Natural consequences

AS I WAITED FOR MY GARAGE DOOR TO OPEN yesterday afternoon, I was met by Eli, who was fixing to leave on his bike with his basketball. He’s been enjoying that we live close to basketball courts, but it’s been too cold to play outside. He has discovered that sometimes, his school is open after hours and if one of the two gyms is not in use, he can shoot around inside.

The problem was, he was wearing crew socks and a pair of athletic slides. And a hoodie. And it was 20 degrees outside.

I tried to explain frostbite and hypothermia, but all he heard was BLAH BLAH COLD BLAH BLAH BLAH and off he went.

When he returned 15 minutes later, his feet were really cold. (No!) As he sat with them next to the fireplace, we had another discussion about how 20 degrees is a kind of cold one should not trifle with. This is the kind of cold that would freeze the canned sodas we used to leave on the shelf in our carport. It’s the kind of cold that helps you identify every broken seal on every window and door in your house. It’s the kind of cold that makes furnaces sputter and quit.

You would think the experience of self-inflicted cold feet would have left an impression. You would think he’d have been grateful that I dug out two winter coats so he could choose one to wear on his walk to school. You would think those things, but you are probably an adult with a fully-developed frontal lobe. The boy rolled his eyes and groaned when I insisted he wear a coat. Or, he groaned because it was the first day back after winter break. Probably some of both. Either way, he was running late this morning and asked me to drive him to school. (Only the second time this school year!)

He got into the car wearing just a hoodie. Coat’s in my backpack, he said in response to my side-eye. Do you have a hat? I asked. I have a hood. Gloves? One. But I have pockets.

At least he was wearing sneakers instead of slides.

WebMD illustrates natural consequences using the coat / cold example. They go on to say, “Learning through experiencing consequences is much more powerful than through a lecture or punishment. Using consequences for misbehavior is an effective teaching method for dealing with behavior problems in children and teens.”

Oh, WebMD! That’s precious! I thought it would be effective too, but I am a female adult. And I have learned from parenting two boys through their teen years that cause and effect is not the deterrent you’d expect it to be, at least when it comes to weather-appropriate dress. Eli’s brothers insisted upon leaving coats behind, lest they be forced to actually use their school lockers. And with Eli, I’ve had to establish a threshold of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, below which he will only reluctantly wear long pants to school, much to the chagrin of school administrators.

Despite it all, I do tend to agree that a “natural consequences” approach to parenting is probably the best way in most cases. Within reasonable limits, of course. But I’ll be counting the days until he demonstrates that he can decide on his own, based on weather reports and experience, whether or not it’s a good day to wear a coat.

I take comfort in knowing that my kids’ behavior places them in the fat part of the bell curve. A quick Google search of “shorts in snow” yields many images of bare legs on a white background, including in this feature story from the Coeur D’Alene (Idaho) Press that articulates adults’ perennial concern for children’s cold legs.

I have found my people.

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Area Boy wears summer attire in winter. School administrators remain exasperated.

 

Deck the halls, now make it disappear

MAYBE IT’S JUST ME, but lately, I get as excited to undecorate after Christmas as I am to decorate right after Thanksgiving. Oh, there have been years where I could barely stand the thought of dragging the “big Santas” up from the storage room, but once I unbox them, I’m always happy I did. And this year, in my new place, they hold a place of prominence I didn’t have in my last house:

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My Santas, displayed atop the peninsula that holds the gas fireplace.

A few years ago, I was feeling grouchy in December, and came *thisclose* to just not digging out the Big Santas. Why get them out, I thought, when in three weeks I will have to spend another half-hour putting them away? So I told my kids, and they said, WHAT?? YOU HAVE TO GET THEM OUT!! So I did.

When I was a kid, my mom mandated that the Christmas tree come down on New Year’s Day. Ornaments repacked, gifts put away, all traces of the holiday gone. I remember dreading the chore. It meant the Christmas fun was over, and January’s bleakness had arrived.

Mom? I get it now.

This year’s tree is my first-ever artificial tree. It holds many of our favorite ornaments, collected over the years. It also features two new Christopher Radko ornaments that Seth got for me, since I made sure Curt got the three we had before, to hang on his own tree. I was moved to tears that Seth remembered the name and shopped to find a good deal, and selected two he thought I’d like – a Santa, and a church.

