It’s December 23rd. Just two days until Christmas. The younger kids are all very excited. My wife and I are very excited to see Christmas through our 3-year-old’s eyes. She has been counting down the days and can’t wait for Santa to come. Excitement is just one of many feelings for my wife and I this time of the year. It’s safe to say that major holidays are one of the most complex times for us emotionally. Why?
If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you know our family is very complex. The feelings we carry for our children are also complex and can vary wildly. Like most parents we are damn good at hiding how we really feel in the moment for the greater good. We have a lot of experience. My last post had a situation that was a perfect example of that.
Child 2 (Age 11) dropped a large glass bowl because she didn’t want to eat. I mentioned we reacted perfectly. No big deal, it was just an accident. Don’t worry about it. That wasn’t really how either of us felt. For several months now we have been dealing with major issues with her. She’s run away on more than one occasion. Literally run away. The first time, my wife and I both were driving around our small town trying to find her. Once we got eyes on her she ran towards and alongside the river. I was able to chase her down eventually. That was a scary one. On the other occasion, I literally went Terry Crews and tackled her broadside off of her cousin’s bike in the street to prevent that chase from becoming something we would have lost. I’d like to avoid calling the police until we have lived her for at least one year. Then there is everything she has taken from us. Food, iPad, various other things you would never think an 11-year-old would want to mess with (Shampoo, Lotion, Bleach, yes Bleach). She has been completely exhausting.
We are gearing up to have some very uncomfortable conversations with Child 1 (Age 11) about how Christmas morning is going to go because we refuse to have her ruin it for us. We have to explain what acceptable behavior in detail. Please let our 3-year-old experience everything for herself. She doesn’t need help understanding what is going on. She doesn’t need to sit in your lap. She doesn’t need help opening her gifts. And oh yeah, we are her parents and can handle anything she needs. We have to tell her the same things about our 1-year-old just to be sure we cover all bases. This may seem insignificant on the surface, but think about having those kinds of conversations with your 11-year-old child. Now think about having those conversations with her on an almost daily basis. Now finally think about having those conversations and you have no idea if she understands you or is playing dumb. Her lack of social awareness and basic family dynamics is completely and utterly exhausting.
And we have Child 3 (Age 9). Last year he slept through Christmas. My wife was sad about that. I think it was sadder that when he did wake up, Christmas wasn’t really a thing. He opened his gifts (mainly candy) and moved on with his day. He asks for almost nothing – really just candy each year. It actually makes sense because he doesn’t play anymore. Hasn’t in a couple years. It feels weird though as parents to not buy your kid toys for Christmas. Based on his current schedule, it is likely he will celebrate Christmas morning with us this year. We will modify literally everything if he is around. We will tell our 3-year-old to wait on opening gifts to allow him to open all of his first because that is what has to happen. She won’t have a problem with this luckily. She is used to waiting because he has to go first. She is a special little girl. I don’t think he will cause any problems for us if we are prepared to let him have a shitload of candy. Believe me, we don’t care. We keep the peace at almost any cost. Mainly we know the fight doesn’t matter. If he gets locked in on something it is best to let it be. There is no lesson to be taught. It’s likely he won’t even remember the situation in several hours.
Our little one’s though, we cannot wait. To see the excitement in my 3-year-old’s eyes is something we can’t wait for. It’s a breath of fresh air to think about. We are also excited to know we will get to experience that first again in a year or two with our baby girl. I’m excited for Christmas with my older two as well. They don’t have the excitement of Christmas in their eyes like they used to, but I know they look forward to our traditions and that makes me very happy. They both bought gifts for everyone in the house on their own this year. I hate how old they are. They are good gift givers and I know they enjoy seeing the reaction on the faces of the kids as they open them. Mostly though, given their ages, I am thankful and happy for the time I have with them. I realize how short it is and how quickly it passes.
Around major holiday’s, my wife makes notes for herself to stay off social media. We both know it shouldn’t matter, but it does. Seeming “normal” families doing “normal” things is painful, even if they are staged. I think it is mostly painful because as the months go by, “normal” things become harder and harder for us. Simply walking downtown to see Christmas lights must be timed perfect. Is Child 2 in an ok mood? Does Child 1 have an attitude? Is our nanny around to be there for Child 3? My wife’s tradition of doing Christmas cookies has also turned into a situation that takes a great deal of thought and effort. Make sure Child 2 doesn’t eat 10 cookies or steal anything (frosting, dough, sprinkles, etc.). Make sure you compliment Child 1 over and over again or she will get a major attitude, and everything will come crashing down. Pray that Child 3 sleeps through it.
Did you notice what I left out? Take another look. I didn’t mention the 1- and 3 year-olds. That’s because we don’t really think about them limiting us in any way. This isn’t really a surprise for me because of my oldest two, but sometimes it is hard to wrap my head around how little we worry about the two little ones compared to the middle three. We certainly get a laugh sometimes when we read about the challenges of having two little ones to parent. Everything is relative, isn’t it?
During the Christmas cookie making I overheard someone ask my wife, “is this what you dreamed of”? I am not sure she answered. If she did it was the blanket nod and smile, we are really good at in these situations. The answer is no, this is not what she or we dreamt of. We never dreamt it would all be so complex and difficult. We never thought it would require so much thought and so much effort every single day without fail. We didn’t think 11 and 9-year-olds would be constantly more difficult than a 3-year-old.
After my last post, a friend of mine (I have very strong opinions on how we use the word “friend”. I won’t allow myself to use it in this case. The right word is acquaintance. This is the right word because I am really, really shitty at staying in touch with friends after our paths don’t cross naturally. It’s the right word to use and it’s the right thing to do. Maybe this should be a blog post topic in 2021.) dm’ed me some kind words. He said, “there is a special place in heaven for you and your wife”. He is certainly right about my wife; I have no doubt about that.
Ultimately his message got me thinking that I need to write a blog post to explain why I write these types of posts. Let me take care of that right now. I write because I know there are other parents out there going through similar things. Other parents with children with special needs. Parents and kids in very difficult situations due to divorce or separation. Parents and kids in very difficult situations due to lack of resources. We all have our shit to deal with. We all face complicated feelings and contradictions deep within us that oftentimes leave us feeling like shit. I have no answers. I can offer a little comfort though. Comfort in knowing they aren’t alone in those feelings and contradictions.
Find that win!