Thursday, November 29, 2018

Postmortem Santa Letter.

Well, we did it. We gave him the letter. Up until Monday I had only written the letter and the blog post about Team Santa. That was the easy part.

Despite being paid for 10 years to talk, sometimes from a script, often off the cuff, when it comes to emotional things I have a tendency to word vomit until I'm out of breath and crying and everyone leaves confused and thinking I'm PMSing. I need a script when it comes to my kids and my family, otherwise I'm a blubbering hot mess.

Before bed Monday night we went into his room and asked if he had any questions for us. First he wanted to know if I had gotten Beanboozeled yet (been begging for that damn game for weeks) and then where babies come from (one thing at a time kid). He didn't mention anything about Santa. I hesitated (the letter was tucked in my pants, obviously). Maybe it wasn't time, maybe we could squeeze out one more Christmas with all three kids engrossed in the magic. But, then I remembered that our kids only ask important questions (the ones you have to be prepared for like Santa and babies and politics) when I am without adult backup and trying to accomplish 352 things at the same time, or on the toilet. The question would come again this season. It was time.

I ugly cried all the way through the letter. We all cried. I think he cried mostly because I was crying. But he got it. And I think it was a really gentle way to let him in on the magic instead of him finding a hidden gift or catching us in the act Christmas Eve.

I'm not going to lie, I'm emotional about it now, after the fact. One of my kids is in on it now, it feels odd. It feels like we are exposed or something. Like this huge secret we have been keeping for 10 years is no more and what else does that open us up for? But he is 100% in on Team Santa. He came down the morning after and asked about the damn Elf. So there goes another 'well' kept secret. But he does want in on the occasional moving of said Elf. And he will more than likely save the day at least a few times this season because no one remembers every night, do they?

Now, someone write a letter about the magic of where babies come from for me... and read it to my kid while you're at it.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Santa Question.

Let me set the scene. It was Thanksgiving night around a fire pit in beautiful Southern California. I was a few drinks and several pounds of butter in when he hit me with it. While discussing why Santa doesn't bring live things (a rule at our house... and the girls want bunnies this year) he said it. "Mom and Dad are Santa, right?". My Dad was sitting between the curious, bomb dropping 10 year old and I. He did a great job of staring straight ahead and trying to appear invisible. It's not the first time he has asked. I gave the standard, 'what did you think Buddy?' to buy myself some time. And when he said it again I answered with what I have answered with before, 'if you don't believe he doesn't come... so what do you think?'. And as he has several times in before, he said he believes. 

Here's the thing. He's 10. He's in fourth grade. And he's smart and curious and extremely logical like his father. I was in fourth grade when I found out the truth but I wasn't nearly as logical. A friend told me and crushed my soul. He's more emotionally stable than fourth grade me. The way we see it, we have two options: we can continue with the 'if you don't believe he doesn't come' until the end of time or we can bring him in on the magic. 

If we go with the 'if you don't believe he doesn't come' philosophy we're basically holding gifts over his head and know that there's an unspoken understanding that Santa is in fact not real. It's not a bad option, I think it's what my parents did with me and I turned out relatively fine. But he's a kid who needs answers so we are going with option two.

I did what every normal, warm blooded American mom does. I went back to the Pinterest page I haven't visited in years because I remembered a pin about a letter that some amazing mom wrote years ago to a kid named Ryan. The source is unknown or I would post it here and give her credit and streamers and balloons and a bottle of wine (if you know the source, please send it to me) because she said it way better than I could have. Below is the letter we have written to him (mostly borrowed from aforementioned Super Mom) about the magic of Santa. 

I'm pretty sure we're doing the right thing. I'm not ever totally sure we are doing the right thing when it comes to parenting so it's par for the course. We want him to know that the magic is real and that now he gets to be a part of all of it. Now someone hold my coffee while I cry about my kids growing up and how I'm not ready and how I'm so grateful to still have the tantrum throwing meltdown queen (who has gotten much better btw) 3 year old.

And finally, the real question. Can he help us move the damn Elf? 

