Letting Jack Steer

I love December but it’s such a charged month. I have my birthday, it’s Christmas, New Year’s…so much of the “big wow,” so many lists to make.

This is one of those years where everything is late and I am A-OK with it.

I just can’t fit everything in with my job. It’s also been Jack’s first four months in middle school, a pretty big adjustment. With two weeks off school now, and days off coming up for me, it’s time to exhale.

We got our tree on Wednesday night. We went to Fred Meyer and the selection was super picked over because the prices are good there. You should’ve seen how determined Jack was. He picked out pretty much the first tree he saw, leaning there at the end of the aisle. He couldn’t be talked into checking out the rest of them. Nope. He wanted that tree.

So he grabs the enormous blue metal cart and pushes it over. We lay the tree on it (it’s pretty small) and the three of us head inside. We let Jack steer.

The cart is super unwieldy for him and it takes up the width of the aisles as we head to the check out. Most people smile a little and wait for Jack to thread this thing between the shelves of garden supplies and tables of fleece blankets. We get to the check out, and Jack’s having a hard time maneuvering the cart into the line. The tree branches keep getting stuck in racks of cheap sweaters. Jack backs up to get the wheels right, and this prevents anyone from getting around him.

People coming into the store have to stop for Jack, the cart and his tree. This one guy is put off immediately. I can see the impatience in his face.

People coming into the store have to stop for Jack, the cart and his tree. This one guy is put off immediately. I can see the impatience in his face. He’s probably trying to get in and out of the storeĀ in five minutes. But it’s a maze of bras on one side and jingle bell socks on the other, and he can’t get around. He glances at Jack and puffs out his disdain, realizing this kid ain’t gonna figure this out in one second.

I just observe this. I don’t run to help Jack and I don’t apologize to the many jerks who encounter my kid with their impatience and disdain. I’ve seen this movie before. My job is to let the kid steer.

Today is the 18th and I’m just putting the wreath on the door. And instead of my usual thinking of “the wreath should be on the door by (insert date here),” I took more joy in decorating it with Jack before it goes outside. We grabbed three of the silver bells that Mom used to buy us every year and wrapped them around with yarn. Then we took a big red ribbon and I tied a bow. I’d rather be happy going through the motions of Christmas than ramming everything through the “should” tunnel.

I’d rather be happy going through the motions of Christmas than ramming everything through the “should” tunnel.

I used to go this Advent Quiet Morning at St. Andrew’s. It’s just a circle of shy folks sitting in upholstered wing back chairs in a small book-lined room. Many, and me included, bring a composition book to journal in as we sip coffee and take a morning off. I loved it because it forced me to take time for reflection in the busiest season of the year.

Once on those shelves, I found a pocket-sized book about setting expectations with your kidsĀ around Christmas. I read it for probably a half hour. I remember it said that children need boundaries more than ever as Christmas approaches. The best way to prepare them is to tell them it will be happy, you will get nice things but we’re not going to overwhelm you with presents. The time together is the thing. I’ve been telling him that.

I also realize I need an Advent Quiet Morning at least every month of the year!

So many of us are striving for balance. For me, I get to the pool where I’m feeling stronger and stronger. It’s my peace. And it’s actually time for lap swim. Grabbing the Speedo now!

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