babies when they love each other very much.”

“Yeah,” he said, “but how does it happen?”

“Listen kid,” I said, “you’re six. It’s none of your damn business how it happens. We’re not having this conversation today.”

And you can send my Father of the Year award right here to the office.

Bitch grumble humbug moan.

On Monday my babygirl crapped her pants at the daycare center at the Y. Thankfully I wasn’t there; it was my wife who answered the page over the intercom. I laughed when she told me about it, but babygirl did me the same favor the very next day, roughly 2:37 into my treadmill run.

That same day she dropped a pencil – a pencil! – into the toilet in the master bath. My wife went to the kitchen to find something to cover her hand while she retrieved it, but by the time she got back my middle child had already flushed it down, effectively halving the number of working commodes in the house.

It’s just a thin piece of wood; I figure it will decompose by Christmas 2008.

Humbug crapwhistle naysay bah.

There are tiny fingerprints on all of my windows. There are raisins squished into the folds of my car seats. My favorite shirts have chicken nugget grease stains on them. When I crawl between my sheets I am scraped by cookie crumbs. My couch cushions are malformed from fort-making. The recording space on my DVR is taken up by asinine cartoons and episodes of “The Wiggles.” I almost broke my collarbone last week in a stoogian pratfall – no shit – because my boys had emptied a cookie tin full of marbles onto the imitation hardwood floor of my foyer.

Grump grumble bitch moan.

We got all the Christmas crap, boxes and boxes full, out of the garage today: the figurines and candles and stuffed snowmen and Santas. We bought a Christmas tree, strapped it onto the roof of the station wagon, brought it home and propped it into its stand, wrapped it in lights and dressed it in ornaments and tinsel. We put the angel on top.

Babygirl was asleep in her tiny bed but the boys used their powers of tactile investigation to uncover all of our holiday treasures from their storage boxes: the ornaments with their tiny footprints and hand stamps on them, the wooden Santa and snowman figures they love to play with, the dancing St. Nick that never fails to inspire them to boogie around the living room.

And the stuff that survived my own childhood: the ornaments I picked out as a child, the Christmas tree skirt where my own presents nestled so many Christmases ago, the ceramic figures my mother made when I was a boy – the ones I didn’t break in youthful holiday exuberance.

I remember. All too well.

So yeah, humbug. But still’….

They’re just kids. And they do what kids do. And as I’ve said myself, kids come along when mommies and daddies love each other very much.

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