Time and attention

My son was born a couple days before Christmas. I call him my Christmas baby. That is a nice way of saying we screwed him over with a rough birthday.

There will never be a class party on his birthday marching around the classroom handing out cupcakes. Because school is out by his birthday. One year he lucked into his birthday being the very last day of school. Except the class Christmas party was going on and there was enough Christmas candy handed out to choke a horse. It was like herding cats and his cupcakes would have just piled more sugar on top of the sugar.

One year when he was in daycare we tried doing it on the actual birthday and only maybe 2 of his buddies were still there and the rest were kids from other classes he didn’t know as well and that we didn’t know as well and it just felt forced.

There’s also no giant shin dig on his birthday with all his buddies. Because half the free world is either traveling or has guests or is off gallivanting to family and events. So any party with his friends has to be moved to a different day.

To make up for the lame date on the calendar, we make an effort to pick something fun for him to do just the 4 of us on his actual birthday. We did a Lego type place one year. Last year we did Medieval Times. This year we had big secret plans cooked up to go to an amusement park. I bought him a giant thing of Star Wars Legos. I planned to take him to pick out his own cake. So I’m thinking I’m gold.
Excited that the guy with the blue arm and cracked up face  is in this set.  Not gonna lie.  Totally noticed that when I picked it out and knew he had his eye on that guy.  Well played, Momma. Well played.
Except then a typhoon swept into town. Um. Yeah. Cold and wet and windy is code for no amusement park. Plan B was going to be a big arcade thing we thought they had in the mall. I’m feeling back on track.

He picked breakfast. He was delighted. Then we had to wait for his sister to get back from a dance party so we hit a craft store and let him pick out something messy and frivolous. He had too many choices and looked like a deer in the headlights but we talked him down from the ledge.

Then we took a group outing to the world’s most crowded REI. That kid is a chip off the old block and hates shopping as much as his father. The only thing he hates more than shopping is shopping at a store that doesn’t sell Legos or Star Wars crap. We finally headed out to sit in 40 minutes of mall traffic. And then we got to the mall and the arcade place had closed last year. Um. Yeah. Failure to plan is planning to fail. Everyone on Pinterest knows that so why don’t I? 
See.  And if it's on Pinterest, you know it's true.
Lest our trip to the mall be a waste, the newest 8 year old picked out a cookie cake. I’d hate to think brushing shoulders with that many of the great unwashed masses would be for nothing. Because I felt very unwashed by the time we left that mall.

I’d also like to know how anyone accomplishes any actual shopping when the mall is that shoulder to shoulder crowded. It’s a few step down from Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras but barely. And at least Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras doesn’t have all the baby strollers cutting you off. I was about to freak the hell out if one more female decided to stop the flow of traffic so she could lean into a baby carrier and wipe a kid’s face. Seriously. If you wouldn’t come to a complete stop in the middle of a highway to do that, I don’t know why you think your fellow mall patrons are going to appreciate your double wide stroller doing it in front of Gymboree. Pull to the side, woman.

But my patience also might have been shot by then from dragging the newest 8 year old clear across the mall to the store that was supposed to have funny shirts my husband likes only to discover the store had nothing remotely worth my time. And the only thing more fun than dragging him there was dragging the newest 8 year old back across the mall empty handed to where we parked. Pretty sure that kid thought I was trying to torture his soul. 
The clue was he changes in a phone booth and puts on his cape.  My father guessed Darth Vader.  Smartest guy I know.  Zero knowledge of pop culture or entertainment.  Too funny.
We piled back in the car and headed home. Then we did what we do best. We let that kid pick somewhere for dinner and had takeout. Then we had some cake, some presents and played Head’s Up, the new game based on the game from the Ellen show. You put cards on your head and everyone tries to get you to say what’s on the card. While it was the birthday kid's turn with the cards on his head, he cluelessly tried to figure out the answers and looked beyond delighted to have an entire table full of people staring at him.

That’s when it dawned on me. That’s this kid’s idea of a great day. Any group activity that’s fun and has him right in the center. Our time and attention are his favorite things. Easy to please and I had forgotten. I wished I’d just spent the whole day doing more of that and to hell with the rest.

 I felt bad for being grouchy to my husband when the day wasn’t going the way I’d hoped. When the newest 8 year old had trouble picking in the craft store. When the mall was a nightmare. When traffic sucked. When we had to run errands instead of putting on a dog and pony show for the kid. I felt bad for thinking I ruined his birthday by not making it special enough. I felt bad for being mad at myself. I felt bad way more than I should have.

It’s the little things in life.  Appreciate them all and enjoy the ride and whereever it takes you errands and all. The days are long but the years are short. Being at that table with us won’t always make him that over the moon happy. Someday, he may not even want to be at that table with us. But while he does, be at the table with him. Fully.  
A kid and his cake.  I die.

Put down the phone. Turn off the computer. Ignore the dishes in the sink. Ignore your mental to do list. And enjoy. Try really, really hard not to focus on planning and trying to make it everything. Being there and participating and enjoying is the important stuff.

And that ain’t just for my Christmas baby’s birthday. It’s true for holidays, too. Not to mention every other day of the week and twice on Sundays!

Hug your loved ones tight and hold them just a little bit longer than usual. Listen more closely when you talk to them on the phone instead of multitasking. It ain’t the crap wrapped up and and tied with a bow that makes people's day.

Happy Holidays from me and my cluttered chaos to you. Peace, health and happiness to all.

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