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Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

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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You are four and a half years old. 

You asked, very casually, about the box below, “Why does it say ‘go’ on there?” 

You are in heaven when your Daddy takes apart something electronic for you. Usually this happens on weekends. 

You enjoyed summer camp, though you declined to go in the sprinkler even on super-hot days. 

You inherited a floaty from a good friend, and now you are plunging into the pool, intentionally dunking yourself, asking Mama to dunk you, and opening your eyes underwater. These are new developments in your swimming career.

You have recently discovered U2 (Daddy), Green Day (Mama), Blondie (Mama again), and Fleetwood Mac (the car USB on shuffle).

You started having bad dreams, or at least started talking about them (but only a bit because you believe talking about them will make them come back). The most recent one involved a bad car, a house alarm, and the inability to run or talk.

You are newly afraid of the dark, and require your chair to be draped and your closet closed at bedtime. 

You sleep through fireworks and thunderstorms. 

You clipped your own toenails last week — and did a very decent job, without drawing blood. 

You still wear a diaper at night, and have told Mama that you pee in it as soon as you wake up. 

You have expanded your diet a tiny bit and are now willing to eat cantaloupe, green beans and nutritional yeast, which Mama plans to use as a gateway to cheese. The big shocker was your request to try a fish stick, which you didn’t like, but agreed to try another day with lemon. 

You have lost your zest for scrubbing toilets, but you still enjoy helping Mama vacuum and view working with cleanser as a privilege. 

You are continuing your love affair with My Little Pony, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Peg + Cat. Justin Time and Ready Jet Go are new discoveries, and you’ve circled back to Word World and Octonauts. Most days, you still watch less than two hours of TV.

You traded your long-neglected easel for a “science table” which tends to be heaped with whatever you’re fiddling with. Right now, it’s egg cartons, scissors, a screwdriver, two rolls of blue painter’s tape, empty water bottles completely wrapped in painter’s tape, paint stir sticks intermittently wrapped in painter’s tape, and bits of string and drinking straws you decided to cut into very short pieces. Mama’s just happy you’re using the space and enjoying yourself. 

You are trying out stronger ways of asking for what you want, e.g., “Mama you have to get me a snack NOW!” Mama never tires of finding new ways to say, “Would you like to rephrase that?” Her hands-down favorite is the raised eyebrow. 

You recently visited a farm, where your favorite thing was turning the electric water pump on so you could test all the sprinklers. Your second favorite thing was the robotic vacuum cleaner, or maybe the waffles the lady of the house made.

You are four and a half years old, and you are still very snuggly, just with pointier elbows. 

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A few times a month, the Boo is class leader. This involves perks such as ringing the bell for snack time and bringing a treasured object for show-n-share. He’s brought things like a book, a small fan, and an old cassette recorder. That last one got rave reviews from one teacher because the dual recording speed means you can play back at Chipmunk speed. 

I wasn’t sure the teachers would love what he selected for yesterday’s show-n-share, though. After some hemming and hawing shortly before we needed to walk out the door, he settled on this:

For the record, I am not the adult in the house who introduced him to this album. However, he LOVES it. I don’t know if it’s the strong beat or the guitar work, but he just can’t get enough of stuff like this (he also loves Rush). So my approach has been to balance it out with Prince and Aimee Mann, and be honest about the times I just can’t deal with the Young brothers. 

I was slightly nervous about how the CD would be received at school, but when I picked him up the extended day teachers (different from his usual set) told me they had played the CD for hours. And they were laughing about it. Hard.

That night, we got the Boo talking about show-n-share. The conversation took place while he was dancing wildly to Back in Black, so it was, um, fragmented. But as he hopped around wailing on his mini-broom-guitar, we were able to put together that they did play the CD, at least a few kids danced to it, and a kid who cranked it up was asked to turn it down. When I asked if it was his best show-n-share ever, he shouted “yes!” And then he went back to rocking out. 

The next day, I checked in with the Boo’s teachers to ask how the songs went over with the kids — and them. Thankfully, “So fun!” was a typical comment. A teacher from another class came by to rock out a bit, and I learned that one of the Boo’s teachers taught the kids some leg guitar moves. Meanwhile, my kid had demonstrated the proper arm wave and “rock on” hand sign for concert-goers. (I taught it to him that morning in the car pool drop-off line, and I was pleased that the quick lesson had stuck.)

There were a few parents on the playground when I was chatting with the teachers, and they seemed to have no beef with the CD. The word “cool” was uttered more than once. 

Phew!

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