Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 12: PJ Money

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

PJ Money, while it sounds like a flashy hip hop persona, was really just a reminder to try to see the world as he sees it. I've gotten lots of these recently. I'm learning to ask why he's doing something before making a judgment about whether it should continue or whether I should be bothered by it. Nearly every time he's got an explanation that makes perfect sense, and it usually involves his imagination.

Back to PJ Money. Jackson was up from his nap, Max was still sleeping. When this happens, I find it's best for Jack to be in a non-adjacent space. Not necessarily because the noise will wake Max, but because it keeps me from turning into a crazy person shushing in Jack's face every few seconds (still working on transforming that resistance into acceptance!!). So we go to the basement or upstairs playroom or stay in his bedroom when he wakes up. 

Six books in to the large stack of books he wanted to read, we landed on one with caricatural drawings of wacky pets - an elephant, a giraffe, a huge snake, a coyote. Mr. Coyote became is playmate for the rest of the afternoon. They had deep conversations about life, shared a few laughs, and for some reason Jackson had to pay him money. He revealed at bed time that this friend he was so enthusiastic about was actually scary, so in hindsight maybe it was a bribe to remain uneaten by Mr. Coyote.

Whatever the case, it was very important to pay Mr. Coyote his money. That money just happened to be in the form of pajamas. I don't know about your family, but in our family, Grandmas love to give PJs. There are a lot of PJs. And all of said PJs were methodically ripped, pair by pair, from the neatly folded piles in the dresser. 

I watched in horror. All I could think about was the time it was going to take to re-fold them. By pair three or four, when it became clear that Mr. Coyote was not going to be satisfied until he had Jackson's every last cent, I started to say, "Jackson, I think he has enough money. I don't think we need to take any more pajamas out of the drawer." He gave me a confused look. Mr. Coyote's fee was clearly more than four pair of pajamas. We were at a crossroads, and as always, I was driving the bus. I got to decide how this interaction played out. 

Focusing on my own need for neatly folded PJs and a two year old who never takes or leaves anything out of place (HA!) could end in a cinema-worthy bus explosion, flames shooting out from the windows. Prioritizing his need for freedom to engage in imaginative play would bring us all safely to our destination singing "wheels on the bus" as we went. Hmmmmm...what to do, what to do...

Fortunately I took off the me-shades and put on the we-shades. What was best for all of us was for me to see the world from his eyes for a moment. To cherish the beautiful and sophisticated creative play he was allowing me to witness. The joy on his face when I explained that I had changed my mind, that he could go on paying Mr. Coyote in PJ Money, was all the payoff I needed to make up for 10 minutes of re-folding. 

Soon the drawer was empty, but still Mr. Coyote was not satisfied. So Jackson did the next logical thing. He filled the drawer with books and went on with the transaction, all the while chatting away with his new friend. We were both captivated, he by Mr. Coyote, and me by him.

I could have stolen this experience from both of us, maybe even chipped away at his desire to see these infinite possibilities in the world around him. I may have damaged his spirit by rejecting the way he was expressing himself through play, forcing him into my adult world instead. Sometimes that's necessary, and it is, of course, part of how children eventually learn about the real world, how to fit into and function in it. But so is this type of creative play! The times when I'm able to give him freedom to get fully lost in the wonder of his childhood, I hope I will. The real world will always be there waiting for him; his childhood is going to quickly pass us both by.

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