Humbled by the Holiday

That vacation Kicked. My. Butt.

We had a wonderful Christmas – 4 days filled with family get togethers and presents and laughter. It was all way more than I could have imagined or hoped for as we dove into the challenge of creating New Family holiday traditions. I’m so grateful.

But the vacation part? Exhausting. Eleven days of unstructured time. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks. Asking “So what’s your plan for today?” and realizing that there is no plan, that it was my job to create a plan, that I’m now in charge of casting vision for four people’s 12-15 waking hours (and then synchronizing them) instead of just my own, and that I’m not great at this and thus started out each day WAY behind. Managing the 1500 times fear crashed into hope. Trying to direct everyone’s attention – particularly mine – back towards God, back towards this possibility of Good News, back towards the idea that Christmas break is about more than the schools saving a bit on the heating bill.

By Tuesday, I would have paid the heat bill for the entire District for my kids to have somewhere to go and something structured to do.

I’m praying that I’ll develop capacity for this. Capacity to plan, to enjoy. Capacity to deal with ALL THE WORDS, ALL DAY LONG. Seriously, I was fielding questions about everything from why green beans aren’t protein to why THIS DOG occasionally makes inappropriate gestures towards the furniture when she’s stressed. (But why is she stressed? they asked, to which it took every ounce of self-control I had not to say, “Because you’re bouncing and shouting and laughing and there’s a giant lit-up TREE in the living room and people have been in and out of the house all week and she’s HALF HOUND and hasn’t had a nap in six days!”)  The ups and downs of Cherubic questions and emotions and hopes and concerns came in 2 minute intervals.

Lesson learned: you cannot just Take things as they come on vacation with two kids. Because ALL THE THINGS COME, and they squeeze out the few good plans you had.

Please pray for Steve & me to become better planners. We are SO VERY Take things as they come. And we’re pretty happy not doing a lot of the things other people find exciting. This is not good with Cherubs.

We didn’t see Star Wars. We didn’t go to the paint-your-own-plate place to make a birthday present for Steve. We didn’t play any of the board games I got. Somehow, it just wasn’t possible. We had a GREAT Christmas filled with love. But the random days were just beyond us. Most of the time I was so far back on defense trying to respond to the happy/sad/glad/mad pop-ups, there was almost no time to get on offense, to direct the course of our day toward tangible things.

For example, I had a series of blog posts planned. I figured it would be easy to get some writing done because Steve was home all week, too.  But by 10am each morning, I’d used up all my words. I spent the greater part of each day in a word deficit, pulling sentences like, “Macaroni not lunch,” and “Table dirty sneakers yuck” out of the deep recesses of my soul. Even what I’m writing here are the leftover words from the things I couldn’t/shouldn’t/thank-God-didn’t say all week long.

Is this normal? Does anyone else feel this way?

Thank God we have close family and friends who ARE good at making plans. They rescued us this week. But still: I have two brothers I NEVER EVEN CALLED to say Merry Christmas. (Merry Christmas Chris & Eric! I love you!) I failed to acknowledge my parents’ wedding anniversary (Mom & Dad, you are astonishing. Congratulations!) It was all just beyond me.

Next year I’ll know. I’ll plan differently. (I’ll plan at all). It won’t be the first, so we’ll all have a bit more of a handle on how we do this week-off/holiday anticipation/Yeah it’s nice that it’s Jesus’ birthday and all but what I’m really thinking about is presents, thing.

Next year we will go on a trip somewhere. Because while the prospect of driving fourteen hours to swim in a random hotel pool somewhere near Toledo, spending the night, eating at Waffle House, and then driving fourteen hours home, sounds terrible in early October, on December 28th it sounds like a plan with a structure and A WAY TO FILL THREE DAYS.

Which is whys now, as I sip my first uninterrupted cup of coffee in eleven days, I’m staring down the barrel of February vacation (WHY? WHY?) and thinking, “Toledo, here we come!”

(“What did you do for your winter vacation, Kids?” “We saw seven states from the highway! Twice!”)

I know this isn’t unique to adoption. Some parents are adept at creating fun and structure from thin air. I am not. But in adoption, there’s an added layer of not quite knowing what fun looks like for your new family. Things you’re sure will be hits aren’t, while things that seem small to you are what the kids talk about over and over again. You can’t possibly anticipate how much of each day will be spent in basic emotional maintenance.

So if at this time next year YOU are a new parent to a child you’re adopting? Let me say HOORAY FOR YOU THAT IS AWESOME AND I’M SO PROUD OF YOU YOU ROCK!!! And then, “Cancel all your expectations for productivity during your first at-home vacation. Make a plan for every day and stick to it. And assume you’ll devote all your time and energy to helping your children navigate each two minute increment of time.”

It’s a costly investment. It’s totally worth it. I just wish I’d known in advance!

The kids are back in school today. Order has replaced chaos, Hallelujah! Life was good during this vacation – we are blessed. But as I mentioned last year, I like Ordinary Time, when it’s not a holiday or special occasion, the very best of all the seasons. That’s when I can see the extraordinary way God works. It feels good to be back to ordinary :)

4 thoughts on “Humbled by the Holiday

  1. Creating structure for my toddler continues to be a struggle for me. At least he still naps well…such a needed break! I hope to get better at this as we go along, especially with a second child on the way! Prayers for the both of us in this endeavor! You are doing great, and I can’t wait to read that third memoir!

  2. Oh friend, you are not alone. I so appreciate your honesty in this space. I’m trying to be a better planner too and there were many moments in this winter break that were beyond my abilities. I was angry, frustrated, disconnected, absolutely spent. It really is the little things my kids love most and I’m trying to embrace the reality that as a human I will fail and my kids seeing how I deal with failure is all part of the parenting package. Yesterday, at 1pm I decided that even though we had no fresh food in the fridge (we’d been traveling) I really didn’t want to go to the grocery. Instead I texted neighbors to invite them for drinks and a fire at 5. Her reply, “sure but how about if you come over now for some day drinking, I’m opening a bottle in 3,2,1…” It’s been a long break for everyone. Every year is different, for better and worse. Peace to you in the new year.

  3. As a mama who homeschools, on this first day back from “break” all day I’ve been thinking about is, “what schools have openings mid-year for me to send my children to????”

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