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Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’


“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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Last week I went to the Boo’s school open house, a lovely event where parents talk to teachers and learn more about what their kids have been up to. One of my favorite things about the evening is seeing the kids’ art, so I eagerly scanned the walls. This year, they’re doing self portraits. Here is the Boo’s:

As I saw it next to depictions of fully articulated hairdos and facial features, disappointment washed over me. We all stood around saying nice things about the drawings, and about the Boo’s, someone said, “Oh! Those are nostrils! That’s great!” So kind, really. I muttered something about my kid not being interested in drawing. Then one of the teachers said he’d been very willing to try. It was awkward, at least for me.

The morning after the open house, I asked the Boo a few open-ended questions about his self-portrait, and he answered them in a matter-of-fact way. Turns out that parent was right, those are nostrils. I sat there thinking about how nice it is that he’s cool with his drawing skills, and my mind wandered to the things he does well.

He can explain how an electric circuit works. He tells me (often) when I’ve skipped a word in a story he last heard a month ago. He is proficient with a screwdriver. He knows the French words for head, nose, eye and bottom, and most of the words to a Japanese children’s song.

And here’s the deal – I know that my child is mainly interested in drawing as it pertains to practical applications, like watching me sketch a diagram of a three-point turn:


Oh look, my little apple fell right next to the tree.

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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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We picked out a card we knew Daddy would enjoy — it referenced heavy metal and made lots of buzzy noise. He loved it. 

We went to take care of Grammie’s yard before it got too hot. You loved it. 

We went to the grocery store to pick up a few of daddy’s favorite treats, and you picked out his favorite juice. He loved that.

You woke Daddy up with a sweet “good mornin’ Daddy!” right after Mama asked you to quietly blow him a kiss. He loved it. 

You helped Mama make Besitos de Coco, and you stuck with it long past the point where you usually wander away (right after you taste all the sweet ingredients). Mama loved that, mostly. She’s a Virgo. She has issues with messes. She’s getting better. 

You filled up (and popped) a bunch of water balloons with Daddy. You loved it, Daddy loved it but got a bit overheated. 

You smashed your face into the only hard part of the couch during a game of “keep the balloon off the floor”. Nobody loved that. 

Your front left tooth (the same one that needed a root canal a few years ago, of course) was bloody and wiggly. Nobody loved that. 

Your dentist called Mama roughly three minutes after she left a message with his weekend service. She loved that. 

Your dentist said the tooth was probably okay but to call the office first thing Monday to schedule an X-ray. Nobody loved that. 

You decided you still wanted to help Mama make Daddy’s favorite cakes (yes, plural — warm caramel cakes) even though your tooth was bugging you and you were worried about the X-ray appointment. Mama loved that. 

Daddy didn’t realize we were making his favorite cakes until after his Father’s Day nap. We all loved that. 

Your dentist’s scheduler called Mama 15 minutes before the office opened on Monday, and said we could come in later that morning. Mama loved that. You did not love that, but felt better about it once Mama explained there would only be an X-ray and a quick exam.

Your hygienist told Mama you did great and kept asking what was next. She loved that, and told you there was nothing more for you to worry about. 

Your dentist told us your tooth is going to be just fine as long as you don’t chomp down on anything hard for about a week. We all loved that. 

Your dentist’s cashier told Mama that insurance will cover everything. Mama and Daddy loved that. 

You helped Mama with the weekly Target run, and she got you several treats (nothing sugary!) to celebrate the good news. You loved that. 

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Last week as an old work buddy was doing me the tremendous favor of cutting apart the Boo’s school photos (seriously I would pay an extra five bucks for that because I canNOT cut a straight line) I said something misty about how much my kid has changed since September. My friend said something really smart in response: We all change all the time, but we don’t think we do. Well, that was the spirit of it. I don’t recall the precise words because Baby Ate My Brain. 

Anyway, it’s gotten me thinking about the changes I’ve undergone this school year, right along with my kid. 

