Drop Off

“So remember, I’m not going help…”

He cut me off. “I know, I know, Mom. I am going to put my stuff in my cubby myself. Easy-peasy lemon squeezy!”

Easy-peasy lemon squeezy is something his most excellent kindergarten teacher says.

T has changed so much in the short time he has been in kindergarten. He is growing into his own person. It is messy and exciting and wonderful and sort of heartbreaking. I looked over at him this morning while I was strapping his brother into the car seat. His hair was swept up under his winter hat which was framing his face. I saw the baby, the hilarious and bald baby, that he used to be. Man, I miss that baby. I looked at his face and start to laugh. He looked back at me and laughed himself.

“What?”

I smiled. And sighed. And suddenly was blinking back tears. “Nothing. I love you.”

We looked at each other and started laughing again.

I’m pretty much the definition of over-sharer. I know, understatement of the year. But many of the moments involving T that crack me up, or teach me something, or drive me up the wall are starting to seem like his stories. He should get to choose to share them or not. He isn’t going to disappear from the blog altogether, but I’m going to do something very hard for me and try to have some actual discretion when it comes to him.

At the beginning of November I told T we would work towards me dropping him off at school in the morning rather than coming in with him to get him settled. His teacher said he was ready. He panicked.

We decided we would take the month to slowly get used to the big step and have him ready by December. December came and I was no closer to dropping him off. Even though it meant C was late to school every day. Even though T’s teacher said he was ready. Even though I knew deep down that T was ready. Because it turns out I was not ready. I like walking him into the building and having the opportunity to check in with his teacher. I like feeling involved with his school life. I don’t want to let my boy go. When I think of dropping him off outside…it is another 10 minutes of his day that I’ve lost. I feel left behind.

I feel left behind. And when I realized that it became very clear that it was time to make the drop off happen. I can’t keep him close because it hurts me too much to let him go. It would be a different story if he needed me for a while longer, but he doesn’t. I’m holding him back. My job is to let him go. It is the best job I’ll ever have. And the hardest. I cannot tie my happiness to him. It isn’t fair to either of us.

It might seem early to start worrying about letting him go, but if I don’t start now it will be impossible when he is grown. If the idea of letting the kid walk to the door of his school, without crossing a street, with me watching him the whole time is tearing my heart out how is going to feel when he is ready to go to college? I need to get used to him growing up and away and into himself. Because it will happen in a million tiny steps between now and when he is a man.

So we started the work on Tuesday. I told him he needed to get his stuff settled without me, but I’d stand nearby. It didn’t work. He told me he couldn’t do it and begged for help. We talked more about it Tuesday night. He did better on Wednesday. I thought we would struggle for a few more weeks, but this morning he was all “easy-peasy lemon squeezy”!

He didn’t struggle this morning. I did.

skinny jeans

I mean, look at him! He is an honest to god kid!

floris hoodie

Hamming it up in a hoodie I wore to kindergarten at Floris Elementary a million years ago.

inside the lego table

Brothers in the lego table. Not allowed anymore. Because it is now falling apart, probably because the boys were sitting it in….

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Try Hard

T was sitting alone on the side of the tennis court, legs and arms pretzeled together to make himself as small as possible. I walked onto the court with C’s balance bike and passed Z. “He just said he failed,” Z muttered to me. “Seriously?” my heart stuttered. I walked on a few steps towards C. “He said that exact word?” I called back over my shoulder. “Yes.”

Z and I decided, oh ok….I decided that T wasn’t allowed to ride his balance bike anymore. He had to practice with the two wheeler or not ride at all. Trying new things is hard for him. He wants to get everything right the first time.

When he gets frustrated I remind him of the three things he needs to do in this life in order to make us proud. Three things. That is it. He must be kind. He must try hard. He must treat girls the same way he treats boys. He does those things and we will be proud of him no matter what.

I approached him. He turned his back. “I need some alone time.” “Ok. You can have some alone time. Then we need to talk.”

A few minutes later I led him off of the court. He chose to crawl under a towering pine, the lowest branches were high enough to form a private hideout as the boughs draped to the ground. “T. Look at me. You did not fail. Did you try?” He looked everywhere but at me. “Yes,” he sighed in exasperation. “Listen, what will make your father and I proud? What three things?” He folded his arms and looked away and I repeated the three items. “You did it. You tried. So you didn’t ride the bike on your own. So what? You aren’t going to magically do it. Everything takes practice. It is because you tried that you didn’t fail.” He started to roll his eyes and caught himself. “Before we go home you have to try one more time. You can’t leave here thinking you failed. Because the only way to fail is to not try.” He stared at me. “I’ll tell you what. You try again and I’ll give you a marshmallow before lunch.” He perked up. “How about five marshmallows? Because I’m five.” “How about one marshmallow….and five mini M&Ms.” “Yes.”

