The Gift of Kindness

When I first opened AYoPS to the month of December and read the listed character trait “kindness”…well, I went a little crazy planning stuff for the boys to do that would instill kindness. After a few hours of planning I looked at our calendar and realized that I had managed to schedule advent away. Hmm.

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While I was busy planning their month away, the children were joyfully painting our sliding glass doors. A whirly and magical diptych nativity scene. They did a lovely job.  After the paints and brushes were cleaned and stored, the boys ran off to play knights and dragons. I brewed a cup of tea and sat at the table and stared at that painting.

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Have you read the Little House on the Prairie series? Some of my favorite chapters in those books are the Christmas ones. We have a little treasury of all the Christmas chapters in one book. Its one of the first books my second born pulled out this year to read. I asked him why he liked it so much. He responded, “Christmas is beautiful and slow for them. Its so fast here in real life. I wish Christmas would be beautiful and slow here too.” I stared at the mural and thought about Ma and Pa and Mary and Laura and kindness.

I decided to give my children the gift of kindness. A slow and beautiful Advent season. I would say no to all the adult oriented hectic craziness that strips the days out of their little hands and say yes to lazy December days of hot cocoa and beautiful southern sunny weather.  I would be kind to my children by not overwhelming their hearts and minds with unnecessary activity and protecting their time.

I got up and went to the kitchen in search of playdoh ingredients and whipped up a batch of peppermint playdoh per our December activities in AYoPS.

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They sang carols and played at the table every afternoon for the next few days. We went for walks and read books by the tree. We made silly christmas cards for each other.

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We rearranged ornaments all month long because they love decorating the tree and “shouldn’t that activity last more than just the one time?”

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After a few zoning issues, we built a gingerbread house and then smashed it with a hammer. They relished the moment of impact and rushed to find the biggest pieces of spiced cookie and bits of candy.

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December is a great month to be elbow deep in play. Everything is extra magical. More wonder. More awe. More anticipation. Candles and carols at the dinner table. Special books we only see once a year come down from their perches to live with us for a few weeks.

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AYoPS curated a delightful month of play for us. It was joy to watch unfold. These little guys take the lead more and more with each passing month.

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I took the boys down to my parents home for a few days. They soaked in the time spent with family. They baked with my Mom and decorated cookies with my grandparents.

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The boys took their great grandfather on a field trip to a strawberry farm further south, resulting in delicious cinnamon rolls and milkshakes and a photo I’ll treasure forever.

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Back to the other great-grandparent’s home for a warm meal and a walk in the garden. Monarch caterpillars ravaging every available milkweed plant and a dozen feet away, newly hatched monarchs stretched out their wings with slow deliberate purpose.

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A week later, we piled into the car and headed north to the grandparent’s home in Pennsylvania.  Thanks to the nonstop trickle of rain we spent most of our days indoors. The boys watched the birds gather at their grandmother’s carefully planned bird feeders from behind the picture window. They delighted in playing with all of their Dad’s old vintage toys. They fixed up old remote control cars with their grandfather. They sang hymns with their great grandmother in a small church in Bethlehem, PA. The city’s beautiful star twinkled from high on the hill as we piled into the car afterwards before heading home to a crackling fireplace and cups of cocoa.

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Christmas this year was kind. It was gentle and sweet and savored.  We went for a walk in a soggy wood on Christmas Eve. The boys armed themselves with shiny new pocket knives and took to the muddiest paths they could find. Later, they took turns walking across “quicksand.”  As I watched one son stretch his arms out and walk carefully across the fallen log, another son leaned in and asked, “Don’t ya feel a bit like Laura Ingalls today, Mom? The whole day is just for us to play and Christmas is slow and beautiful.”

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