It was Christmas Eve.
"Nathan, how many times do I have to tell you to bring in your dishes from the TV room?"
"Why do you always nag me? That's all you do: nag, nag, nag. I'd do stuff if you didn't nag me so much."
"You know that's not true," Nathan's mother objected. "You never do anything."
"You never do anything except nag."
Nathan's mother didn't know what to do. Her teenage son's lack of respect and refusal to help were driving her crazy. She was ready to give up.
That night, Nathan's mother was awakened from a deep sleep by a glowing light at the foot of her bed.
"I am the ghost of Christmas Past," said what appeared to be a ghost dressed in an old-fashioned costume. "Let me show you something."
And there across the room appeared a life-like scene of the family during a Christmas Eve when Nathan looked to be 8.
"Mommy, Mommy, I love you. We have such a great family, don't we? We have the best Christmases of anybody, don't we, Mommy?"
"Yeah, he was real cute and loving," Nathan's mother told the ghost. "A joy. He brought brightness to my heart. That is, he used to. Tell me something I don't know."
The ghost disappeared, immediately replaced by a similarly dressed phantom. "I am the ghost of Christmas Present," it said. "Watch this."
And a new scene appeared, repeating precisely what had transpired that day: "Nathan, how many times do I have to tell you to bring in your dishes from the TV room?"
"I really don't need to watch this one," Nathan's mother interrupted. "It just happened, and I didn't like it the first time around."
The scene vanished and a third ghost appeared.
"I am the ghost of Christmas Future."
"You look an awful lot like the other two ghosts," said Nathan's mother.
"Watch this," said the ghost of Christmas Future.
And then appeared a scene in which a neatly dressed young man in his mid-20s, clearly an older version of Nathan, entered the room.
"Hi, Mom," said the older version of Nathan, and gave his mother an affectionate kiss. "Want me to help clean up before Grandma, Marietta and the twins get here?"
"That would be nice, dear," said the older version of his mother.
Older Nathan then headed off into the TV room to see what needed picking up.
"Is this what's going to happen?" Nathan's mother asked the ghost. "I don't believe it. Are you sure? This isn't just some kind of cute dream?"
"No," said the ghost of Christmas Future. "This is exactly what's going to happen nine years from now. Christmas ghosts don't lie. Here's proof that I'm not just some dream."
It was a speeding ticket with her name on it dated six years in the future. It looked genuine. With that, the ghost of Christmas Future vanished. In the morning when she awoke, the speeding ticket from 2015 was still there.
"You got a ticket? You didn't tell me," Nathan's father said when he noticed it on the bedside table.
"Look at the date."
"Weird," Nathan's father said.
But from then on Nathan's mother looked at her son differently.
Nathan noticed the difference. "Why don't you say stuff back at me when I act like a jerk?" he asked.
"Because I'm waiting," his mother said.
Does it really work that way? With the great majority of teenagers, yes, it does. So what does it say about your less-than-wonderful teens of Christmas Present? It means that maybe you're doing okay and maybe your kid is okay and maybe it is a phase and maybe they even like you, except when you say "no" or ask them to do something they don't feel like doing. You just need to wait.
"Yes, but I'm still waiting," says Aaron's mother, whose son is 32.
I said the great majority, not all.