Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sneaky Stuff

Since today's  playdate has gone into approved overtime and I've already got dinner made, I've time to share a funny one...

I knew it would happen, some time soon. Just like losing his baby teeth. It's bound to happen, at some point, but you just don't know when.

Last Friday night,Joe and I went out together, enjoying Happy Hour at an actual 'dress-up' restaurant sans enfant; Kiddo was having a playdate with a good friend. Saturday came along, and I got the news that my little guy is growing up.

"Mom!" he said, his face lit up, "We sneaked chocolate last night!" 

"Oh, really?" I was surprised, but not entirely. See, I've heard this before with the kids I nannied--their excited faces as they triumphantly retold how they got into the candy stash or the cookies.  How they were so happy to finally have gotten one over on their parents. 

And they all say to me the same thing: "Don't tell."

 I would remind them that if they know it's a wrong thing, they shouldn't be doing it. And I would later privately tell the parent, with the reminder to just be more aware of their child's increasing abilities and to please, not mention this to the child as an "Hazel told us you said", but to keep an eye open.  We want to keep the lines of communication open, and to keep all the adults in the loop. At least, I would want this. 

So dear Kiddo, in his infinite glee, said the same thing to me. "Don't tell my friend's mom and dad." 

"Oh?" I replied, waiting to hear what his reason would be for this. Perhaps he didn't want to get his buddy into trouble. 

His motives, however, were less altruistic. "No, don't tell, because when I go over there next time, I want us to SNEAK IT AGAIN!" Cue the sugar-crazed eyes and delight at the prospect of doing it a second time. 

First, let me say that I know that kids are going to be 'sneaky'. This started with whispering 'potty talk' to each other when we were out and about. Okay. I get it. And I KNOW they are supposed to try and sneak sweets. 

But what concerned me was that while I could talk my face off about why it's wrong to sneak and steal candy--at home or with friends-- it  was still probably likely to happen. What I could do, more constructively, was to at least give him good information. "Let me show you something you should remember if you are getting into candy..." I took him into the bathroom and found some different types of medicine packets and bottles.  We looked at the foil packets, and I explained that if he ever sees chocolate in packets like this, not to eat it. "It's for making people go poop, and it can really hurt your tummy." We looked at bottles with lids that couldn't come off--"that's for medicine. If it's in a package that's hard to get into, it's not candy." Then, we went into the kitchen and examined the chocolate stash, the bright colors and pictures on the wrappers, how they were easy to get into.  "This is why you should always ask an adult. Because something could look like candy, but it could make you sick, or worse."

If he's going to sneak something, I want him to do it as safely as possible. 
The same can be said for alcohol, or sex. We don't want them to do these things when they get older, but we can inform them about safety. About not getting into a car if you are intoxicated or your friend is, but calling home. About reproductive health, and why it's best to wait to be in a long-term, committed relationship, and how to protect yourself and your partner both physically and emotionally. 
Even about weapons safety; I want him to know what a real gun looks like so it becomes perceived as something we don't touch or  play with, instead of an object of uneducated curiosity which could kill someone.

For me, it's about giving him the best information possible so that if he does make the decision to do something I don't approve of or agree with, at least he might do it as responsibly as possible.

We do the same thing with things that are dangerous, without the overhanging moral implications. We give kids driver's education classes and make them pass a license test. No one (excepting some religions) really has a moral argument regarding driving an auto, but we all know it's potentially dangerous, and so we advise our children:  No texting, driving while distracted, driving while under the influence of any drug or medication. We teach our children how to use power tools (don't tell me you can't hurt yourself with a sewing machine or electric mixer!), we teach them how to use a potentially-dangerous internet in safe ways.... all because we want our kids to one day be able to do these things themselves, safely and responsibly.

After assuring Kiddo that even though I wasn't happy he was sneaking things, that I was really, really glad that he had told me,  I talked it over with Joe. We both agreed that we would want to know, and so...

Last night, I told the mother what was up. "Just so you know what my little guy is scheming" I said lightly. I didn't want to put anyone on the spot, and in the big picture, this is small potatoes. "And you totally have my permission to bust him if  you catch him" I laughed. I explained that I was encouraging honesty and was not going to make a huge issue out of it, and that I'd been clear with Kiddo that if he was caught, "you know, they would not be pleased. In fact, they might really be pretty upset." Before our playdate today, Kiddo and I also discussed that asking first means that you 'might' get something you are wanting; sneaking it would mean a certain "no" and a loss of privileges. "Oh" he replied, his little face sobering right up.

These things will happen. The sneaky stuff. Oh, shit, I know-- it's only just begun. But I think, for a beginning, it wasn't a terrible one. 

With Plenty of Grace...

