What the heck is this Christmas thing

I’ve been thinking a lot about Sophie this Christmas.

She is my two year old grand daughter coming to visit soon.

She doesn’t remember Christmas last  year because one year olds just think Christmas is a big giant chew toy and science exploration.

I wonder what her little mind is thinking about the Christmas holiday.

Do you ever wonder what our children think of Christmas time…

The house gets decorated like there is some kind of celebration.

A real or fake tree is brought in a significant spot and decorated.

Schools have parties for three or four celebrations.

Everyone begins to practice songs.

Bells seem to be constantly ringing and we are supposed to laugh when they do.

There’s rumor some old heavy set man comes to our houses to bring presents.

When we see this old guy we are supposed to run up and sit on his lap and love him, then tell him our secrets…and we don’t know who he is and don’t want to. When we cry our parents get mad because we are supposed to have a cute picture with this  guy.

There are pictures constantly being taken.

We attend church and learn about a baby Jesus and a mother Mary. Why?

We dress up more than usual.

Everyone seems to move faster than usual.

Everyone seems to have more happy energy, but also grouchy tired energy too?

Stories are read about Santa as a fish, a pirate, a ninja, a snowman, a prince, etc.? What is this all about?

Ok, I’ll go along with it…

Do you ever wonder why children don’t need to be asked if they have Christmas spirit?

Do you ever wonder why Christmas seems so magical for them?

They must know something more about Christmas, that adults forget as they get older.

Sophie knows the secret already and she is only two years old…

 

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a dose of wonder does us good

If you need a dose of gratitude go for a walk with a child.

“…Wonderment is the willingness to be surprised by life, and gratitude springs from wonderment, to practice gratefulness we need to let life surprise us…” (pg. 115).

Ryan. M.J. (1999). Attitudes of Gratitude. Berkeley, CA: Conari Press.

What does your face say?

Many times our children do an action because of the reaction they receive from their parents or other adults. They like to watch– what does your face say?

Sometimes the act isn’t the angelic act you wished for, but they do it because they “get” the reaction. They know how to push your buttons and they are expert at holding out until they get what they want. If you hurry and help to calm them, give them something, or threaten to behave they learn how to get you moving quickly in their favor. You feed the action. They are in control.

Another thing your child will do is begin to talk about things that may seem inappropriate to you. They don’t know it is inappropriate they are simply curious learning about the world but sometimes it is to get your reaction. Any attention is better than no attention.

I recently returned from a five day Autism Seminar. There was a lot of discussion on this topic. Tantrums and obsessive topics are a challenge for autists but they are also a challenge for parents of neuro-typical children too.

One of the parents asked our instructor what do to with her child who was obsessed with death and talking about death to anyone who would listen. The Instructor said these wise words:

If you do not want to have your child do something than do not feed it. If you get angry you are feeding it with a reaction; even if it is a negative reaction. They like the reaction. That feeds it. If you react by listening with gusto and showing you have great interest than you are feeding it with a positive reaction and they will keep doing it. If you act bored and uninterested, or in a tantrum case, ignore; you are starving the reaction and therefore showing your child that you have no interest in what they are saying or doing to stop it. When you act bored and then connect it to something a bit more positive and act really excited about the other thing, you are not feeding but “rerouting” it.  You may have to reroute over and over. It takes practice to not react but reroute. But don’t feed the negative action your child is trying to get a reaction from you. They know it works! They know they can break you. And they do it all the time.

Here is an example:

Child: Did you know that when people die they bury their bodies in dirt?

Adult: (Little reaction.) Oh yes, I knew that. Did you know that there are all kinds of cool things inside of dirt? Plants grow in dirt with seeds.

Child: Did you know that they put bodies in a box and then throw dirt on it until you can’t see the box anymore.

Adult: (Still little reaction with very little emotion and attention, but acknowledging the child speaking.) Yes I did know that. (Now get animated.) Did you know that if you put dirt in a box and put seeds in the dirt that something will grow? Do you want to try that? Lets go outside and get a shovel and dig in dirt.

You get the idea.

Reacting feeds the action…notice during a tantrum.

If you run and get the item your child is tantrumming about or refuse with  a reaction of anger, they don’t stop. They know they are getting to you and they will log that away for the next time.

It is really true.

Don’t feed.

Reroute if you can.

Don’t let them break you!

