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Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

Galloping

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With my great grandmother during my pre-galloping phase.

Since I started an office job, I feel like I am galloping toward a finish line that keeps moving farther away. Sometimes I can see the finish line, sometimes I can’t. But always, I am galloping. Or trotting, or if I’m lucky, walking. But I’m always moving, always feeling like I will fall behind if I rest.

A month after my son started kindergarten I went back to working outside the home. (I won’t say I became a working mom – that’s a bullshit term, because we all know every mom works.) It is a perfect job situation for me, which is why I said yes please, I want to wear a badge that must be visible at all times and fight traffic every morning and afternoon. I will endure the pain of shopping for office pants because it means I get to write and use my brain and think about new ideas and talk to grownups about these new ideas and have them be happy I am there with my ideas.

After I drop my son at school, I go to the office. When I leave the office, I go to pick up my son. Sometimes he plays on the playground after school, and I sit on a bench and watch him and his friends and think about when it will be time to start galloping again. Or I chat with another mom (not being sexist – it is almost always another mom, or a nanny) and many times we talk about what kind of galloping we need to do when we get home.

When I get home, the galloping starts. Unpack the lunches, start or move laundry, look in the backpack and think about what needs to be turned in tomorrow. Is there an overdue library book under a bed somewhere? Man, there are a ton of dishes in the sink. Load the dishwasher, start it, change into loungewear, start a load of laundry, explain to child that I cannot take him to the playground in my house pants, text husband about supper, start cooking noodles for the little boy who will eat little else or try to talk him into eating one of the three other things he will eat. Prep lunches for tomorrow, check lunch supplies and if we’re low on fruit, cut up half a dozen apples and maybe rinse and portion out some grapes. Take time to play with or read to my son, maybe put on real pants and walk to the playground, then home for supper and the galloping toward bedtime.

Bedtime is its own kind of galloping, sometimes full of negotiations so insane they warrant their own post. But it’s always sweet at the end, that last kiss, that one more hug please Mama. Yes honey, I will gladly give you one more hug, because I love you to bits and I know one day you will stop asking for them.

After bedtime, there may be more galloping if I didn’t get lunches prepped or laundry needs to be moved along or or or. Really, I would like to watch something with stunning cinematography or great writing and pretty clothes, preferably set in England or France, but that will have to wait for a night I have insomnia. I need to talk to my husband about half a dozen things, and if I am lucky I will remember half of them. Do we want to go to the school benefit or just write a check, oh hey the chimney sweep finally got back to me, did you call the plumber? Damn, I forgot to call the pediatrician/pharmacy/trash company. We’re out of peanut butter/bread/frozen waffles again, I’ll make a Target run tomorrow. Hm, wonder what else we’re out of, let me look. Chips… the other kind of chips… Goldfish…Oh god the babysitter never texted me back I’ll ping her right now. I’d really like to have a date night/get together with my mom friends/catch up with my aunt up in Michigan, maybe I should make a list of calls and emails for tomorrow. Pen. Pen. Where’s my favorite pen? Did that kid run off with it…oh yes here it is on his desk along with my favorite Sharpie… with the cap off. Add that to the Target list then and make a note to HIDE THE NEW SHARPIES.

Then bed. But first I must read because that is my thing and this is one time I can do it without interruption. Reading before sleep, until everything gets very heavy. Pure bliss, even when I am reading something horrifying.

Morning. Up at 5 a.m. so I can have a cup of tea, do some yoga and shower before the boy wakes up. This is my time before the galloping begins, and making sure I get it makes me a better mom, so I peel myself out of bed and pray my son will stay asleep for another hour and a half. Breakfast, coffee, good morning sweetheart, kiss the top of a five-year-old head, toast some waffles, here are your vitamins, yes you have time for one show, it’s time to get dressed, brush teeth, please put on your socks and shoes, if you want a lunch it’s sitting on the counter please put on your socks and shoes, socks, please. Socks. And then shoes. Where’s your lunch honey?

School drop off. Drive to work. Work. Drive to school, drive home, unload the 88 bags and random things and maybe groceries. Time to start galloping again. The finish line is still moving. Oh shit, the finish line will always be moving. I will never cross the finish line. I will always be galloping.

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We signed the Boo up for a series of kids’ have fun/be healthy races, and the first one was two weeks ago. Friends, that one race alone was worth the entire registration fee, because little kids running equals Super Hilarious Fun Times. 

