Friday, April 27, 2012

King of Wishful Thinking

Anderson turned four last week (April 15th).  We celebrated the entire weekend, which may have partially caused my demise last Sunday, on his actual birthday.  Why are birthdays, holidays in general, filled with such extreme highs and lows?  Rarely are they 100% smooth and stress or drama free.  Oh right, it’s because of my expectations.  I gotta work on letting go of those.

Fortunately, as is most cases, the highs far outnumbered the lows.  But we take them all in.  Because that’s life.

We jump started things Friday putting our season pass to the Bounce House to work.  Always a hit.

IMG_1518

The Mooze was feeling more chill than thrill that morning and opted to camp out in the massage chair.

IMG_1524 

Anderson generously delivered up two Melt Me Moments that weekend.  You know the kind.  The ones that take your breath away in the moment, imprint on your heart soon after, then take their place among your fondest Mommy Memories forever and ever.  You never see them coming.  They spring straight from his heart and couldn’t be more perfectly scripted.

Melt Me Moment #1:  "Mom, I picked these for you because I love you. You can keep them forever."

IMG_1545    

Saturday we went to Bunnyland at Butler’s Orchard.  It proved to be a sun-shining, fun-packing, game-playing, animal-petting, tractor-riding, egg-hunting, slide-thrilling, photo-opting morning.

DSC_0017DSC_0004 DSC_0014  DSC_0023 DSC_0032 DSC_0053DSC_0091

Max was uber into the chicks.  He got as close to them as he could.  Then he got his stare on.DSC_0099

Without hesitation, Anderson conquered the biggest slide.  My boy is so big and brave I can hardly believe it.

DSC_0114 DSC_0167

I was thisclose to throwing Anderson a full-blown friend birthday party, but in the end decided to continue our tradition of doing a special family activity instead.  The friend parties will come.  For now our little family adventures are simple and mean the world to Anderson.  He can tell you, starting with his 2nd birthday, what special thing we have done every year for his big day.

DSC_0171

This year, Bunnyland was perfect for him.  And for us.

DSC_0186

Bonus to the special family day:  our best buddy Des and his family met us at Bunnyland.  Family with a side of friend. Best of both worlds.DSC_0146DSC_0071

Saturday night I set to work on birthday magic.   I used another great Pinterest idea (Anyone else feel like they never have to come up with anything on their own anymore?  It’s great!) and decorated his room while he slept.  I slipped love notes into eight balloons, four from me and four from Harley, citing reasons we love him, are proud of him and things he’s accomplished this year.  This was easy and I enjoyed it.  I plan to make it a tradition.

IMG_1562

I’m slightly obsessed with sleeping children, especially mine.  I sneak in on them every night just to peak at their rising and falling chests, peaceful bodies, still faces and sometimes funny positions. 

IMG_1564

Last night as a 3 year old.

DSC_0006-001Anderson was excited to find his room decorated, but honestly, he didn’t appreciate the love notes like I envisioned he would.  He was more concerned with whether or not we were popping the balloons and what role Max played in it all than he was with reading and understand the love behind the messages.

DSC_0011-001DSC_0022-001

It’s okay. I know he’ll appreciate it in time.

DSC_0002DSC_0024-001After church and a quick tuna fish and Sprite lunch we opened presents.  Anderson’s big gift is a new bike, which we have yet to give him.  I bought him a classic Radio Flyer bike I loved.  Harley spent three hours trying to put it together Saturday night before we determined it was a lemon.  I felt bad we didn’t have his big gift for his big day, especially since his other gifts from us were clothes and shoes.  Money from grandparents is going towards new book shelves in his room.  Probably not what he would have picked.

DSC_0042-001DSC_0040-001 DSC_0044-001We gave him his helmet and tried to explain.  He took it just fine.  Again, my expectations are high; his are low.  He was completely satisfied with Max’s $5 gift to him: Candy Land.

DSC_0074-001DSC_0064-001 

This is about where things started to downward spiral for me.  I really wanted a nap that day.  Harley announced he was leaving to help some stranger move.  This annoyed me on it’s own, but more so when he abandoned the dishes and bailed on half of gift opening to take a nap himself.  He woke up late and rushed to the move.  Further annoyed.  After six rounds of Candy Land, just me and Anderson, Max woke up and I knew my nap was not happening.  Max tried to play the game, but of course he doesn’t know the rules, so this sparked sibling conflict. 

