Lately, I can be seen shuffling around like a homeless schizophrenic, mumbling to myself over and over, “It’s just a phase. It’s just a phase.”
For the past few weeks, my daughter has transformed into the kind of girl nobody wants to hang out with.
She has pretty much ruined every holiday event or special occasion.
There was Christmas where I watched in horror as she shredded open gift after gift barely pausing between to assess the present. When she finished she whined, “I want more presents to unwrap.”
I tried to convince myself it was just some kind of OCD obsession with the thrill of unwrapping.
She practically cried when I offered her Cinnamon Buns for breakfast, then downed two of them within minutes, sending her off on a sugary high, shrieking and bouncing around the house like a crackhead kangaroo.
She spent hours in separate “time outs.”
I asked her what her favorite gift from Santa was. (Santa, you know, the “guy” who bought all the presents, wrapped all the presents, decorated the tree and stealthily stuffed stockings when “he’d” rather have been sleeping.) Her response: “The kitty, I guess, but it was the wrong color and I didn’t get the doll carriage I wanted.”
This sent me off on a tear-filled, mimosa-fueled afternoon followed by a splitting headache and sweaty nap.
On New Year’s Eve, we used the Netflix fakeout countdown for the kids during which my daughter whined that she wanted to watch Batman instead.
Afterward, we partook in the Cuban traditions.
We were each eating our 12 grapes when Alma proceeded to drop 2 of them, 1 of which was never located. A slimy grape is currently curled up in our carpet maliciously awaiting a middle of the night barefoot run for a glass of water.
She refused to put pants and shoes on with her pajamas, despite the fact that it was super cold outside, because she wanted to “be Tinkerbell.”
We walked around the house with our suitcases in order to ensure a 2015 filled with travel. Of course, our neighbor walks out in a vest and tie on his way to celebrate New Year’s the way normal adults do. I can only imagine how ridiculous we looked traipsing through wet grass and dog shit with our luggage, wearing pajamas.
We get back to the front door and Alma starts fake-crying because she was under the false impression we would be walking around the whole neighborhood.
We go to dump our bucket of water out the front door to wash away all the crap that’s happened in 2014. Alma is throwing a fit because she wants to do it herself even though the Popcorn bowl is so heavy, she would end up on the sidewalk in the puddle.
Last night, I managed to sneak out of work early because we had short newscasts on New Year’s Day. On the drive home, I am cheerful despite writing about sons decapitating their mothers and boyfriends nearly strangling their girlfriends to death. There is no traffic, it’s not too hot and I am arriving home before the sun sets.
So, we decide to take the kids out for pizza. After the 30 minute drive, we discover the restaurant is closed. Alma commences whining about how all she will eat is pizza, so we end up at chain Italian restaurant that shall remain unnamed.
I always planned to be the kind of parent that would NEVER let their children play on computers at the dinner table… until I ended up the kind of parent with kids that jostle me perpetually, ask “why” repeatedly and don’t allow me to eat a single bite of food without arguing with me about something.
So, I let Alma play with her Leapad. Instead of enjoying herself quietly, she’s demanding that I watch what she’s doing, take part in what she’s doing and talking over the Comicon, Dungeons and Dragons playing waitress who is trying to take our order.
Halfway through our overpriced, undercooked pasta, the little boy in the booth behind me stands up and projectile vomits spaghetti all over the floor.
The C-team staff starts to mop it up and then leaves little wet spaghetti pieces on the floor right next to me and the stinking mop and bucket right behind my husband.
My main resolution this year was just to detox, not for the entire year, but long enough to avoid feeling pickled post holidays.
January 1st and I’m making a Moscow Mule so I can suffer through putting my daughter to bed.
We’re coloring together and she’s wide-eyed and crazed, intentionally coloring hard and outside the lines.
She stays up too late on her computer. I take it away and tell her to sleep.
