And let's face it, Santa is great bribery. He knows when you've been naughty or nice. And if you're not nice? Well...no good comes from that- Santa will be sure. Right? Well, Christian didn't seem to be buying it. He wasn't to be deterred on his questions: How does Santa know if we've been naughty or nice? How does he get to all the boys and girls in the world? Why can't I see him? My pat answer of, "Well, It's magic..." just didn't seem to cut it. He kept looking at me like, "So that's your answer? That's all you got?" I turned to Facebook for some help: Apparently, the "help" comes in the form of the popular book and toy, "The Elf on the Shelf". Everyone assured me that it answered all of the questions and left the biggest skeptics believing well past the assumed years of "Belief". The idea behind the "Elf on the Shelf" is that you each get your own personal elf who keeps watch over your behavior and flies back to see Santa at the North Pole each night. He reports on your behavior and then flies back to your home...only he never seems to land in the same spot. This is where the parents come in. Our job is, of course, to move the Elf each night until Christmas. I have avoided the Elf this long because of this very responsibility. It seems that the stakes just keep going up for these Elves. It's just not enough to place him on a different shelf each night. You've got to come up with "scenarios" and "shenanigans" that are convincing enough to keep your kid(s) in line til Dec 25th. Oh...and if you touch the Elf? Well, it loses it's magic and it can't fly back to Santa anymore.
So. I don't make a full commitment. I borrow the book and give new life to a small Elf I received on top of a Christmas package one year. I read Christian the story and the first order of business is to name the Elf. I look at Christian and ask, "So, what do you think? What should we name him?" He thinks for a moment and says, "Van." Van??! Was he looking at out my car when he came up with this name or does the Elf look slightly Nordic to him...? I tried a little encouragement. "Are you sure you want his name to be Van? He's going to be our Elf for a very long time." He was sure, so "Van" it is. I suggested we start by telling Van what he wants for Christmas, so that when he flies back to the North Pole, he can let Santa know. We approach Van, who already happens to be sitting on a shelf. I looked at Van and then looked to Christian, "Well...go ahead."
Christian simultaneously takes a giant sigh and sits down on a nearby table. "Mom." He says. "Mom. I need to tell you something."
Me: "Okay...what do you need to tell me?"
C: "That, (pointing at the elf) is not real." "You and I are real." "That is just a....Christmas thing."
I played it cool. "Okay. Well, that's what the book says, Christian. I guess we'll just have to see."
And there hence started the upping of the Elf stakes. All to get him to Believe...
The first night Van was hanging upside down from the dining room chandelier. The next night, reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas" on the fireplace mantle. Then, rappelling down the blinds and sleeping in a bed of cloth napkins. All is going well...and finally, Christian seems to Believe!
Christian's tree in his room. He decorated it (and his room) all by himself. And, Van rappelling down the blinds.
Kindergarten was a challenge this week. Christian has become close with a boy from his class named Elijah (I know- go figure.) I've met Elijah and he seems like a sweet enough kid. But, all I've been hearing about this week is how Elijah says that Christian isn't his friend anymore. It was all Christian could talk about, so come Wednesday, I decided maybe it would be best to have a talk with the two boys and help to model how to solve friendship problems. All I can say is...it didn't go well. I sat down with both boys, kept my mood light and cheerful and said, "So, Elijah, Christian tells me that you don't want to be his friend anymore? Do you think you could tell me why?" Elijah wouldn't look at me. He said, "Well my brother doesn't want me to be friends with Christian anymore." To say that was the last thing I expected to hear, would be an understatement. I've met his brother who is only a few years older...maybe 8 or 9?...so, I tried: "Well, do you like Christian?" He said yes. So I said, "Okay. Well maybe you could tell your brother that you really like Christian and you guys have a lot of fun at school together, but that he's your brother so he'll always be a best friend to you?" (Thinking maybe it's a jealousy thing??) Elijah still wouldn't look at me. He said, "Oh, I don't think I could do that because my brother is in charge of me and he would slap me." At this ;point I didn't quite know what to do. This isn't a typical response. I've met Elijah's Mom and Grandparents and brother and while I can't know for sure, I'm not getting an abuse vibe going on. I'm not even 100% sure of how I left the situation. I think it might have been something like, "Okie dokie. Well, we better go. See you tomorrow!"
