Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Extreme Season

Not everything your child learns is taught.  Much of what they learn is absorbed through their environment.  We say it all the time - they are just little sponges!  They soak up everything, good and bad alike.  I bring this up now because we are about to enter the "extreme" season.

What we idealize as the season of love and joy can often be absorbed very differently by our children.  For pre-schoolers it is the time of year when they are left with a babysitter more often, when they are told not to touch more often, when nap times and play times and mealtimes and bedtimes become erratic.  Elementary-aged kids will be out of school, with no homework.   Their schedule will be disrupted and they will see less of their friends.  They may watch more television and get inundated with advertising, creating wants they didn't know they had.  High school kids are similarly disrupted and may be saddled with errands, chores, or care of younger siblings.  They may find you expecting them to be adults.  Your college kids are coming home to find that their friends have changed, their favorite hang-out has been redecorated, and a younger sibling has moved into their room.  They may be longing to tell you all about their life away from home but find you too tired to listen at 11pm, when they want to talk.

I will state the obvious here: As you approach the extreme season, begin with the end in mind.  As with all things related to your children, you have to figure out what your desired outcome is.  When Christmas comes again I want my children to remember ___________.

I wanted my kids to have church and the baby Jesus at the center of their memories.  I wanted them to learn the joy of giving. And I was even clearer about what I didn't want them to remember: visits to a fake Santa at the mall, enough consumer goods to fill a yacht, disappointment because they didn't get this year's "must have" toy.  Those desires ordered our days leading up to Christmas.  (It was still never as calm and loving and gentle as my dreams but that probably has something to do with my overall approach to life, which is usually loving - but rarely calm or gentle.)

Before the extreme season sets in, take a little time and look over your master plan through the eyes of your children.  Like getting down on the floor and looking at things from your baby's perspective, you might be startled at what you will discover.  Sit down with your children, physically or electronically, and ask them what their favorite Christmas traditions and memories are. Listen, really listen, and then 'ponder these things in your heart' like a certain Christmas mother.  You might even be able to upgrade the season from "extreme" to joyful!

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