Monday, December 23, 2013

Glad Tidings

As my regular readers know, "Lovin' the Alien" is purportedly about my daughter. In reality, it's more about my experience living with (and loving) a teenage girl. 

In this post, however, I'm going to talk about a teenage boy.

When my daughter was little, we had it pretty easy. She was polite and well-behaved. She was sweet and compliant. She was always neat and tidy. (Until she started riding horses, but that's a mess of a different color.) Friends with boys her age had another situation — not to mention loads more laundry — on their hands. 

We go skiing every year with good friends who have twin boys. Once, when the kids (theirs and ours) were about eight-years old, my daughter came running into our bedroom, frantic. "They're fighting!" she exclaimed.

"Well," I told her, always cool in a crisis (yeah, right), "That's what siblings do. Especially boys."

"No," she shook her head, wide-eyed, "You don't understand. They're going to kiiiiilllllll each other." Of course, they didn't. But, it was still a fairly traumatic wake-up call.

"Just wait," older, wiser parents warned us. "Girls are easier when they're small. But the teen years will be payback. In abundance."

Sure enough, we've had a much rockier roller coaster in recent years. All emotion, all the time. Highs are high. Lows are lows. Nothing ever seems to be moderate to middling for very long.

On the flipside, I've never envied my friends whose sons become sullen and incommunicative as they move through adolescence. Yes, that might be easier to live with, at times. But, I'd rather have my daughter stomping about or in tears than silent (shhhhhh, please don't tell her). This mother can't stand closed doors. While girls, and my own in particular, tend to wear their hearts on the sleeves of their overpriced North Face Denalis, boys seem to avoid emotion at all costs. At least this is what I thought.

Today, I stand corrected.

A 16-year old in Australia just wrote a compelling letter to his community after reading about local parents who didn't think they had enough money to give their children a good Christmas. Here's what he told them on the Sunny Coast Community Board:

SO, I've been seeing a lot of posts about people having troubles around Christmas and them being worried about their kids getting presents.

I am 16 and when I was a kid growing up my family didn't have lots of money and when my mum left my dad we were living on nothing but Centrelink payments, so as a result through my childhood money was always tight. 

I can tell you that my childhood was still amazing because it was never about the money or having fancy things. When Christmas came around, my mum would wrap everything up - new school bags, stationery and broken toys and me and my brother loved it!

When you're living rough and you are worried about what your kids think, I'd like you to know some of my best memories are of broken chairs when the top didn't fit to the frame so it was an adventure to sit down; of couches that if you didn't sit on the frame you would fall through and of TV sets that you had to hit to get working and that had two channels.

As long as you make sure your kids know you love them and all of you are still laughing, your kids will remember their childhood as brilliant.

I promise every parent it's not about the money, it's about being a family.

So you should all stop worrying about whether you can get your kid the best present worth a $100.

Christmas will always be amazing for your kids, even if what you get them is from the $2 shop.

Everyone have an amazing Christmas and remember how great Christmas is, isn't decided by how much you spend.

Wow. All I can say is that Ben must have one proud mamma right about now.

I'm reminded of wise words from another teenage boy, this one Alfred, the hapless janitor from Miracle on 34th Street:

Yeah, there's a lot of bad 'isms' floatin' around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism. Make a buck, make a buck. Even in Brooklyn it's the same - don't care what Christmas stands for, just make a buck, make a buck.

With the guidance of the Bens and Alfreds in this world, let's try not to focus on Christmas cash (or the lack thereof). Let's look instead at how we can make the holiday warmer inside our homes and out.

Thank-you, Ben. Thank-you, Alfred.

Have a brilliant Christmas!

If you enjoyed this post, order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at

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