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*
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.
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.
It’s been one of those weeks. The kind that I blame my parents for setting my expectations of life too high.
Why the hell did they tell me I could be anything I wanted?
That I could achieve! And that I was smart! And OH SO ABLE TO DO ANYTHING I WANT!
‘Cause that’s just a mid-life crisis waiting to happen. And here I am: mid-life. crisising.
I enjoy my work. I enjoy my children. I enjoy the sunshine. But I can’t figure out where I want to live. I still don’t know exactly what I want to be when I grow up. (A woman who codes! AWESOME CODE! But .. but.. I can also do marketing! MARKETING? Wait, write a book. I’m WRITING A BOOK IN ALL CAPS!)
So as a favor to my children I’ve decided to be very very realistic with them.
“Honey, you’re very pretty. You would make a great pole dancer. You won’t have to put out any money for education AND you’ll make three times what your father and I make in a year.”
“Sweetie, yes, you very funny. Not funny enough to be a comedian, say, but maybe funny enough to work as an accountant. You might lose all your hair and drink a lot of beer. I’m just sayin’, you might want to marry early…”
My children were playing “little fucker” at Home Depot?
Now, look, before you get all judgy, let me just preface this with a post I wrote two years ago to prove I have no idea what I’m doing as a parent. Ok? I had a plan. I had a theory. That theory sucked.
In retrospect, the “time and a place” mantra could work. Teaching your children that anyone can say anything as long as it is the appropriate time and place is rather discerning. I don’t want to shield my children from the world but would rather teach them how to navigate the gray areas of society including cussing, standing up for oneself and when an appropriate toilet joke is funny.
I guess at 5 and 3 they’re not discerning yet.
Case in point:
Mr. Flinger and I took the entire family to Home Depot. (Clue One: that’s best to do on a date because children lose their ever-loving-minds.) We have expectations that mimic parents of the 70’s. We tell you to sit in the cart and you will sit, wait, talk quietly among yourselves until we have thoroughly discussed the options of shiny silver and chrome for the new locks to the house AND YOU WILL LIKE IT.
The children looked at us with wide eye, “But we don’t have any toys,” LB gasped. “Use your hands. You know what makes a good toy? Your hands. And? You won’t lose them and you’ll never get them taken away,” Mr Flinger solves the problem. (Side note: This has been repeated to me half a dozen times so it did in fact make an impression.)
The children begin playing “where is thumpkin” and other hand gesture games appropriate for their age.
The discussions went forward about types of locks, shiny locks, keyed locks, locks of what size and shape and on and on and on until I hear, or I think I hear, one child say, “Hey.. Fucker!” and the other reply back, “Hey! Fucker!” I glance up at two men standing next to the cart where the children are sitting. Their expressions are both half laughing half shocked. I stride over, “Did they just say….” “I think so,” replied one man. “Oh, uh, I don’t know WHOS kids those are. No, I’m kidding, I’m the proud mother.” He looks me up and down and says, “Oh, you’re their mom?” “Yes, and .. uh.. I’m sorry… Uh.. lemme just move them…”
I lean forward as the children continue their “little fucker” play which involved a thumb telling the other thumb he’s a little fucker and then the other thumb quips, “hey! fucker!”
A proud mother indeed.
Since that time I’ve changed some things around here. I now say “Oh MOTHER OF PEARL” and “For PETES SAKE” and “HOLY MOSES.” I like to think I’m still a little badass. In fact, sometimes I know I’m in the company of other mothers when someone shouts out, “SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!” in exclamation.
Having children truly does change you in ways you never could anticipate. It’s true. Those little fuckers.
My daughter came home with her usual bouncy, free spirited, attitude. She usually rolls through the door like an electrically charged ball, so when she flopped through the door with the daily spastic energy I’m used to, I didn’t think to ask if anything could be wrong.
It’s been a few weeks of this now, assuming things are going well, listening to her stories of school, until last week the little girl that usually sits by her on the bus chose to sit six seats back from my daughter. I asked her about it later that day, “Why didn’t Liv sit with you?” “Oh, she and Rose don’t like me anymore. I don’t know why. They just don’t talk to me now.”
Apparently this had been going on for a little while.
I asked her more about what was going on with the girls at school. “They have a club that I’m not allowed to be in anymore. So I started my own club and I’m the only one in it. Well, me and my fairies.”
I think my heart busted in twelve pieces.
“Who plays with you at recess? Didn’t you usually play with Ave and James?” “No, nobody plays with me at recess now. Nobody. I just play alone.”
She stated this with such a matter-of-fact tone that I didn’t want to make it a big deal but, y’all, remember elementary school? Remember how the person that shows up in first grade could very well be the person you are labelled as for many many many years? The bed-wetter? The girl-who-cried-all-the-time? The boy-who-took-his-pudding-and-threw-it-on-a-teacher? I mean, those labels follow you through high school.
No, seriously. Kids are mean.