It’s a very sweet organization, staffed by very sweet college students. Prior to the race, the kids are split into their age groups and go with a set of coaches for warm-ups. We walked the Boo over and he said goodbye to us happily — a positive side effect of having a month of kindergarten under his belt, perhaps. 

From afar, we could see him doing what he was told, or trying to — we haven’t taught him how to do jumping jacks, so that was giggle-inducing. Red light/green light was no problem, though.  He spent some time holding the hand of one of the female coaches, and soon it was time to line up for his age group’s race. 

A few younger groups ran before the Boo’s group, and again, super entertaining. If you’ve never seen three-year-olds running a race, you haven’t lived. Or laughed. 

The distance for the Boo’s age group is a quarter of a mile, which turns out to be once around the soccer field, plus a tiny bit more. He lined up with the other boys (girls run separately) and was looking off to the side somewhere when they said, “ready set go!” so he got a late start. We think he was expecting them to say “on your marks, get set, go” like we do at home, but it’s also possible he was just spacing out because a) late afternooon goofiness, and b) he’s kind of distractable. 

He smiled and waved at us going into the first turn. He seemed to be flagging about halfway through, but a coach running with the stragglers (of which he was one) encouraged him and he kept plugging along. 

He went off-course coming into the home stretch. 

He finished second from last. 

He was beaming after the race and said he had a lot of fun. 

Mission accomplished. 

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Kindergarten. It’s coming. Less than two weeks from today in fact, in the middle of August, because that’s how they roll where we live. The start of school feels like an overlord, dictating much of what we do during the last few weeks of unstructured time. There are supplies to buy and preschool buddies to meet up with a few more times and fun stuff to do to distract my kid from the pain of what’s coming. Herewith, ten snapshots of living with the Start of School Overlord, because I tried and tried to come up with some clever metaphor for how these weeks are going and feeling, and it just didn’t work.

1. The Boo has been to his new school half a dozen times, and I’ve told him as much as I can about what to expect. But still, he is afraid. He keeps saying he doesn’t want to go because he wants to stay with me. Then the other day he put a twist on it, declaring tearfully that he wants me to stay with him at school all day.

2. I took him to pick out a new backpack because his preschool one is too small to fit a file folder — oh my God do kindergarteners do homework?! Anyway. He was interested in anything but the backpacks, unresponsive when I asked if he liked this one or that one. He’s in denial, I thought, and I patiently put a couple of reasonable choices right smack in front of him. He chose one with outer space stuff all over it. Inside, on the part that will rest on his back, it says “I am invincible.”

3. I keep thinking about the sand at the Boo’s preschool. Sand in a massive area on the playground, sand in small boxes on the play terrace off the classrooms. Sand that would not stop coming out of his shoes no matter how viciously I smacked them on the blacktop. It blanketed the carpet in my car on the many days I forgot to dump it out of his shoes before he got in. Even when I did dump it out, it would fall out of his socks and drop from between his toes as he gleefully cleaned them on the way home, giggling and tickling his own feet. It was everywhere, it drove me nuts, and midway through his final year at the school, I began to realize how soon I’d be free of The Sand. There is no sand at his kindergarten. And then I realized there will probably always be sand in the carpet of my car, so part of his preschool will be with us as long as we have this car. And then I started crying.

4. Ugh, my dreams, all variations on the theme of not being able to find or help my kid. Sometimes I can see him, sometimes not, but I’m trying to get to him, and failing. Once I dreamed that I took him to one of my college classes with me but didn’t bring anything for him to do or eat. Thanks, subconscious, for the subtle hint!

5. I asked the Boo about a month ago if he wanted to go shopping for a special outfit for the first day of school. He said, “Why would I want to do that?”

6. One day at a park the mother of a toddler asked me, “What’s it like getting ready for Kindergarten?” and I just started laughing.

7. The Boo has regressed a bit, mostly in terms of how he handles being upset and being told no. One day he screamed at me because I went up the basement steps too far in front of him. Yikes, I thought, is my kid possessed? Around that time a Facebook friend posted an article on ways redirect and defuse temper tantrums in three- and four-year-olds, and I’ve been using the techniques with some success. And sometimes I just have to let him spin out for a while. It’s exhausting.

