This was the sentence my friend, Sam, uttered about his four month-old son just after his first sentence—“He started off sleeping really well”—and before his next—“It does get better again, right?”
What’s the correct answer here?
Like New England and the weather—wait five minutes and it’ll change—parenting really is a humbling and ongoing lesson in how much is out of your hands coupled with how much work it takes to remain responsible about the things you can get your hands on and affect. I could point to examples of these truths just about every day or at least every week.
Yesterday afternoon began well enough: settle the tired toddler for what turned out to be a somewhat short nap (her eldest brother got her up and did swimmingly well with her), pick up the second grader (who survived the Halloween parade) and take him into town to get hat and cane for his actual day-of Halloween costume (Monopoly guy).
Interesting: this little guy hates parading at school, would not wear a costume, wants a real costume for Halloween itself. Yeah, kids are confusing.
Within an hour, the middle guy was upset about not having help from his littler brother with the dinner prep and went on strike, the eldest pushed the same littler brother (I can’t say why, because it just happened) making the littler brother cry (he fell into the ottoman) and the toddler clung, all whilst I was supposed to be working for half an hour. If I had a phrase for what took place I might offer mysterious random contact meltdown or domino effect entropy. Things were just… worse.
Dear husband rushed home for the rescue and walked into a calm house five minutes later. New England…
A couple of hours later, the fallout continued, the second grader despondent over just about everything. By bedtime, with food—two sandwiches, a little TV time, some Chamomilla and some snuggling—he was better, not good, not totally happy, but no longer freaking his mama out with his abject spike of utter despair.
So, the seventh grader got needy and the mama was already basically asleep. Eventually, he finished his bath and his whining and fell asleep. The eldest brother had fun at a games party—he went in nearly matching costume to his pal and they didn’t plan it, more a this is what fifteen year-old boys, who are into theater tech and irony wear, black hats, draped black clothing (trench coat for one, graduation gown for the other)—and capped the evening off watching Buffy with his papa. Oh, the toddler slept through later evening dramas.
I’m not sure I would know what to tell Sam, other than keep your eyes on the best parts and observe both what’s great and what isn’t working, try everything, try nothing, trust each hardship passes or morphs into a new one. Well, that’s not really counsel. It’s more like a bumbling introduction to the Zen training known as parenthood.
I got so many great responses to the Halloween post this week—on the blog and elsewhere—and I wanted to say 1) THANK YOU and 2) I’m not quite as miserable a Halloween parent as I might have made myself out to be (not to say in any way that I actually love Halloween or even like it, really, but I will have plenty of fun moments).
Starting a few years ago, I instituted a candy buy-back with my kids. Others have done this before and after me, but in case you haven’t, here’s what I do: once the kids return home with loot, that night or the next day, I offer a tin—like a small cookie tin—and say that’s the limit we can keep. I will buy back from them anything they don’t want (anywhere from a dime to a quarter per piece, depending on the negotiator and the amount of candy we’re talking about). That money, which came as a gift, must go to a cause the kid chooses.
I frame it as a chance to pay it forward, move the gift along, have a moment to appreciate all you were given (tons of candy, in my neighborhood, at least) and then enjoy the chance to be the giver yourself.
At the last minute, we brought five dollars to the Kerry for President campaign (and were gifted back, a bumper sticker and some delighted smiles). That was the first lovely moment—of many over the years. Other gifts have gone to Obama (note the theme) for President, World Land Trust and Paintbox Theatre.
As for the extra candy, this year, I’m sure it’ll go to tech week for the high school’s production of Hamlet.
This morning, after the difficult and stormy later part of yesterday, Remy came downstairs in a fine mood and so we made breakfast for two brothers, a sister and a papa and brought the food upstairs along with the newspaper. Call this a feeble attempt to start the day off in grand style, with some magical thinking that a good start will ensure a great day. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so they tell us.