I was thinking, after several incidents over Thanksgiving, if we have ever had a holiday that has not imploded with stress, since having Elise...and I am not sure if we have...not that they have not been joyful and held with a strangle-hold, wresting the good memories out of them...but they have all been steeped with some variation on a theme of them not as they "should be"...
This has only escalated with Charlotte's food allergies. I had to make an entire Thanksgiving meal to bring with us that was Charlotte-safe. The days of bringing one or two items is completely past...
But, far greater than that inconvenience, as I overheard conversations in which my precious Elise was eviscerated, by family and family friends, I realized that all my fears were valid. The days when she was little and desperately cute, are past. Now she is big, and not cute enough to cover her different-ness. She cannot communicate with those not making the effort. And those are fewer with each passing year...
Now, we have the gaping problem that she is not a peer and they don't really want her to be. She reacts by trying to insert herself in the situation. They react by looking at her like she is a disgusting alien. She reacts by trying to "punish" them. Then all the parents try to protect their precious babies. And she is left to look like the Monster that Ate Tokyo. And she is still left out. And she is still angry and sad.
The truly tragic part of this, is that her sister is one of Them, now. The second that Amelia mixes with them, she tries to separate herself from Elise. Which makes Elise furious. I had to jerk a verbal knot in Amelia's tail when she initiated the verbal scorn, which the others were only too quick to join...and I had to pull Elise up short in her attempt to truly hurt Amelia physically for her choices...and Elise does not forget. If she cannot catch Amelia in the moment, she will bide her time and catch her in the kitchen for breakfast or in the car, as they sit next to each other.
And so, I spend the entire week before the holiday, worrying, and trying to trouble-shoot. I spend the week of, trying to protect and prevent. I spend the week after, trying to mediate and heal Amelia's injuries and Elise's heartbreak. And the week after that, dreading the next holiday get together.
I know it is a stage. I am sure that it will pass, but in the mean time it scorches my soul.
I cannot allow Amelia to behave in this manner. I cannot allow Elise to behave in this manner. I cannot allow them to be together to protect them both from each other. But I cannot fix this either. I have to pray and wait. And now I deal with what is feeling more and more like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or the even more telling "battle fatigue". I wake clenching my jaw, have nightmares, and am up 20 times a night, I revisit ulcers and esophageal spasms, and various other issues with stress.
If it crosses your mind, you can help ease my holiday stress syndrome. (And anyone who has kids with special needs!)
Do not automatically assume everything is Elise's fault. It really may not be. I know she hits. But I also know that it is not always her starting things. Kids are kids. I've seen several incidents, where someone sees the tale end of an altercation, and start in on Elise...and I watched the entire thing, trying to get over there to stop it...and it was NOT her.
Please talk to your kids before spending time with Elise, and ask them to try to understand her...remind them, that they can ask questions and repeat what they think she is saying, and see if she agrees. Remind them that they can ask her to come with them to me, and ask what she is saying....or even Amelia. Amelia likes the status in being a translator...and it forces a certain measure of bonding and support between them...which aids their relationship.
If you are an adult, you can become a rock star, by inviting Elise to sit with you, read to her for a few moments, tell you about her holidays, or admire her games. When she feels valued and special, her patience with other kids increases. We have a dear friend named Scott, who Elise is infatuated with, because he ALWAYS listens to her like she is the most fascinating person, ever. He talks to her and gets her crackers. He is an adult, but he never fails to make her feel loved...and she is always on her best behavior when he is around, because she wants to make him "happy". And he always tries to translate her for his kids....which makes them less afraid of her, and more accepting. But he also never hesitates to tell her "no" if she is pushing limits.
Oh, and DO NOT FEED kids without their parents' okay...Charlotte is allergic to everything...and these allergies make her mouth swell and spiral out of emotional control. The last thing any parent needs is their child weeping in the floor over toilet paper because you were being "helpful" and didn't take 30 seconds to make sure someone was allowed to eat something. And yes, the toilet paper incident really did happen a few weeks ago. I pulled off 3 squares instead of 4 or 5 and Charlotte had the queen of all nutty fits... I am having tags and a shirt printed up for this year's holiday parties!
And if I get distracted and short-tempered, please love me anyway. I swear I will be nicer after the kids are in bed...or at least after the New Year...