I am the parent of a teenager

I have joined the ranks of a distinguished group, I now have a teenage child, more specifically, a teenage daughter. Last weekend Julia celebrated her 13th birthday, and although she has been displaying teenage traits for a while, it is now official. This coincided with having my suspicion confirmed that Julia knew there was no Santa Claus. Yes, overall it has been a traumatizing week.

Cathy told me that Julia had asked her how much Christmas cost. Cathy, using some quick thinking, responded that she didn’t know since Santa bought the presents. Julia’s response? “Come on Mom, how much did it cost?” Later in the week I asked her how long she knew and she told me about three years.

I have mixed emotions about her knowing “the truth.” Part of me is relieved because let’s be honest, a child can believe in Santa for too long. I’m all for the magic of Christmas and children being naïve but there is a limit to these things. Also, it is nice to have someone else in on the secret. I say put her to work, have her wrap presents, have her think of places to put the damn Elf on the Shelf.

There is sadness in the knowledge that Christmas will never be as good again for her. I like Christmas, even before I had kids, which renews the magic, I still loved the holiday. But let’s be honest, Christmas is never as good after you find out a fat guy breaks into your house in the middle of the night, leaves presents and steals some of your food. The same guy who for the other 364 days watched you while you were awake and slept.

Finding out about Santa Claus, or more specifically finally acknowledging she knew, is a small part of dealing with a teenager. She looks more like a woman and is almost has tall as my wife. Julia always thought she knew everything and it has only gotten worse with age. I think as a teenager her “know-it-allness is going to be excruciating.

For her birthday Cathy got her tickets to go see Twenty One Pilots,images

it will be her first concert.

I was 14 when I saw my first concert, Paul McCartney at Veteran Stadium. My little girl is now going to concerts. She is going with Cathy but soon, much like I did, she will be going with friends. Getting through that experience is something I am not relishing.

I know I have sleepless nights ahead of me. Every year Julia gets older I remember walking into her room when she was about eight months old. I asked her to promise me she wouldn’t get bigger because she is perfect. She kept half the deal, even though she got bigger she still is perfect. A huge pain in the ass, but still perfect.

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Five Angry People

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Twelve Angry men is a classic movie about a jury. While it dealt with several themes one of them was how people are when kept in a small enclosed places, which helps create tension among the 12 men (hence the angry part). Why do I bring this up? Well for one thing I think you should watch it (the original version) because it is a great movie.  But I actually have an ulterior motive to bringing it up; the theme of the movie is also a theme in my life.

We live in a ranch house with one bathroom. I’m not sure of the square footage and I should probably look it up for the sake of this post but I just really don’t feel like it. My point is the house is pretty small and there aren’t many places to be alone. What that means is we tend to get on each other’s nerves and there really isn’t anywhere to go to separate yourself.

Julia is the only person in the whole house who has her own room and she surely spends a lot of time there.  She at least has a bit of a refuge. Listen, we are a family and we love and support one another. We also however really get on each other’s nerves. The people you love the most are also the ones that are able to drive you the craziest.

When we got this house it was only three of us, Cathy, Julia and me. I have to include my dog at the time, Krypto, but he didn’t take up much room. Since that time we added two daughters, Mia and Oliva, a cat, Krypto passed on and Shadow joined the family (he takes up a little more room). This house has seen the completion of our family, albeit in a tight space.

We are running out of space, and with the Christmas tree being up we have even less. This house was ok when we were a growing family but now we have grown up and need more room. Have I mention we have one bathroom? Yes I live in a house with four women and only one bathroom. Three of those women haven’t even hit the teen years but Julia is one year and five days away. What I’m trying to say is we can’t go on like this, especially from a toilet perspective.

Our hope is we don’t have to be Five Angry People for too long. Our hope is we make it our last Christmas in this house and move into a bigger one. Until then let’s hope we don’t kill one another and there is always a chance to get into the bathroom.

Dad Fail

“Nobody is perfect…except God and the Easter Bunny” Mia Jane Floyd 2014.

The Easter Bunny is a poor man’s Santa Claus. He has a similar M.O. but not the pizzazz. Both are unseen and in the middle of the night leaves gifts for children. The Easter Bunny doesn’t have the hype or build up Santa has.

Every year the coming of Santa gets kids excited more than a month before Christmas. The coming of the Easter Bunny is usually only heralded a couple of weeks in advanced and my kids didn’t get too excited for him until a couple of days before Easter. Easter is the bigger religious holiday but Christmas is the bigger kid holiday.

Olivia seemed the most excited for the Easter Bunny, she wrote him a note 2015-04-07 21.47.09 and even decorated an egg for him. This left my wife and me with a dilemma, what do we do with the egg? It was late so I wasn’t going to eat it and an egg isn’t something you just stuff somewhere, imagine if we forgot about it? Sure we would be eventually be able to find it…by smell.

I decided that I would write a note from the Easter Bunny to Olivia telling her that he thought she should keep the egg. My wife suggested that I make sure I disguise my handwriting. I’m not sure why, a six year old isn’t going to be able to distinguish handwriting and besides when has she really ever been exposed to it. Who writes anymore? I mean really?

