Follow Through or, Slowly Through the Snow
We spent way too much of Christmas Eve Day/Day 1 of Camp Charlie, Winter Session, in the white car. Morning drive to Charlie's school (the gates were shut and locked so we had to settle for driving the perimeter). Afternoon drive to see my mother-in-law in the nursing home, with the sled in the back of the car, just in case.
We're very fond of our no longer new, odometer-reading-way-too-many-miles car except for one thing. The trunk is a bit awkward to shut; a certain finesse is required and I was not displaying this yesterday after noon. Jim and Charlie were already in the car and, Charlie being easily jarred by loud noises and bangs and thraks, I was extra, or rather excessively, cautious in shutting the trunk. Accordingly, it wasn't shut, and the "something is open" light was glowing red on the dashboard. Jim reminded me not to force it, but to "follow through," to imagine that the trunk door closed six inches below where it actually does and to build up a sort of momentum. Slamming the door down hard, I was reminded, was not going to work (and would rattle Charlie in the backseat. "You have to follow through," said Jim.
Yes, Jim used to golf (actually, he used to caddy) and yes, his advice worked and off we went to see his mother. We found her propped up in a special chair; Charlie told her "Merry Christmas" several times.
After a late lunch we drove to the hill where we'd attempted sledding on Sunday.
Or rather, we drove to the hill that we'd driven by on Sunday, on seeing a great many small children there, and ascertaining that Charlie would have a hard time maneuvering among them (and, too, they around him, more likely). Jim noted that the hill was far less crowded yesterday and that its more gentle slope might better appeal to Charlie.
At first, it looked like Jim might be doing most of the sledding. Charlie walked near and then away from the sled, saying "no" repeatedly when Jim stationed it at the top of the hill.
Jim suggested moving to the side, where the slop was more gradual, and there were no other sledders. He positioned the slide and coaxed Charlie to get on. Charlie walked over, looked down, and put his foot on the sled.
He got a little ride.
He carried the sled up a bit farther and carefully set it down. Jim helped hold onto the sled so Charlie could get on it.
Charlie got the sled again, positioned it carefully, stood up. The sled did what a sled does, and slid away.
Charlie indicated that he was done with what was, if you ask us, a very successful sledding outing, Charlie methodically going through the steps to show us how he wanted to do it.
By now Jim and I know enough that, the more we put pressure on Charlie to do something, the more likely he is going to resist. While this has probably been the case for Charlie all along, it's become more of an issue as he has gotten older. No more scooping him up and plopping him on a sled or into his seat or wherever; when he tell us "no," plants his feet and puts his hands over his ears, he's not going to be moved (literally and figuratively). Last summer's lesson of following—respecting—the time Charlie needs to think through doing something, remains as important as ever. Besides waiting for Charlie to work through whatever's in his head, we've all been getting a sense of how to provide just enough of a push, a suggestion, a word here or there—Jim noting that another part of the hill wasn't as steep, and was empty—to get things going.
It's not force one needs but the ability to follow through. A not very profound idea, but one I'm keeping in mind during the upcoming, school-less, in the Garden-not-the-Golden-State days—though it occurs to me, Jim and I were already following this principle when we decided not to get on the airplane Wednesday with Charlie. I had spent so many days worrying about the trip and what to pack to keep Charlie interested and how to ensure that he'd sleep for most of it: I was, you could say, going to have do a lot of forcing to get through the long flight. And the forcing wasn't going to stop there. Jim and I, being too well-aware of what a tough time Charlie had in California in 2008, we'd been scheming about how best to handle each holiday gathering and how to keep Charlie active and occupied in surroundings that were not his usual ones.
A whole lot of effort, in other words.
Of course one would like one's child to be a part of family gatherings as much as possible, to learn how to handle such social situations. But I've wondered if, in doing so, all the fun and at least some of the joy of holiday season gets siphoned out.
So wishing you good follow-through whatever you're celebrating, or not, today, as well as much good will, deep joy, and plenty of peaceful-easy-feelingness.