He did try. He didn’t learn to ride a two wheeler today, but he tried. And Z and I were proud of him.

He’s off to kindergarten tomorrow, which colored the whole bike conversation.

He’s off to kindergarten and I will not be there to talk to him in the shade of a grand pine tree. I will not be able to encourage him and support him in the moments when he feels like he has failed. Or when he is scared. Or when he is hurt. Tomorrow is one of the many small separations that will continue until he is his own man. That trajectory is right, it is what we all want for our children. But the selfish part of me is mourning. It doesn’t want to let him go. Or expose him to the cruelty of the world.

I’ve been wallowing today. Head bent, I wept in the car before pulling myself together to head into Wegman’s. This afternoon my heaving sobs drew Z to the kitchen as I swept the floor. In a sabotaging act of indulgence I’ve been listening to This Woman’s Work by Kate Bush. Hell, I’ve even been watching the damn scene in She’s Having a Baby where it is used.

He needs to grow up. I need to grow up. My heart is breaking.

This evening we talked about failing again. I changed tactics. “It’s ok to fail, you know.” I told him after he brushed his teeth before bed. “I fail all the time.” “Really?” he asked doubtfully. “You fail?” I laughed. And appreciated his confidence in me. “Oh baby, I fail every day. I fail many times every day.” “How?” “Well, every time I get mad at you and yell. Daddy fails too, when he gets mad and yells.” He looked thoughtful. “You know what? Nothing new is created without failure. People fail and fail until they get it right. Nothing good happens without putting yourself out there and failing.”

So I was giving him the opposite message that I did in the morning. Well, I failed during that conversation and was trying to get it right.

“A couple of years ago we got Daddy’s car. Do you know it is different from Mommy’s car and I didn’t know how to drive it? I had to learn. And I failed and I failed. Do you know how long it took me to learn?” “No.” “More than a year! Can you believe it?” “How is it different?”

Ok. Maybe he didn’t get the message tonight. But Z and I will continue to have the conversation with him.

Tomorrow is a day T and I let go of each other a little. It is also a day of excitement and adventure. I am proud of my small man. He is trying to figure out his place in this tricky world. I am trying to figure out how to be there to catch him when he stumbles while also giving him room to grow.

I just pray I make it back to the car after dropping him off before my tears come.

bike learning

His first try on two wheels.

k and t parking lot

My boy and me.

crazy t

He is going to rock kindergarten. In that exact outfit. Just realized that is what I laid out for him…

Last Days of School

A year ago I watched the mother of one of T’s classmates struggle with the reality that her child was leaving the comfort of our extraordinary preschool and moving on to kindergarten. The transition proved painful for both mother and child. I sympathized with my friend, but I did not understand her sadness. In fact, I told her it simply wouldn’t be a big deal for T and me. She had the grace not to tell me I was full of shit.

Five years into this parenting gig and I still feel a twinge of annoyance when a more experienced parent tells me how my family will feel or act during an upcoming phase of development. “We are different” I think, “They don’t know us. We are special.” At the same time I cannot resist breaking it down for parents with kids younger than mine. I hear myself explaining what is coming and I hate myself for being that person. Especially as I see the look on the face of whatever friend I’m speaking to. I can see what is running through their head, “We are different. She doesn’t know us. We are special.”

At the beginning of last week I dropped the boys off at school and on my way out found this in T’s mailbox:

photo (41)

Last fall we were asked to fill the paper with words that described who we hoped T would be as an adult.

photo (42)

That hair. I miss that crazy hair so much.

Friday was the final day of school. During the week laminated photos that decorated the boys’ classrooms trickled home with them. But the little poster of our hopes for T was the first. I lifted it out of the mailbox and suddenly my throat was burning and tears flooded my eyes. I made it to the car before the ugly crying began.

That friend of mine? I emailed her and confessed I was wrong last year. Both T and I were struggling with his upcoming transition to kindergarten. I asked for advice on how she got through it.