When it’s finally time for me and the husband to go to bed, he turns off the hallway light and I heard Alma yell, “MOM! MOM! Turn on the light! I can’t see!!!”
She says it like we’ve offended her sensibilities by turning out HER light when SHE is trying to stay up until midnight the day AFTER New Year’s Eve.
I cry myself to sleep while browsing Facebook, looking at people wearing their fun New Year’s Eve hats, drinking champagne, their children grinning and still joyously and gratefully playing with their Christmas loot.
It’s just a phase. It’s just a phase. Until… it’s not.
It’s that time of year, when the world falls in love.
When I reminisce about the idyllic Christmas mornings of my childhood.
The lying awake for a signal from my parents that it’s acceptable to dig under my bed for that first hidden gift, the teaser of what was to come.
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, swishing on socked feet into a living room packed with presents, pouring across the floor like a tidal wave.
My brothers and I clambered around on the Oriental rug, digging through our stockings for the tiny gifts hidden among the cheap chocolate, held afloat by a single orange.
Our bellies still full from the smorgasbord of Teriyaki steak skewers, stuffed mushrooms, sweet and sour meatballs and cheese spread of the celebrations the night before.
In Florida, there are no snow flurries to usher in a white Christmas, but it didn’t stop me from believing I heard the jingle of sleigh bells on Christmas Eve.
It was a huge family affair. My Uncle, Aunt and cousin would come to town from Cincinnati. We’d brave the chilly waters of the Gulf on their behalf and gather sand for luminarias to line our walkway at home.
My grandparents would come down from Massachusetts and our entire holiday herd would go to the St. Pete pier where I would beg my parents to buy me overpriced colored rocks masquerading as gems.
Every year, we would eat at Arigato Japanese steak house, a huge splurge for a family of 5 living mostly off a math teacher’s salary.
Now, nobody comes down from “up north” to take a dip in frigid waters.
The Pier is in disrepair, people kept away with a lock and chain, it’s future uncertain.
Arigato shut down in September. The owner filed for bankruptcy.
Immediately after Thanksgiving I would hold the bottom rung of the ladder (a pointless show of support) for my father as he strung the giant colored lights along our rooftop.
Now they’re considered “retro” and a fire hazard.
Now we put off stringing the Christmas lights along our porch railing because it’s such a pain in the patoot. We’re just too dang busy.
On Christmas Eve, we sat down as a family and read scripture to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We reenacted the nativity scene. I was usually stuck being a sheep by the manger, shrouded in my beloved and battered baby blanket, “Lambie.”
Now, nobody even mentions the “real reason for the season.”
These days, we are so busy redefining “family” that there’s no room to even bother trying to resurrect the Christmas traditions of our childhood.
The massive mountain of presents are now split between 4 homes. Christmas Eve with my in-laws, Christmas morning with my children, another random day with my family and finally a visit with my dad and his wife.
How does Santa pull this off? I don’t know. I just don’t know what to tell my kids.
Holidays should be about lazy mornings in jammies, cracking walnuts, watching football (reluctantly) and afternoons spent with kids crammed onto and underneath sofa beds, watching Rudolph on repeat.
Instead, I will leave work on Christmas Eve to rush home to food that I couldn’t help prepare.
Christmas morning will bring a modest delivery from Old Saint Nick.
The Friday after Christmas, it’s back to work.
Saturday, it’s the next “Christmas” with my family.
I am learning that there is absolutely no way I can recreate the magic of holidays past for my children.
I cannot pull it off.
It makes me sad and angry.
There’s nobody to blame, yet it feels patently unfair.
These days, who’s got the chestnuts? Where’s the open fire?
Holidays are never normal in my family.
I think it’s a safe bet that they’re never normal in ANY family.
My family celebrates holidays days after or sometimes before the actual holiday.
I work in news, my mother works in news, my brother and sister-in-law work for the TSA.
The news never stops and neither do travelers.
