Thursday, December 16, 2010

With Royal Beauty Bright

People who have children (I hear they are calling them ‘parents’ nowadays) often like to wax poetic about how their little monsters loved ones change their lives. Like, for the better. Constantly. They speak eloquently about beauty as seen through the eyes of a child, share agonizing hilarious little cute things that kids misinterpret or explain in their own precious little words, and swear that every day is enriched and filled to the brim with wonderfulness and sunshine and Christmas cookies that you bite into without fear of toddler saliva or boogers. In fairness I will admit that I do laugh out loud (that’s LOL for anyone younger than 20) a lot more than PJ (pre-Jelly), but I will also point two centrally located fingers at the reason I have more frustration and stress and general man-I-wish-I-could-sleep-in-ONE-DAMN-DAY-ness.

Every parent of a toddler knows who’s really in charge, no matter how brave they act. You live and breathe for the happiness of the little dictator, watching what makes them happy and cooking what they’ll eat and reading the same damn Berenstein Bears ‘Go to School’ book every single damn night. You tell yourself you’re still the boss while you watch Wall-E for the 84th time and eat another chicken nugget meal, while struggling to maintain enough sanity and strength to fight the big battles when they come.

Christmas propaganda has been in full force in this house since December 1st. Books, movies, songs, and toys are filled with the jolly man in the red suit, the gameless glowy reindeer, and the cold dude with the magic hat. Jelly has learned the words to Jingle Bells, Mary’s Boy Child, Jingle Bell Rock, Frosty the Snowman, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. She studies the books like she’s cramming for Christmas finals, and has watched more than one seasonal favorite well, more than once. And there are lots of Christmas trees throughout the wilderness of the media maelstrom; small Charlie Brown trees, wacky Seussian trees, trees with lights and ornaments and balls and bows. You may be interested, or politely feign interest, in the fact that there are VERY FEW TREES WITH ANGELS. I don’t think it’s a PC trying-to-avoid-Reason-for-the-Season-controversy thing. Apparently, the general public feels that their Christmas tree is a starry one.

I am an angel girl. I have been for at least 15 years, if not longer. The earliest angel I had was a slightly creepy hand-me-down that my then-roommate and I nicknamed ‘Frieda of the Tree’. It was a very formal name for a mid-1970’s homemade-looking gal with a plastic head and a few cheap fire hazard lights. I loved Frieda, and still have her, although she has definitely seen better days. Over the years I upgraded to newer, bigger, brighter shinier models. Frieda 3.0 has fiber optic wings and holds a light and has a pretty sash on her dress, and I would have probably had to install some elaborate strut system to get her to stay on my lightweight artificial tree this year. That is, if a toddler wasn’t the boss of me.

It was a fight I was destined to lose from the beginning. Jellybean believes that Santa will bring her a choo-choo and new playdough on Christmas morning. She believes that Swiper shouldn’t be on the naughty list. And she believes, with absolute 2 1/2-year old certainty, that a Christmas tree has a star on the top. Absolutely and positively NOT an angel. So I dug out a cheap crappy white plastic silver-garland trimmed star and dutifully placed it on the tree. It lit up only sporadically, when I jiggled the crappy wires, and was a constant source of irritation for both of us. I finally gave up and unplugged it yesterday, fearful of coming home to flames and fireworks (I never used that whole bag of stuff I bought in Georgia last January, I wonder if they’re still good? And where I put them?). I dug out Frieda 3.0 and commenced trying to sell her to Jelly. I showed her the beauty of the fiber optic wings, the delicate china head and hands. I asked if she wanted to touch her pretty dress or look at the book the angel held. Jenny was immoveable. She refused to touch her or look at her. She shrieked at me to get that abomination off the tree. She brought me a yellow construction paper star she’d made at preschool, and ordered me to put that up instead.

So this morning we were at the Wal-Mart running errands on our hell-no-we-won’t-stay-inside-because-of-a-little-snow day, and I asked if she wanted to pick out a new star. Yes, I know it was a stupid thing to say, I was giddy with skipping work and the holiday music playing and the promise of McDonald’s for lunch. We hit the tree toppers aisle and Jenny saw her star. Was it the gorgeous silver star, or the cheap white plastic star exactly like the one in the trash at home? No, I'm not that lucky. It was a red star. I repeat. Red. It was probably the last thing in the entire aisle that I would have chosen. A promise is a promise, so I bought the damn thing begrudgingly and waited til she napped to put it on the tree. And oh my god (that’s OMG for those of you having to read this for a school assignment or something) the damn thing is beautiful. BEAUTIFUL, I say! I didn’t think it even lit up, but it does. I didn’t think a red star had any place on a Christmas tree, but let me tell you, when you apparently have a tree that is all white lights and 85% red ornaments, a red star is freaking STUNNING.

When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong. I haven’t become a better person or solved world peace, but today my daughter reminded me that beauty can be found where you don’t expect it, and not in a cheesy plastic bag blowing in the wind way. More importantly, I remembered she is not a baby but a person, unique and special (as previously discussed), with likes and dislikes and tastes all of her own, and this house is not just mine. It is ours. I thought being single meant not having to compromise, but this is now officially a 2-person home. I have to remember not to impose my own style on her anymore, and at some point am going to have to take her seriously when she wants to contribute to her living space. I won’t always like the decisions she makes or the things she chooses to dye/wear/pierce, but sometimes she’ll surprise me, and sometimes it will be totally awesome.

Uh, yeah, that's an Amidala ornament. There's no judging at Christmas.


Esperanza said...

What a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing that important lesson your daughter taught you. I really enjoyed it.

mccxxiii said...

That is a *sweet* red star! I love it!!

I wouldn't have immediately thought 'red star' either, but her instinct was right, and it looks great on that white-lights tree.

Also, +1 for the Amidala. :)

PDXer To Be said...

First of all, I think I keep coming back to your writing because you are 1) Hilariously sometimes Snarky and down right make me LOL, 2) Brutally honest about Single Mom life, which is so refreshing!

I love the Star, it looks fantabulous!

MommieV said...

Swiper's on the naughty list? Oh, man.

When I let her express herself in ways like this, we have less conflict overall. I just hope I can keep it up.

I love your stories, video, etc. Since JR is almost exactly a year in front of C, it's like a window into what next year will be like for me.

I would totally NOT be about the red star, but seeing it, it does work well, doesn't it? Your girl has good taste.

Stephanie said...

Sigh, we also had to replace our "beaten up and old" silver star, chosen by my wee-decorator-in-training, Z.

Yes, we also have a red star, though ours does not light up. Apparently that is the only decoration in the house that His Highness finds acceptable.

The only opinion that Elliot has is that there should be no hats!