holidaysI usually forget that my kids have a hard time around the holidays until they start acting out and I remember. This year, I was ahead of the curve and anticipated that there might be some drama. And then I noticed that we weren’t having any. I’ve been thinking all day about how wonderful Thanksgiving was, uneventful really, which is remarkable with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) kids. We all worked together to get ready to host nineteen people, the house was clean, the food was fabulous (if I do say so myself) and we enjoyed each other and our extended family. My seventeen-year-old sat and visited with the grown-ups and it was a lovely day.

Today we worked as a family to decorate the house for Christmas. We work so well together. It might be what we do best as a family and that’s probably my fault. I love to work. I think work is fun. So if I’ve taught my kids nothing else, I’ve taught them to work. It was a huge undertaking to put up the outside lights and decorations, all the inside lights (it’s like the Vegas strip in our house), the tree, the inside decorations, the candles (it’s like a Catholic church in here), and then to have a birthday dinner for my son who’s turning ten tomorrow. I kept marveling at how smoothly everything was going. My older kids kept asking what else they could do to help and they carried a lot of the weight to make it all happen. I literally couldn’t have done it without them.

Then the drama emerged. My seventeen-year-old son who has been doing so well–started his first job, got his first paycheck yesterday and worked so hard this week to help me with Thanksgiving, decorating for Christmas and his brother’s birthday–has been really irritable and impatient all day. I asked him why he was being so short-tempered and unpleasant with his sister and he said he didn’t know why but that he didn’t have a lot of patience for his siblings right now. I had a glimmer then that the holidays were getting to him.

After the birthday dinner guests had left, I told my husband I was off the clock and hid out in my bedroom. In less than two minutes, I could hear tempers flaring in the kitchen where they were all still cleaning up. My seventeen-year-old was lashing out at my husband in a way he rarely does so I went out and asked Gavin if he was having a hard time with the holidays, if that was why he was being so unpleasant today. It took him several minutes to figure out what was going on with him. He said he wasn’t thinking about anything in particular but he felt like he had a lot more anger right now. I told him it was good for him to be aware of it so that he didn’t act it out and get in trouble. I didn’t want to upset him but there’s an essay in his future tomorrow. We’re all too tired tonight.

I’m still really pleased at how far we’ve come and how well we’re doing as a family, even around the holidays. And yet I feel so bad for Gavin that the holidays are still hard for him and stir up his anger. I guess it’s just something we’ll have to live with and work with for the foreseeable future.

And maybe holidays stir up a lot of us. My family was all biological and yet someone always ended up crying at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Once, my mother threw candy on the floor. I read about a woman in Maryland who stabbed her brother in the neck with the serving fork at their Thanksgiving dinner this week. So hey, maybe we’ve just tilted to normal, and normal means the holidays bring out the best and the worst in us.

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