Herald and Journal, Dec. 11, 2000

I'm the parent, you're the child


My children think they're in control. In reality, they've been in control since the day I brought the first one home from the hospital.

I've always said that children have radar. They know when Mom and Dad are trying to sneak a nap or have just gone to bed at night. Their heads pop up just like they are on springs. Even the meekest newborn at the hospital will pitch a fit upon arriving home with Mom and Dad for the first time. Somehow they know.

Now my "adult" children think they are running the show and can tell Mom what to do. I don't remember stepping down, thank you.

Last year at this time I lamented that for the first time in 31 years I had no children with me at Thanksgiving. They all had other commitments. This year four out of the six were with us to celebrate turkey day.

Sara and Keith hosted Thanksgiving. I had planned on it, but got sick the week before the big feast. I came down with that upper respiratory crud that is going around. On top of that, I lost my voice. "Oh, joy," Tom and the kids said.

The day of the big feast we were all seated around two tables for dinner. We had four daughters there, three sons-in-law, and six grandchildren. It was a nice group. Yes, it was the kind Mom likes to see when she looks out across the holiday spread. But just like when we brought that first baby home from the hospital, the quiet didn't last.

"Mom, what are you thinking having your Christmas lights on so early," Sara said.

"Yeah, what's that all about?" Gina chimed in.

"I was trying to get them on before it snowed," I said, defensively.

"Well, sure, you can put them on the house, put don"t turn them on until after Thanksgiving at least,"

they replied.

Sigh. I had told myself I would hear about it, and I did. Did anyone care that I had braved the cold and wind, letting Tom lift me up in the bucket of the Bobcat to string the lights on the gutters of the house? Did they want to hear about my frozen fingers? Would my trials with broken bulbs and non-lighting icicle lights interest them at all? Of course not. I had committed the unpardonable sin of lighting my house too early.

I had actually spent some time contemplating whether I should turn the lights on. I figured I had them all strung and I was ready. This was pretty heady stuff for someone who has the reputation for being a major procrastinator.

I was the one who had always planned to join Procrastinators Anonymous, but had never gotten around to it.

I confess I was feeling just a bit smug when I flipped that switch for the first time. I did it just to see if they worked, you know.

Then the lights stayed off for a few days until I just couldn't stand it any more. One night, the week before Thanksgiving, I turned the lights on and left them on all evening. I even went outside when it was good and dark to see just how they looked.

As I sat in Keith and Sara's living room digesting my food and their comments, I wondered when the tables had been turned. When did they become the mother and I the child? My children were chiding me for what they considered to be bad behavior. It was too bad no one mentioned sending me to my room. I could have taken a nap.

The holiday went by much too fast. We had to head for home so that Tom and Jesy could milk the cows. That left me alone in the house, thinking about how my offspring had chided me. "Yes, I guess they were right," I said to myself, "I did jump the gun when I lit up the Christmas lights last week."

Then, without a moments hesitation, I walked over and flipped the light switch, setting the yard aglow. I had to do it. After all, I wasn't just lighting my Christmas lights, I was striking a blow for freedom.

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