A year ago I was so excited for the following fall I couldn’t see straight. T would have the same teachers that he adored. C would be going to school as well. He threw a fit every single day of spring semester when we dropped T off because he wanted to stay. And the fact that I was going to have a couple of hours a day to myself helped tremendously. Our small transition included the loved and familiar for T, exactly what C needed developmentally, and a fucking break for me. Life was great. Transitions were great. Why would kindergarten be any different?

Oh, pompous, naive, foolish Karen. When will you get over yourself and start actually listening to the more experienced parents?

The unknown is hard for both T and me. Watching his anxiety rise as he realized he wouldn’t be able to bring his much loved teachers with him to elementary school was heartbreaking. His fear is real and I ache for him. I’m also kind of furious that he is growing up. His delicious little boy body is getting harder and harder to lift. His limbs dangle everywhere when he crawls into my lap. The last five years have been the fastest of my life and I know time will only continue to fly by with more speed. Even if I didn’t believe it the first time a well meaning, experienced parent told me.

walking away from preschool

T walking away from preschool for the last time on Friday. Again, I was able to save the ugly crying for the car. Victory.

preschool T

The boys attend (Um, I mean C attends and T attended…sniffle) a laboratory school on the SU campus. Undergrads and grad students work with the children each semester. The assignments include these lovely bound books made for each child that tracks development over the semester. Here are the covers of T’s 6 books.

toddler room C

And C’s first two.

Hair Cut

While we were away T told me he didn’t like it that people thought he was a girl all the time. I told him people weren’t trying to be mean. Humans look lots of different ways and make different choices, but it would be fair to say that the majority of girls have longer hair and the majority of boys have shorter hair. So people get confused. I told him I loved his hair, loved long hair on boys. But it was his hair and his decision. He told me he didn’t like that people thought he was a girl, but he still wanted long hair. It didn’t bother him so much.

My heart ached. He was navigating some tricky waters. And I wondered if the day was coming when he would ask to have it cut off.

After his bath tonight I announced I would be trimming a couple of inches from his hair. The split ends were out of control, it was a snarled mess. I showed him my handiwork in the mirror after I was done. He grabbed a curl off of the towel he was standing on.

“Can you cut it short?”

My breath caught in my throat. I was having a hard time dealing with the two inches on the bathroom floor. We went to talk to his Daddy who was reading stories to C. And we agreed that it was T’s choice.

I cut his hair short.

As soon as he saw it he said he wanted to grow it back. I told him he could do what he wanted-it was his hair. But later he said he liked it and didn’t want it long again.

I’m glad Z and I had no idea this would be the day of the big cut. It was like pulling a bandaid off fast. There was no time to mourn the loss of those crazy long curls that were such a big part of his persona.

As we cuddled at bedtime T confided he was worried that his teacher wouldn’t like his hair. I told him he was just the same with long hair or short hair. What mattered was his heart. And he has a good heart. His teacher likes him for who he is inside, not what he looks like.

I hope he heard me.

We are keeping the curls. Z took the paint off an old altiods tin and they will live inside it. Z’s eyes welled with tears as he showed me the tin. Mine did when I looked at the towel covered with curls.

T needs to assert his independence. He needs ownership over how he presents himself to the world.

Z and I need to let go a little. Let him make his choices.

It’s a little thing, his hair. It’s a little thing. In this moment it is hard to remember that-hard to not let it be everything. Hard to not imagine him growing into a man, asserting his independence more and more. Hard to not imagine the pain of every little thing as Z and I learn to let go more and more.

We love him so much. He is ours for such a short time. He is only 4, barely a kid at all. But he is his own person. And that is right.

Sometimes the stuff that is most right is also the most difficult.

goodbye crazy haired boy

Before.

short hair t

After.

curls on the floor

Scene of the crime.

Resolution

Saturday was supposed to be my long run. It was 9 degrees when I got up, the forecasted high was 18. Z suggested I wait until the afternoon and I had no trouble agreeing with him. Problem was the snow began by the time it was a balmy 14 degrees and I was ready to go.

pre Saturday

Suited up.

It was stupid and dangerous and terrifying and slow. I did 2.3 miles yelling at myself the whole way that if I got hit by a car it would be my own damn fault. That bitch Anxiety was back. She told me if I didn’t run something terrible would happen. The sane part of me told myself if I did run something terrible might happen. Crazy won.

post Saturday

And I was a fucking mess by the time I finished.

Over the weekend one of my smartest friends told me if I increased the the incline a bit on the treadmill that I’d get closer to my natural stride. I took her advice to the Y on Monday (thanks J) and managed to jog two very slow miles. Damn, is it hard to jog on a treadmill. But they were safe and snow free miles.

