Friday, January 28, 2005

Kids and Their Routines

Mommy and Grant (March 2001)
March 2001

Yesterday was my son's birthday, and we had a fairly low-key day. He was excited when I picked him up from his dad's house at 9:00 a.m., and excited when he saw the presents that had magically appeared here at our house. There was a big Tonka fire engine, smaller Tonka ambulance and Berenstain Bears racing book on the couch, and a music box (with cool see-through case—he was coveting this at Seaport Village last weekend) and birthday edition gold Hotwheels car on the nightstand. A friend of mine has a family tradition of receiving "nightstand presents" on birthdays, and I wanted to start something special like that for my son.

Anyway, after he opened and played with his presents, he asked when he would get more presents. Typical four-year-old. ;-) He didn't seem terribly fazed when I said he'd probably get some on Saturday, but I think he was missing his dad and/or having some feelings about his dad's not doing anything special on his birthday (?). Earlier I'd asked him if Daddy had done anything birthdayish that morning and he'd said no, so maybe the fact that I was making a big deal out of the birthday and Daddy wasn't was confusing...? The fact was that my son's dad had taken him to Disneyland the prior weekend and bought him various Disney toys, and told him he turned four that day. Okay, but he could've called or at least had a small gift for the boy on his real birthday. Also, my brother called and sang to my son, and my son apparently thought it was Daddy and insisted on this even when I told him it was his uncle, so I dropped it. (My son's dad never called, probably thinking he'd already celebrated the kid's birthday, so it wasn't necessary. Who knows?)

After a certain point, my son seemed out of sorts for awhile and was hitting me and generally acting out, so I told him if he wanted to talk about his thoughts and feelings I would listen when he was ready. He said he wanted potatoes and I told him I'd gotten red ones the night before because the store was out of brown ones, and he burst into tears. I stealthily peeled the red potatoes in the kitchen and prepared them, and all seemed well for the time being.

Knowing how kids love their routines, I asked my son if he was tired of having an unusual day and just wanted it to be a regular day. He said yes.

Golly. It must be confusing when you're four and have all sorts of birthday celebrations and schedule variations from house to house.

Later in the day I pulled out a few photos and asked him if he wanted to look at baby pictures and he said no. He did see a couple of photos of his dad and me, and asked what we were doing in one picture (holding hands). I wonder if that was too confusing.

We started making his birthday cake because he just couldn't wait. As we cracked eggs and measured ingredients, I realized that not only was he learning how to make a cake—I was learning how to teach someone to make a cake. I'm accustomed to doing these things alone, and working with my son on the cake was a real exercise in patience for me.

Finally he curled up next to me on the couch and fell asleep for a few hours, and I took the opportunity to catch a few winks myself. When he awoke, he stayed in a half-asleep/half-awake weepy mode. I carried him upstairs so he could go potty (he refused to go by himself and I felt he should go since he hadn't gone for hours), then I made him a little supper and he seemed to feel better for a while.

Just before bedtime, he went back into weepy mode and I asked him what was happening. "I'm just sad because I'm sad!" he told me. This is very much unlike him, so I helped him brush his teeth and put him to bed.

Poor little duckling.

I think the schedule upheaval had a definite effect on him. Today is a much more normal day and he seems perfectly happy as usual. Thank goodness.

Today we'll get a new battery for my Pentax K1000, which I've had for about 23 years. I love that camera, and I look forward to photographing my son with it. :-)