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A Tale of Two Children

December 13, 2012


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As anyone with more than one child knows acutely well, no two children are alike.  Siblings vary so greatly, sometimes enough to make one wonder how they share the same gene pool.  A lot of times, these differences are refreshing and a good insanity-avoidance provision.

Other times, these differences emphasize the humanity of the parents.  Time and time again, I’ve been proud of myself, thinking I have this parenting thing figured out.  However, then comes the next sibling who doesn’t sleep or doesn’t share or has a desire to win that’s a mile wide.  One child has one set of gifts and the next has a completely different set.  One has their own set of challenges and behavior modifications that work for her, but on the next child, absolutely nothing works that worked on the oldest.

For example, my challenge with my first is to keep her challenged and engaged.  She craves attention and its easy to see that her love language is quality time.  She has stated that she really doesn’t “need” anything for Christmas and so she doesn’t want much this year (and this child is just 7!).  She uses her hard earned saved money to buy presents for her brothers that she is sure they’ll love (and they will–she picked fabulously this year).  Her tongue is sharp and she perfected the art of manipulation by 18 months.  She is a people pleaser and responds really well to “carrots” and earning things.

Along came her first brother.  This brother plays happily by himself for hours.  He doesn’t understand the meaning of the word bored, because to be honest, he’s very rarely bored.  He loves people and making new friends and gets compliments for acceptance of everyone at school…he is well-liked by everyone.  He’s also very possessive and has a hard time with sharing.  He hates to lose and once he realizes he won’t win, he often just gives up.  He loves presents more than anything else and is also the best of my children at saying thank you when he receives gifts—thanking people repeatedly and often for several days afterwards.  His biggest motivator is a new toy and it is evident that it is his love language is gifts.

For this second one, we thought our kinder transition was easy.  We were thankful at how easily he slid into a new schedule and going to school every day.  Our first run at kinder was rough.  That first born of ours was miserable the first 3 months of school, our second loved it right away and was excited about going back the next day and the next and the next.  He hasn’t been bored a minute of kinder (unlike our first).  We were pleased with ourselves and relieved about the differences between our two children.

Then came Thanksgiving and December.  First he got the flu.  Then came the excitement of Thanksgiving and grandparents and uncles and an early Christmas.  When it was time to go back to school after a glorious five day vacation (which followed a short week the week before because of being sick), he didn’t want to go. The tears started and the wishing to be sick again began.  He wasn’t sleeping enough–which isn’t unusual for him–and in turn was crying more and yelling more.  We felt so bad for him.  We wanted to do something—-anything, but didn’t know what.  Finally, we moved him to a room by himself.  We made the guest room his and hoped that would help.

In the “new” room, in his “new” bed, I laid and talked to him on Sunday.  In talking, I heard what the problem was.  He was worried he wasn’t good enough.  It was hard enough to be “good enough” at school, but now he worried that he wouldn’t be “good enough” for Santa.    My heart broke Sunday afternoon and again on Tuesday afternoon, when he expressed a second time that he was worried he wasn’t “good enough.”

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I wasn’t raised believing in Santa.  The Santa aspect of Christmas was always downplayed and so I assumed, when I had kids, we would just skip the Santa thing too.  Ooops.  I forgot I didn’t make child rearing decisions by myself.  For three years, probably, Curtis and I argued about how Christmas would be done.  Santa was necessary, Curtis insisted.  Curtis had fond memories of Santa and mystery surrounding Christmas morning.  Those were traditions he wanted to share with our children.  Eventually (three years later), I came around.  We have our Santa traditions and our family myths.  It doesn’t disturb me like it once did.  I deflect all Santa questions to Curtis, lest I seem too Grinch-y.  It works.  I don’t worry about Santa taking away from Jesus.  We watch a movie on the more or less true history St. Nicholas (via Veggie Tales) and do many other Advent activities that remind us of why we celebrate Christmas.  Santa simply serves as a bit of fantasy around Christmas.

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Despite the last paragraph, I am struggling a bit more with Santa this year.  How do we teach a child about grace when he believes he’ll get what he deserves on Christmas day, which may be a lump of coal?  (He is genuinely worried he’s just getting coal for Christmas.  He has no idea what coal is, just that it’s not a new toy).  All of a sudden, Santa turned into capitalism and self-centered society.  You get what you deserve.   I don’t want my boy to worry about not being good enough.  I’ve worried about that enough in my life (and I probably have worried about it less than a lot).  I know I’m imperfect and constantly am getting impatient with God because God isn’t fixing those imperfections fast enough.  I struggle with being fully human.  What if I am not “good enough” for God?

So, I’m spending more time loving on my boy.  I’m trying to let him know that even though he gets sent to the office for fighting on the slide, he is still good enough.  I still love him.  His Daddy still loves him.  God still loves him.  His teacher even still loves him.  His heart is good, I tell him, even though he insists it’s bad.  I hug him some more and sit on the floor and tickle him until he finally tells me he’s done (which for John takes a while–he begs to be tickled more, MORE! usually).  I share about the times I felt like I wasn’t “good enough.”  I tell him stories about how much God loves him.  I pray that he hears that, that he sees that, and he can experience that.  I pray that he feels grace, even when he’s so acutely aware that he doesn’t deserve it.  I hope he can learn that he is always good enough.

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