That's why, on the eve of our trip to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis to visit Santa there, I told the kid, "Listen. If you don't want to visit Santa, then just tell me now, and you can go to the library instead of the museum with us tomorrow. But if you do come to the museum with us, then I want you to promise me that you'll visit Santa and let me take your picture. It is VERY important to me."
"I promise," said the kid.
"I mean it," I said. "You really have to do it if you promise."
"Ugh, Mom, I PROMISE!" said the kid.
And so off we all went to the Children's Museum the next morning, the kid throwing me attitude the whole way--"WHY do I have to brush my hair?!? Ugh, what if I WANT to wear shorts--so what?!? I can't believe you want me to load the entire dishwasher right now!!!!". Insert all the sighs and eye-rolls, as well. The boneless flopping of a body simply too exhausted to do as you wish. The inability to find shoes. The refusal to eat breakfast. A hundred more acts of tweeny attitude--just insert them all right here.
At the museum, itself, it was still nothing but tween 'tude the whole time. Just one year ago, this ten-year-old kid was happily ice-fishing in the Jolly Days exhibit; this year, she wouldn't even wear her elf ears! I took my requisite Kid Wearing Elf Ears photo with Syd alone:
My requisite Person Imitating Giant Statuary photo? Again, just this kid:
But none of that, none of it, could compare to literal pain that I felt in my heart when, as we stood in line to visit Santa, that kid said, "Ugh, do I really have to do this?"
No, I told her. No, of course you don't have to:
I kind of wish I'd made her. I kind of wish that I'd gambled on the possibility that she'd get her game face on and do it anyway if I just reminded her of her promise. But this kid is never one to gamble on with that--sure, she might get her game face on and I'd get my cute picture and she'd get another year of Santa memories, but it's at least as likely that she'd throw a huge sulk, refuse to sit down with Santa, glare icy daggers at me, and ruin Syd's time, as well.
So I picked the plan that, although it wasn't satisfactory, at least kept the peace and kept Syd's fun intact. I played in the museum with Syd all day and ignored the bad attitude of the visibly disgruntled tween too-cool-for-schooling it at her side.
And, while Syd drew dinosaur teeth fossils and Will sulked, I told all my troubles to my secret boyfriend, Dracorex Hogwartsis:
Isn't he handsome?
Fortunately, this other kid of mine had a wonderful enough time for the both of them:
|The other kid boarded the carousel under her own power, but certainly wouldn't go so far as to grace it with a smile.|
|Ha! Caught her having fun when she didn't realize that I could see her!|
And fortunately, it turned out that there is one Children's Museum holiday tradition that even a tween can't resist.
Indoor snowball fight!!!
The big kid acted like she wasn't going to participate, hanging back as Syd and the other kids eagerly listened to the referee and got their instructions, but as soon as the first round began, in she dove, pulled in like a magnet to the fun:
In the middle of this video, something happened that I really enjoyed watching. Both kids are happily engaged in their snowball fight, when over comes another random kid who takes issue with the legality of Will's participation, as she is neither "Argh"ing nor roaring as she throws snowballs, even though this round is Pirates vs. Dinosaurs and you're supposed to "Argh" or roar. Will listens to him, a little sheepish, suddenly recalled by his protest to the ridiculous frivolity of what she's doing. But before she can come to herself completely and abandon the game, bop!--Syd hits the kid with a snowball, Will laughs, and together they turn away from the still-protesting kid and continue to pitch snowballs.
This is life with kids. They grow up. One year you celebrate the fact that they still love to play and pretend and tell their desires to Santa, and the next year, the very next year, you watch them, heart aching, as they look with disdain at those very same things.
So this year, this very year, I am fully embracing every single thing that every single kid really likes to do. Later this afternoon, we're all baking cookies together, and making gingerbread houses, and when that big kid got excited about the possibility of putting gummy sharks and centipedes on her gingerbread house, I said, "Of course you can. Put it on the shopping list." Tomorrow, we're having a Christmas movie marathon, and when that big kid, asked for movie requests, responded with "something low-budget and obscure," I said, "Sounds great. We'll add the Star Wars Holiday Special to the list."
Because next year, perhaps I'll have two kids who no longer want to see Santa. Perhaps I'll have a big kid who is now too cool for gingerbread houses. Perhaps I'll have a little kid who is no longer obsessed with playing Christmas records, or one or two kids who no longer think that decorating the Christmas tree is super fun.
This year, especially, I am cherishing these kids, and all the Christmas magic that they're still willing to bequeath to me.