Once upon a time I had three small children under five and life was full, crazy, and messy in a cute way. Life was full of love and laughter. That’s the pretty side. The not so pretty side: messes, little sleep, siblings that wanted to rearrange birth order or just be only children.
Then three more children blended into our family. The “big kids.” Actually only two became part of what “home” meant to the “little kids.” (and in fact it was years before some of the little kids would remember that the oldest was a sibling of sorts. Jenn was “somehow related to Michelle” (not Denise, not Chris, just Michelle.))
The children were older, they were blending not like instant hot chocolate, but rather like a smoothie requiring some serious Vitamix action. Of course, that was on the days when they didn’t choose to be more like a tossed salad or totally separate entities.
Nothing showed the growing together of the family or the growing up part as much as holidays. From the first holidays together where I set the menu and Denise added the key ingredients for the traditions the big kids knew to the holidays that were set in stone as far as how things worked.
1. Santa leaves a balloon in your room to let you know he has come. No peeking. You will be summoned.
2. Eggs Benedict Tarrant Style will be served–making adjustments for vegetarians, vegans, non-egg eaters.
3. The two youngest girls (the youngest from the big kids and the youngest from the “little” kids) will band together or compete to move the mouse on the advent calendar.
But then there is the stuff I haven’t said–the putting up of decorations. It was a rough and tumble death match for optimal tree space. There was grumbling from big kids about artificial trees. (I am allergic to fresh trees) The children were crude about the nativity scenes I collect and love. The candle holders that spell Noel were endlessly rearranged. Denise didn’t hold to opening one gift at a time so it was a dramatic flurry of paper and over. Stockings were checked out before gifts. It drove me completely batty. Christmas baking was insanely messy–I don’t think there was a holiday for years that didn’t end up with the dogs covered in flour, batter, and powdered sugar. More than one holiday would find me showering the miasma of this crazy side show away and rinsing in that dream holiday that like a dream birth never happens. The kids were happy and I knew that is all that should matter.
Over the last few years, Christmas has changed. The “little kids” are tweens and teens. The big kids don’t live even in the same state. The tree was decorated in stages. Denise put out the nativities. No insanity about tree space or remarks about the fake tree. The children talked to each other. No one yelled about how loud one or the other child was or music that was too loud. No one growled too much about getting up or the hour. We may finally have a decent picture of the 5 kids on the stairs without someone looking out of it, growly or making a face. The kids unwrapped their gifts and squeed a bit.
You know what? I miss the rumble. I missed the noise. I missed having those kids and whatever strays showed up moving decorations, ornaments, adding oddities to the nativity. No dog ate a stocking. I realize these weeks later that everyone who had grown children was right–I should have enjoyed it more while they were young because they grow too fast and you want just a bit of a chance to groan over kids being kids.