Holidays in our house are bonkers with a capital ‘B’. If you have a child, you’re nodding your head in agreement. If you have more than one child, you are still shaking from the amounts of coffee you drank to keep yourself standing until bedtime tonight. And if you have children with any sort of mental health diagnosis, you are most likely sitting in a corner coloring on the wall with markers and putting Cheerios up your nose. I know this because you have just endured a weekend of so much crazy that your brain has simply gone on vacation.
Bubye, See ya later, Ciao.
I, too, have regressed back to childhood for the day and have quite literally lost the will to go on as an adult. It was, in a nutshell, one of the craziest weekends of my life. There was no prep work needed like for Christmas or birthdays, there was no traveling out of state, no packing and unpacking of luggage. So why was this weekend so Bonkers (remember, capital ‘B’)? Because holidays, no matter what they entail, cause the people in my house to feel BIG feelings and act on these big feelings with all their might.
There’s heightened anticipation, unrealistic expectations, always wanting more, More, MORE, struggles to cope with schedule changes, and, oh, let’s not forget about the sugar - the copious amounts of sugar and caffeinated beverages that are poured onto our children and their fragile little nervous systems from morning till night, keeping them up for hours past bedtime. Not that they would be able to sleep anyways, since fireworks are a nightly ritual for the entire 4th of July weekend apparently.
My kids, for as far as they’ve come, they still have such a hard time just relaxing and having fun. The husband and I have answered no fewer than 50,000 questions this weekend. Questions about times, activities, who will be there, how do we get there, what will we eat, will it be time for bed when we get home, will they be allowed juice for the day, will the other kids like them, how long will the fireworks last, will the fireworks be loud, will bugs crawl on the blanket while we’re watching the fireworks, will we there be time to play the tablet when we get home, will we hold their coats/sweatshirts/sunglasses/flags/water bottles/shoes/bubbles/headbands/corndogs/napkins, etc., etc., etc.!
Here’s an idea, kids. Pull your bottom lips up over the top of your heads and then swallow. For the love of all that is good and holy, can we just relax and have fun like all the other children? The adults will be the adults and we will take care of all the things that need attending to. All you have to do is play!
Anyone else’s children end up in tears when they’re given money to spend at the Festival? If your kids are extra crunchy like mine, the answer is yes. Because they want to spend every last cent, but they can’t find anything worthy of using the money on, yet they want ALL the things they see. Even when the lovely booth owners bartered with my children, lowering the prices to a more affordable 7- and 9-year old range, my kids STILL walked away shaking their heads in disappointment - the stress of spending money simply too great for them.
And then there’s the toddler. Dear, sweet Jesus. It was as if the Tantrum Monster had bitten him while he slept and turned my precious little boy into the Incredible Hulk, wreaking havoc and destruction on the world around him. He ran into people, jumped on expensive furniture, threw toys, dumped food all over, chucked rocks, hit, kicked, screamed, threw himself down, and all-out defied every little rule set before him. He was a human wrecking ball.
So many fits, so few naps.
I may have lost my mind and yelled a little this weekend. (Like what I did there? I made it sound like that was something out of the norm, and that yelling was all I did. Smooth, huh?) What I mean to say is, I DID lose my mind and I screamed, smacked, barked, and stomped my feet in all our rage this weekend. At all of them. And then, I scared them. I stood there and just started to cry. All these eyes just looked at me. They had expected groundings and executions, not befuddled tears and heaving sobs.
I cried because I just couldn’t do holidays anymore. I couldn’t do tantrums, I couldn’t do repeating myself a trillion times, I couldn’t do reminders to flush toilets or change underwear daily or pick up their toys. I couldn’t do good Mommy things but I also couldn’t do mean Mommy things. I just couldn’t do ANY thing else but cry.
It’s the worst feeling because I hate yelling at them. I hate scolding and feeling like I’m constantly showing them all the things they do wrong when I just want to be a normal family, enjoying a festive occasion, laughing and smiling and hugging and NOT doing all the crying.
But I cry because I know they can’t help it, really. I know little man is acting out because he sees all sorts of things he shouldn’t during the time he’s away from us and he feels all sorts of things he shouldn’t – rejection and abandonment that we have to leave him after each visit, separation anxiety even when we leave the room to go to the bathroom, fear that every time we get in the car he has to go back, stress over sleeping and missing out on the limited time he has with us before he returns to his biological dad.
How can you scold that and feel good about yourself? Especially when each tantrum is followed up by a sloppy kiss and an, “Aw, I just love you, Mama!” seconds after he hits you?
Guys, this is why I’m crazy. I told you, markers and Cheerios, in the corner. The roller coaster of emotions from all those small people and all those missed naps… The poor baby, he just road along in a stroller, tried to grab at the fireworks in the sky, and chewed (then promptly spit out) all the new foods I put in front of him this weekend. But his tiny little face was just the poster of the napless child… he looked confused and exhausted and ready to collapse the entire weekend. He just wanted his normal Mama time, complete with cuddles and rocking and playing with toys, doing his puzzles, and reading his books. In fact, he gave me I Love You, Stinky Face to read 4 times in a row… that means nothing to you, I know, but to me, it means he needed a break from chaos. It’s his markers and Cheerios.
So after a late night of fireworks anticipation, fear of fireworks, and disappointment that fireworks were not all they had hoped for and more, I decided to let everyone sleep in. Obviously that meant that the littles were up at 6am. (Score.) The morning was filled with kisses and hugs and sweet, gentle words… until it was time to get ready to bring my toddler back home. And then came the hitting. Naturally, the screaming and throwing followed. I literally had to chase him through the yard while holding baby and slipping in the wet grass, just to get him into the mini-van. (Don’t worry, my neighbors know about the Bonkers thing already.)
We drove him home. He kept asking me to turn around and go back to my house. He asked if we could run away. He said please. He meant it.
As we pulled into his driveway, the tears began to flow freely from all of the kids. Isaac clung to me as his dad told him to stop being a baby. I set him down and he clawed my legs trying to keep his grasp, screaming until he could no longer breathe. I kissed him, told him I loved him, and reminded him that we’d see him soon. I tried not to look back as I walked away, but he was throwing his whole little body onto the screen door and screaming my name.
It was more than I could handle. I turned and blew him a kiss as I choked on all the emotions that I was trying to keep from pouring out of my eyes. I wanted him to see me be brave. I wanted my other kids to see me be brave. I wanted to believe that I could be brave. I got in the car and a song came on the radio that brought the tears that I fought to keep in. I drove from the house and turned up the music to stop the screams from following me. And once my eyes were mostly dry, I let my gaze slip to the rearview mirror. My oldest’s eyes met mine.
He gave me a knowing smile and nodded his head.
My kids… they aren’t great for holidays. But they know. They feel the big feelings, too. They’re there to nod their heads and smile when they see bravery crumbling. They may not know how to meet new kids on the playground, but they help the little ones climb the stairs to the slide and chase a stray one that makes a run for the road. They get clingy and ask a billion questions and have unrealistic expectations, but they love.