Sweet rewards - FamilyEducation

Sweet rewards

November 24,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

This past weekend was rewarding, yet jam-packed and exhausting. It was one of those weekends when you know you've over-scheduled your family, but you just couldn't help yourself when all the planning took place, because it all sounded so fun and doable. We started off the weekend with Box Day on Saturday morning. It was a huge success, as far as T. and I were concerned. She literally ran to the business of filling up her box, and picked out a few stuffed animals and even two dolls without a single tear. She chattered the whole time about an imaginary child's reactions to the toys she or he might inherit, and I felt my heart swell with pride when I thought about how much she's matured since last year's Box Day. I think my kids are pretty amazing kids, all in all, but it's in those moments--those times when you see right into your child's good, kind, beautiful heart, that you feel a sense of rightness with the world, and you want to bottle up that feeling, or hold it tightly in your hand, so you can keep it with you forever and ever. *********** On Sunday L. was an anxious mess about the Star Wars watching party he had planned. He slept poorly the night before, and during the day he paced around, looking at the clock and counting down the hours, twirling his hair nervously, slipping into those comforting ritualistic patterns of behavior he finds so safe during times of stress. It helped that we had our neighbors over for pancakes and waffles on Sunday morning but after the mess was cleaned up, and the house emptied, it was clear we needed to find some way to make it through the rest of the afternoon. It was contagious, the party-anxiety. I found myself with 11th hour doubts--did we invite too many kids? The wrong mix of kids? Was this taking on too much for L.? We've always tried faithfully to follow L.'s lead and instincts, and this certainly paid off on Sunday. It was daunting to have seven boys under one roof (who knew your average boy ate so much? They went through five packs of microwave popcorn, several cans of Sprite, a jug of warmed cider, two large pizzas, two orders of cheese sticks, and a plate of chocolate chip cookies--oh parents of multiple boys, I bow down to you in awe) but it was a fantastic party. We've known those boys since kindergarten, and it was so rewarding to watch them all together, and to see L. right there at the heart of it all, with his buddies, just having a good, good time. Word of warning to those planning a similar movie-viewing party: Be prepared with alternative energy-channeling activities! Even the most exciting Star Wars movie out there won't hold the attention of seven boys when there's a chance to play some inter-galactic form of cops and robbers with light sabers and laser blasters, and L.'s hat collection. I'd say the kids were good for about one hour of movie viewing time before they bailed on the film in favor of running through the house. We got them rounded up again for pizza, but they were up and at it again after about thirty minutes. ...a fact which was mind-boggling to my forty-year old self, and probably to most busy grown-ups, who can't imagine not wanting to sit still on a comfy couch for a two hour movie, especially when someone else's mom is feeding you bowls of popcorn, gooey shocolate chip cookies, and all the warmed, spicy cider you could possibly want.