Alas, last year John and I were not nearly as wise as we are now. We tried to make a nice holiday "for the kids". I have come to realize that that phrase means nothing if mom and dad can't survive the experience. The boys can not enjoy their holiday without us- they need us even more than most kids need their parents. But rewind- we hadn't realized this yet. And so we tried to keep up appearances, aka do everything the way we always had, including a long-winded dinner at a restaurant on Christmas Eve, church, and then hosting a big Christmas dinner at our house the next day. Bad, bad, bad. I preordered the boys' dinner at the restaurant to ensure it was gluten and dairy free, and the food was brought out basically right away when we got there- noone in the family ordered for an hour after that. Result- meltdowns from both kids, picture Jack falling out of his chair multiple times, hands over ears, crying/yelling about all of the noises, Nathan banging his head on the table. I carried him into the next room and put him down thinking maybe if he could walk around....he proceeded to lie down on the floor and bang his head some more. We tried, we really really did. The pressure was just too overwhelming- we left before dinner was served, we skipped church. We went home and we both cried. For our family, for the fact that we could no longer have a dinner out, for the feeling that no one in our families really understood what we were going through.
You would think that after this we would cry uncle for Christmas day. But no, we pushed on. We had a lovely Christmas morning, even had fun doing some of the cooking. I will not even attempt to describe the rest of the day, so I will just say that it was one of the worst days I can remember- and a definite low point for our family. I didn't feel like we could carry on at all after that point.
Yet here we are- stronger than ever. We definitely learn something from every experience in our lives. Well here is what I took from this- sometimes pretending is not ok, it's not the right thing to do. There is no way to "protect" our extended families from our "new normal". We can't do the same things anymore. And to say that we were doing it for the kids is crap. They certainly weren't enjoying the restaurant, they didn't give a hoot about a standing rib roast. They would be happy with grilled cheese and chips. Our marriage counselor described last year so concisely this evening. He said that last year, we were like the violin players on the Titanic, who continued to play as the ship sank to give the other passengers a sense of comfort/normalcy. It was torture for us, and did it help our families? Not at all. I am sure the violin playing did nothing for the passengers as they fell to their deaths either. Did those violin players die? Umm, pretty sure, yes. So it didn't really work out for them either. Sometimes, you just have to jump ship. Circumstances change- accepting this is often the hardest thing to do.
Accept it we have. We are shaking things up this year big time. We are having a Christmas that our family will enjoy- most importantly, one that will be good for the kids. We are focusing on the progress and growth in our family- and we are acknowledging that what was good for us a few years ago is no longer ok. We are being "us".