Since my daughter is new to this school this year, I wanted to give her the chance to make friends in her grade. “Let’s have a tea party,” I suggested. “Invite three of your friends from school that you want and we’ll have a tea party for them. You can use your nice tea party set from Grandma and Grandpa.”
She loved the idea.
The next night she worked on invitations for three of her friends. She sat and drew while I lay on her bad talking to her about this or that. She spent an hour making the invitations exactly right. I confess, I was impressed a bit myself.
Two of the three girls made it to our house the following day. There was mass consumption of sparking apple cider, homemade oatmeal/cranberry cookies (gluten free, of course) and many hours of pretend cat noises from upstairs.
After their tea party, a little girl asked if she could do her homework. “Of course!” I taught the girls how to have a study group. THey helped each other with their math and discussed each answer, checking their work together. Then it was time to go.
One of the mothers became an instant friend. We chatted, our daughters so alike, and decided to hang out some more. I’ve already met her at the Y for a workout and planned another playdate for our girls soon.
The best possible thing I can do for my daughter is give her the chance to find her own people. I’ve been lucky over the years to find a tribe here. I have people I love to hang out with, people with children like mine, people who make me laugh and make me feel funny.
She might not know it yet, but she’s going to need people as she goes through her schooling. People, community, friends; they make your life rich and give you the chance to take yourself less seriously. And, honestly, they’re way better than fairies. They’re real.
This year the leaves are not the only things changing this season. My oldest starts first grade, my youngest moves in to Montessori, I turn thiry-five. I am not ready in the same way my Mother used to tell me how Christmas came too early. As a child, that sentence, “Christmas can’t be here already?!” was as unfounded as it gets. Christmas too early? Mom’s gone crazy again.
I am not ready.
I drove away this morning, literally crying, as I left my son for his last day at his daycare. He waved, blew a kiss and signed “I love you” as our usual drop-off routine necessitates. But this time, I was crying, thinking of how much he’s grown and learned, remembering back to the first few times I left him there, scared, worried, watching him cry as I walked away. He’s become a boy there, a real boy, growing from an insecure toddler into the healthy, funny, loving little man I enjoy today.
I have to thank the the people who loved him while I was gone for that.
I remember so vividly my summers at my baby-sitter’s house. I think of her sometimes as I parent my own children, flashing back to 1982 playing outside with her daughters as she cleaned the house or made our lunches. I remember her like a second mother to me, as much of an influence in my life as any adult I’ve known.
People who raise children, don’t only raise their own.
It truly takes a village.
So to my son’s village, to the ladies who have kissed owies, and changed diapers, and read stories to my son when I wasn’t able to: Thank you. Thank you for being such an amazing influence in his life and for teaching him in ways he will subconsciously always take with him. He’s a lucky little man to have had this time with you all. You will be missed.
Mr. Flinger: “If you don’t stop yelling in there, we’re going to send you outside to play all day and not let you in. We’ll put food in a dog dish and you can eat out there.”
Me: “Let’s make realistic threats to the children. We don’t own a dog dish.”
Mr. Flinger: “You’re right. Sorry. A BOWL.”
You wouldn’t think someone this adorable could cause any trouble.
And oh, you’d be wrong. And also a suckah.
I can remember sitting behind the recliner listening to the theme song from St. Elsewhere. I remember my mother, without looking back, yelling, “GO TO BED” and wondering how she even knew I was there. I was so quiet! The woman had eyes on the back of her head. She till does.
The theme music has changed, the recliner is different, but the person sitting behind the chair refusing to go to bed is reminiscent of 1982.
My son, my precious baby boy, the apple of my eye, is pissing me right the hell off. The Boy willl not, for any bribes, threats, pleads, stay in his bed. He will not sleep before 10PM or past 6:30AM. He knows what he wants and he wants it. It’s us. He’s changed in to a little man wanting late night TV and a whisky (ok, fine, “milk” whatever) until way past bedtime. Past OUR bedtime.
Last night in a fit of “what DO I DO WITH YOU” I stated, “Every time you get out of bed, you lose a lovey.” It had a “This Wonderful Life” tone to it but with threats, lovies, and the absence of an adorable child telling a story about angels. It also didn’t work.
I tried putting him back in his pac-n-play telling him only big boys get to be in big boy beds and when he feels he’s ready to be a big boy and stay in his MAN BED, he can have that again. He said, “OH! MY CRIB! YEY!”
I’ve lost hair over this. I’ve tried guilt trips, bribes, threats. I’ve let him stay up, I’ve stayed in bed and snuggled, I’ve read extra books, I’ve tried to ignore the behavior.
I have no good answer. I have no good solution. I have my regrets for letting this kid sucker me in to manipulate me with his charming ways of telling me he loves me and his adorable ways of being two.
And now? I’m paying for it.
Help? Please? I’ll let you stay up late. I’ll even buy you a pony.
Clara’s been dressing herself out of the laundry hamper as I’m folding clothes.
Today, she put on a hat. And her own shoes (on the right feet!). And my underpants as a necklace.
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