SU does a great job keeping the campus plowed, so today I tried South Campus for the jog. It was early enough that the roads were still a mess. I basically chased snowplows, or they chased me. It was 10 degrees and snowing. It felt good to be out there even if one of the miles was more than 12 minutes. Running in snow is like running in sand. It is a whole body workout.

Jogging in winter. I’m figuring it out. I want to figure it out. Mostly I’m biding my time till spring. But I’m sticking with this thing even if it scares me to say it.

I’ve been thinking about jogging a lot. How if I’m going at a slow pace I feel like I can just keep on going forever. How I haven’t stopped to walk since the first time I did 5 miles on November 16th. I learned when I feel like I can’t go on now to just slow down a bit. I’m figuring out these little tricks. Coming up with a training routine on my own that changes things up, speed, hills, medium run, long run.

It is still hard. I have to force myself out of the door. I get disappointed when the snow or the treadmill affects my time in such a major way. I beat myself up when I have a bad run. But I’m going to try and stay healthy. I’m going to keep at it.

I’ve been thinking about jogging and time and my birthday and the fact that I’m 37 on Wednesday and that 40 nearly has me surrounded. A year ago right now I couldn’t jog for two blocks. Now I can go for 5.3 miles. This time of year is naturally a time for reflection. Every year I turn to Z and ask what he thinks we will be doing and where we will be in a year.  Life is full of surprises, wonderful and heartbreaking. This year I am focusing on the good- I learned that the impossible is possible. I learned no matter how many times I swore up and down that I could never exercise regularly that it was a big lie. I can make myself do hard stuff.

The other night we were sitting on the sofa after dinner. “I’ve been having a tiny little thought.” I told Z. “Hmm?” he replied. “Now, I get that this is crazy. But what if I were to try and run a marathon before I turned 40?”

Z looked at me like I was an injured bird he found on the sidewalk. He clearly didn’t want to spook me. “I think that is an excellent idea.” he said very soothingly. “I think you can do it.” He paused, terrified he was going to say the wrong thing. “Maybe this summer you could do a half marathon first and then do a full one.”

“Um. Totally. I’d have to start with a half.” He was visibly relieved that I wasn’t going to try and force my way through 26.2 miles in March.

Starting tomorrow I have three years. Before December 18th of 2016 I will run a marathon. There. I’m being bold and outrageous and reckless. I will run a marathon. And you can hold me to it.

bye daddy

Waving goodbye to Daddy on a snowy morning.

snow boat treehouse

The boat treehouse looked lovely dressed up in snow this morning.

The Kid Is Alright

While waiting for the water to heat up so I could hop in the shower this morning I reached for the comb and my arm brushed in front of my chest. Normal for clumsy and busty me. What wasn’t normal was my arm got wet. I looked down. Damned if I wasn’t leaking a little.

It’s been a week since I’ve weaned C.

He’s fine. This experience has been another reminder of what a resilient and self-sufficient little guy he is. When he was evaluated for early intervention the therapists explained that he was self-motivated. He does what he wants when he wants and really doesn’t care about fulfilling the desires and earning the approval of others.

He is so different from T. T cares deeply what those in positions of authority think of him. Yeah, he doesn’t just look like me, he actually is me.

C’s self-direction….Z and I have been frustrated with his behavior lately. He is acting out like a normal two year old. The kind of disciplining that worked with T when he was C’s age isn’t effective with C. Because duh. They are individuals. It is our responsibility to parent by responding to their needs rather than what is easiest for us.

This fall has been full of changes for C. He started school and speech therapy. He gave up his pacifier while sleeping. I weaned him. Last weekend we even switched his car seat from rear to front facing. On top of all that he has been sick pretty much since school started. Right now he is rocking a cough that wakes him multiple times in the night. Who knows what it will be next week? Through it all he has been just fine. He adjusts without angst…unlike some 36 year olds I know.

Parenting T is more intuitive to me because we are so alike. The empathy I feel for him is immediate and intimate. Don’t get me wrong, T frustrates the living shit out of me. I fuck up constantly and lack patience with him. But I also understand him in my bones. I love him completely.

Parenting C makes me feel helpless a lot of the time. It is harder to respond to his needs because I don’t have a frame of reference for them. I want to help him, to teach him, to support him, but I am often at a loss as to how to achieve those goals. He ends up teaching me much of the time. His baseline is pretty much happiness. He can fend for himself. When circumstances change he just deals with it and rapidly adapts to the new normal. I wish I was more like him. I cannot believe my body, which has been consumed by anxiety for so long, grew him. I love him completely.

