Holidays stress us out. It’s no different around here. It is especially stressful to my routine-dependent older daughter. She loves being off school for breaks, but she does not react well to the changes in routine and the long stretches of open, unstructured time that these entail. This translates into stress for the rest of the family. I have been doing my best to try and reduce the amount of stress we all feel on a regular basis; reducing holiday stress is a goal, but it’s a much bigger challenge since it is our routine that is our biggest stress-buster. Just this fact places a greater level of stress on me from the outset.
This year, it was just the three of us for Thanksgiving dinner. Rather than stress over a meal that I didn’t want to cook that the girls didn’t want to eat, we planned a meal of things that we all wanted. We had rotisserie chicken from Kroger (purchased the night before and reheated) because they like it much better than turkey, corn bread (Adia’s request), honey crisp apples and carmel dip (Malaika’s choice), a veggie tray with ranch dip and Bob Evans to go mashed potatoes. The meal was quick, easy and a huge success. Mrs. Smith’s was even kind enough to make the Apple Pie the girls chose for dessert.
We got up early to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and the National Dog Show together. I was delighted when the two of them tip-toed into my room at the agreed upon 8:30 a.m. and showered me with hugs and “Happy Thanksgiving”. All was well until I sent them to the basement to turn off the lights and tv. While racing to be the first one on the stairs, Adia shoved Malaika and she fell onto the little used ZhuZhu pets track. A blood curdling scream erupted, followed by wailing and tears. I thought she’d broken something. Nothing broken, except maybe her pride, but she did have a slice on her palm that was bleeding. I lost my cool and got very angry with Adia for not keeping her hands to herself, for shoving her sister, for feeling the need to always be the first one to do anything. I am not proud of myself. However, we managed to get the little spat finished, the boo-boo cleaned up and bandaged, and the tv on and pillows and blankets arranged just in time for the start of the parade.
As a kid, I always loved watching parades. When NBC went to showing all the singing and dancing acts prior to the parade’s start, I didn’t like it so much. At least not at first. Sharing this tradition with the kids, however, has endeared me to it in a new way. They both love the performances and I love to watch them singing and dancing along. Because dinner was on our own, we were able to watch the parade and then the dog show before we worried about when we would eat. (We had a delicious cinnamon coffee cake for breakfast, so we weren’t in a hurry for more food.) I even dozed a bit during the dog show, after the working breeds category was finished, of course.
Our friends had dropped their dog off for us to watch until they came back to play games later in the evening. Since the girls really want to have a dog of their own (and, lord knows I do, too, but the extra body to care for just isn’t in my cards at the moment), I am eternally grateful that we have this darling little Pekingese we can borrow at a moment’s notice to get our dog fix. He comes over to visit at least once a week and treats our house like his second home and the girls like his most favorite playmates. He is always good for belly laughs and cuddles.
It was an overall successful day. But the expectations – maybe those are the biggest stressor of them all. I expect the girls to step outside their usual sister roles and not fighting, shove, and belittle one another. The kids expect me to allow them to do anything they want, after all it is a holiday. I expect that they will understand taking a moment out before the meal to say thanks out loud, to express our gratitude. All of these things were cause for contention and complaining during the day. It bothered me that they fought, that they complained about saying thanks, that they were sniping at each other and at me throughout the day. I was grateful when my friends came over, when the games started, when everyone gathered for apple pie. I was especially grateful when the girls were tucked into bed and the house was enveloped in silence.
As I look forward to December and all the events that entails, I want to bring some things forward in hopes of learning from them and making the coming month more joyful. I will remember that even a holiday is just another day and that the girls are going to be themselves and be sisters on all days. I am going to remember that they are 10 and 6 and that they, like me, are works in progress. I am going to be grateful that I have these wonderful daughters and that I don’t have to worry about where they will be for birthdays and holidays. And I am going to breathe more, yell less, and laugh in the face of the every day antics that insist on making their holiday appearances.