Cop-out

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I wasn’t expecting a personal revelation on the Fourth of July.

It was a low-key but lovely day. The rain finally stopped, the sun was shining, the kids played outside. We went to a nice barbeque chez Mommy Esq.. Quiet. Reasonably peaceful. Enjoyable. A very nice summer day.

The 5th of July

So why was I so cranky much of the day and near tears at night?

Life with two toddlers, with our fairly strict adherence to routine and schedule (especially where naps are concerned) can start to feel a little like the movie Groundhog Day. In and out, each day remarkably similar to the day before. There are variations, of course, but a lot of the daily grind and general thought processes are the same. thing. every. day.

On the one hand, this is a good thing. Routine and schedule make for better naps, happier kids, et cetera, et cetera. On the other hand, it can be restrictive. Sometimes it seems my overriding parenting mantra is respect the nap. It pays off, sure, but it also means you won’t see me doing a darn thing in the early afternoon any day of the week. Sometimes this gets me out of doing things I’d rather not do. And sometimes it’s an enabling excuse to do nothing.

Add to that my kids’ age: nearly two. For the last two years, I’ve opted not to do a number of things because the kids are “too young to realize it.” We haven’t made a huge deal out of holidays and other celebrations because, whatever, the kids don’t know the difference. And really, I can only work so much around their nap schedule and I don’t want to keep them up too late past bedtime and when are they going to eat dinner and what about snacks and blah blah blah

The 5th of July

And that is how Fourth of July 2009 became a day of revelation. I was cranky because it didn’t feel remotely like a holiday to me. None of the games, races, parades, bike-decorating, face-painting, or fireworks of my youth. I didn’t look into what kinds of festivities my town might have planned. I certainly didn’t plan on going to a fireworks show (OK, that one I still feel good about… 2-3 hours past the kids’ bedtime and lots of loud noises? No thanks.). We really did nothing particularly out of the ordinary. There was nothing special about the day at all. And it bugged me.

This is compounded, of course, by the fact that we live far away from my home town and the large extended family that I grew up with. We don’t know much about the town we live in, and are not particularly invested in it. It brought on an acute bout of holiday homesickness.

But that aside, it comes down to the fact that I am not doing anything to create holiday traditions and memories for my family. And without the structure of a familiar hometown or lots of family to rely upon, it’s up to me. And I need to stop being lazy about it.

I’m not saying I need to go nuts. I am not going all-out on holiday-themed decor and matching outfits. There are plenty of activities that my kids remain legitimately too young to do. But the whole “they’re too young” thing as an excuse for not celebrating holidays is officially expired. Halloween, look out. We’re coming for you this year.

And lest you think I wallowed in homesick self-pity all weekend, I am proud to say that Sunday provided a much-appreciated antidote to my bemoaned lack of spontaneity.

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17 thoughts on “Cop-out”

  1. I totally relate, my boys just turned two and the mid-day nap still dictates how I plan our days. On vacation recently, they substituted a 20 minute catnap in the car for the mid day nap, and by about 5:30 pm I was desperately hanging on through 2 hours of their pre-bedtime crankiness (and mine). So the nap must be “respected” but I am also finally seeing some flexibilty too. We skipped our local fourth of july parade because it would have kept us out of the house mid-day. Now I’m wondering if I should have just tried it…
    Yesterday I was almost in tears by days end. DH was working and by about 5 pm we were all tired, cranky, bored, and I was into an argument with my 7 year old. It helps to know none of us MoMs are alone in our feelings.

  2. Goundhog Day sums it up perfectly. I don’t stay at home so I don’t know TRULY how this is, but with Jon traveling, my days blend into one another. Work all day, pick up kids, cook dinner, kid maintenance, stay in bc Jon is gone.

    But I have a much lower tolerance for groundhogness so I’m always pushing the envelope with what I do with the boys. Taking them out to dinner (real restaurants, not fast food) by myself. Setting up a weekly SYTYCD night at my house since Jon’s always gone on Wednesdays. Taking them out and putting them to bed an hour late. Sometimes it is a complete failure but I have never cried bc I tried. I cry when I’m stuck inside doing the same old same old.
    .-= LauraC´s last blog ..4th of July visit to Florida =-.

  3. Oh Liz! You know I can relate to this post. We actually went down to NY for the weekend and I was in tears yesterday on the way home.

    For weeks, I had been looking forward to going home and seeing my family and friends. Brady was very clingy and whiny the whole weekend. He did not sleep well, naps were hit or miss, and he refused to play with anybody, including my mom, without me right next to him. Jim stayed home to do some home improvement projects so it was just me the whole long weekend.

