Is there anything more annoying than asking your parents what they want for Christmas and hearing them say, “For you and your brothers to get along”?
Yes, there is. Asking them what they want for Christmas and hearing them say, “Nothing.”
Even more annoying? Asking your kid what he wants for Christmas and not being to hear anything over the ensuing filibuster. Seriously, I just walked out of the room and I can still hear my three-year-old rattling off items from his list.
Kids want everything, adults want nothing. Thankfully, when you have children of your own, it kind of balances out.
I’m not so old I don’t remember what it was like to be a kid around Christmas time. The anticipation was unreal, the list of things you hoped to receive, either from Santa or Mom and Dad, was nearly infinite; it truly was the most wonderful time of the year. When I think back to my childhood I usually wonder how I had any fun at all without booze, until I remember Christmas. Christmas was always fun.
Then you grow up, and the excitement fades. Even if you still love the holidays and the eating and the family bonding and the Christmas rituals and the drinking (pretend I listed that eleven times), the expectations surrounding gifts lose a bit of the fever-pitch they had when you were younger. Something about receiving clothing and automatic wine openers and gift cards tends to dull the delight just a little bit.
And that’s fine. Because when you become a parent, a shift occurs and, suddenly, as unlikely as it seems when you’re a youngster, giving really DOES become better than receiving.
I love getting gifts; everyone does. But when the gifts you get have shifted from pointless and trendy to plain and practical, getting them becomes just a little less exciting. It’s still great to get those socks you need, and the Chapstick that Mom always puts in your stocking definitely comes in handy, and you can always count on the wife to pull off something a little special that you didn’t expect, so receiving is not a total loss. But the real joy comes not from unwrapping your gifts but from wrapping your kid’s, and then watching his face when he opens them. And then hoping someone else cleans up the mess.
Eventually it gets a little sickening, especially if your kid turns into one of those horrible brats that cries when he doesn’t get everything he wants, but until then, when he still thinks Santa is real and hasn’t yet started asking for the latest Apple product, it’s a blast. And helping him write his letter to Santa is actually kind of fun too, except for the fact that he can’t write and doesn’t understand mail and there isn’t enough paper in the world to contain everything he’s asking for. His ridiculously long list is still better than any I could come up with these days.
I couldn’t even tell you what I want for Christmas aside from a solid, steady buzz.
I now understand why, when I asked my parents what they wanted for Xmas, they would say bullshit like “sons who don’t talk back” and “some peace and quiet!” Not only could we kids hardly be expected to buy them anything worthwhile (even when I was working as a teenager, my paycheck from Kenny Rogers Roasters didn’t amount too much), there wasn’t much tangible they wanted. I finally get it, because at this age, I don’t think about things I want. This is the real world, in 2013, and for many of us wanting things is a luxury. I’m much more focused on things I need, and those things aren’t in Santa’s bag.
A new job; less debt; a kid that goes to bed when he’s asked; no more hangovers; a brand new Lexus with a big red ribbon on and a shitload of obnoxious entitlement in the glovebox… These are all things I’d love to find under my tree but won’t. And so when someone asks me what I want? I’m inching closer and closer to aping my parents’ annoying non-answers, because I got nothing.
My kid, though? He wants it all. He wants things without even knowing what they are. And, suckers that we are, we’ll probably end up getting him most of it. (It’s why he has a fucking drum set. Because we’re stupid.) And if we don’t, his grandparents and uncles will, whether he deserves it or not. At Christmastime my three-year-old just takes and takes and takes, and despite his many serious infractions over the course of the year, we let him get away with it.
Children are the one percent.