We put up the Christmas tree last weekend. The children “helped.”
(There are four of them–ages 8, 7, 4 and almost-2. If you have kids, or if you have ever seen a kid, you can imagine how helpful they were.)
Two days later, the kids are now in bed, and I am about to strip this tree bare. I’m serious.
I can’t decide if this is a savvy parenting move or the jerkiest thing ever, and I have made some jerky parenting moves. Like the time I decided I had HAD IT with the kids using the plastic golf clubs as swords and beating each other with them, so I snatched them up and shouted, “I am SICK of y’all hitting each other with these golf clubs! And here is what I’m doing with them!”
Then I threw them over the fence.
They froze, gape-mouthed, perhaps thinking, “She’s finally lost it.” And maybe I had lost it in that moment, and maybe it wasn’t the most mature act, but you know what? The golf clubs are gone GONE blessedly GONE. I might as well have launched them to Siberia, as far as the kids were concerned. They have since found other sword-like items, but they no longer beat each other while in my presence lest I throw everything else they own over the fence.
Anyway, the Christmas tree. My husband set it up and strung the lights, I wrapped it with deco mesh garland (my favorite thing ever), and that’s how it sat for about three days, torturing the children.
“When can we do the ornaments???”
“We want to put up the stockings!!!”
“Is Christmas tomorrow?”
“I can’t wait for it to snow on Christmas.”
Over the years, we have amassed a (small) collection of lovely ornaments–Lenox, Waterford, Wedgwood, Swarovski. Allowing the children to handle any of them is an absolutely terrible idea, but we’re making holiday memories here, people. Memories like this:
“No! Don’t touch that!”
“Absolutely not, that one is not for you to hang.”
“Stop that! Put it down–gently! Gently!”
Are you feeling the holiday spirit? The baby was full of spirit, as he stumbled across a box of–balls! Which he tried to bounce on our concrete floor. They were glass, so no, they did not bounce.
While I frantically vacuumed up the shards, my husband helped the kids hang ornaments from their own personal collections. It’s a tradition of ours, to give each child an ornament when we put up the tree, something that nods to a special interest or activity from that year.
And because I am a genius, many of those ornaments are–wait for it–blown glass! Ceramic! Porcelain!
On what planet is it a good idea to give a kid a blown glass ornament? Buzz Lightyear has no elbows and is missing his left foot because–blown glass. This year I gave the two older boys a race car ornament with fire streaming from the back. My 4-year-old immediately broke the fire piece off because–ceramic. There was crying and Super Glue.
And when they weren’t breaking ornaments, they were breaking other things. Several of my nutcrackers are now missing swords, and one suffered a dual leg amputation. A framed Christmas photo and a Santa nightlight were also among the casualties. The baby pulled the stockings and their hooks off the fireplace mantel, but we let that one go when we realized he didn’t even have a stocking. We had forgotten to buy one for him. Poor fourth chid.
We got about 75 percent of the ornaments on the tree, and the younger two haven’t been able to keep their hands off it since. It is making me CRAZY. Today the 4-year-old pulled a chair up to the tree so he could reach one of my Waterford pieces.
“I just wanted to see how heavy it was.”
Which is why I’m stripping it down, taking the tree back to its deco mesh bones, and replacing all the blown glass and porcelain with plastic, glittery snowflakes from the dollar store.
I have no clue how the kids will respond, if there will be tears shed for the glass Angry Birds ornament or the ceramic Spider-Man. But Super Glue can only do so much, and I guarantee much wailing and gnashing of teeth should Red the Angry Bird shatter into a million angry pieces.
So it’s for their own good, really, that Red and the other ornaments of his ilk return to the safety of the attic.
Parents of small children, heed my warning, learn from my mistake–do not fill your tree with Swarovski and Lenox. Do yourselves a favor and buy ornaments that bounce. And stock up on Super Glue.
Now go, and enjoy a festive weekend filled with 337 different holiday-related activities all over the parish. My kid will be singing with his class Saturday night at the Holiday of Lights at Koop Drive in Mandeville, so if you see an adorable 8-year-old in a red sweater hamming it up onstage, give him a wave. Just, please don’t ask him about his race car ornament.
(Betsy Swenson can be reached at email@example.com.)