    I was in tears yesterday because, along with utter exhaustion on my part, I do not want Brady to be “out of his element” in NY. I want him to know my family and to be comfortable around them. I want my mom to be able to stop by without needing a plane ticket to do it.

    Holidays make me homesick too. I did not think it was possible to be homesick when you are home, but this weekend showeed me otherwise.

    I feel better today. A good night’s sleep helped. I hope you are feeling better too.

  4. I know the feeling. My kids are still very young but when I look to the future, it seems like it will be forvere until we can enjoy the things like holidays, random outings, amusement parks, etc.

    I am not a schedule kind of person but have turned into a schedule nazi with the twins. And while I believe this is totally necessary for us and our lifestyle, it can be incredibly limiting and repetitive. And boring, lonely and isolating.
    .-= Nicole´s last blog ..Saturday Snapshots: Teaching my kids… =-.

  5. It seems like I too am not alone in feeling the drudgery of repetition. I am a strong believer the respecting the nap, especially when I am home alone with the babies. It is hard to explain to my husband, who has been working all week long and would love to just stay home, why I NEED to leave the house and do something exciting on the weekends. I need a change of pace, something to break the monotony.
    I imagine mothers of singletons feel the same way but multiples, as in most cases, multiple the predicament. One child meltdown can be dealt with, two babies melting down vs. one parent can quickly turn into chaos.
    .-= Rusted Sun´s last blog ..ranch house =-.

  6. I totally understand what you’re saying (and I just read your other post on your own blog so know you had a better next day too, yay!). But I can also say that with my almost 3 year olds, I had a revelation on the 4th — for the first time, it was truly the holiday I always imagined life with kids would be. We went on rides, ate hotdogs & ice cream, danced to music, rolled around on the grass, and I watched fireworks with a sleepy but enthralled child in my lap (I could have lived without the 1 hour to drive 2 miles afterward). So although we still have much of the same thing every day, we do have more ways at almost 3 to make special days special.

  7. It’s just been the last year or so that I’ve been willing to stray from routine. I think that’s mainly because we (gasp) gave up naptime. I’m more flexible now, but if you wanted to mess with our nap schedule… watch out!!! Traditions will come, I swear. We’ve just started to get into the business of celebrating holidays and it’s been well worth the wait.
    .-= Quadmama´s last blog ..Goodbye My Friend =-.

  8. well, i’m not one to talk since I recently declared a moratorium on overnight travel with the (14 month old) twins. I’ve never been much of a 4th of Julier mostly because IT’S SO DAMN HOT HERE. But for 2009, with the twins tucked neatly into bed and my partner home to listen over them and enjoy quiet time of her own, I left the house. At 9:00 p.m. And enjoyed taking some pictures of the firework show, living vicariously through all the others who were crazy enough to be o ut late with their young ones. And knowing I’d be waking up to well rested children. Instead of theirs. :)
    .-= Rachel´s last blog ..In Lieu Of Worship =-.

  9. We always maintained a pretty stick napping routine, but the beauty of a routine is that taking the kids out of the routine once in a while doesn’t permanently wreck the routine or the kids. Once every 2-3 months, we arrange a family dinner or holiday event that keeps the girls up past their bedtime. We try to arrange things around their schedules when possible, but don’t sweat it if we need to be flexible. The next day might be a little crankier than usual, but it has been worth it each and every time.

    Last year, the girls were 2.5. We took them to our town’s 4th of July carnival for a couple of hours, took them home for a nap, and took them back for the fireworks. They LOVED the fireworks, slept late the next day and were back on track by Monday.

    This year the girls are 3.5 and no longer napping. We spent all afternoon at the carnival, ate dinner on the town common, and let the girls play with the other kids on nearby blankets while we waited for the fireworks. Again, they LOVED the fireworks. We tucked them into bed 3 hours past bedtime. They slept an hour later than usual and went to bed a little bit early last night. They were definitely crankier than usual, but not any worse than a typical random cranky day after a good night’s sleep. Today we are back on track, no worse for our incredible day and we will have some fabulous memories.

    Don’t be afraid to chuck the routine once in a while, your kids just might surprise you. If it doesn’t work out, well, there’s always next time.

  10. I am so glad to know that I am not the only “crazy” mom who bases all decisions in life on how it will affect naptimes and bedtimes. I have yet to find something more important than “respecting the nap schedule”. Okay, perhaps a slight exaggeration. But I cannot emotionally handle two screaming, tired, angry, frustrated two year olds who missed their nap because there was some event going on somewhere else–and that event is no longer even fun or interesting because of the total meltdowns my twins are having. Truly, I cannot do it. So I give up on the other events knowing that one day…one day…naps will be a thing of the past and we can play whenever, wherever. Other moms I know (without multiples) just don’t get why naps are so crucial to our survival…but it sounds like other readers here know just what I mean. For us, sticking to our napping, eating and bedtime schedule = Happy kids = happy mom = happy kids.

