I mean, maybe. Maybe I won’t have a meltdown this year. I hope not. I want to make a solemn vow not to, but . . . let’s be realistic. Tonight I posted this update on my Mommy, for Real Facebook page
If you are angry that your invisible work goes unnoticed, I see you.
If nobody appreciates (or eats) the meals you prepare, I’m with you.
If you are exhausted from the battles of reminding kids to unpack their backpacks, take their damn shoes out of the car, turn in their homework, brush their teeth, I get it.
If you are drained from the effort of making the holidays magical, I see you wrapping gifts and running errands and baking and assembling teacher gifts and remembering to order holiday cards and of course mailing them all yourselves.
If you are overwhelmed and resentful and yes, maybe even a little angry today, you are not alone. Take care of yourselves, and let’s take care of each other. ❤️❤️❤️
Because let’s be honest, on top of the regular daily grind and pure survival, the holidays are a LOT. A lot of effort, a lot of energy, a lot of expectation. And sometimes all those “e” words equal a lot of disappointment. (I wanted to find another “e” word but I just couldn’t.) Our kids’ disappointment, sure, but also ours.
Today while running probably too many family errands, my youngest child utterly lost her shit. Over the stupidest thing, for real. Her sister suggested that maybe some day they would get matching tattoos, and apparently this idea was unappealing. Little one said absolutely not, and when her big sister pressed her and said, “Not even a horse? You love horses,” said child went absolutely apeshit crazy.
I can’t explain it, people. But I had already spent a good thirty minutes crying alone in my bedroom over the rudeness, laziness, disrespectful behavior, and just general ingratitude of the first day of holiday break, and I surprisingly had some empathy to dole out. So I took a page from my grandma’s compassionate parenting playbook and told her, “Christmas time can be hard, can’t it?” She sobbed.
I told her, “It is so fun and exciting, but sometimes all that excitement makes us feel a lot of big feelings. You’re feeling a lot of big feelings right now, aren’t you?” I reminded her that I too felt a lot of big feelings at Christmas time. I mean, remember last year, you guys? See: When Your Child’s Christmas Present Sucks: A Photo Journey. (Read it; you won’t regret it, I promise.)
Kids are greedy, impatient, and just generally overwrought during the holidays. And sweet baby Jesus in a manger, so are their parents. We are hoping for a particularly epic Christmas morning this year (cue mass vomiting and natural disasters, amiright?) and the pressure can be a lot. The pressure of the entire season is a lot, and if you factor in anything else like health issues, job loss, or grief, how are we supposed to get through it?
For like a decade I cried every year on my birthday. I’m not sure why. Just maybe the expectation–disappointment thing paired with deep existential angst? Well, the holidays are the same scenario: so much pressure and sentiment and just everything. This is not a new issue for me. I’m going to leave you with a post I wrote three years ago, originally titled, “The Disappointing Moments of Parenthood.” Dig in:
My husband and I sat on our bed listening to the sounds of whining and screeching emanating from the hallway outside our closed door. I shook my head with disgust. It was a sunny Saturday morning in early fall, the perfect day to spend outdoors doing something fun as a family. And I really wasn’t sure that I had any interest in doing anything at all with my two daughters.
Our first mistake was asking them for input: “Do you think we should go to the zoo or Tiny Town today?” I asked brightly. I’m sure you can predict their response.
“Tiny Town!” my youngest boomed.
“The zoo!” argued my oldest daughter.
What was it, my first day on the job? Rookie mistake. For the next 30 minutes, my 8-year-old proceeded to pout and whine after we overruled her and decided to go to ride the train and have a picnic at Tiny Town. I’ll be honest: When my kids sulk about something that is clearly a First World Problem, it kind of pushes my buttons. I struggle to find a meaningful way to teach my children to genuinely practice gratitude while still respecting the fact that at this age, their disappointments are very real.
