Monday, December 29, 2008

A Picture Perfect Christmas?

I am finding one of the difficult things about blogging is that slowly, but surely, I have let the ability to be real erode as people begin to develop expectations of me, of my family, and even of my children. Expectations that we aren't NORMAL. Expectations that our kids have no issues, that our family is spectacular, that I am a super human adoptive parent, a super human mom. And you know what? We are really very, completely normal.

I get questions that imply I must be a parenting expert because my kids are "so well behaved".

Surely I must be an "adoption expert" because my kids look so well adjusted and happy, and heck we have a fairly successful open adoption in some pretty bizarre circumstances. Someone, God Forbid, even referred to me as such once.

And sometimes I stop before I hit "post" because I find I want to blog about that reflection, and at times forget the reality that makes families parenting boys, families through adoption, trans racial adoptive families, families with children with special needs, multiracial families, older child adoptive families, international adoptive families, sibling group adoption families, Canadian families, American families, married families want to read here is simply because we ARE normal.

So, it is with a bit of trepidation that I share with you our Christmas pictures, for fear that it simply reinforces that image of my family others seem to hold. And yes, we are more "Cosby Show" than "Married with Children" but we have a big dose of "Malcolm in the Middle" thrown in there too!

So here comes the disclaimer: We had a lovely, wonderful, fun filled Christmas with my family. It was what I wanted, dreamed for and prayed for. Happy, wonder filled children. Family times full of laughter, good memories and stronger relationships. Cousins who laughed together and played together for hours. Peace and joy with my husband. Hours of sledding, playing games, watching Christmas movies and eating wonderful, copious amounts of food.

And by Saturday afternoon all that wonderfulness had driven both my sister and I crazy and we drove an hour on snow packed terror filled windy roads past an icy lake to go GROCERY SHOPPING. In peace. And possibly, not that we would ever tell, to escape.

So here, in graphic evidence, my picture perfect Christmas, with a splash of reality (although, really, it WAS very, very good!)

The photo: A 14 year old thrilled with the very presence of Christmas, Family and Santa

Reality: My teenager was grouchy and miserable when asked to do ANYTHING that didn't involve playing Guitar Hero. Sledding was apparently a torture worse than death. Dishes? Don't even ask. I might have maybe, if I am being honest, lost my temper with him, maybe a little. Ok in reality he drove me flippin' nuts! What is WITH the attitude?? Must you ACT 14? Yes, I realize you ARE almost 14 but seriously, I expect more. Actually less, couldn't you act more 7? Maybe 8 and less teenagerish? No? Well phooey on you.

The Photo: A beautiful, joyous smile showing the true nature of a peaceful, well mannered child.

Reality: My pre-teen had several mini breakdowns, tantrums and fits, usually targeting his brother resulting in hurt feelings and an angry mother. He got sent to bed by 7 on one occasion. He might have actually driven me nuts. Seriously, ITS FREAKIN' CHRISTMAS! BE THANKFUL YOU UNGRATEFUL INGRATE. Ok, so I didn't say that, but I was thinking it! Momentarily at least.

The photo: My adorable, sweet Tan-Man with the golden disposition and a heart of gold.

Reality: This dear son ate something that disagreed with him and had gas that could have cleared a stadium, and instead filled the house with the rank odor of rotten eggs. Continually. I mean I love the kiddo but he STANK. And at 11 years old, for the very first time, he didn't glow with the thrill of over exceeded expectations Christmas Morning. He noticed the expensive gift he received was, out of financial necessity, second hand. He missed the missing loved ones. In other words he is growing up. Seriously, that irks me, but also makes me so sad.

The photo: A blue eyed angel loving the magic of the day.

Reality: My little one was still very wrapped up in the magic of Christmas but created havoc by playing favorites with an older cousin and leaving the little one behind. And that helicopter Santa brought? Like nails across a chalk board the constant drone was so irritating. And constant. Did you HAVE to love that dang toy so much?

The photo: A happy couple, still in love after fifteen years of marriage, 18 Christmases together.

