I picked up Maria and Mario from Cousin Maggie’s apartment at 9:00 am. Maggie had offered a sleep-over for them last night and they jumped with joy at the prospect. A night filled with pizza, play-doh, fire in a real fireplace, muffin-baking and movies. She had them asleep at 9:45 pm, too (I swear, my cousins Laura and her need to write a book!). When I picked them up, they interrogated me about whether St. Nick had come to the house last night. When I grew up, I always remember St. Nick coming on December 6 (which I believe is truly St. Nick’s Day). I typically got candy and maybe some small toy but I just remember the thrill of feeling something in my stocking when I came down the stairs in the morning. I have kept that tradition up with M&M but instead of doing it on December 6, I do it on the weekend so we aren’t rushed with school.
When the kids and I home, they ran straight to their stockings. They plunged their little hands in the stockings and big smiles emerged (in addition to other little things, Maria got earmuffs she had been wanting and Mario got a transformer). We all sat in the living room together, which we rarely do because the family room has the recliner chairs, the tv, the Wii. But it was so nice to be in the living room with the natural light that can’t help but perk you up.
After the kids reviewed all of their presents, Maria looked at me. Earlier on the ride home, I had told the kids how excited I used to get for St. Nick. Maria had asked if he brought me anything. I told her that usually St. Nick just brings kids toys. After she looked at me for a minute, she got up and rushed out of the room. I knew what she was doing – trying to gather some “gifts” for me. She has got such a kind soul. She came back five minutes later with a bag full of my things – shoes, old barbie, clock. “Here, mom, St. Nick brought you some things, too!” Mario caught on how impressed I was with Maria’s thoughtfulness, and immediately ran out of the room. He ran back ten seconds later with a frog ornament and presented it to me saying “Here mom, this is from St. Nick, too!” I told him how happy I was to have him and Maria and he responded “did I give you a better gift than Maria?” He always wants to be number 1 – he is going to be brutal on the court or field.
We played around , cleaned up, and at 2:00 pm, left for the Pump-It-Up gym for a birthday party. On the way to the party, the kids asked to watch Power Rangers. I put it on for them and I heard them in the back talking about the different Rangers. Mario told Maria that she could be the blue power ranger and she agreed. I blurted out from the front “there is a blue power ranger who is a girl?” Maria immediately hit the back of my seat and scolded me.
“Mom, you make it sound like a girl can’t wear blue. You make it sound like a boy can only wear blue and a girl can only wear pink. That should not be how it is.”
Yeah, I could have just eaten her up. All of those years that I sang “Free to Be, You and Me” to her rubbed off. She would make Gloria Steinem proud. Earlier that day, I had tried to move our bed. After realizing it was way too heavy, I stopped. Maria approached me and shook her head. “Girls never give up, mom. You can do it.”
Pump-It-Up was chaotic and tiring. I can’t stand to just sit around like the other parents so I go through all of the exercises with the kids. After 45 minutes, Maria and I were spent. Maria kept asking when we would go to the other room and eat. Mario just wanted to keep playing. When we finally got to the room, Maria immediately sat down in front of a piece of pizza and cheese curls and went to town (I was jealous and wanted to sit right by her!). Mario only wanted water. These two could not be more different when it comes to food. Maria is my healthy, ready to devour, eater. Mario is my grazer, a bite here or there eater. During the entire meal, Mario wanted the plastic crown and scepter that the two birthday kids got and he was going to every length to get them. I had to keep telling him not to try to steal them but he kept trying to sneak ways to do it. I told Maria that we would have to leave. She had a meltdown because we had not eaten the cake yet. I guess along with teaching her how to be self-sufficient and not stereotypical, she also learned my love for sheet cake. I could not bear the thought of disappointing her and not letting her eat cake. So we stayed and I policed Mario a bit longer.
On the way home, Mario reviewed his goodie bag. He pulled out sunglasses and complained that they “weren’t cool.” Maria schooled him:
“Mario, life is not about finding happiness in things. If you have family and friends around you, that is all that matters to be happy.”
And that sums up the beauty in our girl, Maria. Mario is catching on, too, because instead of throwing the glasses at her like he may have a six months ago, he shook his head and acknowledged Maria’s insight.
“You are right, Maria. I will like them.”