I always heard moms talk about their school aged kids. School aged! My god they seemed so old.
Until today when I watched my 6 month old and his 3 year old sister get on a bus for school.
No, I swear. Isn’t he still 6 months old? Isn’t she still the feisty three year old that coined the term, “You think two was terrible, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
The thing is: You all think the same thing, don’t you. I know I do when I see your children climbing on to busses. “Wasn’t he just a preemie? Wasn’t her mom just pregnant with her? OHMYGOD where has the time gone?’
This is an occupational hazard of blogging for 7, no, NINE years? What the hell, people. Did we even have blogs in 2003? Oh, yes we did mothercrackers. We did.
Anyway, my needless reminiscing aside, you’ve been here through the pregnancy of my first, the postpartum depression, the miscarriages, the early birth of the second, the NICU, and the pleasantly dull but life-altering years after. And now? Now they are, what did you call it? School aged. Yes. That.
*She thought he was just another one of her dolls *
*I think just after this picture she pinched his nose to make sure he was still breathing. Or some other reason that I can’t remember that probably had to do with nothing about noses at all. *
*Of course I did.*
*The Bigger One starting pre-school. Just the first in a long line of “holycrap my baby is going to [fill in year here]” *
*Another shot of the two of them shortly before one of them began screaming for something or other. I forget. *
*This is what I saw looking out of the bus window at me. THIS KID. Gah. *
*Gravity is so last year. Incidentally, we do this a lot to our children. Apparently. *
*LB goes to Kindergarten. Gah. Gah. *
*LB goes to first and O goes to preschool. Tripple Gah.*
*Watching his sister get on the bus he asks, “do they have seatbelts?” He’s quite concerned about this.*
*portrait of a second-grader *
*WHO THE HELL ARE THESE CHILDREN?! See also: holycrap. See also: GAH GAH GAHHHH. See also: Kindergarten and Third. THIRD PEOPLE.*
I didn’t cry once, not a single tear, until the bus driver turned to me after my baby got on the bus and turns to be through the window with a thumbs up, “We got him.”
And then I bawled. Choking-type cries. The type that comes from the toes of your heart. The kind that you’d mock if it was anyone else but you.
So they went to school together. In the careful care of his older sister, my children took their first real step away from home today in a most literal and figurative sense. I saw my baby get on the bus with his sister, and the memories of photos and time and snapshots of life flashed before me. Didn’t we just bring them home a few days ago? I’m so cliche it hurts.
*Go forth, little dude. Go forth **
*Thanks to Greg for the analogy*
Friday was our last day at the pre-school we’ve been attending for five years. No, our child hasn’t failed pre-school four years running. This school provide pre-K from 3-5 and Kindergarten for 6 yr olds. Both of our children have been at this school.
There are other families in the same boat and I see them at the little concerts and plays. They watch their children with a camera and compare the same production to the previous four. There are four of us families, no, five, and our children have grown up together. And Friday was the very last day we will go to this school.
I picked this school one day, which I remember vividly, when my daughter was two. We were looking at options because I was going to drive her to Canada and drop her off to live with a flock of geese and she was going to write terrible poetry about me to her therapist in a few years if we didn’t find a solution to our “situation.”
That “situation” was that I thought I could do the whole “stay at home” good mom thing and turns out, at six months pregnant with my second, I was deep in to “no way in hellfire.” It turns out I probably could have stuck it out and managed somewhat (as this video proved) but I had already reached out to this preschool on that dreadful day of desperation.
I won’t tell you the details of the tens of schools we visited, but I will tell you that this one school we went, set in a small farm house, was “the one.” They always say you’ll just know and we both knew. The teacher was my savior that day. The school was a perfect fit. The acre of outdoor play would possibly fulfill my daughter’s energy requirements after living in our tiny condo.
It fit us all. And it fit other families a lot like us. So we’ve made friends at this school, invited other friends to join the school, visited at every mother-living-hour-long concert/production (with video!). My children have best friends from this school and I do as well. In a small, but significant way, this school really did save us. It gave me hope on that one hopeless day in the trenches of a two year old with a pregnant belly. It continued to nurture our family as the children grew in to actual people. And then, Friday, we said good-bye.
I think I’m more choked up about this then the fact my youngest is about to start Kindergarten at public school next week.
No, wait. That kills me, too.
“Don’t let them see me!” “Does the door lock?” “Don’t let anyone in.”
My son has yelled this in anxiety during many many wardrobe changes. He wears a rash guard in the pool so nobody can see his “boobies.” He hides his tummy from close friends because, “They will laugh at me.”