That’s the thing with two kids. We parent them differently because we are responding to who they are as individuals. But we love them both completely. We screw up. Often. The hope is that the love will see us through our mistakes. The love will motivate us to do better. The love will make them feel safe.

I leaked on myself today. I miss nursing him so much it feels like there is a gaping hole in my chest. A week later and my breasts are still heavy and a bit tender. My body does not want to be done. But C only asks to nurse a few times a day. He is fine with Z putting him to bed at night. Fine with our new morning routine. I find myself looking to him as an example of how to deal with change. This strong and willful and adaptable creature I made with my body. He is going to teach me so much. I am grateful to have him as my son.

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C on his first car ride facing forwards. His big reaction was basically a non-reaction. More of a, “Oh? We’re gonna do this now? Cool.” Sure is nice to be able to glance in the rear view mirror and see both of their faces. C has started to give me a shit eating grin with he catches my eye in the mirror. Man, do I adore that kid.

snow hill jog

After my craziness yesterday morning I got myself together and went for a jog. It was 29 degrees and lightly snowing. I really didn’t want to run in the cold. But I went. And I somehow made myself change routes and face some hills. All these selfies I post after jogging are certainly not flattering. And I don’t use any filters in keeping with the honesty thing. But they are real. I am struggling to do this thing. I’m proud of myself. I had a panic attack and I ran in the cold and snow anyway. Flattering isn’t the point. You can actually see the excitement and happiness and surprise on my face. Seriously, people! If I can do this you can do this!

Bedtime

T and I were still in the bathroom when I heard Z ask C to pick out three books at bedtime last night. That has always been my job. Bedtime with C has been a special routine for C and me ending with me nursing him every night. I was putting lotion on T as I listened to Z and C. I broke down crying. T stretched his arms out wide and collapse into me. “It’s ok! I’m sorry you’re sad!”

Of course I cried harder.

Z and I let ourselves be sad in front of the boys. We want them to think sadness is ok, that it is normal. We hope they are sad much less than they are happy, but we don’t want them to hide their sadness or be ashamed of it.

A couple of minutes later in T’s room I was getting ready to read his story. He hopped down from the bed and grabbed his blue baby and a small scrap of cloth laying on the nightstand. “I almost forgot to wash you!” he said to the baby. He gently swabbed baby’s face with the cloth. “There! Now you are clean. I love you!” And he kissed the baby’s mouth once, twice, three times and set him down.

My heart melted. I was sitting in a puddle of love and sentimentality. My big boy can be loving and gentle and kind.

He reached for the stuffed batman doll that was lounging next to blue baby. T grabbed batman’s arm and pointed it at me, “Pew pew pew pew!”

He was shooting at me.

I burst into laughter. Keeping up with the mood swings of a four year old is impossible. Yes, he is compassionate and tender and loving and happy…and frustrated and disappointed and aggressive and he tests limits. Often all at the same time. He cracks me up. I think I’m going to quite enjoy being a part of his bedtime routine. I’ve missed it.

Both boys went down for bed just fine last night. I was a much bigger wreck than C was. The real challenge will be putting him down for nap time today. This is going to be gut wrenching for a few days. And then it won’t be. Just like the pacifier situation. He don’t look for pacifiers any more, he don’t ask for them. He is a resilient kid who rolls with the punches.

Not to change the subject, but I’ve got a bit of a problem. I currently own one non-nursing bra. One. Last spring Z and I went through our clothes and did a salvation army run. I tried on my bras and only one fit, so I got rid of the others, not that there were many of them to begin with. I don’t have any tanks with the built-in bra other than nursing tanks. Wearing the nursing stuff is just going to make me sad. Also the tanks are falling apart. We are really broke right now, but I need to address this situation. That said I am rocking the real bra today. The proper support feels pretty darn nice I must say. So I guess there is an upside to this weaning business…

c good morning

C was dressed and eating a cereal bar by 6:01am this morning. Between 6 and when he went to school at 9 we kept him busy enough so he only asked to nurse twice. We even gave him his first haircut.

T rough morning

At 6:05am this guy was much less excited about facing the day.

first and second batch

First and second batch of kombucha! My gifted scoby is growing a lovely new scoby. Yesterday I drank a serving. Holy shit. It is amazing, if I do say so myself! Fizzy and vinegary goodness!