Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas Wrapping

As I was wrapping Christmas (not holiday) gifts today, I remembered a funny gift wrapping incident from many years ago. Well, funny now. It wasn't funny at the time! Then I remembered that I wrote an article about it. This was published in Hearts at Home in 1998:

The Full Range of Our Emotions
Maureen Wittmann

If I can be sure of one thing about my children, it is that they have tested the full range of my emotions. I will never forget the immense joy I felt as I watched my babies take their first steps or speak their first words. Or the fear I experienced as I held my oldest son on his 1st birthday inside of an oxygen tent in the children’s ward of the local hospital. Or the sadness I feel when I cannot take their pain away. I have even felt my angriest at the hand of one of my children.

My oldest daughter was just two and a half when she tested the full range of her mother’s rage. It was a few days before Christmas and we were preparing for a 500 mile road trip home to St. Louis, so that we may spend the holidays with our family. After putting the children to bed early, I spent hours wrapping presents for all of my children, nieces, nephews, parents, in-laws, brothers, and sisters. I enjoy gift wrapping and did my best to make each package perfect and pretty. When I was finished, I stacked all of the presents into my closet and went to spend a few quiet moments with my husband in the living room.

After an hour or so, I rose from the couch and headed for bed. As I walked down the hallway, I knew something was amiss; I could smell the sweet fragrance of Neutragena sesame seed bath oil. I cannot begin to tell you what I felt as I walked into my bedroom and saw my sweet little Mary surrounded by opened Christmas gifts and covered with the $28 bottle of bath oil intended for my sister-in-law. Not only did my child open every single present, she ripped apart the packaging as well. The entire king-sized bed was covered with wrapping paper, bows, ribbon, pieces of cardboard, ripped warranty cards, and, right in the middle of it all, there she sat grinning from ear to ear. Not only did my child wreak havoc on my Christmas plans and budget, she was proud of herself!

I could feel the rage bubbling up inside of me. I was so angry, I had to turn and walk away. This was one of those moments that all of us as parents come face-to-face with at one time or another. If I had attempted to discipline her at that moment, I might have done something that we would both regret later. Instead, I went to my husband and, as calmly as possible, explained the situation to him. Then, I let him play the role of disciplinarian. Because I forewarned him, and because it was not his hard work that had just been wasted, he was able to deal with the situation in a calm adult manner.

My family received their Christmas gifts that year in a less than perfect manner. I had to stand in front of everyone and explain that their gifts may not be packaged in their original boxes and they may smell of bath oil. Even so, some good did come from the experience, my daughter and I both learned important lessons. She learned that she should never go into Mommy’s closet without permission and I learned that sometimes Mommies have to simply walk away from anger.


Nancy C. Brown said...

Wonderful story, Maureen, and well told. I have felt that exact same intense anger, too, and instead of walking away, I blew up, and of course, regretted it. It takes a lot to "count to ten" or walk away or whatever from that kind of anger, but we really should. The child cannot understand just what it meant to us (whatever the wrongdoing) or why we should be so upset.

But no matter what it is, nothing is more important that having a relationship that works with our children. And yelling and doing things in anger usually leads to a break in the realtionship, and even if it gets patched over, the memories sometimes remain. And that's what helps me to keep trying.

Merry Christmas!

Maureen Wittmann said...

Unfortunately, I have to admit to submitting to yelling from time to time. I surely don't always handle myself perfectly. Especially now that I've hit that roller coaster of emotions called perimenopause =:-O.

BTW -- Said daughter is now a beautiful teenager who did most of my wrapping this year, along with her younger sister. So, she grew up a-okay.

Nancy C. Brown said...

I'm glad she didn't have wrapping phobias or wrapping-itis.

Yes, it is hard, but there are times we have to all admit we aren't perfect. I'd like to always be the best mom my kids need to be at every moment, but I'm a person, too, with feelings and emotions, and yes, hormones!