I do not know where he gets this stuff.
We’re not overly sensitive about nudity at our house. The children have grown up talking to me while I get dressed, asking questions about my body and me willingly answering. I started the “private parts are yours” discussion so early on, it would just be part of their knowledge and never an actual subject to discuss. The children shower together, brother and sister, and we figure they’ll let us know when it’s too weird to do so. I realize this could be any day now. And I’m ready for it. I’m ok with it.
But why my son is so worried about people laughing at his body, I don’t know. We don’t laugh at him. I ask him who does and he says, “nobody but they might.”
Granted, as a middle-class-woman of white-skinny-bitches age, I have plenty of my own body issues. Sure, I obsess and count calories (sometimes) and workout (used to) and try to eat well (most days.) And sure I beat myself up about this as often as a 17 year old thinks about sex. But why on earth would my five year old son ask me if his legs are fat? I don’t say a single thing to him about my body. I try, purposefully, to shield the children from any negative body image talk. I’m hyper sensitive to this fact.
So why the troubled five year old boy wondering if people will think he’s legs are fat or his belly is big or laugh at him with his shirt off?
He. Is. FIVE.
And this has been going on for at least a year or more.
We focus so often on our daughters. We worry about their body image. We try to tell them to be healthy and not worry about their body. “You can be so many sizes and still be ok,” I’ve always said to my young daughter. She’s tall, lanky, skinny, and ridiculously pretty. (And I’m not just being biased here.) She’s blessed with the features of “where the hell did you come from” and “you resemble Jennifer Anniston but your hair isn’t colored.” In the summer she is a golden brown, healthy, happy, thin, strong, blonde hair blue eyed girl.
I envy her some days. Ok, most days. Also, though, I am proud of my body for producing something so lovely because I know I’ve spent ages wondering what it was doing to me.
But my son, my wonderfully strong, agile, healthy, golden son is asking if his legs are fat? My brain wasn’t ready for that.
Suddenly it’s not just our daughters but also our sons. Suddenly I am telling them both how to have a healthy life: eat well and move your body and you won’t have to worry. Take care of your body because it’s the only one you’ll have. Treat yourself kindly because you have to haul yourself around for the rest of your life.
Sometimes I take my own advice.
I hope they take my advice so much more often.
This is the focus now. My children tell me how many grams of sugar is in their decision and they tell me if they haven’t moved enough today. My son is stupidly talented at ball sports (also: not from my genes) and runs faster than most children in his school. One day we’ll have a hard conversation about not being the most agile. One day we’ll have a hard discussion about not begin the fastest basketball player. One day we’ll talk about the missed pitches, the tackle, the fumble, the missed three point shot.
But for now, I do what I can, and that is this: Move. Eat Well. Love your family and friends. Get enough sleep. Drink enough water. Tell those whom you love that you do so and treat yourself well. And one day, no, every day, you will be thankful you did.
It’s not unusual to hear a “mommy blogger” talk about the inevitable morning from hell. In fact, I’m pretty sure both of you reading this could tell me you’ve experience this exact same morning. The difference? It happened to me. And this is how things shook down:
The 4 year old is in a particular nasty phase. It’s the morph between preschooler and “real boy” that mimics pre-pubecense with pee accidents. It’s a confusing time for everyone involved. This particular morning, the Boy couldn’t get a grip. He woke with a nasty case of being four. He sat, emphatically, at the table and stated: “I will not eat this cereal.” Now, in case there are any four year old’s reading this post let me explain a small known fact among all parents. The minute you state you WILL NOT EAT THIS CEREAL means you absolutely WILL NOT GET ANYTHING ELSE. Eat or don’t eat, we don’t really care. But that cereal? It’s all your gettin’.
When I tried to inform the Boy about this fact, he went in to hysterics. “I WILL NOT EAT THIS! I DO NOT WANT THIS! IIII HHHAAAATTTEEE PANDAAAAA PUFFFFFFFFS!!!!!” Logic doesn’t work on a four year old. It doesn’t matter he was the one that asked for the Panda Puffs in the first place. It doesn’t matter that he wanted to purchase them for six weeks until I finally caved. No, logic and four year olds, as yoda says, do not.
I calmly tell my son he can throw this fit in his room. When he refuses to move, I offer to do the heavy lifting for him. AKA: I pick him up and put him in the room and close the door. At this point sirens in china erupt from sound pollution coming directly from my four year old’s mouth. The Boy, he went mental. Screaming, begging to come out, yelling that he needs a tissue. The list goes on and the time slowed. Ten minutes later, he continued with his fit.