8. We met one of the kindergarten teachers at the school during a play date event. Just after we introduced ourselves, the Boo was hit on the head by a water bottle being tossed around by a couple of older kids. The teacher calmly but firmly told them to cut it out. Later when I asked the Boo what he thought of the teacher he said, “She’s nice! She was even nice when she was telling those kids to stop throwing the bottle!”

9. The Boo knows about homeschooling and he’s pretty sure he wants to be an engineer. The other day he asked me, “Can I do homeschooling and still be an engineer or will I still have to go to college?”

10. Yesterday afternoon, after we ran through our Kindergarten goodbye ritual, the Boo asked me to pretend to be all his teachers in turn. He got the list of teachers we keep on the fridge and I went into the closet to transform into each one. I did a one-minute mock gym, art, music and Spanish class, then turned back into myself and said, “How was your day?” “Good!” he said. 

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My Little Brony

There we were at an awesome birthday party with the World’s Best Balloon Twister, and the Boo was completely uninterested in the guy’s insane skills.  

Me: He can make anything for you! Anything! What would you like?

Boo: <Runs back to the bounce house.>

Ten minutes go by.

Me: Hey Boo, do you want a balloon animal? He really can make anything…

Boo: When are we having cake?

Ten more minutes go by. The World’s Best Balloon Twister announces last call and I laugh, thinking about what that used to mean to me. 

Me: Honey, seriously, if you want a balloon animal now is the time!

Boo: Is it time for cake yet?

Me: How about… um… something from My Little Pony? (His favorite show, despite the puzzled reactions he gets when he tells people that’s what he watches.)

Boo: Twilight Sparkle?

Me: Sounds good. Just go tell him what you want.

Boo: Can you do it?

People, I did it. I delivered my kid’s balloon animal order so he could continue obsessing over cake and running around like a lunatic. And the World’s Best Balloon Twister did an awesome job, and the Boo loved that thing. I mean, really loved it. Slept with it. Brought it down for breakfast. Watched My Little Pony with it. 

And then it began to deflate and look rather sad:


But still, he loved on it and insisted it be tucked in with him for rest time and bed time. He redid the thing’s cutie marks, as you can see in the photo above. 

And then it began to look so sad that I thought about getting him a replacement because his love for Twilight was strong and true even though she had become somewhat revolting to adult eyes. I scanned a few options online and then got distracted by dishes/laundry/cooking/childcare.

But then, as I was trolling the aisles of Target, I saw it. One lonely Twilight Sparkle among a herd of Rainbow Dashes. I googled “twilight sparkle cutie mark” to confirm I had the right one, and then nabbed it. 


I put it in the Boo’s booster seat just before summer camp pick-up time and told him I had a surprise for him in the car. Biggest. Smile. Ever. Followed by the sweetest, most sincere thank you. 

And now he has a buddy that will never deflate — plus he can put band-aids on her:

The only downside to this story: Now he wants me to get all the other ones for him. 

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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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A few nights ago we had a hellacious storm roll through at 3 a.m., a grand finale to three days of pouring rain that brought cooler temperatures and skyrocketing mold levels. It is exceedingly rare that the Boo wakes up during a storm, but this time the thunder shook the house and he emerged from his room, agitated and wide awake. 
I crawled into his bed with him and once the thunder subsided, kissed him and left. All was well until the next line of storms came through about half an hour later. He did try to go back to sleep on his own, but the continuing light show and his anticipation of more thunder was too much. Also, he suddenly became pregnant with two small bears, and who can sleep in that last trimester, right? And then he got hungry – a syndrome I understand, having eaten more than a few bowls of 4 a.m. cereal during my own sleepless nights. 

And so down we went, Cheerios for him, Honey Nut Cheerios for me, nearly silent, bathed in the glow of the dimmest light in the kitchen as the rain beat on the windows. It was peaceful and simple, and as much as I wanted to be sleeping, I looked over at my boy, planted a kiss on his head and thought, “Remember this. This is a Moment.” Days later, I realized why: the light, feeding him, the wee hours all took me back to his newborn days. Four-ish years ago, and four nights ago, the simple acts of cuddling him and feeding him brought deep contentment and satisfaction. 

We finished our cereal and the Boo fell asleep about an hour later, shortly after declaring, “I can’t rest because there’s nothing for me to do.” We were both a mess the next day, but that sweet kitchen moment kept swimming up to soften the rough edges.

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