My dad and stepmom are in town to meet the kids. It’s been wonderful to connect them to my new family. So primal! It feels strange that they’re “only now” meeting the kids, which shows how huge the last three months have been in my life—years worth of changes in a blink. No wonder I feel like I have whiplash!

Our daughter wasted no time indoctrinating them into her favorite activities, which are Uno, several board games, and “rock climbing” (which involves very specific routines on very specific rocks). Grandma and Grandpa oo’d and aah’d in all the right places. Plus they brought stuffed snakes. What’s not to love?

Where I expected trouble, all went great. A kite I bought somewhat doubtfully entertained us all for over 30 minutes. Maybe 45. That’s an incredibly high return value on my $12. Fearfully taking the kids to a nice restaurant for lunch, being prepared to take them out of there and miss lunch if they acted up, they were only normally boisterous, and didn’t embarrass me too much.

But my “surefire” plans have been a bit of a disaster. A nice dinner at home for the grandparents and friends was a mess, the kids refusing to eat my Cornflake-crusted Tilapia (it was never-fail until tonight) and just melting down all over the place. Bedtime, which has gotten relatively calm, sounded like the shreiking, hollering scare house at Halloween, and when we finally decided to let the little one cry it out, he decided to show us who has more stamina, with his “I’m being stabbed right now” screams and plaintive cries to anyone who’d have mercy and go get his bleary-tired butt out of bed. Finally he went to sleep.

Who knew children will not perform on demand when you really really want them to?

Our reactions were interesting. I realized how invested I was in showing off to my folks that we’ve got it together and know what we’re doing, with obedient, happy, and well-mannered children. They’ve been that much of the visit, but not tonight. I was embarrassed and mad that they wouldn’t follow my plan. You might also say I was dumb to expect it, and you’d be right. Will I ever learn that the “picture perfect” version of me I think people expect is not only unnecessary, it’s demented? No one but me expects the crazy, impossible things I do. And it’s doubly unfair to put that crap on our kids.

Will I ever learn that the “picture perfect” version of me I think people expect is not only unnecessary, it’s demented?

Jay, on the other hand, was relieved our friends saw the more challenging side of the kids. When they behave well for company, and people tell us how lucky we are, he feels they’re not appreciating what it can be like sometimes. He’s a little sick of hearing about how blissed out he should be and I think he’s relieved when somebody’s feeling our pain.

Grandparents and friends were wonderful, helping out, laughing about the drama, acting like our little tornadoes are just normal kids.

Which, really, they are. And that’s the biggest miracle of all.