Around minute 18 my daughter turns to me and says, “Mom? That’s really annoying. I can see why you don’t like it when I do that.”
At minute 22, it gets quiet. The door cracks a budge and a small boy, my small boy, creeps out. “Mom?” he shyly approaches me, “I’m sorry.”
Twenty-two minutes of absolute utter chaos, hell, yelling, and testing. Twenty-two minutes of neighbors hating us, of passer-bys judging, of new gray hairs. Twenty-two minutes to prove a point that I hope he understands twenty-two years from now.
And, for the record? He did eat the Panda Puffs. Every soggy last bite.
It was a familiar feeling, one I can easily conjure up in my mind. Not until I was leaving did I realize how long it’s actually been that the four of us where together in the same house. What was it, 1995? Was I married back then? Did Dani have to wear a bra back then? Did Kim have kids? Was I battling gray hair?
My sister, my mother, my cousin and I sat drinking sprite infused juice (cough) while taking copious amounts of photos and rocking the baby to sleep. It was a familiar scene even though I can’t place when that would have ever happened. My sister lived in Tuscan Arizona five of the last six years. My cousin is only now old enough to be a “person” off to college. My mother lives even further, back in Houston, near the small town my sister and I grew up in. And I? Well, I tend to never sit still for very long. So when realization hits and I’m sitting there laughing about stories from childhood, I forget how rare this event truly is. Technology makes it possible to connect, airplanes make it possible to travel, time allows us the opportunity but life, that bugger, gets in the way so often. Tonight, not traffic nor rain nor deadlines could prevent what the long-over-due gathering of women: women from my family.
We laughed and joked about being parents, about marriage, about college and boyfriends and love. We talked about the children, about life. We called each other out on past mistakes and forgive when someone farts. The scene could’ve been straight out of the book “The Red Tent” but with less bleeding and less hay bails. I came to understand, during the short hour drive home, how precious that time was. How rare, how familiar, how ancient the gathering of women from a family. The miles and years that separate us hold little tenacity over the truth of family.
This morning my daughter came down decked out in layers of plaid skirts, short tights, polka dot socks and crocks. Her paisley purple shirt topped off the entire outfit with a proper bow at the neckline. She illuminated joy from every ounce of her 7 year old tiny body. “Wow, hon! You’re a party!” She beamed at this compliment from me and sat down all sorts of matter-of-fact at breakfast ready for the day.
My kid? She has the pizazz.
I remember someone cooing over her as a baby. “Doesn’t she just bring you so much joy?” It was an innocent question from a perfect stranger, but at the time she was a three week old leech taking every ounce of my sanity in chunks of 45 minute sleeping blocks. I looked up, bleary eyed, and tried to smile a genuine smile all the while thinking, “Mister, have you HAD babies?”
It turns out? He had. His kids were grown now and he was looking at my three week old baby girl with eyes of decades of memories. Memories like the one at the breakfast table this morning.
“Thanks, Mom,” she said to me when I told her I was proud of her for picking out such a great outfit. I looked at her, her seven year old self, blonde hair, blue eyed lovely. Joy? Yes. Happiness? Yes. Frustration? Yes. But love, oh so much love, beyond anything I can comprehend.
We ate, walked to the bus together, and there at the bus stop was our neighbor girl, a girl in the same class, wearing nearly the same outfit. Both girls smiled and giggled with shy confidence. My neighbor and I laughed as our daughters caught the bus, girls in mis-matched socks and polka dot skirts, skipping up the steps. “Here’s the thing,” I told my neighbor, “I figure I’ll pick my battles. Don’t do drugs, have safe sex, and bygod wear whatever you want.”
I hope she keeps this spirit about her. And I know one day I’ll lean over a ragged, tired mother, and ask with genuine knowledge, “Doesn’t she bring you so much joy?”
She does. Daily.
** Also, super big than you to Babble for naming me one of the top 100 mommy bloggers!
“Mamma, will you play with me?” There are three other children at school outside playing under the careful eye of their pre-school teacher. I briefly consider the deadlines, the emails, the phone calls. “Yes, Buddy, I will.” His face lights up and he runs to select a ball from the bin. We play “kick the ball” which could also be called soccer if we were a little more agile.
At first we are tame, kicking softly, rolling the light red ball across the cement in the covered area back and forth from my large feet to his tiny ones. One of us kicks it a bit too hard and the other laughs as the ball bounces off the divider and the wall. We kick with a twirl. We kick with both feet after jumping. We kick until the ball flies over our heads and we giggle. I am there, at the preschool, in the crisp autumn air with my son laughing while the inbox sits and the clock relents.