I carefully constructed the note; I made sure I did indeed disguise my handwriting. Instead of starting the “O” in Olivia from the top I started it from the bottom. I took great pains to make my A’s different; I carefully crafted every letter to not look like my handwriting. There was no way my six year old was going to tell that her Dad wrote the note, no she would truly believe the Easter Bunny did.

We fast forward to the next day, Easter, at Nana and Pop Pop’s house. Olivia is telling Nana all about her note from the Easter Bunny. She is telling her how nice the Easter Bunny’s penmanship was. I swelled with pride, never in my 39 years has anyone ever complimented my penmanship. It is legitimately horrible.

Then my pride and happiness was quickly dashed when Olivia said “he did spell my name wrong, he forgot to put the I before the A.” I quickly responded with how the Easter Bunny is gigantic bunny and probably did not study a traditional or proper curriculum. It was a pretty good reason; you probably aren’t going to have too many well-schooled humongous, freakish, mutant bunnies. IF the note was written by a bunny and NOT the girl’s father.

Yea I misspelled my daughter’s name. Let me repeat, I misspelled my daughter’s name, a name I had a hand in giving her. I can try to justify it in my head with the fact I was so hyper focused on disguising my handwriting that I missed a letter. But there really is no justifying spelling your daughter’s name wrong, it was a huge fail.

Well at least I’m a better father than this guy.

Yes Julia, Mia and Olivia there is a Santa Claus

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We are not far removed from the Christmas holiday and the last couple of years I have wondered about why kids believe in Santa Claus. Let’s be honest Santa Claus might be the biggest lie with the most people complicit in the history of mankind. T.V. reporters, radio show, non-believers, those who don’t celebrate all help carry out the lie of Santa Claus for the joy of those who believe. One of the main reasons children believe is because their parents tell them it is so. For the most part children are trusting, but also incredibly curious. I find my three daughters level of curiosity about Santa Claus isn’t on par with their curiosity about the rest of the world.

At a certain age children will mostly believe what they are told. My five year old falls into that category and my seven years old is probably right on the edge of that. However, my ten year old, who questions everything and wants to know how everything works, strangely doesn’t push for answers about Santa Claus. She will ask how telephone’s work? What do elephants eat? What does a water tower do? How do we get plumbing into our house? Where does the water go? These are all questions that parents with kids get; even my seven year old is full of them. And they want answers, which leads to my inevitable response, we will look it up when we get home (What did parents do before the internet? Should I be worried I don’t know anything?).

But when it comes to Santa Claus? You tell them he fly’s around the world on a sleigh, goes down your chimney all in one night and they seem satisfied with it. When I was a child we were in the process of moving from Missouri to Massachusetts. I remember vividly the Christmas before my parents sitting us down, telling us times were tough and that Christmas wouldn’t be like it was in years past. They just didn’t have the money to have a big Christmas (side note: Christmas came just like it always had before). At the time I believed in Santa Claus and was sad that I wouldn’t get a lot for Christmas. But wait, Santa brings presents, how do my family’s financial problems have anything to do with it? I never made the connection, in fact it was years later that I remember the conversation and wondered why I didn’t put two and two together.

In my case I would just assume it was because I was a dumb kid. However, my daughters are all very intelligent. My oldest is in the advanced program and scored a perfect score on her math portion of the NJ Ask test (think Iowa Basics), which leads me to believe it’s not an intelligence issue. Not every child who believes in Santa Claus is unintelligent. Which brings me back to the question why do kids believe in Santa Claus?

I think it has to do with the concept of suspension of disbelief. The concept was introduced in literature and continues into film and other story telling art forms. Basically to a certain extent you put aside logic in order to buy into the premise of the story. I think as kids get older they use this concept to continue to believe in Santa Claus. The logic they apply into trying to satisfy their other curiosities about life are put aside when it comes to Santa Claus.

Whenever I tell my daughters that Harry Potter is fiction and nobody can really do magic or nobody can fly like Superman, they never counter with the Santa Claus argument. How can I tell my daughters that the things they see in movies or cartoons or read in books are impossible yet continue to tell them that a fat guy in a red suit can do the impossible and not have them question it? Trust me I mess with my daughters all the time, they expect it and have become a bit cynical because of it. Yet everything I tell them about Santa Claus or the Elf on the Shelf for that matter, they buy hook, line and sinker.

They believe in things they normally wouldn’t because let’s face it; it is awesome to believe in Santa Claus. Even as I get older I think Christmas is a magical time and it was never more magical when I thought Santa Claus was making his late night deliveries. At a certain point I think we aren’t fooling them into believing in Santa Claus, they are fooling themselves because they want to believe. Once you admit to yourself there is no Santa Claus there is no going back, there is a little part of Christmas that is never the same. Why wouldn’t you want to hold on to it?

The Santa Claus lie is one of the great things about being a parent. I get that little bit of magic back when I wait to my kids are in bed to put the presents down, and eat all the cookies but half of one and leave just a little bit of milk left. When they find out Santa isn’t real, their disappointment won’t be great because they will just be confirming what they already know. The person who probably will be most disappointed will be me.