He’s grown taller and gotten heavier, while I have grown wider. (Seriously, Mother Nature?!)

He’s gained confidence in his physical abilities by exploring the creek behind his school and pushing the playground to its limits. I’ve done the same by trying wacky fitness classes in order to write about them. 

He’s acquired a taste for Rush, ACDC and Ozzy Osbourne, and I’ve learned to tolerate them. 

He’s gained more sophisticated debate skills, and I’ve developed new parrying techniques that (mostly) don’t piss him off. 

He’s discovered the joys of extended day, and I’ve discovered I can get professional, paid writing done during those glorious additional kid-free hours. Or catch up on Call the Midwife (it takes hours for the Ugly Cry Face to dissipate).

He’s moved into the “I can do it/I know how/Let me try” phase, and I’ve learned to sit on my hands/say yes/not react to the appearance of a mess on the floor I JUST cleaned.

He’s learned how to write his name, and I’ve learned to decode his scrawl.

He’s made great strides in negotiating relationships with his peers, and I’ve learned how to negotiate Facebook troll attacks.

He started wearing glasses a few weeks after I started wearing stronger bifocals. 

You get the idea, but I’ve saved the best for last: At the beginning of the year, the Boo reported in horrified Junior Narc tones that some of his classmates used potty talk. Last week he told me, eyes a-twinkle, “I do potty talk at school now Mama!” Then he waited for a reaction. All I gave him was a bored, “Oh really?”

See, even a Mama-Come-Lately can learn new tricks. Happy Summer, everyone!

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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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  All parents have child care tasks they detest. Mine is brushing and flossing my kid’s teeth. I would seriously, honestly, rather wipe my kid’s butt ten times a day. And this week, I had an actual bona fide fight with my kid about the aformentioned and detested task.

The Boo has always been a bit silly about getting his teeth brushed, asking me to play the part of his dentist and demanding hugs when it’s my turn to brush. So I allow lots of time to get through the routine of letting him start, then hitting all the hidden spots before we take the same tack with flossing. It takes a while, but we get the job done and have a bit of fun along the way.

But this week was different. Maybe because he was home sick for two days, maybe because of the full moon, or maybe because he’s growing up a bit. Whatever the reason, he suddenly amped up the fake hug tactic, and it bugged me. I just wanted to get the job done and move on, but he wanted to make a never-ending story out of it. In frustration, I pushed him away mid-hug, and he pushed back. I made a speech in a loud voice, and he stuck his fingers in his ears. I yelled, and he yelled. Finally, I left the bathroom.

Eventually I got him to cooperate, but things were no better that night. After I blew him kisses and closed his door, words from a very wise parenting coach came back to me: You can’t have a tug of war if one person drops the rope.

The next morning, I dropped the rope – by telling him the truth.

Me: “Honey, can I tell you a secret?”

Boo, eyes wide: “Sure!”

Me: “I don’t like brushing your teeth. It’s not fun for me. I do it because it helps keep your teeth clean so you don’t have to get so much scraping done at the dentist. I don’t like the hugs you give me before I brush your teeth because they’re not real hugs. I prefer to have a real hug when we’re done.”

He was still listening, so I went on.

Me: “I’m done fighting with you about brushing your teeth. If you want me to help you, that’s great. But if you don’t want me to help you, that’s fine too. And that might mean more scraping and maybe a cavity.But it’s your choice. You get to decide.”

He thought about it, opened his mouth for flossing, and then started up the old games. I threw the flosser in the trash and walked out, saying I understood his choice. He protested and said he wanted me to floss, really, please floss.

I didn’t floss his teeth that morning. I reminded him of the choices again that night, and after reminding me that a cavity might be one of the consequences of not brushing, he opened his mouth like a baby bird. A baby bird that’s making his own choices.

And then the next day we were back to square one, or maybe square one and a half. So now I’m singing him a “mystery song” every time it’s my turn to brush or floss. It’s working, for now, and when it no longer works I’ll change my tactics again and cross my fingers. 

This, my friends, is life with a four-year-old. 

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