I never knew the pain of elementary school Christmas vacation until today. To all of those who have known this pain and to those of you who are currently suffering through it, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not understanding how strong you were to not show the annoyance and frustration you felt with children who have spent far too much time touching you, crawling on you, or saying your name in tandem or in turns but always ad nauseam. I’m sorry I didn’t take notice of the edge in your voice or the snarl in your smile as you were trying to talk to adults while little hands tugged on you, lifted your shirt up like a bed sheet to hide close to your holiday bloated stomach, or begged for you to sleep with them when all you wanted were a few minutes or hours with the lights on and the kids off. I’m sorry I didn’t understand the guilt these feelings caused you because you knew, once school started again, that you would be plagued by feeling that you aren’t spending enough time with them but are struggling to make it through to bedtime without anyone breaking down anyway.
I may act disgusted when I see you at the convenience store, wild bunch in tow, as you slowly meander the cosmetics aisle as your kids knock over and sort through all 67 colors of nail polish. But I understand that sometimes those moments are easier than being stuck at home again, forced to find some new form of entertainment once playing in the sink and dumping all of the toys on the floor have lost their luster. We can sometimes take our own moments of peace as monumental achievements when all they really are are moments of good fortune or few and far between. You may take solace in the fact that if you see me leisurely strolling through the grocery store with two well-behaved boys by my side, our silent but tenuous agreement to behave for that 45 minutes may be quickly broken by the need for a new Hot Wheels car or the sight of a star-shaped donut with sprinkles on it. We only ever see part of each other’s stories.
I am at all of these stages: over-touched, tired, fat (and phat, what what!) from the holiday. I am out of ideas and full of anxiety over the thought of how to entertain my boys for the remaining week of vacation. And yet, I decided to keep them home from daycare this week because I knew that once school started up again I would regret not spending this unhindered time with them while I can. I am terrified at how my guilt fuels me to do things others would deem as a parental death wish. While my boys push my buttons, I push my own limits of sanity, patience, ability, and exhaustion. There is a whole lotta pushin’ going on, and not the kind of cooperative pushing that gets a cart up a hill. I’m talking about the kind of pushing that leaves everyone exhausted and covered in bruises.
Holiday vacation is a cursed pleasure, granting us the ability to spend the time with our kids that, during the school week, is reserved for classmates and reading groups and recess. I love to stand outside the boys’ bedroom door, listening to them chat at night or play with action figures and thumb through books during the day. I feel privileged to be able to spend slow mornings with them and take them out for a soft pretzel and toy browsing in the afternoons. I try to hang on to these moments of their small innocence tightly, because who knows when one of them is going to ask me where babies come from or when I’ll have to really flesh-out our conversations about what death are dying are. On the other hand, I don’t know how to or really want to play with anymore Skylanders characters. And why are there endless numbers of ghosts who are secretly controlling all of the Monster Machines or Grosseries, causing them to bash into or throw each other on the floor? I don’t get boy play, but they aren’t always swayed by my enticing offers to read them books, one of the few things I do understand.
Maybe I’ve lost my creativity and imagination. I wouldn’t doubt it, being firmly grounded in the world of reality with little time for mental escapes. I don’t want to make excuses, though. I am tired, full of guilt, busting with love, worried, anxious, and ready for a new day.