On the way home from school, I played up the idea that maybe it was just best to focus on the friends that DO want to be your friend and to try not to worry about Elijah. But, the very next day on the way to school, the subject came up again. Christian said, "Maybe Elijah will be my friend again today!" I said, "Maybe, sweetie. But, I would try not to worry about Elijah. Why don't you spend more time with your other friends?" Christian got very quiet and then in the saddest, most tearful voice I've ever heard said, "I must be the worst kid in the whole world." I thought I might crash the car, so I pulled over. "No sweetie! No. You're a great kid and there are lots of friends who really, really like you. If Elijah doesn't want to be your friend, then that is his loss." Christian seemed a little bit pepped up by the time we got to school, but I still saw sad shoulders as he walked into the play yard. I couldn't stop thinking about it all day. When I went to pick him up, I decided to talk to the teacher first to see if there was anything else I could do. She basically said that there was nothing else I could do, that having a friendship was very, very challenging for Elijah. She didn't mention diagnosis or any specifics, but it seemed clear that we were dealing with a child who has some pretty big social challenges. Christian was upset again when I picked him up, saying that Elijah had called him a "Baby head". I tried to explain to Christian that Elijah has a hard time with his friends. I explained to say that he has a lot of feelings and maybe it's hard for him to show those feelings properly. I tried saying that I know it doesn't feel good- that it's happened to me too, but I just don't know how much of the hurt it takes away.
Ugh- it's so painful to watch your kid struggle with this. I never feel like I'm saying the right thing, and no matter what I do say, I can't take away all of the pain for him. It sucks. We walked away from school on Friday, with just one small bit of good news; "Guess what?" I said. "It looks like we are going to finally get George tomorrow!!"
We have been in the process of trying to adopt a dog, "George", since October. But, there were gates and fences to fix, winter colds and flus thrown in and here we are in December, only now finally trying to finalize the adoption. George came over on Saturday, all shiny and black, with his wagging tail friendliness. Christian was in heaven. A boy and his dog. We received some great suggestions, a bag of his dog food and a warm goodbye from his foster Mom. If there is anything that can heal the wounds of a difficult friend week at school, it has got to be time to run and just be "a boy with a dog". George is one of the most patient, friendly dogs I think I've met. Nothing seems to rile him. He's not a barker, he's easy going and he's just energetic enough to keep up with the demands of a 5 year old ("George come here! Come here George! Catch this George! George come here!") They already look like peas in a pod. Christian was very serious when he asked me, "How am I going to get George to follow me around? I need him to follow me around." I reminded him about all of the ways we need to take care of a dog and that makes them trust us and want to follow us around. I asked him, "Hey. Do you remember what kind of dog George is?" He thought for a second..."a Fat Robe Catriever?" When my brain processed what he meant ( A Flat Coat Retriever), I couldn't stop laughing. A boy and his Fat Robe Catriever. It has a good ring...
We spent the weekend in a relaxed state- all tired (and sick) from a long week. Christian played outside with the dog from morning til night...working on his bond so that George will "follow him around". We hung Christmas lights on the house, made Oatmeal Raisin cookies and didn't get out of PJs until well after noon. It was well needed. Just before bed, Christian had a special art project he had made for Santa that he wanted to give to Van the Elf. He insisted on putting it near Van himself and swore that he would be careful not to touch him. Two minutes later, Christian came out. "I accidentally touched Van." I saw it as a test, because there were no tears, he wasn't devastated. So, I said, "Uh oh. We better go online and see if there is anything we can do." So I Googled, 'What happens if you accidentally touch the elf on the shelf?' For real. I really did that. And you know what? There were answers. I found one blog and read it to Christian as if it were fact. "Well, it says here that if you accidentally touch the elf, you have to email Santa to let him know. Santa will then mail you some magic dust to sprinkle onto the elf to give him back his powers." So...tonight, I will not have to up the ante. Tonight, Van will remain in his Harmonica-playing-Shelf-position for an extra night while I fashion a letter sent from Santa containing some sort of magic dust...which I'm assuming looks exactly like iridescent glitter, which I just so happen to have! Voila!
Because if I can't take away all of my son's friendship "hurts" then I can at least