On The Need For A Recovery Day

Chaos theory! :: Teoría del caos!
Chaos theory! :: Teoría del caos! (Photo credit: Nhoj Leunamme == Jhon Emmanuel)

It started out so well. We’d had two days of solid-packed family fun, with the promise of another coming up on Sunday, and we’d prepped all the kids that Saturday, the day in between, was the put-the-house-back-together day. So while Alex and I mowed the yard, Nicholas helped Christian in the house. When I finished, I grabbed the grocery list, and Nicholas asked to come along.

We breezed through Aldi smoothly. Nicholas loves picking things off the shelves. (Although I did feel an ominous “pop” in my right trap while lifting him to reach something.) He got to push the buttons on the card reader and deal with the deposit quarter on the cart.

stop & shop, west springfield MA
stop & shop, west springfield MA (Photo credit: Rusty Clark)

Then it was on to Gerbes, and not one but two different “car carts” were there for him to choose from. We went over to the floral department to watch the woman fill balloons for a bouquet. Joy of joys!–she offered him one! Complete with an elastic wristband so it didn’t have to be tied to his wrist!

Nicholas was in Heaven. He played ice cream truck while I stopped to talk to the mother of a former student. I saw him take the balloon off his wrist. “Nicholas, honey,” I said, “you’re going to lose that. You need to keep it on your wrist.”

“No, I’m just going to hold it,” he said.

And promptly let it go.

Both I and a lovely elderly gentleman lunged for it, but that helium balloon was bent on escape, and in two seconds, it was nestled at ceiling level right above the sausage case.

And the tornado sirens went off. Oh wait. That was Nicholas.

Both adults excused themselves hastily, and I bent to hug and comfort my four-year-old. But he was having none of it. Blood-curdling screams. Ear- ripping, throat-tearing screams. I sympathized. I got stern. And then I realized it wasn’t going to stop. I had three more items to get, so I took off.

He leaped out of the moving cart and hurled himself on the floor. I twitched toward him, and as if in warning, my shoulder twinged. Okay, so I couldn’t wrestle him out of the store. Now what?

The saving grace turned out to be his terror of being left behind. If I just took off, he would leap up and run screaming after me. But whenever I stopped, he was back on the floor, screaming “I WANT MY BALLOON MOMMY!” Hands down, the worst tantrum I have ever experienced in my whole parenting career. From a 4 1/2-year-old.

We got to the front and he flung himself on the floor in the main aisle. I had to grab him under the arms and drag his preschool bottom across the tile so he’d be out of the line of traffic.

And that was about the time when I thought, “We really need a recovery day.”

When Alex and Julianna were babies, I had a strict policy of scheduling a recovery day after any overstimulating day. When we went to St. Louis or did a lot of errand running, the next day we stayed home and took it very, very easy. Books, low-key outdoor play, and long nap times. No big agenda. Just recovery.

Somewhere along the way we stopped doing that. I remember thinking, “Uh-oh, I have stuff scheduled two days in a row.” And it must have turned out okay, because the farther into parenthood we’ve gone, the more things have gotten scheduled back to back. With four kids that’s kind of the reality. And anyway, these days staying home means they’re at each others’ throats, which isn’t much of a recovery.

But Nicholas going nuclear reminded me of the value of such a day. We (speaking globally now) have this idea that we have to push, push, push. And sometimes we do. But then we get into the habit of looking for things to push toward. And sometimes you (to say nothing of kids, who have less coping experience) just need a chance to breathe, for crying out loud.

Well, Michael and I got that day yesterday. Christian and the other three didn’t; they went to a baseball game and were playing hard for twelve hours. (Unlimited carousel rides at the ballpark, baby.) When they got home last night, Nicholas was crying about his feet hurting. He was completely shot, again. And unfortunately, today can’t be a recovery day. We have well-child checks for the two older kids first thing this morning, and Julianna’s glasses have been awaiting pickup through all the days of our out-of-town adventures. (Didn’t I mention Michael SNAPPED THE EARPIECE IN HALF last week?)

A great illustration that there’s good ideas, and then there’s reality. But I think we will take it easy the rest of the day. They’re going to need it.