On Christmas morning, Charles got to open lots of gifts. Trevvor and I had put each other's gifts in our stockings, and when it came time for us to pull them out, Charles began to have an epic melt-down because HE wanted to pull our gifts out of our stockings. I went with him to his room for some "time-in," realizing that my gut reaction was something along the lines of, "What a selfish, ungrateful kid. He got all those presents that he got to open himself and he is fussing that we won't let him open ours!" I was mad, but I managed to stay calm and stay present.
What was really going on was this:
Several days before Christmas, Charles had entertained himself one morning by scribbling some crayon onto four-dozen sheets of construction paper and folding them into "cards" for all our stockings. What we thought was a morning's entertainment, he intended to be his contribution to Christmas giving. We had taken all the cards out the night before because we were too lazy to wrap our gifts and wanted to put them in our stockings instead. Charles was brokenhearted about the cards not being in the stockings, but he couldn't articulate that. Once I finally realized from some broken sentences what was really wrong, I brought up the cards, and how disappointed he must be, and how hard he had worked, and how we were sorry we hadn't understood.
The melt-down dissipated in moments. He felt heard and understood. He was still disappointed about the cards, but he was soon able to rejoin the festivities, and Trevvor and I were able to pull our own gifts out of our own stockings. The rest of the day went fabulously.
The mom I was a year or two ago would have lectured about gratitude, would have had a tantrum of her own, would have spanked him or sent him to his room. I would have assumed the worst about my kid and seen him as the enemy to a peaceful Christmas. Instead, I recognized that his behavior indicated a real problem he couldn't handle or communicate, that he wasn't out to ruin my Christmas, and that it was my job to act like the adult I am.
Parenthood as sanctification. It's a real thing, y'all. I'm thankful I'm learning the gentle tools I need to help me with that.