DSC_0071-001

Thoughtful phone calls from family started flowing in which I hoped would be a distraction for Anderson.  Nope.  Confession:  my brilliant, engaging, positively delightful child is terrible on the phone.  He’s not interested, he clams shut and it frustrates me.  He’ll have lengthy, riveting conversations with everyone and their uncle on his fake phone daily but pause to say “thank you” for a gift over a real phone on his birthday?  No way.  More annoyed.  Silly, I know, but add in my exhaustion, and hormones, and the build up of everything I orchestrated to make his weekend special, not to mention Easter the week prior and Harley’s birthday hitting the next day, and… well… the annoyance reached a breaking point.

I suggested we open Anderson’s cards.  Harley’s mom, who always sends the best cards, went above and beyond and included a sleeve of Cars stickers.  The only person more excited by this than Anderson was Max.  They fought.  Loudly.  Grabbing.  Tears.  I told Anderson to let Max hold the stickers for a minute, insisting there was no way Max knew how to peel off a sticker. 

Anderson complied.  Max immediately peeled off a sticker.

That’s when Anderson lost it.  He’d acted mature sharing his new gift only to get hosed, and now he believed I’d lied to him.  His big emotions overtook his small body and it happened:

“I hate you, Mom!”

He’s four.  I knew this day would come eventually, but he’s four.  I’d bent over backwards to give him a special weekend with special traditions and special love notes and a special cake and a special outing and special gifts, and Harley’s MIA, and the kitchen’s a mess, and both kids are upset and now… he hates me??!!!

I cried.

Immediately Anderson apologized.  It didn’t take my tears to prompt it.  The panic that took over his face the second the words left his lips told me he regretted it instantly.  But it all happened so fast, my emotions were already flowing.  He knows “hate” is a bad word and a horrible thing to tell someone you love.  He ran to me, shaking his head, tears streaming down his face, apologizing over and over again.  “I didn’t mean it Mom.  I’m sorry, I’m sorry.  I never should have said that naughty word.  I love you.  I’m so sorry Mom.  That was a bad choice and I would never mean that to you.”

I knew he didn’t mean it.  Just like I didn’t mean it when I lost my cool the week before and yelled at him.  He ran to his room, afraid of me.  I went to him later, apologized, and we had a good talk about feelings and losing your temper and saying things you shouldn’t.  So there we were, having that talk again, but this time the roles were reversed.  He’d lost his cool, he knew it, and he felt bad.  Really bad.  I quickly forgave him, just as he had so quickly forgiven me last week.  We talked and hugged and discussed the special weekend he’d had and the work and love people put into it.  On some level, I know he understood and appreciated. 

DSC_0095-001

On so many levels, I need to stop orchestrating the holidays and just let them happen.  Let go and enjoy them for what they are without worrying about the details or his reactions.  If I don’t expect much, I don’t get let down.  He expects next to nothing.  He truly looked confused when we kept explaining why there was no bike.  He’s happy with a party hat, a number cake and a sleeve of stickers (that he doesn’t have to share).  Again and again we heard that weekend, “This is my best birthday of my whole life ever!”

DSC_0055-001

After we kissed and made up, I cleaned the kitchen while the boys found a way to play Candy Land peacefully.  Harley returned home earlier than planned and we had Anderson’s dinner of choice:  hamburgers, strawberries, orange chips (Doritos) and “4 cake” outside. 

DSC_0072-001DSC_0106-001 I opted for open face over bread when I realized our buns were moldy.

It was a wonderful weekend. We had great family moments. The bike will come as will his appreciation for all we and others do for him and the varied ways we express it. When the low of the weekend hit, it could have been worse. Anderson didn’t storm off to his room, meaning the hurtful words he’d said. He knew they were poison in our home and immediately felt remorse and made it right. He’s only four. And he’s so happy. All is well.

DSC_0114-001DSC_0089-001 

Then this happened.

And all was better than well.  Melt Me Moment #2.  I cried again.  The good kind of cry.  The kind that knows the weekend tallied more highs than few silly lows.  The highs are the ones we’ll remember and cherish forever.  Because, guess what, Anderson?  We ARE a family forever!  Birthday wish come true!

DSC_0081

And every member of this forever family loves you, Anderson, very,

DSC_0087-001

very

IMG_1556

much.

DSC_0050-001

13 comments:

Crystal said...

Why do your post always make me cry. I just went through this. We sqeeze three birthdays between Valentine's Day and Easter. By the time the five events are done I feel so worn from the highs and lows of my expectations being met. Did you read about our bike drama for our last birthday? I stressed out about it so much, but really she would have been as pleased with a polly pocket. Oh us mothers.

anna banana said...

Beautiful! Looks like a great weekend and I totally cried at the birthday cake wish. So special.

It amazes me how hard it is as a mom to bring your birthday expectations. The kids need next to nothing and are so happy. It is a hard lesson to learn.

Mom said...

It looks like Anderson had a great birthday weekend. Be careful Wendy, pace yourself, if you start celebrating birthday weekends you will really burn yourself out. To quote Marjorie Hinckley, "the best way to be happy is to lower your expectations." Kids don't have any expectations until we teach them to.

Lisa Weiler said...

What a whirlwind of emotions that weekend was! But I'm glad it ended with such a sweet birthday wish, and how great that you have it on video! I would like to go to Bunnyland. Also love the picture of Mooze in the chair :)

Ali Snow said...

What a wonderful birthday weekend for Anderson. Remember how mom kept all of our "hate" notes to her in her jewelry box right next to our love notes. It happens to everyone. Anderson is a very mature, good little boy. Can't wait to see him next month!

Ryan and Cheryl Harris said...

Oh, I loved reading this. Poor Anderson...such big emotions and little body. How sweet that he felt badly about it so immediately. And that Birthday wish...that's going to go down in history in this fam. Priceless.

Love the first pic of Mooze in the glasses at Bunnyland.

Wish we could have been with you all to celebrate. I like the idea of the notes in the balloons.

Great post. As always. Thanks for sharing.

Gwendolyn said...

Oh that birthday wish made me cry too! I love children's low expectations. Sorry about the hate moment; I recently had one of those (because this is what happens around 3-4?) and it was so sad. Love how quickly they can let go of the anger though. You're doing such a great job :)

Mike said...

Oh Wendy. I think it is very sweet how you try to make everything so perfect. But nothing is ever perfect. Maybe it is good that you soon will be living with 4 boys with very low expectations to balance things out. But I know they all love you for you efforts.

Love Dad

Ming said...

So beautifully put. And like everyone else this post made me cry. Being a mother is an emotional roller coaster for sure! You're amazing! You're kids are amazing! What a fun bday weekend. All Jack got this year was a trip to the park down the street and a few presents. You know what? He loved it. Your mom is right they don't know expectations until we teach it to them. I love that. Something I will try to keep in mind for sure.

Suzette Selden said...

I love how you celebrated his b'day all week long! You are an amazing mom.

Kell's Belles said...

I am in complete agreement with everyone else--you are an amazing mom and your boys are incredibly lucky. What a great birthday!

You just encountered the reality of sibling birthdays for the first time--in my experience, my other kids always have trouble with jealousy on birthdays. It IS hard to watch someone open great toys and not get grabby. Likewise, it's hard to share your new things. We try to acknowledge both sets of feelings and then diffuse the tension by having "party favors" on hand for the other girls (little things like stickers, small bubbles, a balloon, etc). It softens the blow for the others and helps the birthday girl avoid meltdowns :) The grandmas have helped with this and we've all had happier birthdays.

Amber Snow said...

That video of him making his birthday wish is the best and sweetest thing I have ever seen - completely melted my heart!

Sarah S said...

Oh dear Wendy! Thank you for your blog post. I am up late getting work done (dumb) after a long evening discussing the consequences of my high expectations for holidays/birthdays with Ben (who has extremely low expectations and is not one to deliver amazingly up to my ridiculous expectations on holidays such as oh, Mother's Day...)

It really is amazing how much the preg. hormones exaggerate our already strong emotions around stuff like this (I'm totally in tears after reading this and the unpleasant convo with Ben earlier that turned out okay but was dumb to begin with). I'm glad you were able to enjoy the highs of that sweet weekend and I love all of the fun details that you planned. Anderson is lucky to have you as his mom!