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Instinct Exists for a Reason

My mother-in-law lives two miles away from us, but rarely sees the kids. She is chronically busy. So busy no mortal could ever begin to comprehend the busy, busy level of her busy-ness. I'm not completely being sarcastic - she IS always on the run. There's her prayer group, her charity meetings, her part-time job as a church receptionist, her chauffering of her mentally disabled daughter to various events including special olympics meets and social functions. Having grandkids over is always on her list, but a person can only do so much, and she's the type of person who will either do something perfectly or not at all.

In light of the fact that she suddenly realized that she's never had Bryce and Quinn spend the night at her house, she decided to orchestrate something she termed "Nana Camp". She invited all of her grandkids over for a blowout bash - carnival games, movies, cookie-baking, halloween stories, everyone sleeping in one huge lovely cousin bed, waffles for breakfast and home to the parents with a bag of goodies. She spent weeks planning the event, had t-shirts made, re-arranged her house to accomodate the number of kids and the activities, mailed formal invitations to each child, and wrote "Camp Rules" to review upon the campers' arrival. See what I mean? When she does something, she takes it to complete perfection. Everything was perfect except for one thing: my reaction.

It's a nice idea, I guess - Nana Camp. Any other mom would have been chomping at the bit for a chance to have a night out while the kids get entertained for free. But, I am spoiled with a mom who keeps my kids at her house on a regular basis so John and I can go out, AND I had a few issues with the idea anyway. For one thing, Quinn still sleeps in a crib and doesn't do well in new sleep situations. John's mom has never kept him over night and is therefore not privy to this - plus she'd have four OTHER kids to deal with. Not a good scenario. I predicted Quinn wouldn't go to sleep, which would mean he'd be delirious and cranky. And for another, Bryce is anal and routine-dependent. He can be flexible and is moreso than he used to be, but a situation involving sugar, a late night, cousins he's not used to being around, and a new sleeping arrangement would be too much for him. I predicted some sort of meltdown, or at the very least, an uncomfortable, maybe even scared, kid. I didn't like that.

John agreed with my concerns, but in the end he convinced me they would be fine. It's just one night, after all. No big deal. I went against my better judgment and let the whole thing go. When we got there with the kids, the cousins were running around playing carnival games with a dazed, over-stimulated look on their faces. Bryce and Quinn stood there like stunned animals, and then joined in. We stayed for about 15 minutes and then said our goodbyes. When we got in the car, I said to John, "Bryce is not comfortable in there." I was thinking John would blow me off and say I was reading too much into things, but he said, "Yeah, I know. He is really different in those situations - he even walks differently." At Quinn's bedtime, I made John call his mom to check in. She told him Quinn was asleep and Bryce was peacefully watching a movie with the other kids, and we both breathed a sigh of relief, thinking his mom was as amazing as she seemed, and had everything so under control that Quinn didn't terrorize the whole group and Bryce didn't go into a pre-schooler depression the way I'd predicted. We went to a movie and I thought, "Huh, maybe I've been wrong about this. I am really a control freak. I'm glad she proved me wrong and the kids are fine."

When we picked them up the next morning, we got some new information. Huh!...It actually turns out that Quinn didn't go to sleep at all when they'd tried to put him down (Hannah and John's sister were there as "Nana Camp counselors" ), and in fact had...wait for it...wait for it...SCREAMED HIS BLOODY HEAD OFF and refused to sleep! Oh! How strange and unexpected! We had apparently called during the 15 minutes when he'd fooled everyone into thinking he was going right to sleep in this strange bed, in this strange house, with all sorts of fun noises coming from the room with the other kids in it. Let's see, what else did we learn? Oh, that's right - Bryce started crying 15 minutes after we left, saying he wanted his mom and he wanted to go home. Wow, really?? Bryce was upset in a chaotic and unfamiliar situation?

The kids were like some sort of unstable compound when we got them home; it was all I could do to keep them from spontaneously combusting until nap time. They were so exhausted that every little interaction and feeling became magnified by millions. The usual, "Mom, will you read me a book?" turned into a sobfest: "I want to read this book, mom! No, not that one, this one! Mom, mom, MOOOHOOOOHOOOHOOOOMMMMMM!"

John's mom came by a little later to drop Hannah off, and when she came through the door looking so haggard and exhausted, and with that, "I pulled it off, but I'm glad it's over" look in her eye, I realized that there was a pretty good reason she'd waited so long to have them over. My predictions had indeed come true - Quinn didn't sleep, Bryce freaked out. Having raised four children in her life, and having played a big role in John's older kids' lives during his divorce and an era when he worked ridiculous hours, she's not at all unfamiliar with kids, and I'm sure she expected the same level of chaos that I had. I appreciate what she wanted to do, but I wish the kids' experience didn't have to be dotted with points of fear and sadness, and I think if it hadn't been such a huge, overstimulating event, it would have been different for them.

What is it they say about good intentions? The road to hell is paved with them, right? Yes, but whose hell, exactly?? The owner of the good intentions, or the recipients of whatever supposedly selfless deed was done? SHE with the good intentions got to go home and take a nap. I got left with a couple of the earth's most volatile compounds. And the poor kids...they're walking around with post-traumatic stress disorder. Luckily they're young enough that a nap still heals all. Nonetheless, next time I'm going with my gut.