The single parent’s job is a balancing act. Whether rich or poor, hyper or sedate, the holidays level the field; kids, rather than status, standing or position, set the tone. In fair weather, kids are out occupying themselves with other kids, games and discovery. The shorter days, however, toward the holidays for the northern hemisphere – that’s a tough time for kids.
It’s cold and dark and ads seems brighter and louder. “I want that,” he says. “I want that,” he says about something else 15 to 25 seconds later. “I want that,” at a final commercial. His desires don’t reach nearly as far during longer days. It’s the pool or the park or birthday party or just a desire to kick a ball around with me in the front yard.
These shorter days, however…
The holidays sneak in just like the years and inches do to our kids. One minute, it’s September and bleak nights seem distant enough; then it’s 7:30 P.M. late November and black as midnight outside. He still has energy, pajamas aren’t on, dinner was too lite, a fight about tv is brewing, Christmas decorations are halfway out making a mess everywhere.
THIS is when it feels like it’s a kid’s job to make the nights harder. I’d like to ruminate; I’d like to settle; I’d like to enjoy the peace that I’m hoping for this season. I’d like a drink to warm me – put on Joyeux Noel:I French Christmas Music (now that Thanksgiving is past). And here’s this lunatic, hopping around, screeching about toys and tv and ready to pop if I utter the word “pajamas” again.
He’d be homeless if it weren’t for me. You know? Just a little, pint-sized nut job wearing superhero tee-shirts running everywhere he goes singing songs with no real lyrics. To his credit, the songs are starting to rhyme but the meter is trash. I’ll have to sing more to him and get the ‘feel’ of western rhythm into his head.
Worries and questions and disbelief and frustration are knocking around my mind competing with the quiet, old-man night I’d like to have and he just keeps stepping all over the strands of Christmas lights by accident and he’s far too alert for me to put on/stream a grown-up swear show that Kevin Spacey’s not in this season. That’s a good time for a drink, during that show – and one of the few shows that requires a little concentration.
I compromise my wants and stand suddenly bursting into song; like a pied piper, I can take the lead and get this cold, black night going in a warm direction without a drink, without burning up from stress. Pajamas and teeth and cleaning and one last juice all flow and the little night-disruptor who had even himself convinced he could continue for hours is lying down and out.
It takes a few extra kisses and hugs; the promise of finding an indoor pool to go to and it strikes me now as ‘yes,’ the answer to the question: Is it a kid’s job to make the nights harder? Yes. And by staying in tune, I decide this must be one reason why there are so many, hundreds and hundreds of Christmas songs: To free up the long, dark night for us to carefully consider the differences between our own wants and needs.