Dear Compadres in Parenting During the Holiday Season,
Just checking in to make sure everyone is keeping perspective in the chaos. I haven’t been- really- honestly- until today at school when my advisory, clearly the most awesome advisory I’m advising at this moment in time, when we celebrated a potluck lunch and Yankee Swap (which incidentally is called “Dirty Santa” south of the Mason Dixon line, a fun fact I learned this past week). We talked to one another, shared lunch, and gifts. They understand the meaning of the holidays. Yet, my children do not, and that is rather embarrassing, given our concerted efforts over their 7 and 8 years of life.
We really do live in the BEST town. I’m pretty sure kids here learn to be good by the community caring that happens here, and they must also absorb some of that awesomeness by osmosis; or at least that’s what I’m counting on! Our community filled police cruisers with new toys for local kids this past Sunday; we celebrated Rita Tamulonis turning 100 years old with a police escort through town and to her church; we adopted families in need; we provide coats for cold kiddos and food for empty bellies, and toys for parents who can’t. I’m truly counting on this osmosis thing to guide our children because the fact that I’m a school teacher and my husband works at our local mountain and runs a non-profit for people with disabilities, our kids are missing some of the “big picture” and we need help– helping them to see it.
That Matt Damon skit on “Saturday Night Live” about the “magic” of Christmas with small children is hilarious and capitalizes on the more challenging aspects of this time of year. However, our kids need to understand how lucky they are. The bottom line is that they don’t. Yet. I’m counting on this community to help us– and to teach them. To model for them. To demonstrate all that is good and not so good in the greater world. For example, this one in the above photo tonight thought it would be hilarious to drop the STACK of 5-7 books we picked up at the library on her brother’s shirtless chest, from a bit of a height advantage and when he was least expecting it. In public, she is the easier child, but at home, she is fairly violent. My friend Becky explains this younger sibling “mentality” as not really in the moment but retaliatory for something that may have happened last Tuesday before bedtime; she has held the feelings in until this vey moment. Well, tonight, she apologized very quickly and while he was still screaming from the pain, unable to hear her apology. Once he stopped crying, she apologized a second time under duress.
Both children were sent to their rooms mostly to think it over. Mostly, to protect them from each other and from me and so people didn’t read about me on the local news station the following day. Moments later, we read a story, after all we had brought a stack of library books home. Carver read to the dog, and I read to Greta a book about Hanukkah, as she has had a lot of questions about how that celebration is different from Christmas. Why not check out a book about Hanukkah, right?
Every other page.
“Mom, I’m really mad at you for making me apologize twice.”
I ignore her and keep reading like all good parents in America.
“Mom, that means the next time I hurt him I won’t have to say, ‘I’m sorry’ because I will have one saved up, like in the bank.”
And I sigh, and feel like a total parental failure for one mili-second.
“That’s not how apologies work, honey, you don’t get to stock up on them like cereal or crackers or non perishables. You have to apologize when you’ve done someone wrong.”
Although later when I’m retelling the story to Geoff on the couch, he thinks it is hilarious to say, “Honey, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry for anything that may happen next week,” and it’s suddenly clear to me that she has inherited this trait from him. When it comes to apologizing, Geoff is NOT good at it. Instead of arguing or admitting his wrongness, he simply says, “I’m sorry this makes you feel that way” or, even worse, “I understand” which is neither an admission nor an apology. It is NOTHING! He claims this response is an “acknowledgment of understanding” and that he “has heard me.”
So, listen, we need help. We are good people. We help others. We listen. We contribute positively to society, and, well, even though our kids are completely adapted and comfortable with people with disabilities, they may still struggle with general manners, kindness, and overall “how to be a good person.”
Confession: I may or may not have steam-rolled my son this weekend on the snow after telling him repeatedly he was playing too rough with his sister. After being steamrolled by his mother in the snow, he feared he had a punctured lung or spinal cord injury. Not to be outdone, I told him I was sorry he was feeling that way and understood that he must have been very frustrated by no one listening to his feelings.
Ditto. Over and over again. Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy whatever you maybe need to dig deep in to believe you too will survive this most favorite time of the year!