Yesterday, we had our first measurable snowfall in Pennsylvania. Only an inch or two fell, but it was enough to disrupt the morning commute and the school day. The Bean had her first two-hour delay of the year, and she was thrilled. Her excitement over snow days and two-hour delays never gets old. I love that about her. Although she is getting older, she maintains the childlike quality of her love of surprises, holidays, and looking at the world with wonder.
Her declaration of, “I’m so excited for Christmas!” begins in earnest in October. Once we get through, “I’m so excited for Halloween!” she begins giving serious thought to Christmas. As she gets older, she develops new ideas of how we should celebrate. This year, she created boards on Pinterest filled with ideas of how we should decorate our mantles, tree(s), and her room. I try to honor her ideas, and we take inspiration from the pictures, but I insist we use the decorations I have collected over a lifetime. I also insist we keep all décor within reasonable limits. For example, I struggled to decorate one tree, let alone three. According to The Bean, three seems to be the magic number for the appropriate number of trees.
The Bean is a blend of mine and The Bibbed Wonder’s personalities. Primarily, she acts like her dad…sigh. However, I see some of my traits in her behavior as well. She has BIG ideas and isn’t afraid to dream. I love that about her. However, like me, she doesn’t have the best follow-through. I blame my lack of focus on adult ADHD, but the reality is I get bored quite quickly. If I put my mind to it and it is something that inspires me, I will become almost obsessive about a project. The Bean is the same. However, I am The Bean’s Bibbed Wonder, meaning I am the one who must finish, clean up, and maintain The Bean’s big ideas. When she loses focus and wanders off, I am the one who is left holding the bag. Sigh…my husband must really love me because I am a real pain in the a$$.
However, I am on to her shenanigans now. I have found The Bean’s Achille’s heel. Now that she is a teenager with a busy social schedule, I can say, “Allow me to put this in terms you understand. If you don’t finish __________________ (insert any chore, like putting away your laundry, doing the dishes, feeding the dogs, running the vacuum, etc.), you will not __________________ (insert any activity she wants to do or friend she wants to invite over). Do I make myself clear? Good!” I believe this is my new go-to phrase when dealing with my child.
One thing I have follow through on, dear reader, is consequences. I keep my word. Whether it be a reward or a consequence, I have follow through. I learned very early on in my teaching career that kids, especially adolescents, can smell an empty threat five miles away. I believe I had a reputation for no bullsh**. I handled almost all behavior issues on my own, and for the most part, it worked well for me. The most important thing is I tried to be fair and treat the kids with respect. I take the same approach with my daughter. I am not the “you just wait until your father comes home” kind of mom. The Bibbed Wonder and I present a united front. We may not see eye to eye on all things, but when it comes to our child, we keep disagreements behind closed doors. The little tyrants can smell dissension as well, and they will use it to their advantage. Nobody is safe.
The Bean has a long-running list of social activities she wants to do over Christmas break. I finally feel as though I have serious leverage. You don’t feel like folding towels and putting them away? Well, guess what? I don’t feel like driving you to X-Y-Z over break. Suddenly, she is motivated to fold towels. It’s like a magic wand. Don’t get me wrong. The Bean is a good kid. However, even good kids will try to see just how much they can get away with when it comes to shirking responsibilities. I firmly believe kids need to learn responsibility early, or they will grow up to be entitled smacks. Sometimes, I worry she is acting like an entitled smack, but then she says or does something that makes me think we are on the right path.
Being a mom to a teen is a different kind of fun than being a mom to a child. Just when one thinks that one should have eaten their young years ago, they will do something so loving, so charming, so childlike that you feel remiss for such thoughts. It doesn’t have to be anything huge. It could be as simple as putting your favorite mug on the Keurig with a little note saying, “Thank you for everything. I love you,” so you wake up with a smile the next morning. It could also be something as small as running the vacuum cleaner on their two-hour delay, so you come home to a clean floor. Perhaps the vacuum is clogged with pine needles and a pop cap, but the good intentions were there and appreciated.
Although different from when she was small, this holiday season continues to be magical with her. I will eat up every ounce of fun, ideas, sharing, tradition, mess-making, and shenanigans she gifts me. Just when I feel like I could eat off her face with no remorse, she pulls it out of the gutter and makes me say, “Aww, she is still my baby.” I remind myself that these times are fleeting. Soon, she will be in college with her own friends, a life separate from mine, perhaps a boyfriend, and another family she wants to celebrate with…sniffle, sniffle. So, I will enjoy her. I mean, she still has to do the dishes, feed the dogs, and put away her laundry, but I will enjoy her.
On this sunny, cold December day, stay safe, be smart, find a balance between fun and responsibility, and keep washing your hands.