Last week a recycling bin moved me to tears.
I was driving slowly down the street when I happened to glance at a neighbour’s blue box. Just poking out the top were the tell-tale golden arches making up the cardboard handles of a Happy Meal box.
The resulting misty eyes and clenching of my stomach had nothing to do with a craving for McNuggets. In seeing that brightly coloured packaging, I realized it had been months – even years – since I had last purchased a Happy Meal for my kids. They’re getting older now, and more inclined to request sushi or hit up a taco stand than beg for a snack with Ronald McDonald. In that moment, I understood that I had purchased my last Happy Meal, and at the time, I didn’t even know it.
I may have even grumbled about being forced into the endeavour, missing the fact that it was an easy way to allow my kids to enjoy a special treat, an all-important deviation from the ordinary.
In the same vein, I know now that I’ve researched and procured my last LEGO set for my children. Poring over the catalogue, pointing out the neat new creations, ranking, deciding and anticipating those LEGO marvels – I never realized how much a part of holiday and birthday celebrations they were until they are now done. Items of interest now include technology, data, clothes, or cold, hard, cash. There is no blissful down period post-holidays of building sets or playing with toys.
I always thought that there was plenty of time to take the LEGO sets apart and build the B model, or to try to create a new route with a train set. I was fairly certain there would be many more games of Candyland or Mousetrap. I anticipated many, many more cookies created in the Easy-Bake Oven. I wasn’t aware that my time as leader of fun and gatekeeper of giggles was running out.
This holiday season, if budget allows, I say buy that special toy or the shoes that light up. Or give the gift of time and attend a doll tea party, engage in a Bey Blades battle, or watch some cartoons. Instead of worrying about and limiting sugar all the time, buy the donuts with the pink frosting and the sprinkles. Have the pillow fight, or make s’mores in the microwave.
Because it may be trite, but it is true: they really do grow up so fast. One day you’ll be wondering how to connect in a world of tween interests that are less likely to include parents. There will come an evening where you look around a realize that no one is clamouring for your attention. Kids may be following their own passions, maybe reading, listening to music, drawing, or watching YouTube.
They don’t need you to supply the magic anymore, and after years of being drained by requests, suddenly…they’re gone. And while the extra time and bandwidth can be a wonderful luxury, it can also be highly disorienting. It may even be tinged with regrets for all the times we said no, maybe later, or have an apple instead.
Like me, you might come to realize that all of those rules and limits were arbitrary, and, in the grand scheme of things, really not that important.
This holiday season may be the perfect time to slow down and really pay attention to this stage and age and enjoy some quality time, complete with fries.
Tagged under: mom 101