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Archive for June, 2017

I’ve been painting a bedframe for the Boo — he’s at the age where he enjoys deciding what his stuff should look like, and I like painting. However. I’m a Virgo, and an introvert, and I really like to paint alone. And my son is five and likes to “help.” This is a trait I want to encourage, so I decided to suck up my control issues and paint with my kid.

And so there we were in the basement, bright yellow paint on our brushes (because he wants it to be “all the colors of the rainbow,” starting with YELLOW). I’d put down an old shower curtain liner, and we were both in painting clothes. He was painting low, and I was painting high, and everything was peachy. Until I spotted my kid’s bright yellow toes. “I have paint on my toes, Mama!”

“I see that, yes. Okay, just stay on the plastic until I wipe them off.”

Then, naturally, he started moving toward the carpet.

And that’s when my Virgo brain screamed “OH MY GOD THERE’S GOING TO BE PAINT ON THE CARPET” and exploded a little bit. Then I yelled at my kid. And I grabbed his arm. And of course he cried because his mother was going insane right in front of him.

I immediately felt like a big stupid turd. He wouldn’t paint with me after that, instead drifting away to play by himself.

I felt like an even bigger, stupider turd when I took a good look at where we were: a basement room we jokingly refer to as “the 1971 doctor’s office,” with cheap, nasty old carpet that we plan to replace. Who cares, you Virgo freak? Come on!

A few days later we were back at it, and I had made a promise to myself to be more chilled out about the whole painting with a kid thing. I had the headboard up against the wall. The Boo wanted to help with touch-ups. I gave him a tiny art paintbrush thinking he’d be fine with that.

Then he said something like “oops.” I turned to see a giant splatter of lovely purple paint on the wall. I can’t remember exactly what either of us said right afterwards because my brain excludes details like that when it’s working overtime to keep my Virgo issues at bay. I do recall that I took a deep breath, and that the Boo said he wanted to help clean it up.

I exhaled and said, “Oh honey, it’s not worth it. It’ll just smear everywhere, and anyway it looks much better than it did before.”

And you know? It really does. Because every time I look at it, I see better decisions and progress and love.

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“I think it’s a preemptive strike for starting Kindergarten.”

My husband gave me a doubtful look. All three of us were snuggled on the bed, with the Boo nestled as close to me as he could get. He’d been tearily bemoaning this week’s summer camp experience: There are different teachers! Different kids! I really missed you Mama and then I was just really sad! He told me he was sad until they went out to the playground. That’s two solid hours of sadness. He told me he couldn’t stop crying and I cringed as I told him I still remember how scary that felt to me as a kid. 

His deluge of emotion took us by surprise because he’s going to summer camp at the preschool he’s attended for the past three years, and he has several close school buddies there with him. But then I thought, maybe he’s practicing for Kindergarten by going through all the same mechanisms he’ll need to cope with that sea change in a few months. Kind of like anticipatory grief, a recognized syndrome that I experienced when my dad died, slowly, following a massive stroke. 

The Boo is keenly aware that his school days are on the horizon — he enjoys looking at the calendar to see what’s already happened and what’s coming up, and his first day of school is already marked in red Sharpie. We’ve visited the school for his skills assessment (!) and we drive by to say hi to the building every now and then. 

When I told him they have a preview day so he can meet his teacher and find his classroom, he said, “Why would I want to do that?” When I asked if he wanted to shop for a first day of Kindergarten outfit, he shouted “No!” in an offended tone and then asked why I had suggested it. 

Thinking back, these are telling reactions, and classic kid strategy: If I hide my face, you can’t see me. If I refuse to acknowledge the idea of starting school, it won’t happen. I can’t hear you, LA LA LA! Kindergarten starts in roughly eight weeks, and there’s so much he doesn’t understand about it that it may as well be a trip to Mars. But summer camp is happening right now, providing a handy proving ground for What To Do When Things Change. 

My child’s strategies this week have consisted mostly of what I think of as the Velcro Goodbye. On Tuesday morning he begged to stay with me; I nearly had to drag him out of the car. In the classroom, he needed at least a dozen hugs and snuggles and kisses, asking for “one more” over and over through near-sobs. I wiped his tears away and then put a tissue in his pocket in case he needed it later. The whole process took about 15 minutes (whereas last week he turned to play 30 seconds after we walked in). I managed to hold it together while I was with him, but fell apart as soon as I walked out of the building and spent the rest of the day wandering around in a headachey daze.

Wednesday morning was better, but he was still teary and wanted me to stay in his classroom to cuddle with him and then give him umpteen hugs and then wipe his tears and then give him a tissue to put in his pocket. 

Thursday morning, I had to scurry back to the house for an appointment, so I prepared him for a shorter Velcro Goodbye. He wasn’t happy about it, but he did it. No tears, maybe five minutes of cuddling and five hugs (we counted them down together) and then he turned to play with another boy as I was leaving. 

All week, I’d been giving the Boo pep talks and telling him I know he can handle this challenge. I was honestly a little frustrated that my brainwashing wasn’t working. But now, because he did the grunt work of getting through it, he knows he can handle it.

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