It can’t possibly have been me. I don’t believe in getting kids a lot of stuff. Love, yes; stuff, no. I carefully consider my consumption choices and consciously conserve. Right?
Plus, I’m very aware of all the useful things money can buy besides more stuff for middle class American children: food for the hungry, medicine, clothing. Real things that meet real needs. So, I’m opposed to excess stuff.
Yeah… but this year I seem to have excepted books, art supplies, useful tools, and board games from the category of “stuff.” I have a few excuses; want to hear them?
So, the shallow magic of Christmas over-consumption will reign at my house tomorrow when the kids arrive from my X's house, for at least 20 minutes, 30 if I’m lucky. I know I could be doing the kids a disservice by having too many gifts under the tree. But, hey, at least they are almost entirely plastic-free. Mostly almost.
Then, while we wait for the hormone-free, all-natural ham to bake, we’ll curl up on the couch with one of the new books, and if I’m really lucky, we’ll have 20 minutes, maybe even 30, where the kids feel the real magic for the non-religious, the time-and-love magic.
Wishing that magic for each and every one of you. May pain and fear take a day off. May you have time, and love.
p.s. That's NOT a new dog under the tree. That's the old dog, who busted into her gift early.
Welcome to the December 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Childhood Memories
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about memories of growing up — their own or the ones they’re helping their children create. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Tell me a story, she says, sleepy-eyed but unable to drift off. Sweet innocence, curled against her pillow. Tell me a story.
Geez, not again, I think. I just want to go to sleep. Gimme a f-ing break.
Pre-childbearing, I pictured myself spinning tales of adventure and mystery, with messages of wisdom and peace. Yeah, right. Pre-childbearing, I thought a lot of other stuff too, most of which has turned out to be total bullsh*t.
There was a period, during Number 2’s potty training, when I pulled out my dormant storyteller. Turned out, Number 2 had an intense fear of going number 2 anywhere but his size XXL diaper. Unless. Unless I told a long complicated never-before-heard installment in the ongoing fantasy adventures of Anna Zanes (Dan Zanes’ real life daughter, on whom my three-year-old had developed a huge crush/fixation). As best I can recall, there were pirates and helicopters and Anna always had to save Dan from some perilous situation he had gotten himself into. The day is saved! The End, wipe, flush, wash. Whew.
Eventually, the story phased out of the bathroom routine, thank goodness, since the well was pretty dry. Not that it had a very big reservoir to start with. And then Number 3 came along.
Tell me a story, she begs. And my mind goes instantly blanker than the looks the kids give me when I suggest room-cleaning as a remedy for boredom. That desperate self who managed to dredge up those long potty-training yarns seems like a distant stranger. Fiction is far beyond my now post-divorce, post-depression, past-the-point-of-exhaustion capabilities. I can’t think of anything.
Tell me the skates, then.
The skates story, a story from my own childhood that I myself know only through my mother’s telling of it. I was too young to remember, but apparently Santa brought me a beautiful rag doll (now cherished by my little story-hungry girl) on the same Christmas morning that my older siblings got roller skates. And I (wretched ingrate) threw myself down and howled, “I WANT SKATES!!” all day long. After which my mother was apparently so traumatized that she needed to remind me of this incident at numerous junctures in my subsequent development.
That horrid Christmas morning more than 40 years ago lives somewhere close to my daughter’s heart, a reminder that I, like her, was “the little one,” like her, oppressed in oh-so-many ways. She asks for the skates over and over. But it never stops there.
Tell me another one.
Thus her persistence drags almost-forgotten memories out of the mixed-up files in my perimenopausal brain, one by one: nights by campfires, songs from summer camp, long-dead horses and dogs, the idiosyncratic habits of her great-grandparents. In doing so, she reminds me what it was like to grow up, how it feels to be so small, so powerless, and how large the gaps between adult and child perception can be. She is searching for connection, for solace, for a pathway into sleep. And as she searches, she shows me myself, in perspective.
I’m tired. I resist. Every night, I’d rather just read a novel for a few chapters to find my own way into rest. But every night, she shows me how to find a little bit of myself, instead. And the telling of the stories wraps my own childhood memories into hers, the same way my own mother’s re-told childhood is entangled in my own consciousness. In this way I pass pieces of myself into my daughter, at her insistence. And if all goes well, she will take this piecemeal history and create her own storyline to pass on.
The end (until tomorrow). Good girl. Goodnight.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: