Tag Archives: teenagers

Cords For Christmas

When my oldest son was two-years-old, he saw a toy in a catalog that fascinated him. He carried that catalog around wherever he went for six months, hypnotized by the little plastic animals that seemed to graze around a plastic tree. Because I was a person who had $20, I bought him that toy for Christmas. I’m not even sure that he understood that this toy existed outside of the catalog, and there are no words, no YouTube video, that could adequately capture his joy on Christmas morning. I’ve been chasing that moment ever since.

The struggle to find the perfect Christmas gift is real. In essence, it’s the one that the person really wanted but didn’t know they wanted. It’s the device that’s going to solve a problem or the toy that’s going to open up new pathways in the imagination. It’s the gift that sits right at the corner of ‘yearned for’ and ‘surprising.’ Over the past decade, I seem to have misplaced the directions to that corner.

It’s easy to surprise and delight a two-year-old. Nearly anything you put in a box is exciting to them. Little kids believe in magic, so their Christmas lists include a little whimsy. At two, one of my sons asked for a smilodon costume, another asked for a pink cake. I found those requests both bizarre and inspiring, and I delivered.

Now that my kids are older, they text me Christmas lists with links to things on Amazon. They want headphones and an external battery charger, and they’re prepared to tell me exactly which one. Also, they’d like a regular charger and some kind of cable that connects a phone to a car. Where, I ask you, is the magic in that? Who ever opened a package of cords and screamed with delight?

the good old days
the good old days

So I try to supplement the Christmas of cords with the surprise gift. I try to imagine an absolutely thrilling item that they hadn’t thought of before. To date, I have a zero percent success rate with these surprise gifts. It turns out the reason they hadn’t thought of the item before is that it has no overlap with their interests. There was the year I got my non-singing son a karaoke machine. There was the year I surprised them all with a telescope, the assembly of which just make us all feel dumb on Christmas morning. It is now used as a reasonably sturdy rack for wet towels. 

Potentially the worst person to shop for is my husband. He doesn’t have a list and he doesn’t want a surprise. He honestly, wholeheartedly, doesn’t want me to spend any money on him. Trying not to spend money, I spend time. For our 20th anniversary I wrote him an essay. It took me three weeks to write. Last year for Christmas I made him a photo book. It took me two weeks to make. He likes these gifts, but you can see how maybe I’d like to just drive to the mall and surprise the guy with a sweater.

I got an email yesterday from my oldest son, asking if I’d get him an air purifier for his dorm room for Christmas. “No!” I wanted to reply, “Can’t I just get you a train set? Or some Hot Wheels? Or a puppy?” We seem to have entered an age where if you can’t charge it, they don’t want it. This too shall pass; in 15 years I could be a grandmother.



After Graduation, The Leaving Period

A year ago, a friend of mine whose child had just graduated from high school suggested I write an article about this big milestone. I thought about it and decided to wait. It would have been like writing a guidebook about Paris based on internet research, without actually going there and seeing the light, smelling… Continue Reading

High School Commencement Speech – First Draft

It’s kind of weird how Rye High School hasn’t asked me to deliver this year’s commencement address yet. I mean it’s a month away and these kinds of speeches don’t write themselves. I’m local, I’m verbose, the price is right. And heck, I’m going to be there anyway. Assuming they’ve been calling my landline or… Continue Reading

Lost and Found and Down the Rabbit Hole

It usually starts with “Mooooom…” Though it sometimes starts with “Hooooooney…” I hear it more in my lower back than in my ears, because I know this calm plea for help often leads to a trip down the rabbit hole. It’s the moment that some member of my family cannot immediately find the item that… Continue Reading

Why It’s Impossible to Write a Good College Admission Essay

As published in The Week on June 25, 2015 As the parent of a rising high school senior, I’ve been to my fair share of college information sessions lately. The admissions officer always concludes with the same set of comments about the application: namely, that the college essay must capture your true and authentic voice… Continue Reading

Now Extinct: The Cringe-Worthy Prom Photo

As published in The Week on May 27, 2015 As I feverishly photographed my son and his friends before the prom, it occurred to me that something was not right. The boys looked as I expected in black tuxes and combed hair. But the girls were all wrong. Their dresses were simple and flattering. Their… Continue Reading

This Just In: My Kid Got A Job!!!

As Published in The Week on June 19, 2014 Raising kids isn’t cheap. At first it’s just the basics like shelter, clothing and food, but it quickly spirals out of control into music classes, their own seat on an airplane and many, many pairs of subtly different cleats. The first time I saw the price… Continue Reading

The Siri Relationship

I enjoy my one-sided relationship with Siri. I press a button when I need something and she is always there with the correct answer or a promise of a reminder. In return, she asks nothing of me. I don’t have to respond to any of her needs. Actually, I’ve never even bothered to ask what… Continue Reading

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