  11. We were definitely schedule keepers in our house. Now, at almost 3, we are no longer napping. The transition created some whining and crankines but it’s been worth it. We no longer have to run back to the house in the middle of having a fun time.

    The best thing about them being older has to be planning new, fun family traditions to start with our children. They are old enough to remember and appreciate the special new things. Easter was the first one … the twins were 2-1/2 … and they are still talking about finding easter egss with the easter bunny … they did it last year and don’t remember it.

    I was so anxious to start some family traditions of our own that I think I pushed it on them too soon and I was disapointed when they were cranky and not really “getting” why I had put so much emotional energy in to it.

    There is definitely a “right” time for new things … for us the magic number seems to be 2-1/2 for the return of fun holidays. (We’re still waiting for easy travel “time” to come).

  12. OMG. I just read your post out loud to my husband who is lyinghere in bed. He asked “Did you write that?” lol

    Oh dear. I could have written the exact same words. For the past 3 years 2 months and some odd days I have been doing the.same.thing. The weekends don’t seem any different than the weekdays.
    And, I too am far from my hometown with all my friends and the other side of my family. (Hopefully my husband and I will be moving back soon)
    I can so relate.
    But I have also learned to embrace the place I live. Bloom where you are planted so says Mary E.
    So, just saying I can relate.
    -Shannon in Austin
    Mom to Porter and Abigail – 3 years
    .-= Shannon Best´s last blog ..Did I mention we were part of a supper club? =-.

  13. I know what you mean. Sometimes the Groundhogdayness drives me bananas. I too am trying to break the routine and challenge them, and myself, a bit more. But I will never part with their morning nap. I love my coffee, and the leisurely pace at which I can drink it while their napping, too damn much. On weekends, I have started to break the shackles of the afternoon nap. They aren’t as attached to it, and I realize something’s gotta give. Baby steps 😉
    .-= Jungletwins´s last blog ..Picking Out Their Own Clothes =-.

  14. Wow, I love this blog; y’all almost always make me feel better or at least less alone! Most days, I feel like such a slave to the nap schedule and long for variety, but I know if we deviate from the schedule, the rest of the day (and sometimes days after) will be hellish chaos. And, their nap is the only me time I get to attempt a novel or nap of my own, or at least find some comaderie among fellow MOMs online. So, while I’m looking forward to the hopefully more varied days when my 14-month-olds no longer require naps, I’m also anxious about them knowing I may never get to finish a book again!

    another nap nazi!

  15. Interesting – I wonder if this will contribute to your consideration of a third child. Once you can be more flexible won’t it be harder to go back? We did our first “spontaneous” outing on Sunday – to the local zoo! The kids lasted 1.5 hrs but that was pretty darn good. I don’t miss that third nap at all!
    .-= Mommy, Esq.´s last blog ..Batten Down the Hatches =-.

  16. “Sometimes this gets me out of doing things I’d rather not do. And sometimes it’s an enabling excuse to do nothing.”

    I am so with you on this one. The boys turned two in April so this Summer we have relaxed a bit and stayed at friends a little past their bedtime or at a park a bit after their nap but before 2 I rarely did any of this. Things still get mundane from time to time but usually when I feel blah about that our schedule gets hectic and I long for the mundane again :)
    .-= becky@oursweetpeas´s last blog ..Organizing all the LITTLE toys that become a big problem =-.

  17. Before twins/kids, we were “do-ers”. When the twins were born, we became “survivors.” However, when the 4th rolled around and they were only 2 mths old, I didn’t want to miss a holiday. It took 2 hrs of packing, but we took the twins to Castle Island to watch the Constitution turn around and the parade of boats. We were there for maybe an hour. Prep time was longer than activity time! And I was a WRECK back then (before the happy pills). And then when they were 3, we did actually take them to see fire-works. We parked far enough away/but close to home, and watched them from the back of our truck. No problems. Then when Ryan was born, and he was only 5 mths old, it was a family fireworks trip. Although sometimes stressful (because of the “unknown”) it’s OK to stray away from a schedule to do something “fun”…which I think you experienced going to Marblehead. I have found through major trial and error that kids are more flexable than we give them credit for. This comes from the Schedule-Nazi 2001. I hope you have fun at halloween and the next 4th!
    .-= Anita´s last blog ..Things I Miss =-.

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