Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Holidays: Things Change

This holiday season, I thought a lot about what I'd written in the memoir Kicking and Screaming regarding Christmas, and how much had changed since I wrote it. It's as if someone else wrote that story. Rather than retell those feelings, I thought I'd include an excerpt.

It begins in the middle of the discussion about our concerns about Robbie's behavior and focuses on that behavior around Christmastime. I've included pictures of Robbie from this Christmas to demonstrate the wonderful contrast. If you're reading this on Facebook or via another device, click here to see the photos:

Since my head was literally and figuratively thousands of miles away during Robbie's early years, I didn’t internalize the concerns Joy was expressing about his development – or in some areas, lack thereof. I focused on those areas where he was excelling and they provided me great comfort.

One of those areas I focused on was his intelligence – he was smart. But there were some behaviors, including gut wrenching moments, I was unable to overlook.

Joy loves Christmas. She and Santa Claus conspire to give our kids almost everything they would like, within reason.

Kelly greets every Christmas with this same enthusiasm, an enthusiasm so strong she can’t contain herself. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, she exercises her powers for snooping.

On more than one occasion (read: many) she’s stumbled onto a few presents (which pisses Joy off). But I’m not in any position to throw rocks – I used to snoop for presents as a kid. The night before, she can’t sleep a wink because all she can do is think about presents. Christmas morning Kelly would wake up at the crack of dawn doing everything she could to speed up the process.

Unlike his mother, his big sister and even his tired and grouchy father, Robbie just didn’t care. He didn’t stay up late on Christmas Eve. He didn’t wake up early on Christmas day. He didn’t like the day. It was difficult to get him to leave his room, come down stairs and open any of his presents. Joy pushed package after package in front of him and encouraged him to open it, only to be ignored.

“Look, Robbie! Look what Santa brought you!” she’d implore.

Eventually she would open a package for him and try to get his interest, but that failed, too. Kelly tried to encourage him to open a present. Sometimes, she’d open it for him. When Joy did get him to open a present, he was unaffected by it. He was ambivalent regardless what was discovered under the wrapping. He was bored by the whole thing. He showed no interest in any of the toys.

He might look at one of them for a moment or briefly play with one of them (after Joy had taken it out of the box and set it up in front of him and done everything in her power to interest him), but soon, he’d put it back on the floor. It wouldn't take long before he retreated back upstairs to his room, closed his door and wrote on his doodle board. It was horrible.

The two worst years were when he was three and four years old. The idea of child those ages possessing so little interest in toys was incongruent with anything we knew. In those days, the only things that interested him were his doodle board and the TiVo remote control.

This lack of interest in “things” may sound good from an adult altruistic, anti-materialism perspective, but for a child it was just flat wrong. Kids like toys – the more toys the better. I remember being sad about this, but I tried not to let it trouble me too much. I lied to myself and assumed this was just his way.

Robbie’s Christmas behavior crushed Joy. For the woman who loved the holiday more than any other, it wasn't fair. She was heartbroken. It reduced her to tears. A child not being interested in Christmas or toys is a big neon sign saying there’s trouble.

I may have missed it, but she didn't.

Christmas 2010:

As the pictures show, this Christmas was different.

Very different.

Unimaginable only four or five years ago.

I must confess that the pictures are misleading. Those depicting Robbie decorating the tree and wrapping presents that he bought were real. The one of him opening present on the right was not.

That picture was a staged reenactment. What really happened is that Robbie barely slept the night before Christmas. Too excited to sleep for long, he woke up his conspiratorial sister, went downstairs, opened all of their presents and began playing with them. By the time Joy and I awoke at 4AM (due to the clatter), it was all over.

Less enthused about the moment at the time than I am now, the children were required to re-wrap their presents and go back to bed. Christmas take-two was postponed until 10AM.

And it was still wonderful.

No comments:

Post a Comment