Considering that I am one of those parents who doesn’t believe in forcing affection on my children (Little doesn’t want to hug or kiss me or any other family member? Not even before bed?! No problem!), it might strike some as odd that I love me some mistletoe at Christmas. But I do, and I always have, and this year I think I might just love it even more because of the magic it seems to be working within my (not-so) little family.
Let me explain…
With all of the changes we’ve had in the last three months (how is my sweet “new” baby already three months old?!), there have been several times I have felt terribly disconnected from my oldest. I feel it with him more than the others because one of those big changes was sending him off to Kindergarten, so for the first time in my mama hood, I’m away from one of my four babies more than with him during the day. And because life here doesn’t exactly slow down when he gets home in the afternoon, entire days and then weeks have rushed by without us getting good, honest, relaxed together time.
To combat this, we’ve tried installing Mama Time into our weekends. This consists of 10 minutes with each of the three Bigs in which they get to take turns shutting themselves away with me solo (we lock ourselves in the back bedroom so the Sibs stay with Daddy and leave us alone) and they also get to pick what we do for their 10 minutes (no screens).
This time-in concept has been lovely and effective, but because it has to be scheduled (between nursings and naps and whatever else our busy little brood has going on), it sometimes feels evasive. I’m not sure how 10 minutes (x3) can be so difficult to accomplish, but somehow it is and then I end up feeling guilty when a weekend flies by without it.
Then, by some sort of divine intervention or Christmas miracle, as we decorated the house for the holidays the weekend after Thanksgiving, I inadvertently stumbled upon the best solution to our disconnect: mistletoe.
Do you hang mistletoe in your house? My mistletoe is old; I’ve had it for as long as I can remember in my married life (this is our 9th married Christmas) but I cannot remember where I got it. From my mom, maybe? It’s just a simple sprig tied with red ribbon that I hang from the archway between our dining and living rooms. Because of its many Christmases past, it has started to lose pieces, and this year it looked a little sad as I took it out of the tote. Thanks to a bit of creative inspiration + parenting safety intervention (that stuffed reindeer doesn’t really need that pointy piece of fake holly berries, pinecone, and evergreen needles, right?), I gave the mistletoe a mini-makeover and taped it in its customary spot.
Within no time, my 6 year old spotted it and was grinning away as he stood there waiting for his kiss. I have no idea which Christmas we even explained to him how mistletoe worked, but his air-tight memory came through again, and now underneath the mistletoe, “ahem”ing and clearing his throat as he awaits someone to notice, is his favorite place to be.
And do you know what I have seen as a result of this? His dimples. His shining, bright eyes, and his face crinkled up in delight because he is getting these little moments of connection plus affection whenever he wants during his time at home. He’s not the kind of kid who would ever say “I need a hug” but thanks to the mistletoe game, he can now easily signal to me (and his dad and brothers and sister) when he needs that kind of attention. He’ll even accept me waving him over to my rocking chair to deliver a kiss on location as I nurse the baby if I “catch” him (as he calls out to me, “Mamaaaaaa!”) standing there.
Of course there is no way to know if the mistletoe magic will last the whole Christmas season or if it will fade like a novelty often does, but if it somehow stands the test of time, I am going to have to consider seriously finding a way to do mistletoe – or some other visual indicator – year-round because I love having such a simple and sweet way for my son and I to come together, even for 5 seconds at a time, to say, “I see you. I need you, too. I love you!”