The Christmas House Rules

Photo by Amy Corbett Storch
ot entirely surprisingly, just a few days after writing about our "normal and quiet" week, Noah somewhat predictably cratered. He came down with a nasty stomach virus, and it really took a terrible toll on his sensitive little system, and he promptly gave back a good portion of his self-regulation gains.

We were treated to concerned notes from his teacher about his anxiety levels, a lot of tantrums, a bunch of moments where we were like, "Oh God, remember THIS? I thought we were done with THIS" as Noah rolled around on the floor of a shoe store because there is NOTHING more terrifying in the world than having to try on new shoes, especially when your mother absented-mindedly suggests that you try on two new shoes at the same time to save a few minutes, even though they are different and don't match and thus completely strip you of your ability to walk, OMG.


And yet.

He helped decorate our Christmas tree, for the very first time. He even let me play Christmas music in the background. We've made batches and batches of cookies and he wants to HELP. He pours and stirs and doesn't cry when I crack an egg or turn on the electric mixer.

(You know how EVERYBODY loves to tell you how great "cooking activities" are for kids, especially for picky eaters or kids with motor skill challenges? And you know, how you should totally just incorporate some "cooking activities" into your week and all your eating/textural/motor-planning problems will be totally fixed? Uh-huh. Please, everybody, accept this holiday gift from me of a punch in the neck, okay?)

Of course, we realized that the stress about the Christmas tree seemed to mostly come from the part where we put it on top of our car. He really, really doesn't like that. So we skipped our plan of going to a Christmas tree farm together and instead had my husband go out and pick a tree and bring it inside while I distracted Noah elsewhere. I don't know WHY this makes such a difference, but it did.

And instead of attempting sugar cut-out cookies, like I have in the past, asking Noah to navigate a rolling pin and cookie cutters and tiny candy decorating details, I stuck with a five-ingredient recipe that required nothing more complicated than sloppy misshapen teaspoonfuls of dough on a cookie sheet, with some cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top. "Sprinkled" turned out to be beyond Noah's fine motor skill abilities, so some of the cookies are more like "buried." Whatever. They aren't pretty, but they're pretty tasty, and Noah's awfully proud of them.

I used to think that after we experienced a "success" in a certain area or activity that it was something we could cross off the list, so to speak. That we'd hit upon a solution that would clearly lead to a repeated success. One good birthday party meant that the Birthday Party Thing was solved. Look! He touched shaving cream! He is healed! Moving on.

I've since learned that duh, it doesn't work like that. We are still constantly playing a balance-type game of trying to figure out WHY certain things bother Noah so intensely and IF there's something we can do about it -- short- or long-term. And we are learning that each and every situation -- no matter how identical they may seem on the surface -- is actually a different blend of challenges and solutions.

For my child, baking cookies in December is not the same as baking cookies in January, basically. And while that might not make any sense to anyone else, it finally makes sense to me.

So we baked cookies in December, and it was great. We'll try again in January. I'll let you know how it goes.


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