And So It Begins.

Yesterday we started up the family advent calendar, and even though the first item is always to put up the (fake) tree and decorate the house, there was much excitement and wondering about what the first activity would be. Once revealed, the girls were super pumped, and ran to get the decorations, and immediately flew into a decorating frenzy.

Then this conversation happened:

Captain Jelly Belly: “When I grow up, I am totally going to do this advent calendar thing.”

Me, heart swelling with pride, imagining Mother Of The Year award on my mantel: “Really honey? That’s wonderful!”

Captain: “Yeah, it’s a great way to trick your kids into doing work around the house and actually getting excited about it.”

Me, set to WAH-WAH horn of disappointment: “Oh.”

So yes, the Captain felt that trimming the tree in Norman Rockwell Treasured Family Moment style was work, and that we were trying to trick him into doing lame-o chores with his lame-o family. And so, I have seen the dawn of preteen behaviour, and it is a long, dark, lonely road ahead of us.

At first I told him he didn’t have to bother bringing his bad attitude around, and he could sit and read or whatever while the rest of us had fun. But that started to bother me, and Sir Monkeypants and I went to have a chat with him that covered these highlights:

  • He would not be allowed to pick and choose which advent activites to partake in – he couldn’t pooh-pooh the things that seemed like work, then join in if we were going to Funhaven or something. (He immediately and without hesitation decided to opt-out of the entire thing.)
  • Opting out of the entire thing was not going to be acceptable, because Christmas is about more than getting a heap of gifts on December 25, it’s about spending time with your family and sharing the season with those you love, whether you want to or not.
  • Plus, some activities actually involve leaving the house, but he is still too young to stay home while the other four of us go out and have a good time without his sorry ass, SADLY.
  • So, he better re-think his attitude on the entire subject and get his butt in there and get trimming.

UGH. I mean, on one hand, I don’t want to force him to do family stuff. My mother was always forced to do family stuff as a kid, and HATED IT, and still speaks to this day of the HORROR of HAVING to do to big family dinners every so often. When we grew up, she insisted we never had to do any family thing if we didn’t want to, and I took her up on that once when I was about 16, staying home while the rest of them went to Easter dinner at my grandparent’s house, and it was bizarre and uncomfortable and lonely, and I never did it again. So maybe it’s really best to leave him out of a few things and have him come around on his own.

But on other hand, at 10 I feel like he’s still too young to stay home alone for several hours or a whole day, especially in the evening, while I am taking the girls shopping or to a movie or to a museum, so he’s going to have to tag along to some activities, at least. And I agree, he shouldn’t be able to label some things as “lame” or “work” and ignore those, then do the fun things. I think maybe what I should do is get HIM to pick the activities for next year. Maybe I’ll even run this year’s list by him and let him make substitutions (which means, 24 days of PLAY VIDEOGAMES in the advent calendar, GAH).

It’s quite sad for me that the girls are still so passionately enthusiastic, but the Captain has apparently moved on. It’s going to be a tough, tough few years of juggling preteens and teens while I still have at least one kid who wants to still be a kid. I guess that’s what these years are all about – time to buck up and suck it up. Sigh.

11 thoughts on “And So It Begins.

  1. I feel for you Lynn. I think, one way or another, every family comes up against a situation where the minority wishes they didn’t have to join the majority. One very practical suggestion I can make (not really for advent activities, but for future errands or other chores where he’d like to stay home) is to enroll him in a “Staying Home Alone” course. We did this for our oldest and now we feel like we’re all prepared when we leave him at home to go out and do short things not too far from home. The nice surprise is, he still often chooses to come – even if it’s a Home Depot run.

    The course we signed up for was at the JCC, but I’m sure there are lots offered. They have to give up an entire weekend afternoon to take it, so they have to be COMMITTED to staying home alone!

      • Yup! The City offers a number of “Home Alone” workshops, through the Parks, Recreation & Culture department. I’m in the east end but am fairly sure my colleagues in the west also offer these one-day/half-day workshops. :)

  2. We’ve been there too. I will just say that, where we live, the City offers “home alone” courses for kids starting at age 10. Something to consider… Our oldest, at age 11 and 3months, took the “home alone” course and has been successfully staying at home alone since for an hour or two, no problem. So I figure that if the City is willing to “certify” kids at age 10 to stay home alone, and if the parents are good with this, then no one is going to call Children’s Services on us…. Just saying… (And our plans are for Kid#2, who will be 10 in April, to take the course as soon as possible after that too…)

    • I was just poking around online and various kid safety organizations recommend a minimum of age 10 for leaving a child at home alone, and a minimum of age 12 for a babysitter. So sounds like it’s time to get ready!

  3. Preteens, ugh. There is a 3 year gap between me and my older brother, and a 7 year gap between me and my younger brother, and it was tricky, I’m sure, to juggle two teens and a little kid. Ugh ugh ugh.

  4. I guess I am lucky because my 12 yr old son keeps up the pretense of everything holiday related for his 9 yr old brother’s sake. I asked him yesterday “do you want to go see Santa this yea?r” to which he said ” Of course Mom. It will mean a lot for Griffin. And I like it too!”. that made my year!

    That said, I am noticing he no longer always joins in the watching of shows, like Amazing Race, which he used to adore. Instead he will be up in his room. I know this is all a normal part of being a tween, and I know it will just get “worse” so I am going to make an effort to accept it. but it’s hard… our little birds are starting to get their big boy wings! sigh…

  5. I can only speak for my kids, but I know that often my oldest will appear reluctant to do something or go somewhere but he caves in pretty quick when he realizes he’s only hurting himself and NOT getting any special attention or treatment. Again, every kid is different, but I wanted to put that out there.

    Alternately, I’d just mention that failure to participate will be reflected in the content and quality of gifts under the tree. It might work.

    • A threat to punish him by cutting his gifts could backfire. It might make him more stubborn about participating in holiday activities.

  6. This is a tricky balance. I was often forced to do family stuff when I didn’t want to (though for me, it was cultural/religious stuff I usually wanted to opt out of), and I still resent it. I know, I should let it go already ;)

    But I do like the idea of talking to him about how you’re a family, and how the girls are still really into it, etc. Curious to know how it goes.

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