After weeks of being cooped up with sick kids you start to understand how quarantined patients feel. When will this end? What is it like in the outside world? What have I missed? To have it coincide with the holiday season is an extra kick to the cannoli. So I thought it would be an extra special treat for everyone to get out of the house and see some Christmas lights. Boy, was I dumb.
Jamie and I loaded up the kids, dawned our festive hats, got them in the car after an hour of cajoling and bartering. We were off! Christmas hats on, warm drinks, and festive music. We were ready to go to the local racetrack and see the light displays. What could possibly go wrong?
Ten minutes in and 1/2 mile from the house, Owen was asleep. There goes getting him to bed on time later. Oh well, at least Nora is having a goodtime looking at lights and we finally have her out of the house after much complaining and whining of how she doesn’t “get to do anything!” for the past few days. She “ooed” and “aahed” at all the lights on Ainsworth and we congratulated ourselves on showing them a good time and I felt like we all were finally in the holiday spirit. I should have demanded at that point that we go home, drug her, put them to bed, & we watch “Bad Santa” with cocktails because the rest of the night wouldn’t have happened then.
There was a long line of brakelights ahead of us at PIR but the line was moving quickly and everyone had used the bathroom before we left so we were good. Nora was distracted by the lights so Jamie I had a rare chance to talk to one another while Owen slept and Nora sang and spoke in a soft, jabbery daydream to herself and the view out her window reminiscent of Ralphie from “Christmas Story”.
There were many funny and sweet moments, some even caught on video, and then we were at the end of the track and all hell broke loose. An arch of lights marked the end of the displays with a large waving Santa perched aloft the apex.
A momentarily stupid, and well intentioned, self said, “Say good-bye to Santa, Nora!” It was at the moment our angelic three year old was replaced with a screaming, ungrateful, possessed demon spawn. I haven’t heard someone scream ”no” so loudly since Sam Kinnison’s standup routine or a self-defense class. For the first fifteen minutes we tried to reason with her, explain how Santa wasn’t gone forever, and then the last fifteen minutes home we were to threats of taking away toys. By the time we were home, Jamie was having to carry her inside and Owen was awake in a stunned silence. She was sent straight to bed and told she had to give away a book and a doll the next day for her behavior.
She woke up still congested but in a good mood. Basically, a normal morning but with green snot. We had breakfast, the kids did their best to drive us nuts, we had coffee, and we talked about our plans for the day. Nora mentioned that she wanted to change her dress, we said ”ok”, and off she went to her room. I reminded her she still needed to pick out a doll and a book to give away, she said, “ok.”
Out she comes with a book and a doll. Her favorite book and doll, that I gave her, that I love as well to use with her for nap and bedtime. On The Night You Were Born and her doll, Jolene, my doll from childhood. She smiled coyly down at her feet while she gave them to me and said, “Here you go.” Was she trying to hurt my feelings? Was she showing us how generous she could be? Or did she not understand that she wouldn’t be getting them back?
So I stooped down, eye-to-eye, and asked her, “Nora, these are going away and not coming back, do you understand?” She said “yes” and ran off to play without any sign of distress or concern with parting from her favorite toys. If anything, she seemed pleased with herself. I went in the other room to nurse Owen and ostensibly put him down for a nap but really so she wouldn’t see me cry. Her act of generosity unlatched my hurt feelings from childhood of being poor. Jealousy of seeing other kids like herself get what they wanted every Christmas, holiday, birthday, graduation…
Then I remembered, I don’t want her to be grateful, not just yet. Not truly, because for her to know gratitude she has to know what she doesn’t have, how bad she really could have it in life, and she can wait to understand that. Her only concern should be to enjoy her childhood of learning, warmth, laughter affection and always know that she is loved.
Besides, I hid the toys in our room.