Reality: My dear husband got the stomach flu and laid on the couch in the middle of the house moaning and napping, forcing the rest of us TWELVE to tip toe around. Seriously? We HAVE our own bedroom at my dad's house. Use it. I love you ... but ... there is a toilet down there too!

The photo: Mother. Adored matriarch of the Common Sense family. Worshiped by her children, cherished by her husband, wise, calm and happy.

Reality: I was an absolute witch with a big ol' capital B on the drive down to my dad's and I started the night before. Emotionally drained, clinging to some tattered expectation of a Perfect Christmas Experience I was furious with my husband and children for failing me with their humanness. I did, after a long nap, snap out of it, but I was grouchy and snippy and angry and unreasonable. Much like my children later in the week in fact.

And more less than perfect family reality, for the first time in 35 years I chose not to talk to my mother on Christmas. For many complicated, sad, horrible reasons it was simply easier not to. And worse, she didn't talk to me either.

And adoption reality reared its head too. My boys' first mom texted me in the middle of our Big Family Christmas Breakfast. I could lie and say I was thrilled for this first time EVER contact on Christmas and a part of me was. It was just a simple Merry Christmas but still, honestly, there was a very small part of me that resented her intrusion because now I had to share with the boys that she had contacted us and I feared that mention would cast a shadow on an otherwise perfect day for them. They handled it ok, but I do admit, I was not thinking "adoption" at that moment, and the reminder was sharp. The constant availability of contact with modern technology allows for no insulation. And and that moment, at that time, I wanted my family offerred some insulation from the outside world. Yes, I did the right thing, but it wasn't easy either.

But my truth is I am blessed with a family I love and desperately need. I am blessed with joy. I am blessed with the capacity to choose to be happy in our humanness. I hope you forgive me for being me. But this is Me. The real, fallible, very human me.

And certainly our Christmas was real; probably much like yours. And in the end we forget the fights over dishes, or the disappointments in an unsought gift and we simply remember the pictures. The happy faces of delighted children. The loved shared between a family; A normal, typical, crazy family. I hope your Christmas Memories are picture perfect too!


Dawn said...

I am a new reader to your blog and wanted to say how much I really enjoyed this post! Thanks for sharing a little glimpse of your reality with us. :)

Andy said...

Great post! Thank you for sharing all sides or your family with us! It makes me feel much more human too.

Anonymous said...

For thise of you that know us, you know how much time Jen and I spend apart during the hockey season. I have to read my wife's blog so I know what's happening in my own home:) And due to us being apart I fear that my beloved wife has forgotten that there is no need to tip-toe around me when I am napping. If I need the sleep I will get it regardless of the stomping beside my head. But I do have my limits, such as when a child is looking at me "sleep" and yelling at his mother 3 rooms away..." Dad sick", then I do wake up. Love you hon, and yes I too had a very Merry Christmas in all of its reality.

Mom&Dad to A & J said...

I just recently found your blog, but I wanted to say thank you. I really needed to read this today. So thank you for sharing your reality.

Anonymous said...

My family drove me nuts, we had way too many people in and out of the house, I was actually ANNOYED that my twin babies wanted me over other people, and now they are sick with colds and fussy. But we got some damn good pictures.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Jen.

We all have them. All of us.

I shouted at my darling boy on Christmas Eve. not because he was in danger or was even being particularly naughty. He was underfoot in his excitement and I yelled. Not a fine moment, and trust me it was one of many.

I read all the time, though of course my comments are limited due to firewall workarounds.

Happy 2009.

Anonymous said...

I love how fabulously real you were for showing the other side that we all have. Today was the perfect day for me to read this. I cooked a huge pot of Soup Joumou (Haitian New Years dish) and fried Taro to celebrate Haiti style and had big expectations for our lovely family event. When they were 10 minutes later to the table and poof, 3 minutes after they arrived they were gone again I was the big hairy B. It's those damn expectations! Thanks for making me see I'm not alone. :0)

ness said...

Yay! I feel normal!