Have you ever seen a drumline perform? Or a pipe-and-drum corps? Or a marching band? Mick Fleetwood or Neal Peart, maybe (am I dating myself with those names)?
It can be deafening, even without amps or microphones.
The potential noise production of three toddlers, with or without pots to bang on, is roughly equivalent to a drumline of Mick Fleetwood clones, all slightly out of sync and playing different tunes.
And on Christmas morning, when those three toddlers come into the den and see what Santa left them–bedlam may not begin to describe it. The only thing that makes it bearable is the fact that they are screaming about the gifts you spent half the night preparing so they could have this moment. You, although they don’t realize it, are the reason they get to experience such high-volume pleasure this morning. That makes it completely worth it.
For an hour or so. Then many of us are ready to tie our new scarves around our heads to escape the noise. An hour later, and we’d chew off our own ears if our teeth could reach them.
Then it’s off to Grandma’s, where our kids meet their cousins for the first time in months, and everybody is showing everybody else whatever new toys Mom and Dad would let them bring, and the adults are talking loudly to hear each other over it all, and pots and pans are banging around in the kitchen while Grandma and two or three Moms put dinner together. And over it all, Bing Crosby is singing White Christmas again and again.
It’s exhausting, even when we love everybody in the room.
It helps to remember joy, which is certainly something you feel when you watch your kids playing with their new things. Joy is what this season is all about, after all.
It also helps to send the kids to the back room, where they can play without disrupting our conversation.
And if it’s still too much, we can always take a walk in the garden, or sit out on the porch in the cold for a while, or just close our eyes and lean back on the couch and remove ourselves from the conversation for a moment. And when Grandpa says, Are you OK? we can say I’m fine. Just taking a little break. I’ll be back in a minute.
It takes courage to do that, to take a moment for ourselves when others think they have, or should have, our attention. But something to remember in the chaos of the holidays: if we don’t take care of ourselves, even to the point of taking what we need sometimes, we won’t be able to take care of anybody else.
Not even those beautiful kiddos.