One thing I am learning as a separated / divorcing parent of younger children is the consequence – the really bad consequence – of going off schedule after finally establishing a routine. Today, I’m sorry to say, was the poster example of how family dynamics can add up to drive everyone crazy rather than establish harmony when things get too far off track.
And yet, somehow this is the inevitable result of summer activity, with travel that perforce can’t be with both parents. Ten days ago we were all in a good routine and, at my house at least, everyone was happy, calm, pleasant and we had a good time and fun weekends. Not idyllic, but not too bad, all in all. Made me feel like I was doing pretty well as a single dad.
This week I wanted to take my kids to visit my folks out of state, however, so that ended up where the littlest (4) stayed home with Mom while the two older kids (8 and 11) flew out to LA with me for Sunday-Thursday. Our routine, however, has all three with Mom Monday-Thursday evenings for the summer.
Predictably that was impossible to attain this week and it ended up where my older children have been with me for almost nine days straight. Without a hassle, until today. In fact, really, they were a delight to travel with, considering we all shared a single hotel room.
One huge factor in how today spun out of control is that my 4yo is definitely not used to being a virtual only child with mamma for a week and her behavior since she’s joined us yesterday afternoon has been shockingly regressed and contentious. Like bratty 3yo, not the delightful, smart, fun, loving 4 1/2yo she usually is.
Today was just one of those days you hope you never have, where everything you try to do seems to backfire, the activities you arrange aren’t satisfying for the kids, and there’s just a whole lot of weird energy coursing through the family unit. If it wasn’t one kid having a hard time it was another, and all of my usual tricks were useless.
Finally, we met up with some friends for dinner (via scooters, we’re big on scootering around the neighborhood) and, once we finally got there, things really went a lot better. Having new blood, some humor, and some relief was a big help. Seemed like the evening was going to finally go well.
In fact, K-, my 4yo, had a nice easy bedtime and I was glad to know the other two were outside burning off a little more of their evening energy while I was putting her to bed. They came back in, things were doing pretty well, and then we got to bedtime. Lights out at 9pm, as usual, the kids ask me to tell a story, I do, and then the 8yo decides it wasn’t “exciting enough” and leaves his bedroom to sit defiantly next to me in the hallway and wait for me to tell a better story.
Crack! You could hear my tension finally snap, just for a minute, and I picked him up, placed him back on his bed and said quite passionately “it is time to sleep. I am not going to tell a story. Enough is enough” and, uh, other things in that vein. He, of course, sat on the edge of his bed refusing to sleep at that point.
I went in, apologized, explained what was happening and why I was so upset, we talked for 10 minutes or so, and I agreed he could have five minutes of light to read so he could “change his energy space”. He did, he went back to bed – and lay down – and now, well, now it’s 10pm and he’s just about asleep.
Ah, nope. He just got up and told me “I can’t go to sleep, my mind is still racing”. Will this ever end????
I can only hope that tomorrow is a better day because today was not a day that I want to repeat any time soon.