Early Christmas

We’re going out of town for Christmas, going on our first trip to Costa Rica. It’s a make up trip for the company Hawaii trip, which we missed due to COVID. So we head out next Monday morning at 4AM to hop on a flight, and will spend nine days in Puntenares. We’re staying at an all inclusive through Christmas and returning the day after.

We had originally decided not to put up a Christmas tree since we’d be gone, but Younger was really adamant about setting it up. So I pulled our fake tree out of the closet and stood it up downstairs Friday night and let the kids go to town on it.

Missus came up with the great idea of having an early Christmas, and I thought it was fantastic idea. The presents — an electric scooter for Elder and a drum set for Younger — arrived on Saturday and I had them both setup waiting for the girls when they came downstairs Sunday morning. Missus took care of the stockings.

It was a fun morning, I figured the girls would want to stay home and play, but they went to church instead, so I had my Sunday fun-day with my brother over video games. The girls got back and of course I had to play referee with the scooter, making sure Younger got her chance after her sister rode. I also hooked up the drum kit to my laptop so that the girls could do Melodics. They’ll get there, eventually. I had fun with it as well.

I had also been talking about an ‘adventure’ with the girls on Saturday, but we postponed it because the kids were having so much fun playing outside. But Elder asked me about it after lunch and we decided to go for it. I wanted to bring the kids on a longer (3mi) hike to see how they did. I didn’t want to get stuck with them out on an excursion in CR if they weren’t up to it, so I needed a baseline. We went to a popular foot trail across town, which circumnavigated a pond or creek near the river. It was full of elevation changes and I knew it would challenge the girls more than flat land.

So we went. I had my backpack with water and some snacks, and I took the kids — and by that I mean my girls and the neighbors two eldest — who had their own backpacks full of enough fruit to last a week. Or so I thought.

The first half mile was OK, I guess, the kids gave me a bit of trouble with the bags they were carrying. By the second mile they were marching through the woods, singing Christmas carols as they marched through the woods. It was the cutest thing I’d ever seen. They’d also been singing along with the holiday music that I had put on the radio. Sometimes it’s good to be a dad.

We made it out of the woods to a small park near a bridge. At the end of the bridge stand these large lion statues, so we took a break to take some pictures, then we headed out on the final leg of our journey. The trail split, one going back into the woods, meandering up and down the hills around the lake. The other was a paved path and took a straight shot back to the parking lot where we arrived. We took the short path.

This is where things started to go wrong. The girls were obviously tuckered out at this point. I held their hands and walked slowly with them. Younger had been holding her bladder pretty much the whole trip by now. She had told me that she didn’t need to go several times before we entered the woods, then told me she had to go after we were a half mile down the trail. I stopped to use a Porto-potty, but the girls were too fearful of using them.

As we came up within sight of the parking lot, the girls got in a fight. Younger ran down a hill and somehow got hit by her friend, then she retaliated. She was very sensitive, and tried to go off by herself to regulate, but I wasn’t about to have her running off. In hindsight, this is where I should have corrected, as Younger just got worse and worse from there.

I tried to distract the kids with a small playground that was just off the parking lot, but bathroom needs soon took over and the kids made a beeline for the toilets. I packed them up and we headed to Dairy Queen for their reward.

We went inside DQ, I let the kids order a chili or hot dog and a mini-Blizzard. While I was trying to finagle myself into a free Blizzard the kids were arguing over seating. The three girls, Younger on the end, were crammed into one side of the booth leaving S., the only boy, on the other side. I told Younger to move over but she said she’d rather sit outside. Fine, I said.

After a minute outside, she started screaming. I lost it. She said the other kids were teasing her through the window. It escalated from there. She was too sensitive and everything I told her just made her more and more furious. It doesn’t matter if the other kids are teasing you, I said, you don’t get to act like that. She tried to plant herself on the ground right in the main walkway. Thankfully no one was at the restaurant.

I picked her up and plopped her in the seat, against her wishes. I brought the food out and warned her that if she didn’t eat now, and tried to start eating after everyone else had finished that she was going to have to wait till we got home. She said nothing, knees pulled to her chest. Just a scowl.

And then, when it was time to go, what did she do? Told me she was hungry. By that time I had manhandled her into the car, and I was livid. How dare you, I told her. I had gone out of my way to make the day special: arranging things with Santa to have Christmas early, and I had taken her and her friends out for a hike and literally bought her ice cream. How dare she?! She tried to tell me to leave her alone, and I was so mad the only thing I could do was berate her. I think I called her spoiled and might have cussed, I’m pretty sure. But I told her the other kids were getting in the car and she better not say another word or she was dead meat. I think I had already grounded her at this point.

I’ll not mention the car ride back. It was pretty uncomfortable for all of us. I apologized for losing my temper and being an asshole. It was not my best moment. So we got home, Younger ran in to go to her room, and I unpacked the car.

It was not the best day ever.

There’s probably a lot here I could psychoanalyze about my childhood. There was a lot of yelling. When I was younger, my parents left me with a friend of the family, someone’s mom, for babysitting after school. It was not great. The woman, who I’d describe as morbidly obese, lived in the small house with her sister, who was blind. All I remember from those days is sitting in the living room watching game shows, and the occasional arguments, which would devolve into yelling and screaming. I obviously wasn’t comfortable in that house, but I’m not sure I ever mentioned anything to my parents. I must have been nine, maybe?

Of course the dads did a lot of yelling and hitting back then. Me and my brother, our cousins, would all get whipped when we misbehaved. Sometimes it was a wooden spoon, or a belt, or when we were real bad, we were threatened with breaking a switch off a tree. Don’t get a dry one that’s gonna break, or you’ll have to get another one. Needless to say, that was a threat that carried weight. I remember also one time we were so bad on a road trip that my dad pulled over, made us get out, pull our pants down and put our hands on the bumper of the car. Then he gave us a bare-assed spanking right on the side of the highway were everyone could see. I remember stories about this even more than I remember the event itself.

So not to end this post on a horrible down note, but this is the discipline that my parents taught me. Of course hitting your kids is wrong, and yelling at them is much better, but I’ve never acquired the soft skills that good daycare workers have. Missus picked up some skills during her career, so she’s able to subtly misdirect the kids’ attention better than I can. I’m more like Judge Dredd when it comes to conflict resolution.

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