I speak from the hearts of parents everywhere when I say the annual Christmas school break should be outlawed, especially if foul weather is so much as a twinkle in God’s eye during the scheduled time frame. No wonder suicide rates rise during Christmastime. It’s the kids! Having four of them home at once can trigger a migraine. Having the neighborhood children as well can have you on the phone with the Betty Ford Center by the end of the first week. I’m checking myself in on Monday.
The average school winter break lasts for two weeks, ushering in two phases of behavior in my home. Phase one, or the pre-holiday Spastic Alien phase, takes place the week before Christmas. As the name implies, the Spastic Alien phase begins the moment school lets out for the break, when my children morph into unrecognizable feral creatures. Strange noises (25 renditions of “Jingle Bells”), hyperactivity, and random acts of weirdness happen up until Christmas day. A down-to-the-millisecond countdown until Santa comes is requested and updated every five minutes, regardless of frequency and response. Aliens don’t grasp the concept of time as mere humans do. Sugar consumption increases, while sleep and the ability to hear and follow Mom’s directions decreases. Mayhem ensues.
Young children cannot take the anticipation of Christmas morning or the long-awaited let’s-just-open-presents event. It’s like a bizarre brain chemical is secreted in kids’ brains only in December. This substance invades a child’s brain, causing temporary cognitive impairment. Vocabulary is reduced to precious few words and phrases: “Santa,” “presents,” “days ’til Christmas,” “can I have,” and sometimes “snow,” depending on your location. Sometimes the impairment is severe enough to cause children even in subtropical climates to repeatedly ask about snow, even when they know good and well it NEVER snows in that area. Maybe that’s just my kids.
Phase two, or the post-holiday Christmas Smackdown (or Mom’s On the Sauce) phase, begins a few days after Christmas, but signs of its arrival can manifest as early as when the last of the wrapping paper is torn and tossed. Symptoms of this phase include my children complaining of boredom, breaking and/or losing new toys, constant sibling spats, and my serious longing for sound of a school bus rumbling down my street. Another notable symptom is the increased presence of children (who don’t belong to me) in my home. Two of them, who shall remain nameless, think they live here. They treat other kids like the guests. I’ve tried to break it to them gently that they have homes of their own, but my words fall on selectively deaf ears. Another symptom, but one not limited to the holidays.
By the end of phase two, I will have heard about every gift every child living within ten miles received for Christmas, Hanukah, and Kwanza. It never matters how many times I zone out, drool, and say, “uh-huh” or “oh, wow,” they’ll just stand there babbling at my bobbing head. After several days, like in the old cartoons, the kids start looking like edible objects. In my case, they all start resembling large bottles of vodka. I’ve been too good to these children. It’s time to move again.
Perhaps suggesting an all-out ban seems harsh. Shortening the break, but still allowing for travel time would work for me. See, I can compromise. I’ll deal with all the kids for one week instead of two, and maybe Santa will leave two bottles of vodka in my stocking, instead of one. Everyone’s happy.