We’ve hit the instrumental section of the season here at my folks’. The middle eight of Christmas when my Father’s daily quest to get us out for a walk revs up the morning with all the subtlety of an Animal drum solo. It’s less an attempt at a family bonding manoeuvre than a central heating cost saving exercise. He has already started to feel up the radiators while exclaiming the house has exceeded tropical temperatures as another icicle falls from his nose, crash landing on an empty Pringles tube. He could put someone’s eye out with that. It’s traditional.
Hey! Would you like to go for a walk?
No Christmas would be complete either without his progeny reverting to their teenage default settings. This year, we’ve applied some efficiency of our own to the random insults. Gone are the unwarranted dead arms, and any valid reasons for accusing each other of being annoying. ‘You’re so annoying’ is a perfectly workable stand alone English sentence. Like a Christmas induced tourette’s outburst. Gone too is any appetite for resurrecting twenty year old gripes for shoehorning into an already ridiculous argument. I haven’t once heard anyone remark “what exactly do you mean by that remark?”, and the only response I got to my bleating at Bono’s exchange with Michael D was a Mexican eye-roll and the offer of a Celebration. I’m not sure middle age agrees with us.
Thankfully, this outrageous display of civility is compensated by the impressive juvenile pursuits of our respective children. The bickering baton has been enthusiastically grabbed by sticky hands, which they use to cheerfully beat each other up. Oh no wait, that’s a breadstick. Was a breadstick.
I don’t remember either of our parents calmly meeting us at eye-level to theorise on the origin of the other’s mickey fits and appeal to our inner rational adult. Plausible reasons offered for having a melt-down include: tiredness, playfulness, “their age”, or, to quote my own toddler, “an intensifying sense of injustice over perceived uneven turn-taking”. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Here, have a milky bar, kid, and eat it gloatingly right in front of your cousins’ faces. Their Dad administered the worst Chinese burns to me as a child, and wouldn’t take me to see The Smiths when they played our home town in 1985. Not that I harbour festering grudges. The fucker.
Frankly, and I never say frankly, so I mean it forcefully, the endless polite intervening and over-rationalising gets fucking exhausting so I knocked on the doors of bathrooms and bedrooms where their parents were hiding out from their own off-spring and suggested I take them to the cinema. And,
if they spared me excruciating levels of social shame, if they were really good, I might throw in a trip to the other Michael D’s.
I interpreted the time delay in their answers as horror at the suggestion of going to McDonald’s, and fully expected exaggerated disgust and nauseatingly emphatic pronouncements about their children’s nutritional habits. Not really. These are my people. So, right on cue, doors enthusiastically swung open, and we cranked our newly fledged maturity up a gear with a potentially violent argument over who would pay for the privilege.
“No, I insist”.
“No, it’s MY treat”.
“Take that back” *flings €50 note*
It’s a beautiful thing.