So this is a belated post, it’s a post I meant to put up on or just after Ash Wednesday but in the wake of another national tragedy with the school shooting in Florida I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it. The more time passed, the more I think that maybe some of these thoughts on rhythms and seasons and the everyday are still important for me to put out there so… better late than never, right?
“If all the year were playing holiday to sport would be as tedious as to work but when they seldom come they wished for come…” -Henry IV Part I
One of the things I am most looking forward to about lent is re-setting some of the everyday routines that I probably should have been thinking about as soon as the Christmas season ended. I realized that the holiday season for us basically started the week of Halloween and never stopped straight up through Valentine’s Day. This really hit me about a week before Ash Wednesday as my three year old asked me “what’s my surprise today?” and I had to ask him who told him he got to have a surprise that day? And he replied “I’m good so I get a treat! It’s a special day!”
OH. No. Had I become THAT parent? I sat and thought about his expectations and realized a few things- 1. We truly did have a bit of an issue with extending holidays and wanting to have nonstop exciting surprises for our kids. I mean, when you have leftover Christmas candy, it’s a pretty powerful parenting tool to dole that stuff out in exchange for picking up toys more quickly or extending quiet time just a little longer. Plus, there are a lot of birthday parties at this age so it kind of does seem like every weekend is a very special surprise. One of those we can and will do something about next Christmas season! (Still formulating a plan on that though.) and one of those we can do something about but won’t because I love sharing in those birthday celebrations whenever scheduling permits, but we can start talking about them differently which leads me to point number two:
2. WE had a vocabulary problem. I realized my husband and I refer to almost EVERYTHING as a special treat or surprise. Going to see friends at MOPS or catechism, having pancakes for dinner, getting some TV time, getting an extra story, having hot chocolate, going to the park or the zoo, etc. etc. etc. and in that way, my son was completely right. We were dangling a special surprise or treat in front of him every single day. And that’s why I’m going to work on new phrases, because I want “special treats” to actually be special. A surprise isn’t a particularly good surprise if you get one every day. Nice things happen all the time and I want him to know that. There are plenty of nice and beautiful things in the everyday and in the routine and in just being together, but the nice things don’t exist just to be special treats to him. So I’m going to try and just refer to what we are doing and let that contain it’s own joy, or maybe sometimes remind him that those are blessings, and show him which of those things are part of a routine so that he knows which of those things are part of special celebrations and times of the year.
3. This was a great learning opportunity coming at a great time. I talked to my son about how surprises don’t happen every day, but consequences to actions- both good and bad- DO happen every day. I’m not sure he totally got the talk, but we have a lot of time to revisit that subject. Then, I decided I really WAS going to take my kids out for a special treat/surprise on Fat Tuesday. It’s tradition that we have pancakes on that day but I usually make them at home and I wanted something a little different this year. So instead of going to his catechism class, we went to one of my favorite restaurants- Snooze. I usually only go there during my birthday week but they were having a special pancake day with various special flavors and I knew they were kid friendly so this was perfect. He was indeed VERY surprised when I turned at a different place than I usually do when taking him to our church. When we got to the restaurant, I told my son how I only go there once or twice a year and that’s part of what made it special is that it doesn’t happen often. Then I let him pick three different kinds of pancakes and he and his sister and I all had a big pancake celebration. It was an extra special day the whole day long.
Since then, I’ve been trying hard to re-set. I’m getting better with the vocab work. It’s not a surprise that we’re reading extra stories, it’s something I want to be a memory for him as what’s normal in our household when we have slower days. It’s not a surprise to have a big brunch on Sunday, it’s a way we are working on setting aside time as a family to celebrate the Sabbath. An extra hug and kiss is never a special treat, it is my pleasure and my joy and the best part of my day. And it IS a treat to have candy because we’re not doling it out every day. It’s so tempting to make every single day over the top magical and special, it’s particularly tempting when you read news stories of kids being murdered in their schools and there are reminders everywhere about how we never know which day might be our last, but the special times are made memorable by the way they stand out from the everyday. And I’m beginning to think that the everyday is made beautiful by embracing the simplicity in our routines instead of fighting it.
I’m trying to think really hard and reflect on what I want to remember as part of our routines and how I want to intentionally break those routines for special occasions. I’d love to hear how you have found re-sets or how you make the special occasions truly stand out without falling into the trap of trying to top the celebrations that have come before?