I was discussing what to get the children for Christmas with my mother the other night, and I realized I had no idea what they wanted. I rarely ask them what they want for Christmas, to me that turns it into an occasion where they get to demand gifts, and I’m so not about that. I don’t ask them because I already know. Or, I used to.
But they’re getting older, and it’s getting harder for me to intuit what they’d like as much as I used to, especially for my eleven year old. Case in point, I’ve gotten my daughter a dozen small gifts already, but only 3 for my oldest son. In previous years that number would be about equal.
So, I told them to write Christmas lists. And they did. I haven’t looked at my daughters yet, but my son left his out and I came across it while picking up last night. I surprised myself by becoming very cross with him over it. While my daughter had been writing hers, I joked with her about remembering to put things she might actually get on it, instead of just ponies and Hannah Montana concerts, etc. She had written “pony”, she admitted. My son, a few years older, filled his list with things like “fake poo” ( unfortunately spelt as “fack poo”) and “whoopee cushion”, “electric guitar”, “PS3”, and a dozen other things there just isn’t a chance in hell he’s going to get.
I don’t know. The whole thing was so silly, it made me really cross with him. And I had a go at him about it. About the silly items he wrote down, about misspelling “fake” (which I had read as “fuck” initially), and about the sloppiness.
Why him? My daughters list is probably just as full of silly items, and she even admitted writing “pony” down, but I certainly didn’t get cross with her over it.
I seem to hold my son to much higher standards than I do my daughter. Is it because he’s my first born? Is it because he is the oldest? Is it because he has so much trouble with the things that other people find easy- that I expect him to try harder? Is it because he is SO much like me?
Is it because my daughter doesn’t need me to hold her to such high standards? Because she excels in most things, I don’t have any reason to get frustrated with her, so I’m less likely to be cross over a silly Christmas list?
Maybe that’s what it is. It was just a Christmas list, yet he still managed to spell everything wrong, make it so sloppy it’s barely legible and fill it with completely silly items. Why couldn’t he have tried a little harder?
I, of course, feel guilty now. He’s just a kid, and every eleven year old boy in the country probably wants fake poo for Christmas. And no eleven year old is going to treat his Christmas list like some vitally important piece of school work.
I struggle with my roles constantly. Sometimes I feel that my role as “employee” consumes every part of me. Other times it is my role as “wife” that makes me feel like I’m drowning. But chiefly I struggle with my role as “mother”. There is no manual. No rule book. For the most part you don’t know you’ve done anything wrong until after it has happened, and the consequences are unfolding. For my son, who struggles with his school work, his social skills, his memory, his temper, and a floundering relationship with his father, a Christmas list should just be a chance for him to have fun, think big and not worry about handwriting, spelling or even being “sensible”. Yet, I took that from him. I chastised him and made him feel rotten.
Why? For lots of reasons, I suppose. None of them a desire to make him feel bad. I will get him the fake poo and the whoopee cushion for Christmas. Because I know he will remove those things from his list. Not because he doesn’t want them, but because I made him feel bad for wanting them. Because he will think he has disappointed me, that he has done something wrong, and he expects more from himself.
Motherhood seems to consist of a series of moments. Moments you are eternally grateful you were there for, moments you wish you hadn’t missed, moments you wish could exist, and of course, moments you desperately wish you could take back. I seem to be having a lot of the latter, recently, and it makes me quite sad.