Wednesday, December 07, 2005

0 for 2

Lance's grandparents belonged the Los Angeles Country Club for many many years, and although his grandfather died a few years ago, his grandmother ("Nana") remains a member. Every year, the LACC puts on a Christmas show for the children of their members. Apparently, my mother-in-law (Linda) used to take my husband and his brothers to the show every year, though Lance claims to have no real memory of this. For the past few years, my mother-in-law has wanted to re-create these memories with her grandchildren.

Aside: my mother-in-law is an interesting and at times infuriating person, but her heart is generally in the right place. One thing about her: she takes it personally whenever Lance and I raise our kids in a way that is not exactly the same as how she did it. She saved all the toys from when her sons were growing up, and these are what my children play with at her house. She even buys old toys on e-Bay, claiming that toys "these days" are useless. She has given me clothes that Lance wore as a child for Isaac. She is not Catholic, but since her boys went to Catholic school, she is appalled that we are not considering it, and makes comments about this whenever she gets a chance. The party at the LACC is just another facet of this personality "quirk" of hers: she wants my children to have the exact same childhood as her children did, and her children went to this party, so my children must.

The party at the LACC is complete and utter hell. Imagine a room filled with 200 spoiled blonde kids ages 0 to 14 running around willy nilly in their expensive clothes. Then add the 400 parents and grandparents, all dressed to the nines, trying to be social while the kids run amok. The temperature in the room is 90 degrees. The line to sit on Santa's lap is hours long, and takes even longer than the ones in the mall since here, the parents take the photo. Which, in this environment, means that each parent takes about 50 shots, making sure to get just the right one. No consideration, at all, for the people in line behind them. Random children run through the shot because their parents don't bother trying to rein them in, or teach them manners. In the midst of the madhouse are two "elves", who make balloon shaped animals for kids. Balloons which pop loudly. Kids demand 3 and 4 balloons each, and it doesn't matter who else is waiting in line for one. Other little charmers take their candy cane shaped balloons and bang the face of the elf repeatedly, even after their father says weakly, "Okay, Madison, that's enough."

Trying to corral two toddlers in this mess was challenging, as you might imagine. The show starts at 4, but my mother-in-law insisted that we get there early, around 3:15, to be sure we got a good seat. That means I have to start getting the kids ready at 2:15 or so--right in the middle of naptime. Isaac didn't nap at all. Vivian had just fallen into a deep sleep when I had to wake her. We got lost (of course!) on the way there, and Isaac almost fell asleep in the car. Once there, my usually boisterous son was completely undone by the chaos. He didn't want to sit with me, he didn't want to wait for Santa, he thought he wanted a balloon, but it took too long. My mother-in-law tried to take him outside for a few minutes, but they had roped off the fountain and encouraged everyone to stay inside. He was seconds away from tears the whole afternoon. Nana was there, too. She is a wonderful woman, but she has Alzheimer's and is very unsteady on her feet, so really Linda and I were babysitting her as well. Vivian, to my surprise, didn't seem overwhelmed at all, and even laughed and giggled with some other children, instead of hiding her face in my legs. But this did not work in my favor, since she was constantly trying to explore other areas of the room, and I had to run after her, catch her when her new Mary Janes tripped her up, and keep her from stepping on any other children, or cutting in the Santa line. All
this, while still keeping an eye out for Isaac.

At some point, they started setting up for the "show" (a juggler and some marionettes). All the kids took a seat on the floor in front of the stage. At that moment I was chasing Vivian, and Linda was sitting with Nana and Isaac. Suddenly I looked up to see Isaac in the middle of the "stage", inspecting the microphone stand. Linda was nowhere to be seen. I tried to call him back, but he couldn't hear me over the din of a thousand children. I had to step over twenty kids, holding Vivian on my hip, until I finally made my way to him and explained that he needed to be on the sides of the stage, with the other children. The juggler rolled his eyes at me and snorted "Jesus!" under his breath as I apologized and whisked Isaac away.

The show was fine, the kids were interested for about 10 minutes and then I had to distract them both for the next 30 minutes while it dragged on and on. Afterwards, a stampede of children and adults swarmed past us, headed for the dining room. Linda insisted we head back there too: they hand out cookies!, she said. We always used to get cookies! Fortunately a nice gentlemen informed her that there would be no cookies until after dinner this year, and so we were allowed to leave. Which was REALLY fun, since now it was 5 pm in Los Angeles. The 5.6 mile distance from the club to my home? A one hour drive.

The thing that kills me the most about our whole debacle? The exact same thing happened last year. Pure hell, every minute of it. So I knew what I was getting into, but had to grin and bear it anyway, just to placate Linda. I deserve so many medals for daughter-in-law of the year! Just like last year, as we made our way out to the cars, Linda apologized for all the confusion, and said, "Next year it will be more fun, the kids will be older. We can probably stay for dinner then."

Yeah. Just what would make the afternoon that much more enjoyable: to stay and eat dinner in a crowded dining room where Vivian would spill the water and Isaac would not want to sit still. Where the food would be ridiculously expensive and un-appetizing. Where the kids menu would not offer anything that was not made with dairy or peanuts. Where it would still be 90 degrees and I would be required to smile and make small talk with any number of well-dressed, wealthy moms who look much more put together than I could ever imagine and are prettier and younger than I am too.

Ah, Christmas.

Last year:
Amy, Vivi & Isaac at LACC This year:DSC02426

No comments: