Spirit of Christmas, through a child’s eyes

Yesterday, we were headed to the Seattle airport to fly to Denver. Christmas in Colorado is always a good thing, and Christmas with our son is even better.

This was a year to celebrate early with the Littles to accommodate shared family time.

I was riding in the back seat with Riley, watching her draw a holiday scene with six-year-old skill, the faces of her stick figures showing that charming combination of cartoon, and child-view of what humans really look like. (Hint, they have very big eyes.)

She was absorbed in her drawing, the others in the car were caught up in their conversations.

Something caught her eye, and looking out the window, she said, “I see homeless!” We were driving past the over-passes in the downtown of Seattle, and you can often spot tents and temporary shelters that homeless folk have set up. Riley has seen those tents before, has a child’s concept of what “homeless” means.

She looked at me with troubled eyes. “Are some children homeless?”

Yes, I was honest with her. There are many homeless children.

She grew quiet, looked thoughtful.

“I want to have homeless children come to my house for Christmas.”

I didn’t try to tell her that’s not really practical, or even possible. I saw it, in a flash of her six-year-old eyes. I saw awareness that she had more than some, and that awareness triggered a generous impulse. It was the impulse of a child, who doesn’t understand the complexities of social issues, or logistics, or the cost of anything.

She just wanted to help children who are less fortunate.

Like many Americans of my station in life, I worry a bit. Especially this time of year. I can’t help but wonder if Riley and Jack will be spoiled, the product of well-intentioned family and parents, who want to give them a good life.

It’s easy to give to the point of doing damage, and while my daughter and her husband are thoughtful about the gifts they give the Littles, they can’t control everyone around them. The reality is that many American children have too much stuff, but not enough of the right stuff.

Seeing Riley’s face, looking out the window, thinking about homeless children who will not wake up to a warm and merry Christmas, I felt reassured for her. She’s getting it, the real meaning of the holiday, which is all about giving…the ultimate gift.

And it made me think…what if adults could be more focused on just doing what needs doing, less caught up in the political / social / financial aspects of reaching out? Yes, I understand that it’s easy to talk about doing for others, but the moment you begin to think about how, you’re confronted with difficult realities. Which is probably why most people, myself included, are usually contented with giving money to charities, and tell ourselves we’ve done our part.

Riley made me think about that in a different way. This year, I want to be more hands-on. I don’t know what that could look like. But I think it could be good.

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You never know what seemingly insignificant moments will impact life. I couldn’t guess, sitting beside Riley yesterday, if that moment will stay with her, shape her in years to come. Maybe. Maybe not.

But I think it was a moment that will stay with me. It was a moment when a child reminded me, in the midst of Christmas travel and gifting and busy-ness, what we should really be about…not out of guilt or pressure, but because sharing with those who have less is the right thing to do. I know that, and I practice that. But Riley reminded me that at least some component of giving should be done in person. That’s when we know the real meaning of sharing…when we connect face to face.

I shared this story to encourage, not to guilt, and to promise myself that I want to give differently. So much of my giving is convenient, sanitary, impersonal. There is value to giving money, I don’t want to minimize that. But I want to acknowledge, it’s not really personal.

Thank you, Riley, for the Christmas lesson, though you weren’t aware it meant anything to me.

And I thought she was the one learning the lessons of life!

Blessings, peace, and Merry Christmas!

~ Sheila

 

 

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Second grade super tooth

So, following the tooth fairy story, I have to give equal time to Alex.

He was ever my unconventional child. If Stephanie is the type-A firstborn, Alex is an out-of-the-box free spirit. He marched to his own drummer as a child, and still does to this day.

His early tooth adventures were uneventful, as I recall. Or rather, don’t recall; the point being that they must have been pretty ordinary, or I would still be slightly twitching. (That’s what repeated childhood dental trauma does, causes the mom to twitch.)

It was second grade that marked me.

He was in a new school, we had just moved, and we were in that phase when we wanted to make a great impression. You know, when you hope your shining parenting skills are showing every day, hoping your little cherub is fitting in and doing well.

I knew he had a loose tooth, knew it was just a matter of time till it was out. We were going through the familiar routine…

“Just let me check it…how loose is it? Let me help you pull it.” “No!” “Let your dad look at it.” “No!” “Let Stephanie look at it.” “No!” “OK, just keep wiggling it,”

Every day, the same conversation after school. “Let me see, still got it?” “Yep!”

Finally, one morning, a few minutes before time for school, Alex came running into the kitchen. I was deep in lunch boxes, not looking at him, just listening. I heard the escalating tone of voice.

“Mommy, look!”

“Mommy, look!!”

I turned around and saw this horrifying sight…his loose front tooth was turned around backward. It was still attached, and it was backward in his head.

My little guy, cute as he could be, was suddenly slightly frightening. Have you ever seen a tooth facing backward? Made me feel queasy just looking at it.

I didn’t even know such a thing was possible, and now here it was in my second grader. And it was almost time for school.

The only thing I could think was, he was not going to school with a backward tooth in his head. That just wasn’t right. I remember feeling indignant. How could he do this?! What was he thinking?

Of course he wasn’t thinking, he was just being a second-grader. I’m sure he was just as shocked as I was. Neither of us expected this turn of events…literally, this turn of events.

I must have sounded like someone out of a comedy show. I think I said something like “You can pull that tooth or turn it around, but you’re not going to school like that!”

I have to admit, I don’t know why it seemed so unacceptable to me that he would show up with a backward facing tooth. I’m sure no one at school would have thought we planned this, or thought we thought this was the new style for loose tooth management. But in that moment it seemed unthinkable. Nor did I see myself keeping him home from school for a loose tooth, much less a backward facing loose tooth.

I briefly rehearsed explaining the reason for his absence to the intimidating woman who answered the school attendance line…no, unthinkable. I was not going to find myself explaining this to her. I could almost feel disapproval as I imagined the scene in my mind.

“You allowed your son to turn his tooth backward?!”

I hadn’t allowed him to do it, and I was pretty sure he was surprised as well.

I hadn’t read about this in my parenting books! Now what?

Such are the thoughts that race through a mom’s mind when confronted with a backward-facing-toothed second-grader.

It was traumatic, I tell you!

He seemed to accept that he had to make a choice with the tooth and he ran out of the kitchen. I thought the answer was obvious, and as I hurriedly wrapped up lunch prep, I confidently expected to see him come back, new gap in his smile, tooth in hand.

But Alex was rarely predictable. Imagine my surprise when he ran back in, all smiles, ready to go, tooth turned around and facing the right way again.

I couldn’t believe he could have turned it backward and it still hung on, and now he’d managed to turn it back around, and it was still there. Was this super tooth or something?!

Well, he got to go to school. And the tooth came out in due time. Not much more time, but not that morning either. It was a resilient loose tooth!

Wish I’d  made a photo!

 

Little milestones

Riley girl, princess extraordinaire, favorite six-year-old, lost her first tooth last night.

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My baby’s baby is getting big.

She was eating dinner and out it came. Just like that! No tears, no trauma. No drama.

I was afraid a door and a string might be in her future.

Loosing baby teeth wasn’t easy for her mom.

She lost the first one eating a bowl of cereal. Never did find that tooth!

The second one came out with a fall when she was skiing. There was a little blood on the snow, but no tooth. Never did find it…well, white tooth, white snow…

The next few teeth came out in the dentist’s chair. The baby teeth were slow to loosen, and the permanent teeth were pushing their way in. The dentist said it would be best to pull them. I think he pulled four at once. The teeth, our first to present to the tooth fairy, were placed in a little plastic tooth holder on a little plastic necklace. Stephanie wanted to wear it home, she was so proud.

We stopped by the grocery to pick up something soft and appetizing for her…ice cream or yogurt…I can’t remember now, it’s been too long. But I vividly remember the next scene. Alex in the seat of the cart, food in the front of the cart, and Stephanie, suddenly in tears and inconsolable…the little cover on her plastic tooth had opened while we strolled through the store. It was a big store.

And now, no teeth. Again!

I back-tracked, trying to assure her we would find a tooth or two, at least, I was sure of that! We paraded back through the aisles, walking slow, trying to look for tiny white  baby teeth along the way. A kind clerk tried to help us, joining in the hunt.

We did find a couple of teeth…not quite the bounty we expected to present to the tooth fairy, but something.

Finally, after checking out, full cart, consoled child, I realized: no car keys.

Somehow, in all the uproar, I’d lost my keys as well.

I had to call Rob for rescue. He had to leave the hospital and bring his keys so we could get home before ice cream melted and the remaining teeth escaped.

I left word with the grocery customer service desk: if they found any baby teeth, or a set of car keys, please call this frantic mom.

Oh it was traumatic! But the tooth fairy did find her way to us that night, and paid on all the teeth. (As she had on the others that were lost. Tooth fairies understand: these things happen.)

I did eventually get my keys back.

Never did find those teeth!

So it’s with pleasure that I learn Riley’s first tooth adventure was simple, quick, painless, and she has a tooth to show for it.

Lucky girl! 🙂

 

He’s on the way!

Look who I found at the Seattle airport last night, headed north!

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We came down to be part of this:

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I told Riley and Jack Santa was making a last minute stop in Seattle to check on the kids here…see how they’re doing, before heading out on his Christmas Eve trip.

This morning we did a few last-minute errands…stocking stuffers, an impulse buy or two. This afternoon we’re cooking, and watching holiday movies, getting excited.

Oh, it’s the good stuff!

The boy is three, just this month, and the girl is five. Perfect ages to drink in the fun, the rituals, the excitement. Jack occupies himself with checking out the gifts under the tree, asking if it’s time to open yet, hearing (again) we have to wait until Christmas morning; he wonders which are for him. He shakes them and looks at them, identifies what belongs to who, makes stacks of his boxes.

It’s a hard thing to wait until the time is right, when you’re three.

Riley sings favorite songs, “Rudolph,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” She absorbs the traditions, knows we have to put out cookies tonight.

They’re ready. The adults are not quite. But we will be, before the littles get up tomorrow, bright and early.

Stockings wait to be filled, cinnamon rolls will be made tonight, ready to pop in the oven in the morning.

Is it perfect? No, it’s never perfect.

Is it magic? Yes.

They’re five and three. And that’s magic enough for me.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

~ Sheila

 

 

 

Bibbity Bobbity Boo!

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It was a weekend with the Littles, and two weeks out from Halloween, it was a weekend to visit the pumpkin patch and pick the perfect ones to carve for the big event.

Riley and Jack take me to my childhood, and to memories of my kids’ childhoods. What a joy, this third time around to experience the magic and the firsts.

And even though this Halloween isn’t a true first for either of them, they’re young enough that each year is still fresh, a new experience of abilities, awareness, and memory.

They’re at that tender age when their traditions are forming. They’re beginning to know what they do “every” year. Riley, especially, is reaching the age to anticipate, to forecast, to know.

She knows Halloween is coming, that Christmas is around the corner, and that her next birthday is on the horizon.

Jack parrots Riley, so even though he doesn’t have a lot of understanding about dates and events yet, he pipes up with the right words. He copies what she says, and how she says it, right down to the tone of voice and the emphasis and excitement.

It’s delicious to be around them, to hear the baby wisdom. To hear Riley say yesterday that she would “just be the bigger person!” Of course she wasn’t…she was immediately the smaller person, in response to something Jack had done. But she’s working on it. She’s got the words, and she knows when to use them. She just has to perfect her follow through. I recognize pieces of Riley through my first-born self and my first-born daughter, and now another of us. Riley mothers, and orders, and knows. She knows what she wants. And she understands how life works, even at five.

And Jack! That boy, he’s stolen my heart with his laugh, his energy, his very joy of living. He’s almost never still, until suddenly he is, passed out in a heap of exhaustion.

We wait for that moment, every night. He’s precious, but he’s a busy one. And at his bedtime, I think you can hear an audible “aaahhh.” It’s just a wee victory, Jack quiet and down for the night.

His language is growing, every day. But he still has some of the charming baby phrasing I find so irresistible. Two months short of three, he sometimes sounds like a little boy version of Riley, who sometimes sounds like a little girl version of a teenager.

Such is the power of culture. She picks up the tone and phrases, and he learns from her.

But he’s still a Little, too. Often throughout the day he comes to announce, “I hungry!” Like the book he loves about the hungry caterpillar, he eats and eats and eats. And he runs. He’s a runner, and a jumper.

As always, any time they’re in my keeping, the goal is to pass them back safely. Bones intact, no stitches. 🙂

Tonight we’re done, getting ready for bed, the Littles are home with parents. But we’ll see them in a couple of weeks, gear up for another few days of being in their world, their routines, remember the rhythm and the magic.

We’ll carve the pumpkins and buy candy to hand out at the door, feel the building excitement of Halloween for little kids…the non-scary, candy collecting, neighborhood walking event.

It’s a charm-filled time in their little lives, and I’m so thankful to share it.