I've found since having our son that my mood goes as his mood goes; if he is happy, I am happy, and if he is unhappy, I am similarly unhappy. Yes, it's a roller coaster for the emotions, and it often sours my day or night if my son's mood sours. I guess when he is upset I feel like I'm letting him down, by either depriving him of sleep or food, for example. I would like him to not want for anything, and my wife and I anticipate his needs before he melts down. Obviously this is an impossibility, but it's something that bothers me.
I worry if we don't let him nap long enough or if he misses a nap, or has to go to bed later than usual. He's been doing really well lately with sleeping through the night and I guess I don't want to do anything to disrupt that. So while I didn't think I'd become the parent who lets his kid's schedule rule my life, I have become that indeed. Want us to meet you at noon? No, thank you, but we can meet earlier/later. Inviting us over for dinner? Sure, if we can get the early bird special and get home by 6:30PM.
Apparently my bad mood coinciding with his doesn't help matters. My ranting while he screams supposedly causes ire. Although I complain (loudly) because I am concerned we are doing our son wrong, I've heard there's a better way of handling these situations. It's surely better to react positively or, at worst, be in control of one's emotions. Yes, I understand this. My hope is that I figure out how to do just that sooner rather than later. Also, I'm quite looking forward to the day when my son has enough vocabulary to let us know in words what is bothering him. Until then, I'll be writing resolutions and counting to 10 in my head next time Mount J erupts.
Last year we were turned on to this great Christmas tradition called "Elf on the Shelf." It's a story book and an Elf figure that you place in a different location around the house each day before Christmas (presumably not all year long, just like after Thanksgiving, I guess). The story of the Elf is that he (or she, since you can buy a skirt for your elf) comes from the North Pole, directed by Santa Claus to watch all the little boys and girls while Santa is hard at work making toys. Each night the Elf returns north to report to Santa how the kids are behaving, then returns to your home in a different spot for the next day.
The purpose of this, besides a sweet new Christmas tradition for the family, is to try and keep kids behaving during a stressful time of year. The children are also instructed not to touch the Elf or his "magic" will wear off and he won't be able to tell Santa how good the child has been, possibly negating Santa's visit on the 25th. To make the Elf more personable, the Elf should be named and you can even register the elf's name on the Elf on the Shelf web site.
The web site, by the way, is great, especially if you have Flash software on your computer (Who doesn't nowadays? You? Oh, then download here), and looks like those old-time Christmas shows created with stop animation, like the one about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman. There's a lot to enjoy on the site for kids and parents alike.
Our son can't yet comprehend the reason for the Elf in our house but he picked up on the Elf itself rather quickly. For about a week now we've been moving him around the house and asking him "Where's the Elf?" Our son immediately starts looking around the room for the Elf, glancing in the spots he remembers seeing the Elf previously. It's amazing how fast he picked up on it and that he looks in those previous spots for his new friend. We tell him not to touch the elf, and I make sure to set the Elf out of grabbing height. Our son does, however, "wave" to the Elf, though since he's still learning to wave properly, I can't tell if he's really waving or reaching out to grab the thing.
We sent it to our friends Carrie and Steve for their son last year, and he immediately named the Elf "Elfie" and loved searching the house for it before school. This year we sent Elf on the Shelf to our god son Dominik. His mom thinks the Elf will help her keep little D on the "nice" list more than just the threat of Santa not coming because he's been "naughty." I'm sure we will be sending this gift to other families as time goes on, too. This sort of tradition is something that feels a less fabricated, I guess because I never knew about it before last year, and thus didn't think it was overhyped or mass-marketed. Obviously the day will come when the Elf will become passé as our children get older, but I like that this is something that can be kept within the family and passed on to the next generation.
Note: I am NOT getting paid to advertise/endorse this product. But, hey, if the makers want to toss me a couple bucks my address is...
This may come a week or so late, but in this time of giving, and giving thanks, I wanted to list some things I am thankful for this holiday season.
Being surrounded by family and friends who genuinely love our now 10-month-old son. As great as it has been to watch our son develop every day, it's been equally amazing at how much our family and friends have taken to him. Through holidays, family events, and now "play dates," so many of you have allowed our son into your lives, and for that I am thankful.
Having a wife who allows me to be me, even when parts of me act out in a manner unbecoming of my best self. I get easily frustrated when things don't go "accordingly" with our son, like him not sleeping through the night or seeming to be sick every other day of his short life. Somehow my wife has stuck by me, understanding my venting process (for better or worse -- mostly worse), and helping me realize not everything will go perfectly. I've learned a lot about myself during this process of being a father, and I admit I don't like all of it. I'm trying to use what I learn as motivation to change certain behaviors, and I think my wife realizes this process is sometimes a slow one...
Living in a country where I can speak my mind, at least virtually. Much to the chagrin of many of my "friends" I often use Facebook as a soapbox to air many grievances, mostly regarding religion and/or our government/politicians. I doubt I can change anyone's mind but at least I try to point out the other side of issues, or show that you can't always believe what you see at first glance. I don't like seeming like a snob, but I do feel people act in knee-jerk reactions, so pointing out what may not be obvious to someone at least makes me feel like I'm giving them the whole picture on an issue.
Traditions. I have been called a Scrooge in the past during this time of year, believe it or not. I do, however, enjoy Christmas, just maybe not the way it is "celebrated" nowadays. I am a purist when it comes to Christmas decorations, songs, and any meaning to be gleaned from it all. I love classical imagery, original versions of classic Christmastime music, and the stories that framed how the holiday came about (there's no mention of "Christmas" in the Bible, of course). I don't enjoy the crass over-marketing of the holiday by retail shops, the hijacking of right-wing religious fundamentalists who argue that atheists or the ACLU are trying to "take Christ out of Christmas," or ridiculous versions of holiday music (yes, I'm talking about your reggae Christmas CD).
Giving back. As many of you know, for the month of November I (and men all over the world) grew a moustache to help raise awareness and funds for prostate and testicular cancer. It was an organization called "Movember" and it was a pretty fun time. I had never really gotten involved in something like this, and I was really pleased to have stuck with it the entire month. It's nice to have my face back, but with the donations of so many friends and family members, it made it all worth it. I was able to raise over $1,000 for the cause, which was well more than I had ever imagined.
I'm sure there are more items to be added, but I don't want to get too sappy or too self-righteous, anymore than I already have. I look forward to celebrating the upcoming holidays with our son, creating new memories and holiday traditions of our own. It will be unlike anything else in my life, seeing the holidays through the eyes of my own child.