Your face will tell.

 

Child Gold

What is  your favorite candy?

I know everyone has a secret favorite.

EVERYONE!

I have strong feelings about candy.

Especially Halloween candy.

Many adults bug me big time at Halloween.

An adult has completely lost their sense of childhood, their sense of play, their sense of joy when they allow their children to receive candy on Halloween but will not let them eat it. Or worse, not let them dress up for however long they “need” to!!!!!

This infuriates me.

Halloween is not about getting cavities, it is not a time to stress about the most perfect costume,  it isn’t about scaring children to mental illness, it is not about indulgence, or a time to enforce the evils of sugar, or on and on and on with the countless ridiculous excuses!

It is a child holiday.

Don’t your remember!!!!! I want to shake frustrating adults and say, “C’mon, think about your own Halloweens as a kid!”

…They get to stay up late and go outside in the dark.

…They get to dress up in a character they love and be someone special.

…They get to go outside after dinner!

…They get to see other friends.

…They get to visit your neighbors you rarely see and say hi, and smile for a second.

…They get to ask for candy in a cute, silly way and someone will giggle and give them some.

…They get to hold their special treat and go on to another house and another. How cool is that! And each house is waiting for them!

…They get to fill up a bucket, or bag or pillow case with a treasure chest full of  child-gold. That is what it is to them…gold in a treasure chest.

And to rush them home in a hurry, take the dirty sweaty costumes off, get the paint off the face or hair, and then…

THEN,

take the candy away…

is just…

destroying a moment  of happy.

That is it.

How very very sad and terrible.

C’mon!

Think parents!

Parents are the scary ones after the holiday.

I can see you sneaking out all the Almond Joys, and Laffy-Taffy’s before you dump the treasure in the trash…You know you do!

Give your kids their childhood memories which include, OH NO—EVIL CANDY!

Have FUN for heaven’s sakes!

I am sick of hearing another bucket of candy getting thrown in the trash or giving your child money for it, or sending it away to the needy!

They want their treasure and the memory of how they got it.

Sit down on the floor and open a Tootsie Roll or Heath bar together and laugh and lick and talk about how fun this moment is. Blow bubbles with gum. Put them in piles.

Then go brush their teeth and kiss them good-night with another year of love in the bank.

One day it will be over. And you will have to buy  your own Snickers or M&M’s. Which is honestly not as fun or good as Halloween candy.

You are missing the point big time!

Give them their treasure.

Give them childhood!

 

Like a “bug”

We catch things from our parents like a “bug.” But unlike a cold, I believe those things we catch never go away. I know I caught claustrophobia from my mother. In my child recollection it was either in the stuck elevator going up to the top floor of my orthodontist or when they had to back up the submarine ride at Disneyland. Not sure which–maybe both.

Patient and calm is an understatement of my mom who was the second mother of 10 children (her sibs), a mother of six, and grandmother of 27. Feeling stuck and out of control made her a crazed animal. She was my rock, so I became crazed too. When we finally got air, we both were bonded with the “bug.”

Drapes or blinds closed, tight clothing, an escape route, locked doors, summer heat…  flying in a closed up tin can called an airplane, and of course elevators and submarines; these are just a few…

But, the good thing about claustrophobia is appreciating how nice it feels letting the sun shine on you as  you awake in the morning with those little dust sparkles floating in the beams; letting the cool earth air in through the window to freshen a room and make it feel alive; feel the gentle presence of the tree as it offers us shade and stability of the earth; comfortable clothing to make you feel exactly that–comfortable; sitting by “the door” gets you to the bathroom quicker, and who really likes planes, elevators, and submarines anyway! No one or you lie.

What we catch we endure.

But we do catch things…

Terror to the Core

It was Halloween night. We were making our way around the neighborhoods standing back as self appointed flash light holders while our two children, four and six years old, were filling their pillow cases with more candy than they could ever dream of. Most houses welcomed children with that “happy spirit” of Halloween with silly-faced pumpkins, orange lanterns, a few hairy spiders, and mild scary ghosts. You could hear giggling and “trick or treat” and doors closing and opening as dressed up fairy’s, firemen, ninjas, or princesses scurried ahead, behind, and across the street, each with their own designated grown-up flash light holders, carrying out the happy ritual of the best children’s holiday besides their birthday. Then there are the fright fest houses whose intent is to give heart attacks by the thrill of terror; smoke machines, creepy music, hanging or hiding demons and devils and people dressed up to jump. These places are gruesome on purpose and do not care what it takes to give that fright.  It is their goal to terrorize. But for the sake of a free Twix Bar, Dum-Dum, or Tootsy Roll parents push their little children inside these domains, thinking it is funny, or silly. Most adults would wet their own pants if someone pushed them inside. We skip those.

