The Great Pumpkin

Many of us have watched the “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” Halloween special before. It’s been an annual tradition in our family through the years. The show took on a new meaning for me this year.

My youngest son had returned from a trip to a local pumpkin patch with some classmates and had just sit down to watch some Halloween cartoons when I arrived to pick him up. He was not happy with my timing. This has happened before in the past, when I seem to show up at the wrong time (meaning I’ve shown up when he is in the middle of an activity he is enjoying, or getting ready to start one). I typically allow him a few minutes to finish the activity or do the new activity ever-so-briefly, and assumed my strategy would work with my son on this particular day. It didn’t. Instead my son had a meltdown of volcanic proportions. He became very vocal (loud) in front of the room of kids saying, “I want to watch the movie. I will NOT go, you cannot make me go.” His other classmates saw what was going on, and tried to console him, reminding him there would be other opportunities to watch the film, but he wasn’t hearing any of it. “NO, NO, NO!” was his reaction. He stood up and ran away from me. I was a little taken aback and was quickly reassessing how to best handle the situation. I was in a room full of people (adults and kids) and my son had taken the spotlight away from the movie and had become the show. My inner critic was creeping in (if you were a better parent, this wouldn’t have happened…why aren’t you able to calm your son down?). I asked my son to step into the director’s office (where they normally send kids to calm down) and had to take a few deep breaths. I was partly mortified at his behavior, disappointed in myself for not being able to address the situation without it getting to the point that it had, and frustrated that any of this had occurred. After a stressful week of work, it was the last thing I needed.

It was one of those moments where I really had to pause. My emotions were high. I wanted to handle this in a positive way (though there didn’t seem to be anything positive going on in the present). I had to really think, how do I help my son through this situation? After a few moments it dawned on me. This wasn’t about watching the movie (he could watch it anytime), but not having control over the situation and not liking that–and that, I could understand.

I was able to get my son out to the car (though I did have to carry him), and eventually calm him down. I’m not sure he really understood why he got so upset, but we both knew we didn’t want it to happen again. My son and I made a deal, when we are upset or disappointed about something it’s okay to have the feeling, but we have to talk about it in a way that helps you get what you want or need. He’s young, he’s learning. I’m learning too.

I have a greater appreciation for It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, as a result. It’s a story about wanting something to happen (you want to see the Great Pumpkin) and the disappointment that comes when it doesn’t happen as you’d hoped. I’ll remember my son’s disappointment and how he (and I) will grow from it.

What holiday show has taken on new meaning for you and your family as you raised your child?

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