Finally it is time for me to leave. I hug, I kiss, I smother with so much love I hope he holds on to me forever. I pull away in my car and I see his small familiar face peering out from the fence. He waves, I wave, he blows a kiss and I blow one back. He signs I love you and as I sign it back my eyes fill with tears of gratitude and thanksgiving. Sometimes fifteen minutes can heal even the most busy of todo lists.
I remember the day I peed on a stick and shockingly read two lines. I remember the day we found out we were having a girl. I remember the long, difficult struggle of birth and the weeks and months following. The transition to being your mom wasn’t an easy one but those are all memories now.
I have completely, utterly, hopelessly, passionately fallen in love with you, my daughter, my pixie, my joy, my pride.
You grow every day to be a person I am proud of. You create, you laugh, you rejoice. You show me what living with imagination is. You teach me to ride my bike in the grass because cement isn’t necessary. You invite me in to your imagination of talking horses and pet shops. You warm me with your arms and your impossibly long legs, mygod how did they get so long, wrap around my waist when I lift you for possibly the last time of your life.
You love your brother with so much strength, allowing him still to climb in to your lap. You are patient with him, mostly, and I am grateful for your relationship. I watch you as you get on the bus, I send thoughts of strength and success as you smile out the window with your new adult teeth and wave the I love you sign.
You are faithful with your friendships, still enjoying each birthday with our closest and dearest. You are tender to your core and your love means more to me than a thousand successful clients.
One day I will successfully show you how much you’ve changed my life, LB. Until that time I will soak you up, each possible day, each available hug, each snuggle. We love you dearly. So. Very.
Right now there’s a lot of people posting about “Tips for being prepared for the school year.” Let me be the first one to share with you my strategic plan: “How to lose your shit prior to school starting.”
Y’all, it’s how I roll.
Here, in no particular order, is my recipe for a complete meltdown:
1. Plan a trip prior to school starting including long international flights.
2. With 14 hour layovers in Holland.
3. Take on three freelance gigs the week prior to said trips.
4. With short deadlines.
5. Start PMSing.
6. Look at pictures from September last year and your children’s first day of school.
7. Realize they’ve changed too much.
8. And that you will miss said first day of school this year.
9. Catch a cold the week before said travel.
10. Have sick children the week before said travel, knowing every.time you leave the country someone is sick and needing you.
BONUS! #11: Allow mommy guilt to penetrate your everything until your children are sleeping in your room every night because you can’t stand another second away from them. Aside from said deadlines, travel, and (lack of) sleep.
I’m literally on my hands and knees scrubbing our kitchen tiles. It’s my husband’s birthday today: June 18th. I’m listening to him put an IKEA shelf together with the children in the other room. What a way to spend your birthday, I think. Hey honey! Let’s clean the house!
The thing is, this is how we roll. We don’t have a cleaning person so if the kitchen is going to get presentable, I’ll be the one to do it. We don’t have lawn boys to do our yard work for us so if the weeds are going to be pulled, it will be our family pulling them. We have a lot, and I’m not even being dramatic here, a lot of work to do on our old 1963 “well loved” velveteen-rabbit of a house. And if it’s going to be done, we’ll be the ones to do it. Every weekend. For ever.
I have friends with cleaning people, or yard people, or nannies. I have co-workers that run the math for me about money versus time. I’m sure we’re not utilizing our time as efficiently as possible as I theoretically could spend all evenings earning more income with freelance and all weekends farming out our chores while we bond as a family.
I know these facts and yet, this is how we choose to do things. We might have the ugliest fireplace in the history of fireplaces but when we change it out, we’ll be painting it together. We might have the hole in the wall from the previous owner but it’s become a lower priority to all the other chores. The children’s bathroom is still broken and I know we’ll get to it eventually.
My four year old son plays “who can pull the biggest weed” with me. We laugh at just how big that root is, or how tall that weed got or watch a worm crawl in the dirt. We let the children wipe up the tables and teach them to take off their shoes when they walk in the front door because mommy just cleaned the floor and will lose her shit if you muddy it up right away. It’s a timeless middle-class adage that the chores come first before play. We try to do both, simultaneously, and listening to my husband show the kids how to put together a shelf and recycle the box it came in, on his birthday, reminds me why I married him in the first place.
Happy Birthday, Babe. Let’s clean the toilets next.
14 guests here now.