Our children were only noticing, like children do, what was directly in front of them as they now understand what this amazing holiday means. They were picking up speed now; more porches more candy. My husband and I could see, and hear up ahead that people were running from a dark eerie property. It was the place the teenagers rushed past to get to, talking quickly, explaining about someone who had lived through it.

In our family we do not promote scary, ever! It is one thing in our parenting points of view that my husband and I are completely in-sync with. (The rest is a toss up). We were already planning the U-Turn, when our son, who was the youngest of the two dashed across the lawn towards the house of doom. He did not even make it to the front of the property when a woman slithered out of nowhere, dressed like the most horrifying witch, and grabbed our little boy by the arm leaning down into his face. I am not sure what she said but Halloween was over.

I would consider myself a peaceful soul. In fact I run from conflict. But my mother lion was about to transform into a very large evil serpent and crush this person into dust after I bit her in two and ripped her black heart out! No one messes with an angry mother of any type of animal!!

We ran to our son and knew in a sense, his spirit had been wounded– forever. That is the piece about scary that people do not understand. It never leaves your memory but sits dormant waiting to leak out of your sub conscience through imagination and nightmares.

He was inconsolable with fear and practically climbed on top of my head when I reached him, candy thrown on the pavement. My husband began yelling at her as she kept in character, smiling the most evil smile as she looked back over her shoulder and slunk back into the darkness of the bushes ready for the next kill. What kind of evil adult would do such a thing to a four year old child.

My husband had to carry him the whole two blocks to our house while he shook and cried the entire way with his eyes tightly closed so nothing would pop out at him. We did everything we could to calm him down, giving him his candies to eat, diverting him with singing, his favorite toy, etc. Nothing would console him. He closed his eyes and hid.

The only thing I felt would get this child to calm down was a dose of reality so we would go back and look, in a safe way without any surprises. I hoped it was the right thing but I was not sure. Somehow I had to show him this was not real and that the people were only pretending for silly Halloween. But what I did not fully understand at that time is that it IS real to him as a four year old! All of it is real!

We waited until it was later then went. I wish I could say it worked great. Our son stayed in the car as we went in to explain what happened. He was hiding behind the drivers seat in the fetal position with his eyes still closed.

The witch was there. I hated her with a mother’s hate that is fierce. YOU! HURT! MY! BABY’S! SOUL! And I constrained myself. It was difficult to say the least.  We had to right this wrong in a good positive way somehow. Good always wins, right? I wasn’t so sure. It wasn’t working out so well.

They all continued to stay in character (which baffles still to this day) but they were in their lighted garage. There was a little too much blood and gruesome even in the light. We pleaded for them to talk to our little boy and explain they were real people, when he came in so he could see. Needles to say the witch never got out of character but she stayed away and he could see her in light. She still looked creepy. He did not want to see her. But the Frankenstein was nice and a little silly and got him to giggle a tiny bit. We left with a little hope. But Halloween was never the same ever again…

Ask him…

Love is spelled TIME

“Before I had any children I used to say, “When they come along I will not speak to them until they are sixteen, and then I will tell them to get a job.” Holding them in my arms made me rethink that idea. I have discovered very little in life that I am adept at doing. I cannot fix your car, repair your roof, or even drive a nail straight. However, I have given everything I have to being a father, and I happily stand back to see the results.

“If a child sees something in a parent that that child aspires to, he or she will copy that parent and be content. If children feel that a parent is living a life that shows compassion and understanding, patience and love, that child will not have to reach a stage of rebellion against that parent. Why rebel against someone who has listened to you and wants to help you fulfill your dreams? A parent who has proven time and again that the growth and happiness of his or her children is priority number one does not have to worry about where those children are heading in life. They will be sensitive and productive members of society for as long as they live.

This story is by and about one such girl. “ [and her incredible promise with her father] pg. xviii

Ozma, A. (2011). The Reading Promise. New York, NY. Grand Central Publishing.