The End of Christmas (and Possibly the World)

January 3rd, 2013

It was one of those moments you don’t understand until later.

We packed up our Christmas decorations this week before I departed for a few days in Pittsburgh for my work.  It was a bit earlier than we sometimes strip the house down but I was ready.  The kids weren’t big fans of the plan and protested some as their toy nativity, the beautiful ornaments, and the holiday stuffed bears disappeared into boxes, but on the whole, they took it well…

…until I got to the Christmas books.

We have a collection of holiday-themed kids books ranging from silly stories about cows decorated like Christmas trees to a tear-jerker about a young boy who gives his beloved dog to Baby Jesus.  They only come out at Christmas time and are much-enjoyed.  This year, we’d given Buggie a copy of The Polar Express, and Miss Mouse received Fancy Nancy’s Splendiferous Christmas.

When I attempted to remove the Fancy Nancy book and pack it away, my sweet girl went nuts.

She refused to hand it over.  She hid it behind her back.  She sat on it.  She clutched it to her chest and wept.  Her behavior made no sense to me and I confess I was less empathetic than I might have been.  “Gimme the book, kid.  Christmas is over.” — was the general message, delivered in slightly more polite language.  Her disapproval of this plan eventually escalated into a full-on tantrum that resulted in a time-out in her room after she walloped me.

I was baffled and irritated.  Christmas stuff only comes out at Christmas.  How hard is that?

Then a short while later, she reappeared in the living room, climbed into my lap with a sniffle, and woefully inquired in a small voice — “Are you going to put my barbies away, too?

Light bulb.

She thought I was packing away the Christmas presents, not just the Christmas decorations.  To me, the Fancy Nancy book was clearly a holiday-themed item.  To her, it was simply one of the (too) many presents she received for Christmas.

If I was intent on boxing it up until next year, what was next?  Her fancy new dress-up costume?  Her cool hair scrunchies?  Or – gasp – her Snow White doll?

Say it ain’t so, mom!!

As soon as I understood where she was coming from, my whole approach changed.  I gathered her into my arms and reassured her that her presents were safe.  I explained more clearly and patiently that the book was about Christmas and therefore would go away until next year but that the rest of her toys and dolls and non-Christmas-themed books weren’t going anywhere.

Then it was all okay again.

Moral of the story: sometimes it takes us grown-ups a while to realize that our kids have interpreted a situation in a completely different way than we intended it.  If your little person is having an unexpectedly ferocious response to something, it’s worth taking some time to make sure you’re both on the same page!

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