Dear Buddy,

You asked a really good question over Thanksgiving in California, “Mom and Dad are Santa, right?”. We know that you are curious and want the answer and we want to always be honest with you. We had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.

The answer is no. We are not Santa. There is no one, single Santa. 

We are the people who fill your stocking and choose and wrap the presents under the tree— just as our parents did for us and their parents did for them and you will do for your own kids some day.

This could never make any of us Santa, though. Santa is lots and lots of people who keep the spirit of Christmas alive. He lives in our hearts—not at the North Pole. Santa is the magic and love and spirit of giving to others. What he does is teach children to believe in something they can’t see or touch. Throughout your life you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your family and friends and in God. You’ll need to be able to believe in things you can’t measure or hold in your hands. 

Now you know the secret of how he gets down all of those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all of the people whose hearts he has filled with joy. 

With full hearts people like Mom and Dad take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible. So no, we are not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. We are on his team and now you are too. 

We need your help. We need you to guard this secret with your life. You probably have friends who haven’t asked their parents yet about Santa. And your sisters aren’t on our team just yet. We shared this with you because we know you will do a great job of keeping Santa’s magic alive for them until they’re ready to be on his team. 

We love you more than you’ll ever know. Welcome to Team Santa Buddy!

Mom and Dad

Friday, November 9, 2018

Evolution of a Parent, thrice over.

I took the iPads away.

Let me back up. I have three kids. They're 10, 8 and 3. I have three kids but I only know how to be one kind of parent. See, with the 'big kids' I parented them the same. They were both little at the same time and the same kind of discipline worked for both of them. It's your basic 'I say no, you don't do it' type of discipline. And if you do it, you land in time out and you sit there and don't move. Time outs evolve as they get older into losing dessert for a week or God forbid, Xbox. But you get the point. And they listened, they still do. I would say 95% of the the time my big kids followed directions and didn't break the rules. That's the parent I know how to be. And I'm damn good at it. I'm in control and I call the shots and you live a great life within my parameters.

Enter kid #3. She was the easiest baby. Happy to be dragged around, slept well, nursed well. But now, what she doesn't do so well is listen. In particular, listen to me. At school she follows directions, plays well with others, listens to her teacher. Dance class, same. For Daddy, she mostly listens. For me? Not so much. And I created this problem.

She's the third and I'm busy. I'm juggling 5 people's schedules and trying to run a household and a photography business and have some semblance of a life. And she gets the short end. She gets pacified (sometimes literally with a pacifier but that's a post for another day). I hand her the iPad and let Ryan's Toy Reviews entertain her so I can do all the other things. It's not parenting. It's survival. But it results in massive, epic, awful meltdowns when I need her to do something. And then I yell. And then she yells. And then she's in time out where she tries to stand up 100 times in 3 minutes.

It's not working. This one type of parent that I have perfected over the last decade is not the right parent for her. I have to evolve. I have to be better. For her. For me. For all of us.

It's a hard thing to admit in such a public space that one of your kids isn't getting the attention she needs and deserves from you. But here I am.

I'm three and a half days in to being more present. To paying more attention. I'm not yelling. I'm not responding when a fit starts (even though on the inside there is literally a volcano erupting). And it is HARD. Not giving in, not yelling, not reacting is HARD. But my reaction, my parenting standard, doesn't work. So I'm fighting every instinct I have, every natural reaction.

And I took the iPad away. I took everyone's iPads away because they don't need them right now. And it's a crutch for me. So instead of watching Ryan sing 'Happy Birthday' to someone for the thousandth time, she's helping me make dinner. Or we are coloring. Or we are watching a TV show, together.

All of this must sound so obvious. Of course you should pay attention to all of your kids. Of course you should be present. Of course you shouldn't use the iPad as a babysitter. What's wrong with you woman? I was a perfect parent until I became one. And when you know better, you do better. So this is me, being challenged, tested, and fighting the good fight. And trying to do better.

Am I delusional enough to think that my 3 year old won't still melt down or that she'll listen 100% of the time from now on? Hell to the no. But I know that what I was doing (yelling, forcing, blaming, shaming) was not working and it's time for a new path.