Tuesday, August 19, 2014

the village

we're getting ready for school around here. this means i sit on amazon more than normal and order big boxes full of reams of copier paper and colored pencils. yes, school supplies are fresh, organized and color coordinated, but also extremely dull. i feel a thrill of excitement when i see them all lined up, promising all kinds of efficiency. a new leaf will turned this year, i vow. this year will be the year. i mean it this time. but i also feel a very familiar feeling of exhaustion. this? again? weren't we just here? and wasn't i exhausted because of it?

last year seth turned five only two days before his first year of school started. he was the youngest in his class. scholastically, he did well. he loves school. he loves fresh paper and rules and learning. school suits a big part of his personality. but he also didn't do really well. he was self conscious. he was overwhelmed by the classroom experience. at recess, when the time was free he tried to stay in the classroom, oftentimes connecting with a yard duty and spending the time with her. when everyone was doing jumping jacks in PE, or learning a dance for a program, seth felt self conscious and refused to participate. if he felt he had disappointed his teacher, he hid under a table and cried.

"he's a little too young," his teachers said, "we think he should probably repeat kindergarten again."

i knew this was an option going in, and i was open to it, but when those words were said to me, i have to admit that my first reaction was a critical one...in the direction of the teacher, not the child.

no, i thought. he'll mature.a lot can happen in six months. they don't know seth the way i do. they don't know what he's like at home. he's doing just fine with the schoolwork! is there a hidden agenda here?

there wasn't. and those teachers were right. everyday i dropped seth off with his teachers for five hours. and for five hours they taught him. he came home with songs about numbers, activities revolving around letters, timelines, art projects and homework. he learned things. he loved it. and he missed a lot of it. he worked slowly, he was easily distracted. he wasn't confident.

when i sat down with his teachers again in april, i resisted what they were saying. i wanted to tell myself everything was going to be okay, that it would all even out. that these teachers didn't know who they were talking about--i did. i was his mother. i knew him better than anyone else. he was smart, he was funny, he was capable.

there was a moment when i had to stop myself and ask, am i worried about seth? or am i worried about me?

and then the truth hit me full force, right in my gut: it was me. when they said seth wasn't quite ready for school, i heard them telling me that i should have known that. that a good mother would have held on to him for another year. that a good mother wouldn't have forced him into a situation he wasn't ready for. and instead of admitting to anything i wanted to tell them they were wrong.

i left that day feeling awful. i went home and hugged seth long and hard (he didn't like it and wiggled out of my arms). i felt like i had failed him. i hadn't sent him where he was prepared to go and wasn't that my job? wasn't i supposed to provide this child with the tools to make a successful human being and my first test of functionality- the kindergarten classroom, had failed. i wanted to beg for forgiveness, i wanted desperately to receive it.

really, there was nothing to do but this: say a prayer and realize that this whole parenting thing is not a one-man band. you know that saying "it takes a village"? well, seth needed a village. and seth's village was trying to weigh in and help me out and i was refusing to listen to them because i didn't want to feel like i had done anything wrong. but guess what? IT WASN'T ABOUT ME. no one was sitting around criticizing my parenting because NO ONE WAS THINKING ABOUT ME. they were thinking about seth. what was he like? what were his strengths? what were his weaknesses? what did he need?

i am seth's mother. it is my job to raise him. that means i need to feed him, and i need to clothe him. i should provide some shelter and i should teach him how to be kind, how to do the right thing. but what seth ends up doing, what seth is capable of doing, is out of my control. if seth is too young for school then he is too young for school. if seth needs to be six years old for kindergarten it's not because i didn't hold him enough as a baby or make him eat enough broccoli as a toddler. it's because seth is seth. and he will benefit from a year's worth of maturity before conquering kindergarten. and those teachers? they weren't hiding an agenda or writing seth off as a child or me off as a parent. they were trying to help seth. and if i didn't chill out seth was going to miss out on someone else in his village giving him a hand.

being a mother is really hard. mostly because it messes with your head. most of the time i feel like it messes with my head while also depriving me of sleep. i cry, and most of the time the tears i'm shedding are related to my motherhood. sometimes i laugh because my only two options are to laugh or cry and i scare the children when i cry. so i laugh. and it ends up being frightening anyway and that is SO motherhood: to do something thinking it'll be better and only to find out it's a total mess anyway and you just have to live with it.

so this year, three days after turning six, seth will give this whole kindergarten thing a whirl, one more time. and i will try to remember that my children are humans, separate from myself. i can not base my success on their success. not everything is capable of the same thing.

and also, it's going to be okay. i have a village.

here's to school year 2014-2015.