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See that red thing on the left? It’s a fancy Christmas tree storage bag. With wheels.

As much as I loved this tree, and as much as I’m dreading going down to the garage to get the storage boxes and lugging them up all 30 steps, then back down again, I’m ready for Christmas to be over. It was a really nice holiday this year, but it punctuated the end of a challenging year – not personally, but for the country. The “WTF IS HAPPENING” vibe persists, at least where I live, and the feeling of watching a slow-motion train wreck and being powerless to stop it wears on even the hardiest soul. I am looking forward to a new year, even if the fresh start is symbolic.

I have always differentiated between Christmas decorations and winter ones. As such, I think I’ll leave this display up for a while:

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Silver and red: They aren’t just for Christmas.

And yes, that *is* an as-yet-unpacked moving box that has has there since March, thanks for noticing! But after the tree is stowed away, I’m unpacking that box and placing its contents on that cart to the right. For now, anyway. Until I think of a better idea.

As I write this, there are guys outside with leaf blowers, removing the dusting of snow that fell overnight from the sidewalks out front. I am grateful to be inside, next to my warm gas fireplace, which now works (thanks, Steve!), instead of blowing snow off of my driveway and front walk, which is what I’d have been doing a year ago. The joys of homeownership were many, but so were the annoyances, and snow removal was one of them. In this season of my life, I am grateful for what I had before and even more grateful for what I have today. I have a sense that I am exactly where I need to be at this moment.

Come at me, 2018. I’m ready for you.

‘Tis the season

‘TIS THE SEASON for primo parking at Metro lots on Fridays. Lots of folks work alternative schedules that are arranged to keep them from commuting on Friday (lucky dogs), but this time of year, even more people are off work, burning vacation days they might otherwise forfeit as the year rolls over. I have been a full-time working person with benefits for over 27 years and have never once been in a position where I had more vacation days to use than I knew what to do with. What is that like? I hope one day to know.

‘TIS THE SEASON for snow in the weather forecast. This means two things: One, I miss my Jeep. The Jetta is fun to drive, but I can’t lie, I miss 4WD. And Two, now begins the frantic search for mittens and gloves (pairs, that match), scarves, hats, and boots. Did I not put them all in the designated basket when winter ended? I was sure I did. Oh, and I need to find the ice scraper for the car, too. Ho ho ho.

‘TIS THE SEASON for college kids to be taking finals! I remember the feeling. Seth has all three of his next Monday; Ross has his spread out over the week next week. Related: it’s also time to return the textbook rentals. And to register for next semester.

‘TIS THE SEASON for my annual declaration, HOMEMADE GIFTS FOR EVERYONE!, which is followed shortly thereafter by my other annual declaration, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING. Here’s hoping they feel the love in each carefully mail-ordered gift that will be hastily stuffed into a gift bag on December 24.

‘TIS THE SEASON for hour-long hold times and newly-hired seasonal temps receiving a “baptism by fire” during my “where is the rest of my refund?” call, and a still-incorrect refund from Macy’s. It was obvious the guy was a rookie, which is fine, and I had time to hold, but I would also have expected his team lead, whom he kept telling me he was “partnering with”, to correct my refund. I returned 4 things and, so far, have been refunded for two of them. Alas.

‘TIS THE SEASON to deck the halls. This year, I’m decking mine with new traditions, as it’s my first Christmas in my new place. I got a new fake tree, and I like it. We hung those pine-scented sticks on it so the house smells like fake evergreen. Last night, the boys and I hung old ornaments on it. That was mostly OK, but frankly, it kind of made me melancholy. But, it felt like the right thing to do. I put candles in my windows, just like before, but am happy I don’t have to drape greenery on my split rail fences (one year I went full Martha Stewart and fashioned garlands and wreaths from real greens!) and have the annual disagreement over whether the lights on the house should be all white (my preference) or multi-colored (the kids’ preference).

‘TIS THE SEASON for busy-ness, but also for good cheer and hugs and smiles and for being thankful and grateful for so many things.