When it comes to holiday traditions, teen’s attitudes can get stuck it the mud. I know, I have five teens and a preteen (twelve). Last Saturday our family had set aside the afternoon to put up the Christmas tree and trim it. I asked the boys to get the tree and decorations out of the attic. They complied, dumped the rubbermaids in the living room and fled to their room. I opened decorations, waiting for them to come back around. Nope. No way.
Later, when one of them emerged from his bedroom, I asked for help. If you know teens, you know the reply- well it’s unintelligible. It’s a cross between a grunt and “MMMMMHMMM”. He dropped the tree box on the chaise lounge in the family room and hastily retreated while I called after him, “hey wait, aren’t you going to help me?”
I think the phrase “your stupid Christmas traditions” flew out of his mouth, I’m sure he didn’t mean it, but, the verbal jab cut to my heart and this time I fled to my room, thinking, after all the years I have spent creating traditions, making cookies, helping them have wonderful holidays, MUMBLE, MUMBLE, MUMBLE….GRUMBLE! Then I did the unthinkable, I called my husband (AT WORK) and complained to him.
The mirrored attitude was not helping me or anyone. After dinner, I set to work on the tree. The same teen who had cursed my traditions apologized and helped. Soon, some of the others rifled through the containers. “remember this?”, “hey, can I put this out?” “I forgot we had this!”, “Remember when we…”, Christmas music played in the background as we conversed and worked.
When raising teens, it is important not to get captured by their attitudes. I was reminded of this when playing alpha animals with Rafal the other day. “I don’t like this game, it is sooooo boring.” He said this, but laughed sixty seconds later as he smiled and enjoyed the game. This is boring may just mean- I don’t know if I will do well, therefore if I make fun of the game, it won’t hurt if I lose. When teens say things such as “I don’t want to, this is stupid,” they are simply trying to find their ground.
The following day we had scheduled to take our family Christmas pictures at home. Another teen experienced an attitude. “I don’t want to do this!” to which all of the others replied, “You have to, it’s tradition!”
Audrey pulled me aside and reminded me that when the kids were younger and I was working on building the traditions, some of them cried and didn’t want to participate. Of course the reasons for the reactions were different, but my mission was the same- to build a family tradition that would become a point of attachment. She encouraged me to keep requiring them to participate. Now that she is a mother, she has a bank full of family memories to build her traditions.
Practicing the habit of celebration during the Christmas holiday binds the family together. The memories become building blocks of attachment whether the teen will admit to it or not. One of my husband’s employees was visiting our house over the Christmas holiday one year. She marveled over the wrapped gifts and especially the stockings. She shared through tears that her mother threw their stocking stuffers at them in the Walmart bag and didn’t wrap presents. There was no celebration, no happy conversations, no beautifully set table laden with turkey and good things, no Christmas music, just another day with some STUFF added in the mix.
Remember, this season, it’s not the presents, it’s the presence. When kids’ attitudes take a turn for the worse, don’t give up. A cheerful heart does good like a medicine. Don’t you think Jesus’s birthday is worth rejoicing for?