This year Thanksgiving was the day after Thanksgiving.
The drive to my brother’s place in Orlando was tolerable, despite the refrain “Are we there, yet?” (I eventually said, ‘yup, we’re there. We’re hugging everyone hello and sitting down on the sofa for a chat. CLEARLY, WE’RE NOT THERE YET.’)
My clan was the first to arrive, so I was unabashed in my dash to the kitchen to make a rum and Coke. My husband went for the moonshine.
This is not a euphemism. He brought a jar of moonshine. (smart man)
It wasn’t long before my mother arrived and launched herself head first into the kitchen, sweating off all her makeup and slaving over the hot stove.
Her boyfriend starts slamming moonshine with my husband, partners in crime.
Before the buzz wears off, I’m belting out Frozen songs to backup my niece when she forgets the lyrics.
I pile my plate high with carbs, a move I will regret when I see the pictures from the event later. (untag, untag, reevaluating ethical stance on lipo, untag)
My daughter gets two outside time outs in the span of an hour. During the latter of which, she inched dangerously close to the gator-infested lake and said, “I don’t want to be anywhere near you!” (I resisted the urge to reply, “The feeling is mutual, but alas, I can’t temporarily dispose of you.”)
Just when my buzz starts to wear off, someone sticks my four-month old niece on my lap and my holiday celebration is OVER.
Let me preface this by saying she is the sweetest, most relaxed infant ever. She’s a far cry from my babies, who were inclined to spontaneously toss their heads back and crash to the floor. She’s so strong she can stand for several minutes while you hold her hands. She holds up her head like a champ. She’s adorable… and the very last thing I want to be holding for over an hour on Thanksgiving.
There is the panicky feeling of being responsible for such a tiny human being that ISN’T mine.
There’s the horror of feeling like for only a moment, I once again have a newborn.
I will reiterate: I adored being pregnant. Childbirth was by no means “a blast”, but an experience I would suffer through again with enthusiasm. I would even consider having more children, if my current ones weren’t complete hellraising, demon seeds.
My niece is a peaceful little pile of cuteness.
My babies were belly-aching, crappy breastfeeding, perpetually crying, never napping monsters.
They had RSV, lactose Intolerance, cradle cap and mystery rashes.
As they grew older, it was MRSA and lice and fifth disease.
My son is about to turn 3 years old and he’s too terrified to poop in the potty.
His butt cheeks are like vice clamps.
If there is ever a day when I don’t have to wipe the crap out of that little muscle bum, I will throw a party.
Not kidding. An entire celebration dedicated to diaperless life. There will be confetti, shot out of a bum-shaped launcher.
After countless minutes bouncing this pleasant little girl on my lap, she starts to get wiggly and obviously hungry.
It’s my big break! I will be able to recapture my buzz with a quick stiff drink!
I report to my brother that his progeny is in need of sustenance, waiting for him to alert his wife that it’s time to secretly whip out a boob.
He hands me a bottle.
The holiday wraps up after my son lays a couple of noxious turds in his diaper, my grandparents massacre the bathroom with their own excrement and everybody is suddenly feeling painfully sober.
I hold my breath to give my (literally) stinking grandparents a hug goodbye, always wondering if it will be the last.
I don’t want my last memory of them to be clenching my teeth and plugging my nose. Instead, it would be my grandmother asking me twice what my daughter’s name is during a 5-minute conversation.
The drive home from Orlando is hell.
We hit bumper-to-bumper traffic because of an accident.
My son is sobbing for no apparent reason, which all but guarantees he has an ear infection.
Then a tree frog lands on my thigh, scaring the bejeesus out of me. (I can’t make this up.) I watch the dang thing wobble across the dashboard, dragging around one of Alma’s hairs, perching, poised to jump on my husband’s face causing the crash that will kill us all.
I was thankful for being back at home.
Oh, and for my husband, who still managed to provide much levity with his drunken shenanigans.