The Things We Do For Our Kids

I hate Christmas lights. Before you think I’ve gone all heathen on you, let me explain. I hate the commercialism of Christmas, and the lights seem to sum up all that is commercial about Christmas. I mean, why spend tons of money to make your house glow for a few weeks? I don’t get it. In fact, our desire to get back to the heart of the holiday, in part, what led us to spend last Christmas serving the poor in Nicaragua.

We didn’t even get a tree last year. We didn’t put up any lights. We didn’t buy any gifts. My husband and I loved it. I truly felt as if I lived the meaning of Christmas that year.

We have two daughters. On Christmas day 2010, one commented, “This is the best Christmas ever!” The other countered, “This is the worst Christmas ever!” I suppose my anti-commercial-Christmas-cheer isn’t for everyone.

Fast-forward to this year, when we are staying home and doing the “normal” Christmas thing. We spent Thanksgiving with my husband’s family in Maine. Upon returning home Saturday night, we were greeted by a very bright neighborhood at midnight. It seemed everyone took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to put up tons and tons of Christmas lights, including those big blow-up snow globe thing-a-ma-gigs.

My kids were in awe. My husband and I… not so much.

We have never put up Christmas lights. Every year the kids beg us to join the neighborhood increase in electric bills, but every year we refuse. Given the kids are now 9 and 12, I figured they’d eventually grow out of it.

Apparently not.

So this year, I don’t know what came over me. Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve been going through a particularly rough time with one of the kids. Maybe it’s the fact that *I* am getting older. Whatever the case, I braved the Christmas aisles at Target to see what I could find.

Who knew there were SO many options! Globe lights, mini lights, LED lights, rope lights, net lights, lights that twinkle, lights that don’t, white lights, blue lights, red lights, multi-colored lights, seriously people?! I stared at all the boxes, trying to act like I knew what I was doing. (Now I understand why there are people you can actually hire to come do this for you.)

Thirty minutes later I was armed with three boxes of lights and some contraption that claims to be the “outdoor digital power center.” I picked the net lights, because I figured that would be the easiest way to put up some lights without actually spending all afternoon doing it? Just throw the net on the bush out front and be done with it, that’s all. Umm… yeah, by the time I get them out of the box and actually try doing that, I realize my mistakes.

First, the bush out front is a ROSE bush. With thorns. (Even with gloves, those suckers hurt so much I quickly abandoned that idea.)

Second, you have to actually place the net in such a way that it doesn’t just look like a blanket of lights floating aimlessly in your front yard. That is much easier said than done.

So I returned to Target, took back the net lights, and spent another 30 minutes staring at the options. I ended up with some strands of twinkling white lights.

The kids’ reaction summed it all up: “YOU GOT LIGHTS?!” I grumbled an answer and complained about my multiple trips to Target and ill-fated attempts at hanging the lights when my oldest grabbed the lights and started hanging them in the trees. Hmmm, I thought, clearly she has a plan.

I then focused my attention on that “power center” thing. I consider myself pretty smart about technology, but this thing confused me. The instructions clearly were for some other power center than the one in front of me, and every time I pressed the OFF button, the lights clicked off and then went right back on.

I eventually gave up trying to get the lights to turn off and was about to just unplug them, when my youngest asked for a turn. A few seconds later the lights went off, which left me staring at her asking, “How’d you do that?”

I guess I needed to trust my kids when they asked for lights. They may not have been able to drive to the store to buy them, but they certainly had the installation part covered. And you know what, I enjoyed the time it allowed me to spend with them, to see them working out problems on their own, as well as the proud looks on their faces as they surveyed our very meager attempt at joining the neighborhood “help give the electric company a better fourth quarter” party.

Here I was thinking, “geesh, the things we do for our kids…” when my girls probably ended up wondering, “man, the stuff we do for our parents…” 😉


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