This year, Scrooge lives in my home



As I’ve said before, I try to be transparent and real in this blog. I’ve been debating writing this, but I think it might make me feel better, and I really need your help.

Here goes…

From my earliest memories, I’ve been a Christmas buff. I can’t recall any year or period of time when I didn’t have an overwhelming sense of joy during the weeks and days leading up to Christmas.

But this year is different. My oldest son, Sam, has recently turned 15, and the exuberant little boy I used to know has morphed into a sullen teenager. He has essentially checked out of the family, choosing instead, his Xbox and remote Xbox cohorts. (He calls them “friends,” but when the conversation is limited to what kind of weaponry they are constructing or trick shot they are using to blast the enemy soldier, and they are only faceless, far-away voices on a headset, I refuse to use that word.)

Sure, I’ve suspected this was coming. I’ve read all the books and seen all the TV shows and movies. I’ve also watched my 13-year-old daughter become obsessed with middle-school girl drama, complaining over every little perceived slur or “hateful” glance perpetrated by one of her contemporaries. I get it; it’s the teenage thing.

But this is different. Sam has lost the joy of Christmas.

Maybe the fact that I was raised in the Christmas tree industry injected me with some sort of magic dust that made the holiday more intense for me than others. I don’t know. But I can tell you that even after Santa stopped coming to my house, back when I was around 11, my excitement about Christmas was undiminished. I still had — and still do — trouble going to sleep on Christmas Eve. The sound and feel of the house has remained different somehow when I awake Christmas morning. At nearly 50, I remain convinced that there is some kind of unexplainable, mystical magic that occurs on Christmas, and each year, the birth of Christ and the image of a child, the King of Kings, lying in a manger increases in its poignancy and meaning for me. Even at the peak of my sullen, teenage years, I was a giddy kid at Christmas.

But Sam is not. He seems indifferent, is uninterested in eggnog or hot chocolate (unless he can take it back to his room), “The Polar Express” or “A Christmas Story,” and could barely be bothered to help decorate the tree.

I’m at my wit’s end. I’ve never experienced a Christmas season like this one and I’m at a loss of how to proceed.

Have you dealt with this? What should Holly and I do? What action can we take that won’t ruin Christmas for everybody else, especially Sam’s 8-year-old little brother, Pete, for whom the magic of Santa and Christmas is still alive and well?

It took Ebenezer Scrooge an overnight visit from three ghosts for him to realize that time on this earth is short. I’m not sure I can pull off that scenario for Sam, so I need your ideas.

Many thanks.


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9 Responses to “This year, Scrooge lives in my home”

  1. Marty says:

    I can’t tell you what to do but I can let you know how we handled some of what you’re talking about.

    1. We did not allow our kids to have a computer in their bedroom, it was in a common area of the house.

    2. we always made the evening meal a sit down family meal, no matter how busy we were. We always made time for family

    That might help with the general attitude of indifference with the family.

    As far as Christmas goes:

    maybe sit down and talk with your son about how Christmas used to be for him when he was younger and try to get his help in keeping it special for his younger siblings. See if there is something he’d like to do with his siblings to try and get him re-engaged.

  2. hope says:

    Does he know, either consciously or subconsciously, how much this particular behavior gets under your skin? That might be the motivator ….or maybe he doesn’t know what Christmas means to him but knows it’s not things like egg nog, certain Hollywood movies, commercial items, etc. Didn’t the Pope call Christmas a “charade” recently, as the “world continues to war?” Teens can feel that existential angst, everything is meaningless, the world is going to hell-stuff pretty intensely with no sense of humor or perspective about it. I wish I could help!

  3. Christie says:

    First off let me start by confessing that I have no advanced degree to back my opinions. My armchair psychoanalytical skills come courtesy of Oprah and a ton of self-help books. But, I have been a teenager, And I have had many bouts of uncertainty with regard to my faith — my faith in God, my faith in my fellow man, and faith in myself. Which it sounds to me is what your son may be going through.

    It’s only natural to go through points in life — especially as a teenager — where you start to question what it is you believe, what you like and want, and begin to try and figure out how these ideas will take form in your daily life. This could very well be what your son, Sam, is experiencing right now.

    The suggestions that have been made to encourage continued interaction with the family are excellent! He needs to know that he is still considered part of the family despite his lack of Christmas enthusiasm, and that you would like it if he would participate in family activities. My suggestion would be though to put the emphasis on the “family” part. The fact that these are Christmas activities are beside the point. This affords him the opportunity to distance himself from Christmas — if indeed that is the issue — but remain connected to the family. You can also lead by example in continuing to demonstrate your own enthusiasm for the holiday via activities. And make sure to express how your appreciation of his indulging the family in holiday centered events –emphasizing the family of course — as few things like positive reinforcement encourage continued behavior.

    One last thing and then I’ll move on my merry (pun maybe or maybe not intended), if opportunity presents itself, initiate a conversation about Christmas with fairly harmless questions like, “What is (insert friend’s name here) doing for Christmas?,” or “Is there something you would like to do for Christmas? A movie? Or sporting event?” This could be a great opportunity to begin new family Christmas traditions! I have a friend who every year watches the “Star Wars” trilogy (original, not Jar Jar) and makes gingerbread storm troopers.

    Best of luck! And Merry Christmas!

  4. Frances Kern says:

    Some good suggestions here, particularly those made by Marty. Sadly, I have none myself, except this, Mark: Prayer never hurts. I will pray for your Sam, and all of your family. For him that the Christmas spirit finds its way into his heart, and for all of you, that you are able to cope with the sullen and withdrawn behavior of a 15-year-old boy. I think I would appeal to his love for his little brother here, and emphasize not spoiling the joy of Christmas for him. God bless you, Mark, and your family, and may he touch your Sam with his infinite love.

  5. karenrsanderson says:

    I never had this problem with my teen, but I raised him in a time of no electronics or devices. My first thought was to take him (force him if you have to) to a homeless shelter or soup kitchen to volunteer. Perhaps if he sees how much he’s got (that others don’t)…? Best wishes.

  6. Sam says:

    Too late now to help this Christmas. Ride out the storm and he’ll be back in a few years.

  7. Jim and Sheryl Buck says:

    Looking for magic??????????…………there ain’t none!

    Your family love and patience will win out, maybe not when you would hope it would, but over time

    Put yourself in his shoes [hard as it might be] with all the technology and instant access to ANYTHING….I’m quite sure neither of us [you and I] would have been the same way. Stretching their wings is a hard process for any parental member of the animal kingdom.

    Your family will weather the storm.

    Merry Christmas to all! Love You!

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