The plan hatched by Ted and me in the wee hours as we cleaned and wrapped and got sleepier and colder after our furnace went down to its nighttime level, worked. That is to say, when the kids woke up (LATE! by gum, despite going to bed early) at 8 am (which would have felt like sleeping in to us, if only we hadn’t been up until almost 4 am – Ted – last night, and 4:30 am – me -), Ted took their stockings (provided by their generous Uncle C) in to them in their bedroom. The stockings and their contents occupied them for an hour more.
I am not sure (but am I ever sure?) if all those parenthetical comments are strictly necessary, but they do a reasonable job of providing a glimpse into chaos of my thought processes (though that sounds too organized, frankly).
The day was good, though full of the usual drama that attends any meeting of Hazel and her cousin B. That relationship is loving and stormy, and seems to bring out all of Hazel’s most difficult (for me) behavior patterns.
The biggest gifting irony of the day was the fit Hazel threw the moment after I realized that Hazel was drawing in Joanna’s little coloring book and told her to stop, to leave it for Joanna. Ted and I had spent some time in the store discussing which of those particular books to get for each kid, and ultimately concluded that we should get the same ones (fairies and butterflies) for Hazel and B, because otherwise they were inevitably going to covet the other person’s books and have a fight about possession of the most desired one. As it happened, however, Hazel said she didn’t like the butterflies or fairies, and wanted Joanna’s, that had animals in it.
Actually, no, I am wrong. That is not the biggest irony. The biggest irony was the moment she threw an even more colossal fit, having discovered that the twins had (OF COURSE) scribbled in B and her coloring books, given that the big girls had left them out, along with the markers, while they went to do something else. The twins are 2.5 years old. The result was entirely predictable. This is a lesson that has been learned (though clearly not well enough) before. Instantly, that book was her most treasured possession, and she was very mad at Joanna for ruining it.
And then, having ripped through the wrapping paper on all of her presents, Hazel was quite distressed to find that she had no other presents. “IT’S NOT FAIR!” echoed throughout the house.
My parents might say, given the frequency of my use of that particular battle cry when I was a kid, that this is merely poetic justice. And they might be right. Nonetheless, I do think that part of our parental job with Hazel, and with all three of our kids, is going to be to teach and cultivate gratitude. When receiving things merely brings unhappiness and a sense of insufficiency, I am not sure that receiving things is a net good.
What I can tell is that there is a lot of processing ahead for me, so that I can have brief but (hopefully) effective conversations with Hazel on these topics.
In other news of the day, Ted, my sister, and I produced turkey pesto meatballs, sweet potato hash (originally intended to be latkes, but didn’t sufficiently cohere), roasted Brussel sprouts (yummy!), warm cider, and salad. Earlier in the day we had green beans and broccoli, and peanut butter/almond butter sandwiches. It was a very satisfying food day. Joanna ended her dinner by eating Brussel sprout after Brussel sprout. This makes me inordinately happy.
Also, at dinner Joanna got some sort of owie, and consequently wanted to be comforted by Hazel, who took her up into her lap. Pretty soon after that Emily wound up in B’s lap, and the four of them stayed that way for quite a while, happily sharing food and coziness. Lovely.
Also lovely and heart-string-pulling was the sight, after all the bedtime reading was over, of the three girls snuggled up in the same bed, Hazel in the middle. And when we left the room and Joanna started to cry, Hazel shushed and sang her into peace. They have been sleeping ever since.
What I am everlastingly most grateful for is the people in my life. When G and I were saying goodbye this evening she said that it’d gone reasonably well. I said that yes, and especially given the severe dysfunction of many family gatherings, some inter-child tension in ours wasn’t a big deal. That might sound like cool or inadequate praise. But I think it’s a very good thing that both Hazel and B have this safe space in which to learn how to get along; to learn how to deal with other powerful people in their lives, which is a circumstance they will both face over and over; to learn the meaning of family and love, in the form of time spent together; and, gradually, to acquire the development, willingness, and ability to prioritize those goods over the physical goods sometimes exchanged at the holidays and birthdays.
Thanks to our friends and family for all the thoughtful gifts given to us and our children. And thanks, most of all, for the love thus shared.