Holiday Dread: Asshole Children

I was one of them, once.

Image: Ben Dijkstra

People say kids are so spoiled now. People like me. I don’t have kids and my friend’s kids drive me insane.

I don’t understand how they live. If you’re over 7 and you’re hungry, you can make yourself something to eat. If you’re over 12, you can probably also get yourself to a store. And, kid, unless you have some kind of learning impairment, or unless you are legitimately some kind of genius who spends all your time painting or playing the violin, as far as I am concerned, you should be getting As and Bs. Think of it as your job — because it is.

Don’t like your school? LOL. You know how you have a face and it’s just your face? Your school is the same. I laugh so hard when people tell me their kids don’t like their school and they’re trying to “figure out what to do about it.” If I told my parents I didn’t like my school, they’d have been like, “I’m sorry, were you talking? We don’t understand what you said. It’s almost as if you’re speaking some weird language that has words describing things that are never going to happen.”

The hilarious thing about all my headmaster ritual-branded ideas about child rearing is that my brother and I were extremely spoiled. My father worked at our school, and if we forgot something, he brought it to us. Someone made dinner for us every night. We had a housekeeper who cleaned our bedrooms and our bathroom. We told ourselves we weren’t spoiled mostly because we had friends that were more spoiled than we were — like, we did not get cars in high school, we didn’t have pools, we never went on an airplane. Also, back to the grade thing. We had this unspoken deal with our parents: you do all the stuff you need to to get into a good college, we will essentially be your slaves. In retrospect, it’s probably not a very healthy bargain, but it’s what we knew.

Christmas was the high season for us to trot out our massive sense of entitlement. By the time we were 7 and 9 we were counting our Christmas presents, and if one of us had more than the other, we went crazy. Our parents’ response to this was not to tell us that we were lucky we got anything and we should shut up. It was to give us an equal number of presents each year. The number was 8, and my parents would be very careful, also, to make sure that they spent the same amount of money on us, because if they didn’t, we would figure it out.

I remember getting really mad one year because I felt like my brother had five big presents — things like skis, parkas, shoes, dresses, Madame Alexandra dolls, and electronic football qualified as such — and three small ones (books, non-electronic games, a new doll outfit) whereas I felt like I was at four and four. My mother painstakingly explained to me that one of his presents had been purchased on sale. Then there was the year I got used ski poles and tried to argue that they weren’t “really a present.”

Lest you think my brother is the angel in this story, I recall Christmas 1982 or maybe ’81, when my brother went into an absolute rage that he had requested one brand of skis and received another. I can see my mother standing on the landing of the stairs in our house crying and my brother standing at the bottom screaming at her.

My brother hit his stride with his love of the finest quality winter sports equipment, and I do remember thinking he was exhibiting extreme behavior, but when I started really liking clothes, I got much, much worse than he had ever been.

We weren’t mostly assholes. Mostly we were bookworm student athletes. Christmas was just our version of The Purge. We were like, “We are good all the time, we are always smiling, always raising our hands, always tallying up our averages on our calculators.” This was our chance to be repaid, and we wanted to be paid in full.

I am no hater of Christmas. I don’t take it seriously. I think of it as “the time of year where there are twinkling lights and other people also do nothing” and am never disappointed. But whenever I see children complaining to their parents at Holiday Season, I get a twinge of shame. I remember that as much as we want to think there are generations and some of them are “better” than others, we are all complete A-holes. That said, I do like the feel of a real book in my hands and I look forward to beating up a thirty-year old with a particularly heavy one soon. Merry Christmas.

Holiday Dread is The Awl’s series dedicated to the season of joy and other emotions. Previously:

Holiday Dread: Bottleneck Traffic On I-95