Monday, March 20
Spring Break was....... hard. I don't know how else to describe it. It was hard. And I hate that this is my report.
Oh, how I'd love to be able to go on and on about some marvelous vacation, or wax nostalgic about how much "together time" we got to have... How I wish I could reflect warmly on the beautiful weather and the many ways we found to play hard and explore and just be free from the schedule of normal life.
But it was none of those things. Our two minitrips that we'd talked about both ended up postponed for various reasons. The weather, gloriously amazing the whole week before Spring Break, degraded to unwanted, unhappy snow flurries for three of the days, and chilly grayness for many of the rest of the days. That alone killed much of the motivation for "playing hard and exploring"-- we just didn't want to plunge into the bitter chill of the gray days to get in a car to go somewhere indoors where there would likely be swarms of other desperate moms and kids doing the same thing.
And the "together time"? Frankly, that was the worst part of the whole week.
Quinn, for some reason, has taken a turn for the awful recently-- just in time for this whole week together with his siblings. I'm not sure what "stage" this is-- I truly don't think Noah or Lucy went through anything quite like this-- but he is either deeply offended whenever Joe or I correct him and steer him to better decisions (i.e. "Quinn, be careful, that's hot!") or he is incredibly defiant and argumentative, shouting "No!" a lot and sassing us back. We can't win, either way. Add to that the usual challenges of any kids-- alternately chatterboxes and whiny, too loud or too unwilling to listen and do what they are supposed to be doing-- mix in the usual sibling friction and a teething, needy baby... multiply it by gray days and the aftereffects of Daylight Savings.... it just becomes a cesspool of YUCK. At least, it was for me here at my home. For my four kids.
I remember when, as a teacher with no children, I loved how Spring Break was moving to the trend of adding a Friday to the whole thing--- so Friday off, then a weekend, then a whole week, then another weekend-- how glorious! But these days, as a non-teacher mother of four young kids? Not glorious. It was, at times, agony. More often than I ever planned to, I resorted to screens just to sedate them into quiet. Gosh, I HATE that. At a time when I'm already hating how easy it is to fall back to screens to catch a break, it became the only way I could manage this whole last week. Cartoons in the morning. A longer cartoon movie midday. And the "one hour of screen time" tablet time in the afternoon? Stretching to 2 hours. More. Almost every day. Just so they wouldn't fight. So they wouldn't complain at my attempts to give them some activity to try. So they wouldn't pick at each other or whine at me or choose a hard Larkin time to have "emergencies" of their own.
As I sit here, Monday morning, shell-shocked and numb and trying to recover from the past week, trying to process it all... I can't help but blame myself. Surely if I had been better prepared, I could have found ways around the hard weather and the surly 4-year-old. Surely if I had had a better handle on my emotional health, I could've found the fortitude to pack the kids into the car to "do something" a bit more. Surely I could've found something other than screens to absorb them completely. Had I been better all along at curbing their appetite for iPad time, they wouldn't have clamored for it so much when things got boring and hard. If I'd been a better mother all along, pushing my kids harder towards reading and making blanket forts or creating art, surely they'd turn to those staples now to fulfill their restlessness.
But I also know how impossibly high that bar actually is, and I know my inner critic is shouting WAY too loudly right now. Of course all of that is the IDEAL. But my gosh. In the trenches... in the actual HARD trenches of it all.... maybe probably MOST kids aren't blithely turning to art with nary a whine. Probably most kids are not always their best selves. Probably most kids are pushing their parents' buttons as much as my kids pushed mine.
Somehow, here in the quiet, regretful aftermath, I need to figure out how to be gentle with myself. To forgive last week. To forgive my kids for last week. To call upon Grace for my own shortcomings. I'm not there yet. I'm still pretty traumatized and upset. I feel cheated and tricked. I feel dumb and weak. But I also feel, ever so quietly, the beginnings of determination. I feel that inner planner in me crawling out of the muck and beginning to sift through the issues, to begin formulating some goals for "next time"... formulating lists of how to start again this week. There is still something in me that pulls towards light, and I am too stubborn to continue to feel defeated.
So when I'm done whining and mourning this hard last week and the many ways I've been dropping the ball as a parent, I'm going to sit in a quiet place with a notebook and I'm going to get back to basics-- rewrite my Credo, if you will. Check in with my Authentic self and revisit what I really want out of all of this-- this parenting gig, this mid-life of mine... and then recalibrate my daily doings a little to get back to center. Today happens to be the first official day of Spring. And Spring is renewal and I want to peel off this old, cracking, tired skin and try again. Try differently. Try with renewed optimism.
I think it will be okay, soon. I hope so. I hate that it takes getting my kids back to school and us back into a disciplined schedule imposed upon us for me to be able to grab those bootstraps and try again. I wish I had the inner strength and discipline to "reset" all of us right where we stand. But the turning of the calendar to a new week, the call of the school bell, and other structured externals are what my wandering right brain responds to, remotivated and ready.
Today, though--- today is for forgiving and healing and resting and soaking up all the quiet I can find. Today is for seeking Grace, so that tomorrow I can start fresh.
Posted by Emily S. at 9:33 AM