Somehow, we have made it more or less peacefully through the holiday season in our household.

I've been doing a bit of "finding what's important" in both how we went about celebrating our holiday and in how I've been running the household. Kiddo was stuck with too much in his room-- all his favorite things-- and I finally gave him the help of moving most of them out for a time. This gave us a more-approachable 'mess' to deal with together at the end of the day. Five year olds still need a lot of guidance when it comes to tackling clean-ups, and my sweet boy is no exception. Having much put away into storage in the basement means that we really do clean up one activity before the next one comes out.  This is good for me because I am also seeing what's really being used.

Activities-wise, I am still a 'less is more' person, and Joe is still a 'more is more fun' person and we managed to negotiate that little "pushmipullyu" successfully this year. 

Yesterday, Kiddo wanted to pull out the kitchen play toys and the little kitchen, which we've stored downstairs. It's a piece of furniture of some consequence and not something for me to tote upstairs alone, so we crafted a 'kitchen' from two chairs side by side, with a blanket over them, a plastic dishpan and an old box.  He cut out some construction paper burners and taped them on (thanks to honorary "Auntie" Lissa, for the much needed paper and tape!) and then I used a knife to cut out a door for the oven. What a fine time we had as he made up several culinary creations, and we cut out tiny confetti from paper scraps to put in a shaker container....which of course went everywhere, but that is what brooms are for.

I deliberately set December 26th aside as a day to just relax. No returning anything, a minimal shopping trip, and still, we had that rough afternoon I had expected. I was a bit too flexible on a few things when I probably should have been in 'authoritative mama' mode-- it really is a guessing game sometimes, knowing when to press them a little harder on things and when to back off. I went with backing off a bit, thinking that he'd been running to everyone's schedule but his own, and I am pretty sure that I would have had similar results and a digging in of heels if I had pressed. Some days, there are no easy wins, but by the time I was walking out the door to meet a girlfriend, he was happy, and that was enough.  At the beginning of that day, he'd said he'd wanted time with me-- and even with several times of being exclusively together, undivided attention and all, it seemed like it wasn't enough.

I'm trying to be flexible but still keep on with the daily necessary schedule. Some days, it seems that even if I spend all day with Kiddo, it is still not enough for him.  I think a lot of parents feel this way sometimes. And even when I follow my own advice,  call him over to play in the sudsy sink while I wash dishes beside him, it still somehow escapes his notice that I am making an effort. I likely couldn't spend any more time with him-- and truly with him, playing games, playing kitchen, cutting snowflakes, reading and engaging-- unless I packed him back up into the womb. Ha! 

I understand why holidays are so hard for kids. Think about all the dopamine they get rushed with every time they open up a present they like? Two nights before Christmas, I was heading upstairs when Kiddo called out from his room, all dark except for the strand of colored lights in one window.

"What are you needing, sweetie?" He looked anxious and tired.

"I need to open a present tomorrow." Of course he did. We hadn't even put anything under the tree to avoid this stress for him. 

"Sure, you can." I don't stand on ceremony, and I figured that a little outlet would be a gift to us all.

"First thing in the morning?" Yep. First thing the next morning I pulled out my sister Amanda's gift to him, some Citi Blocs, which are so awesome, let me just say. He spent most of the day coming back to this activity. Having something to concentrate on besides waiting for the presents the next day seemed to be a calming strategy. He opened something that night, too, and had a few more things to open the next morning. 

This year, there weren't too many presents, just enough. Sometimes, it's me that's overwhelmed by Kiddo's Christmas Haul and I wonder what I'm going to do with ALL THE TOYS. This year, having already cleared a lot out, it was easy to find space for what he was given. It helped that some gifts were practical, like art supplies,while others were books. He's old enough now to want to assemble Lego sets via the little guidebook that comes with the kits. This, he is working toward mastery on. One little X-Wing, given him by a dear cousin, has been taken apart and reassembled several times. Christmas Night, he wanted more time to work on it-- and giving him that extra 20 minutes to stay up apparently made me the 'best mom in the world'. And a hug and kiss. "This is to say Thank You" he told me. 

I've got a pretty nice kid.

I'm ready for the slow-down. For the slow undressing of the holiday from our home. For school to start in a week. I'm hungry for it, truthfully, the way I was hungry for school to close and to have some good time with our family. To have the lazy mornings in our pajamas. And now I'm ready to pick the routine back up again. Ready to go back to Monday mornings working at the school library. Ready for the 12 noon pickup, the walk home and lunch together, the afternoons together. 

It's nice, all this change, this season. Hugs to all of you, those who pop in to see what we're up to. Hugs and blessing for the New Year. May your return to the usual routines be a good, familiar thing.