Archive for March, 2010

A preview

March 16, 2010

You might remember that Charlie and I talk about our favorite parts at the end of each day. This is something we started after I read about ways to cultivate gratitude, and it has become one of the best parts of my daily routine.

But over the last few weeks, focusing only on the good stuff became frustrating. First, Charlie often had a hard time differentiating between “favorite” and “memorable.” (Seeing the swans = favorite; when a younger classmate bites you = memorable.) Second, though the exercise began as a way to encourage optimism and gratitude, it was stifling to ignore our other emotional, but not necessarily positive, experiences.

So we started including bad parts with our good parts.

This allows Charlie to talk about all of the things that capture his attention. As a result, our evening ritual feels more and more like real conversation.

But last night, the conversation took a philosophical turn.

We had a nice day. We saw Charlie’s old music teacher at a sing-along; we had brunch with close friends; we napped; we bounced and ate pizza with other friends. As we were reviewing our day, neither of us could immediately think of a bad part. No one had gotten in trouble, or hurt our feelings or anything else. (We did eventually decide that our bad part was missing Daddy all day. He’s in Austin for five days!)

Once we concluded that neither of us had many bad parts, Charlie asked, “Mama, are you happy that I don’t have bad parts today?”

I was thrown for a loop. Of course I was happy that he’d had a good day. But how do you explain empathy to a four-year-old without placing the burden of your happiness on his shoulders? Should I say, “I’m happy that you had a happy day.” Or, “When you’re sad, it makes me sad because I hurt for you.” Neither felt right.

I stumbled around a bit, stalling for time as I tried to think about how I should phrase my response. It came out as something like, “Everyone feels sad and has bad parts. I know bad parts can make you feel sad…” I was losing him with babble.

Finally, I stopped. I took a deep breath. I looked at him directly and said, “It makes me happy that we can talk about our day, bad parts and favorite parts. It makes me happy when you can tell me what you feel.”

He nodded and snuggled closer.

Maybe I said the right thing. I don’t know. It felt like the weight of all our future conversations were hanging on this answer, on the words I chose. I could imagine him as a teenager saying, “I didn’t want to tell you how I really felt because I didn’t want you to be unhappy with me.”

True, he’s only almost-4 and not 16. True, he’s not on the verge of suicide or drugs. But it’s also true that the question was a hard one.

And, I’ve heard the questions only get harder over time.


Who is sleeping?

March 15, 2010

At the end of nap time today, Charlie and I heard a loud noise outside.

He groaned and said, “That noise woke up my eyes!”

We got in!

March 2, 2010

(Photo courtesy of the GHS Web site, featuring GHS students actively learning in 2008)

We received an acceptance letter from Greene Hill School yesterday! This was our top choice school, and after nearly twenty school tours, I didn’t see a single other school that could compare to what’s on offer at Greene Hill.

On our list of what we want for Charlie’s everyday school life, this school hit all but two items. (Those two being: that it costs money and it’s located outside our current neighborhood–although we may end up moving closer to the school to take advantage of the neighborhood-centered aspects of the school philosophy. That is, if we have any money left after paying tuition.)

The progressive curriculum is not right for every family–I quickly learned during this school odyssey that every family has their own idea about the ideal education for their child. Some want long days filled with desk-work; we wanted something more open, more independent, more involved with the surrounding city. A day informed by creativity and narrative. Plus, some element of free time during the day, which is too-often missing in schools.

There is a long, long list of things we love about this school, that we think will help Charlie thrive and foster in him a sense of learning as something that’s fun. If I listed everything, you’d probably politely walk away. I’m used to that reaction from those not in the midst of school-mania since my conversation has been focused on the school search and education for too long. I’ll spare you the details right now. (If you really want to know, comment and I’ll fill you in.)

For us, for Charlie, Greene Hill School is our realistic ideal. I am so excited about this acceptance that I honestly don’t have the words to express it.