Sometimes I find it hard to connect with my 6-year-old son on his level. Between the newest Pokemon (and all the cards to go with it), and whatever Ben10 is and all the “characters” he turns into, I just don’t know what in the world he is talking about most of the time. Yes, I sit with him and watch these shows, but if I’m being honest I don’t always (read: never) pay attention to what is going on in these episodes. I can get behind old-school Disney Afternoon Shows (thank you Disney+), but I have a hard time finding the joy in relating to him in certain areas.
For example, since he was probably 2-and-a-half-years-old, my son has been OBSESSED with “Blow-ups.” You may know them as “inflatable holiday decor,” but in my house they are Blow-Ups.
For the last 4 years, anytime we enter our neighborhood there is an immediate ask to “drive around and see the blow-ups,” and until last year I have been nothing be irritated by it. I know, I know…it sounds silly to be so frustrated, but hear me out. It is not simply a quick drive around just our neighborhood once a day. No, no, no, my friends, it is multiple times a day with specific routes. There is frustration if one house has not turned on or put up their decor yet. Or not driving slow enough when we pass – don’t mind that there are people driving behind me. And ultimately, it’s another thing for him to demand of me to do.
Let’s add that I’m afraid my neighbors are going to call the police, because a suspicious car drives down their street multiple times a day, every day, and slows down slightly and then drives away.
To make matters harder, it is not just our neighborhood. My parents, my in-laws, any friend or family’s house…probably your house if we knew about it! Every night there is the ask to go for a drive after dark, which leads to another ask and another, and before you know it I’ve driven all over Orange County or I have a very upset kiddo in the back! Hello Christmas Spirit!
After the first year of the “Christmas Blow-Up tour,” I was simply just happy for all the decorations to be down so I could resume my normal driving without a tiny dictator in the back telling me where to go.
Year two sprung up and he started to become aware of Halloween Blow-Ups. So our month long adventure now spans almost three and a half months. Every Target or Home Depot trip was not complete without a stop at the Blow-Up aisle, and there were even special requests to JUST go to those establishments for said Blow-Ups.
I know this sounds like i’m complaining and whining, but from mother-to-mother, I know you can hear the tireless chatter and demands from just this one desire. Let’s not forget all the other things that a then 3-year-old has to demand from you! This just seemed like an unnecessary, extra way to be frustrated.
I started to realize as the first few years went on that this wasn’t just a passing fad for my sweet boy.
He didn’t just like the Blow-Ups because they just happened to be there; he genuinely loves decorations and getting into the spirit of any holiday. This is 100% me so I’m not sure why it took me so long to see it in him…but I digress.
When the second year of Christmas Blow-Ups rolled around, he was starting to recall where each Blow-Up was and which ones were new and had been there before. As the years progressed, the houses began to have names,
“Olaf house with the Santa hanging off the roof”
“Brr Snowman with the reindeer house”
“Brr Snowman with just lights”
And so on…. It actually began to be a way he and I could give context to what and where we were talking about. “The new neighbors live right next to where the ‘Thanksgiving turkey house’ is,” I’d say. He would respond, “Oh, the one where the pumpkin man was or the ‘star gazing turkey’!”
These are real conversations we have in my house because you can’t make this stuff up.
Last year a light went off for me, as he was well into being 5 and finding the joy in some of the things he was into was becoming challenging and frankly he was now in Kindergarten. So, naturally in my mind, he had already graduated high school and was getting ready to move out!
I had a thought,
“What if I just embraced this thing that he obviously loves, that isn’t a fleeting thing for him? And good golly what if I joined him?”
I started saying yes to driving around and finding the joy together.
I mean what did it cost me, a few spare minutes? I started slowing down or pulling over at the houses I knew he loved, because I started listening so I now know which ones he loves.
I asked my Facebook friends for recommendations on where to go and we starting making a plan for evening outings to go out and drive around and look at lights and Blow-Ups. The whining (from both of us) diminished, and I truly started to enjoy how much we could talk about even if it was just about these nylon things that sit in our yard.
I began giving him his own Blow-Ups for our yard as Christmas presents just from me. To this day he knows where each one of his Blow-Ups came from.
He now has a little brother who is just as obsessed with them and is learning all the names of all the houses. On Halloween last year we walked around and introduced ourselves to the neighbors and told/warned them we’d be by once or five times a day so please don’t call the police!
The boys shout from the car window if they see the homeowner outside how much they love their decorations. Watching the homeowners light up when they see these two cute dimpled little boys enjoying their hard work is just the icing on the cake!
At home, they like to pretend to be Blow-Ups and they take turns “Blowing UP.” We all get to admire the newest decor in the Cole House and then they get “Blown DOWN.” Your family may play pretend house, but we play pretend Blow-Ups!
All this to say: find something that your kids love and jump in head first with them.
Fighting it, I promise, will be harder on all of you. As they get older, we get less and less of them and their attention. Find that common interest now; don’t miss it! I am now actually excited when I see my first Halloween Blow-Up of the season, and myself and my littlest one wait with anticipation of the 6-year-old to get out of school so we can tell him and show him our latest find. We have family and friends that send texts of the best spots for us to check out, photos of ones they have found to show the boys and everyone gets to share in this contagious joy.
This year OC Mom Collective put out a “Holiday Lights in Orange County Guide” that has become more of a checklist for our family. A personal challenge, “how many spots can we hit this season?!?”
So, if you see a white station wagon cruising your neighborhood, multiple times a day, with two cute boys and one mama beaming ear-to-ear as we drive, I promise we aren’t casing your house. We are finding the joy together and building a foundation of memories together, and you get to be a small part of that.
What are some things that your kids love that you can bond with them over? Please share in the comments! I would love to hear them!