Monday, August 18, 2014

music monday- pearl jam, yellow ledbetter

my favorite pearl jam song except...i have no idea what he's singing. so, for a laugh, (and it's monday, so you want this) i give you the misheard lyrics (ten bucks to the person who actually knows the real lyrics...and isn't my dad. or my uncle rob.):

Friday, August 15, 2014

ten big ones

 dear sarah,

hooray for you, you are ten months old! this, as you may expect, is a very old age for a tiny baby to be. and, i realize that perhaps i should stop considering you a tiny baby.

which poses a problem, tiny baby. now that you are no longer a tiny baby, does that mean i have to stop using the excuse,"oh i just had a baby" to explain why things are the way they are? i'm going to have to seriously step up my game and act a heck of a lot more responsibly around here. and i'm not ready for that. i haven't the energy.

sarah, this month you learned to climb things. the box that the duplo legos go in is just the right height for you to climb up on and just the right size for you to sit and be the queen of all you survey. and sometimes, for fun, you try to stand on that box. it's terribly exhilarating. for you, sarah. only you. maybe seth, too.

sarah, you started to stand! you are really good at it, very steady. you can go from a stand to a squat beautifully. and so you do. you stand and you squat and you stand. and you clap and you say, "uh-oh!" and you wave beautifully and cheerfully and you say,"hi!" and you say a sound that i know is supposed to be "bye!" but really just sounds like, "eye!" and you kiss, blow kisses and accept kisses. except when you're not accepting kisses, then you pull this smooth maneuver where your arm suddenly pops out of nowhere and you push the offending lips out of your way. completely.

you love your blankees, anything that you can wrap around your neck (scarves, wires, rope, yarn, belts, shirts, pants, towels, etc.). sarah, you are constantly at risk for choking. not my favorite. you love ava. ava loves you. the two of you play together so beautifully and guess what else, sarah? ava is a huge help to me. that's right. i never really had a child before that was old enough to do for you what ava is doing now. she gets you out of your crib, she plays with you. she can make you laugh and pretend to chase you. she can do a finger sweep in your mouth to make sure there's nothing in there (there almost always is. you're very dangerous).

you hate bananas. and when people don't share their ice cream. you hate when you put your blankee over your head and it stays there too long. you hate when we move the dog dishes so you can dump the water out and splash in it, or eat the dog food.

sarah, ten months. is this really a thing? how did this ten months go so quickly? i'm in love with your fuzzy blonde hair, your bright blue eyes, your desire to climb on everything you see. and your ability to do it. i love you, oh, how i love you. sweet sarah.



Monday, August 11, 2014

happy birthday, ava

 it was eight years ago today that ava was born. my midwife handed me a baby and shouted frantically, "SKIN TO SKIN! SKIN TO SKIN!!!" and i just barely managed to catch her as i also just barely managed to realize that i had just given birth TO A HUMAN. and i stared at the nurses and the midwife and my husband in wonder and asked, "is it a girl?" and someone said, "see for yourself!"

she was a girl.

that was eight years ago. and yeah, i'm being a little repetitive. i sort of have the feeling that once a year i am going to be speechless with wonder over this human being.

but you guys, eight years. i have been parenting for eight years. and it was eight years ago that these really young-looking college students with so little world experience waddled (well, i waddled, ryan walked) into the labor and delivery wing of the hospital to have a baby. HOW ON EARTH DID THEY JUST LET US TAKE HER HOME?

they did. and while most of my parenting of ava has consisted of paranoia and gut reactions (whatever, all first children have to deal with is), there has been a lot of good, too. like this afternoon when she was bored and teasing the younger kids and i made her help me make her birthday cake and then read to me, or when we went to petco so she could purchase a pet fish she has named mr bubbles and she was absolutely THRILLED and dragged our wonderful neighbor bill over so he could admire it.

ava is my partner. the other day we each lay on the couch, our heads on opposite arms and our feet in the middle. together we managed to keep sarah on the couch and block her from throwing herself off. we did this while reading and without looking at each other.

ava creates with me. she often gets a little frustrated that he work is not perfect. i'm hoping i can teach her that however she puts it together is beautiful. can this be taught?

she is an animal lover, funny, interested and interesting, smart, clever. she listens to as many adult conversations as she can. she stays by my side as much as she can. she is innocent, still. sweet. she doesn't like to perform, but loves singing. she is clean. she has an odd taste in fashion. she loves horses and books. she's good at math and reading.

i love her.

happy birthday, ava.