We hope you had a wonderful Christmas. We are enjoying our time in Phoenix with my family. Please enjoy our annual Sheehan Shenanigans Christmas letter and our card. We hope 2010 brings you great things!
Kris and Michael
Worn down the other night by reading pages upon pages of monotonous high school essays, I succumbed to a bout of procrastination and stopped by Facebook and stumbled upon a status update by my old University of Maine graduate school roommate Bill, who reported that he too was working on his annual family Christmas letter. I proceeded to ask him if he had any ideas I could use for the 2009 edition of the Sheehan Shenanigans, promising that I would give him full credit if he would agree to act as my muse. Bill responded with two suggestions from which my theme could emanate: the 1986 movie Shanghai Surprise, starring Madonna and Sean Penn; and the recent Dubai financial meltdown. But do I really want to do that – create some kind of weird parallel between those entertainment and fiscal disasters and this message of holiday goodwill and cheer? It would go over as well as a Tiger Woods endorsement for…well…just about anything at this point. Perhaps it’s better to make this letter theme-less and simply tell some stories about the Sheehans and what we’ve been up to this year. I can guarantee that we have not been nominated for any Golden Raspberry Awards, caused any financial consternation in the Middle East or beyond, or crashed into any trees or fire hydrants. No, our mishaps and misfortunes have been much less calamitous and certainly contained well within our four-person world. And really, it’s only troubling when we’re in the “Molly Zone” – those times when soon-to-be-five Molly has the household so amped with emotion and energy that we’ve all turned on each other, yelling, screaming, crying, throwing tantrums, and acting like…well…Molly. Allow me to set the scene: the apartment is calm and quiet throughout. Harmony reigns. Hark! A simple, melodious call to dinner. And then it happens…we’ve entered…The Molly Zone. I’m not hungry! I can’t walk! I’m tired! I don’t like this food! Benjamin looked at me! Where’s my pink fork? My tummy hurts! Oooowweeee! My chair isn’t pushed in! Where’s my orange juice? I wanted the Little Einsteins cup! Stop calling me Linda Blair! And soon the behavior becomes contagious, enveloping us all like an insidious mutant strain of H1N1. Quickly, Benjamin is lured into the Zone and begins his own rant, and before long I’m glaring at Kris and she at me, and we both fume inside, wondering whose side of the family we can blame for these outbursts. We both swear we never acted like this as children. Never. YOU let them play Wii too much! YOU give them too much candy! YOU never discipline them! YOU give them diet coke! YOU let them stay up too late! And then I try to think of a retort. Yeah, well, you, YOU make them do their homework! However, as quickly as we entered the Zone, the maelstrom has suddenly and inexplicably abated…and we are out of it. It’s as if, magically, a switch is flipped, and the kids are as happy and content as they’ve ever been, the perfect children we imagined and hoped they would be when they were babes in swaddling clothes. They take one last bite of dinner, excuse themselves, and run off to take a bath. But that doesn’t mean the two of us are fine. Noo waaaay. You see, being in the Molly Zone is like getting hit by an emotional tsunami. No warnings, no overt signs…just WHAM…and you’re swallowed up by it. And even when the waters have long since crashed over us and mostly receded, we still reel and wallow in the residue and remnants of the bickering, complaining, and whining. It’s a weird post-traumatic experience that most parents of young children can identify with – and most parents of older children can laugh about. Now it would be unfair to lay blame entirely on Molly for the occasional volatility of our household, for besides our parental misfires, she had a wonderful teacher and mentor in Benjamin. Just a year ago, for example, we were ready to skip Christmas dinner with some friends because Benjamin refused to wear anything other than the pair of ripped red sweat pants that he had worn every single day for two months. Seriously. It was a meltdown of epic proportions, one that could easily be included in the Children’s Emotional Breakdowns Hall of Fame. Even Molly, several weeks shy of her fourth birthday, was rolling her eyes at him. But what a difference a year makes, because now he, at seven-years old, is so much more eventempered and self-sufficient. And he even chooses from among four pairs of pants instead of just one. The irony in all of this is that the Molly Zone, as well as the previously inferred Benjamin Zone, takes place only when we, the loving and doting parents, are present. At school for example, the kids are nearly perfect, both getting glowing marks for their performance and behavior from their respective teachers. Molly has even been called, and I’m not making this up, a leader for the positive example she sets among her pre-kindergarten peers. In fact, both of them have excelled in school and are reaping the greatest benefit from our incredible international experience – a top-notch private education. They’re even learning Mandarin and have made enormous strides toward becoming bilingual. When Xiao Cao, our Chinese nanny who does not know a lick of English, tries to speak to me, I have to look to Molly for a translation, which she is more than happy to do. So, as much as her behavior can confound and befuddle us – which is about 68.2 percent of the time, we have high hopes that she’s turning the corner…and that the Molly Zone will soon be a distant memory, much like Benjamin’s affinity for his tattered red sweat pants. And that, dear friends and family, is our year in Shanghai – not exactly the stuff of tabloids, but, to us at least, somewhat surprising, mildly unpredictable, and a bit out of the ordinary. Thus, we wish you all a wonderful holiday season, and we do hope that our paths can cross in 2010 – if not in person, then at least on Facebook. And until we meet again, be well, and do your best to stay out of the Zone.