Out in the hallway, one of the girls apparently whacked the other one on the head with something. At 3 and 8 years old, they generally played together remarkably well, but this was an off day. Accusations, protests and wails echoed beyond the bedroom door. I sighed. “I don’t feel like they deserve to go anywhere right now,” I confessed to my husband. “What a couple of ingrates.”
We’ve all had those days. The kids are fighting. They don’t appreciate the treat you gave them. They’re rude. They forget their manners. Does it make them monsters or you a bad parent? Despite what many would say while wagging a finger, No. It does not.
But it does indicate a very real phenomenon that many of us are unprepared for when we transition to parenthood. Parenting sometimes sucks. Sure, we knew it would be hard. (I can already hear the haters now: “You should’ve known it would be hard! Why did you even have kids?” Thanks for that. Really.) We knew we would be tired and that raising kids would be a lot of work. But it goes beyond that. Sometimes, it really actually suuucks. And here’s the rub: While it aggravates me when my kids handle their disappointments like a pair of enraged gorillas on crack, I have to admit that I, too, have a problem handing disappointment.
I had been looking forward to that outing. When my kids spent the morning bickering, complaining and wreaking havoc, I was disappointed. I wanted a magical day — the one you see flashing through your Facebook newsfeed. The snapshots of beaming parents and giggling children making memories. I didn’t want whiny, ungrateful kids who had, wait for it, ruined my day.
Nothing brings out the possibilities for disappointment like the holiday season. The meltdown-laden parties; the indignation at being forbidden to eat eleventy-hundred Christmas cookies in one sitting; the holiday singalong where your 3-year-old freaks the freak out because Frosty the Snowman is only performed one time (seriously? That song is long as sh*t. Once is plenty. And yes, this just happened to me last night); the apoplectic fits when your youngest prefers the gift Santa gave her older sister. Here you are, just wanting to make some damn holiday magic with your kids, and they’re ruining allofthethings. What is wrong with these kids? It’s like you’ve morphed into Clark W. Griswold and everything is going wrong, but you can’t even bring yourself to grit your teeth and declare that you’re going to have the “Hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny F*cking Kaye!”
So, what are parents supposed to do during the disappointing moments? I think first of all, we need to stop judging ourselves for feeling let down. Just like we need to stop judging our kids for melting down for ridiculous reasons. Let them writhe on the floor over the sheer hell of not being allowed to watch Curious George’s Christmas again. And let yourself feel bummed out when you need to. You’re only human. You’ll move on, of course. Maybe you’ll even laugh about it later.
Parents feel so much guilt for not savoring every minute. Every time we dare to admit that we’d really been looking forward to something — a vacation, a birthday party, a day at the zoo — and our kids’ behavior was atrocious, somebody pops up to remind us that there are plenty of people who would do anything to have kids and we should just STFU. And that works about as well as when we tell our kids that there are starving children in Africa who would have been thrilled to have that measly one cookie that was apparently inadequate. It doesn’t work. Because shaming doesn’t work.
So let’s stop shaming ourselves for feeling disappointed sometimes. That sunny fall day, we did go to Tiny Town. And I want to tell you that as we left the park, I was holding both of my happy daughters’ hands as the sun beat down upon us. I want to tell you that my heart felt full, close to bursting. It was one of those crazy gratitude moments.
But I also sort of don’t want to tell you that part. Because — what if? — I just told you it sucked and we left it at that? Uncomfortable, right? But that’s parenthood for you. Sometimes it’s disappointing. And that’s OK.
You guys, I love you. You’ve saved my bacon several times this year with your compassion and supportive comments. Several of you have mentioned to me when I have bumped into you in person this past week that you enjoy my blog and want me to to keep it coming, and I want to thank you for that. You motivated me to get my tired butt back online and write something tonight. Happy holidays, and may we all survive whatever meltdowns come with it. I’ll show you my meltdown if you show me yours! Cheers, and may your days be merry and bright! xoxo
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