It’s December the 29th at 8:00 in the evening. I am sitting in my living room with my head in my hands wondering how I am going to get through the next week before the kids go back to school and questioning if this makes me a bad parent. Aren’t I supposed to be excited to have two full weeks to spend with my kids? Am I not supposed to be smiling all the time while making cute gingerbread people and giant snow forts?
Well the truth is I’m not. Don’t get me wrong, we had some great family time over the holidays, but we also had our challenges. Lots of them. Maybe it’s just the age the kids are at now, but this holiday season was the most difficult to date. There was lots of fighting, whining, and non-stop requests to go somewhere and do something. One wanted to play on her own while the other couldn’t self-entertain so got in the other’s face, which of course led to screaming and hitting. Because there was no snow to play in for the first week we watched more television than usual (the kids normally get a very minimal amount), which led to perpetual whining for more screen time.
The unbelievable clutter didn’t help with my ability to cope either. Despite repeated attempts to encourage people to give our kids experiences rather than material gifts, we still ended up with lots of stuff. Games, toys, books, and art supplies were strewn everywhere. We now have enough crayons, markers, and coloured pencils to equip and entire school. Not to mention the ridiculous amount of plastic packaging that goes with all that stuff.
Eco-Anxiety is a Real Thing
I have read about eco-anxiety but didn’t think it was actually a thing, until I realized that I experience it to a certain degree, particularly around excessive plastic junk. Plastic dolls with a million tiny plastic accessories, plastic dragons that fold up into a little ball, plastic beads, plastic pens, gigantic plastic packaging for tiny plastic things. I can’t take it anymore. It actually makes me feel physically ill.
We do a pretty good job of not overscheduling ourselves over the holidays, so thankfully running here there and everywhere is not a source of stress for us. But the constant fighting and hissy fits, combined with the explosion of stuff everywhere was almost more than I could take. I tried to remind myself constantly to be grateful for all that we have, but then the clutter would get me down. I kept thinking about how many people are out there with nothing – no shelter, not enough to eat, no warm clothes – and that made the excess even more depressing.
The Best Present of All
I repeatedly told my kids that the most important thing was that we were all together, healthy, warm, and comfortable. I told them that the only present I needed was them. I did have a small victory Christmas morning. There I was standing dejectedly in the one square foot of floor that wasn’t covered with stuff. I looked at my son and said “What’s the best present in the world?” He smiled and said “Me!” It brought tears to my eyes. It still does just thinking about it.
I still don’t know if all this makes me a bad parent or not. Part of me is annoyed that people don’t respect our requests for experiences instead of stuff, yet I feel I should be grateful for people’s generosity. On one hand the excessive plastic makes me ill, and on the other I see how much the kids enjoy those toys. I loved some of our family time and yet I was very happy to get the kids back to school and all of us into our regular routine.
I suppose parenting is nothing if not a constant dichotomy. I guess I will just have to learn to live with that. So maybe I am truly a good/bad parent.