Monday, January 08, 2001

'Tis the season

Holiday highs and lows: Are the holidays finally over now? Is it official? Can we all go back to our regularly scheduled lives? Can no new toys enter the house now until birthday time?

Let the conspicuous consumption end. Even the kids -- the very same kids who nagged us to put it up -- are nagging us to take down the Christmas tree. Time to put away the lights and the bulbs and the garlands and the outdoor decorations we never quite managed to get up this year. Time for the kids to get back to school and not have any days off again, ever. Or until the end of February, whichever comes first.

We had a good holiday season, considering I was too exhausted to appreciate most of it. Against all odds, the presents that needed to be bought got bought and the packages that needed to be wrapped got wrapped and the mail order that need to be shipped got shipped. And the mama who needed to collapse collapsed. Maybe I'm a Grinch, but I'm glad it's over. I now have nearly a year to gather the will to gift again. And if I ever wonder how many days I've got to go, my children will be happy to tell me.

The low point was probably Christmas mass, when my son was so out of control he had to go to the baby room for the first time in months. There, he developed an elaborate little routine for himself wherein he collected all the programs from all the pews and pretended they were Christmas cards he was going to mail. One little boy watched him, and then said, loudly, "Somebody's loony," and made the spiral around the ear that is the universal sign of contempt for crazy behavior, and kept doing it and making faces until I had to go over, put my hands on his little shoulders, and say, "You are in church. It is not okay to be mean in church." He stopped, but he still rolled his eyes any time my son went by. Didn't phase my boy in the least. He had mail to deliver.

The high point, though, came at a party where we saw a number of old friends who we knew as singles, and then through all our marriages, and now with all our children. I hadn't met some of their kids, and the kids hadn't all met each other, but they all played together fine. My son had a bit of trouble sharing, but so did all the other kids. No one called him loony, and I had to issue no threats.

Just as a parent and a friend of the families, it was nice to watch the little ones interact. (Plus watching the kids gave me an excuse to hide out in the basement instead of interacting with the adults, but that's another story.) But as a parent of special-needs kids, it was especially interesting to observe the different levels and abilities. For one, I was shocked by how old some of the kids looked -- kids I could have sworn weren't born that long ago -- and then I realized that I was judging them by my son, and that kids who looked about his age were actually only four or five. He's seven, but tiny and developmentally delayed; when I don't see him around "normally developing" kids, I lose track of that.

Then there was another boy, a huge child, bigger than my son, who turned out to be only two. His mother has a problem I've never experienced: Everybody thinks her son is much older than he is, and expects behavior he's just not capable of. What a blessing that my guy, whose behavior lags so far behind his chronological age, has a physical appearance that lags far behind, too. I think he gets away with a lot that he wouldn't if he really looked seven.

I watched one little girl, adopted from China early last year, warily take in the scene of playing kids, and then orbit on back to her mother. No attachment problems there. I watched how a pair of energetic little boys loved to jump off a step and onto a beanbag chair, and wondered if they might have sensory-integration related issues that made crashing a desirable feeling for them. Or perhaps they're just little boys. I watched how jealous my niece got when somebody tried to play with my daughter. And I watched how nicely my daughter -- much the oldest kid in the room, having been adopted at age 4.5 when most of our friends were having babies -- played with the much younger children.

Maybe a career as a teacher isn't that farfetched for her. My son, on the other hand, has decided he wants to be a principal. Good thing they're both getting back to school.

No comments: