With Plenty of Grace...
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.