Archive for the ‘parenting changes things’ Category

Protection

April 22, 2011

cotton

At work, we’ve been discussing the difference between being personable and personal, when writing and talking online. It’s made me hyper-aware of what I write, and I was already a pretty heavy self-censor.

Lately, I’ve avoided writing about a lot of things that have come up for our family, just because I can’t get out of my head who might be reading this. Do I want all those folks to know some of the negative things I wish I could say? No. So I haven’t written them, and I’m not going to.

But today, there was another hard situation. And this one, I am going to write about.

Charlie has been going to a spring break camp all week. He’s come home excited to tell me all the fun things he’s done, so I know he’s enjoying his time, but I sense there is tension between him and the teacher. One of those things where they just don’t seem to click.

His reaction has been to be as ornery as possible, especially in the mornings. I think he’s nervous, and showing it.

The teacher has made several casual comments over this week that gave me pause, and today, after another comment, I worried that I should pull him out of the last day.

My first instinct was to protect him.

But as I listened to him tell me about the ducks he saw at the park, and how he was going to put grass in the birdhouse he made so the birds could make a nest, and how he did want to go back to this camp in the summer to make musical instruments, I changed my mind.

When I was a kid, I dreaded making mistakes. Once, I quit my favorite volunteer job at the elementary school library because on one day I forgot to show up on time. I was so embarrassed by my forgetfulness that I couldn’t bear to face the teacher. Instead, I just never went back. It is hard to be a kid, and learn that you can’t do everything grown-ups ask of you. To learn that not everyone likes you, not everything is fair, not everyone is going to give you what you wish they would.

But it’s just as hard to be the grown-up, watching the life lessons from the sidelines, knowing that no matter how much my heart wants me to wrap him in cotton, I can’t.

And even if I could miraculously protect him from all harm, I shouldn’t.

My hard lesson today was this: it’s actually not my job to remove my child from all situations that make him angry or sad or frustrated. (And if it was my job, I could never do it successfully thanks to the infinite ways we hurt each other as humans.) Instead, my job is to help him figure out how to handle the inevitable anger, frustration and sadness. How to live with the unavoidable heartbreak and persevere.

I think this is what people mean when they say that parenting, in some ways, gets harder as the kids get older. I can wipe butts and make snacks with the best of them. Food, water, sleep, play and sunlight–Mama’s prescription for healthy living.

But this murky emotional how-to? Shew. How do I teach that when I’m still learning it myself?

Correction: Next year is 2011

December 15, 2010

To those of you who have received our holiday card without noticing our glaring error–thank you for overlooking it!

To those of you who thought we might have gone crazy–you are, of course, right.

Next year is not 2010, even though our card says it might be. My tired, thirty-something eyes managed to skip right over the wrong year when proofing the dang thing. At least the web address is right, so you can hopefully read this correction.

I discovered the wrong year this morning, after I had sent out half the cards. This mistake was followed by forgetting to pick up milk, neglecting to move the car for alternate side parking and failing to show up at the designated location to pick up my winter share CSA. At least I remembered to go to work and to pick up Charlie from his after-school play date.

My thoughts on why my brain seems to be missing half its pieces:
1) I’m getting old.
2) I have too much to do.
3) Charlie has kept me awake every night since before Thanksgiving asking for blankets, water, company to the bathroom and various other requests. He’s recently moved to a new bed and is not yet fully accustomed to it.

I think it’s #3. I hope it’s #3. That at least means there is the hope of eventually sleeping and making fewer mistakes.

In the meantime, I have to go check on the water I left running and the pot that’s been on the stove too long. Ugh.

Schooling

February 9, 2009

I remember when we first moved to Brooklyn. I was volunteering at the library toy sale, and the ladies there couldn’t stop talking about neighborhood schools.

Where are you zoned?

When is the application deadline?

Are you thinking about private school?

What about pre-K?

Have you thought about ANY of this, they asked?

Um. Charlie is only one.

They looked at me like I was crazy.

Well, now I know why.

As the deadline for pre-K neared, (Charlie is almost three, and pre-K starts at four) I began to consider our options. Keep him at Fedkids? Look for a public school pre-K? Move him into a private program so we could secure a spot there for elementary school?

Last week, I went to a meeting held by a very informative school consultant, Joyce Szuflita. I learned that for us, public pre-K was better left undone. (No guaranteed seats, only a half-day program because we’d only be eligible–most likely–for our zoned school, which doesn’t do full-day.) Fedkids has a good pre-K program. Done deal.

But for kindergarten…

The process isn’t too complicated, really. Just apply at any school you like, with the hope that you might get in to the one you want.

Our zoned school is safe, and I’ve heard good things about their program. But I’ve also heard the kids watch Hannah Montana instead of doing PE during cold weather because they don’t have a gym, and the principle is opposed to parent involvement in the classroom.

So, we’ll just find another school, I thought.

But a friend, a public school teacher, said, “Oh, all the public schools have the kids watch TV. Monsters, Inc. The Lion King. During lunch, as crowd control.”

This isn’t just a special movie for holidays or parties or to help the kids visualize the stories they’ve been reading. There is no discussion of commercialization, merchandising, or even what went on in the movie. This is every day, TV babysitting. When did school become screen-zombie time? Can’t they play board games at PE, or just freakin’ socialize at lunch?

That was when I realized I was not as laissez-fair about this education thing as I had once thought. (Quote from me, pre-Charlie: “Public school was good enough for me. I turned out fine. Public school it will be.”)

Math and reading are all well and good, but what about the other aspects of learning that make a well-rounded person? Art? Music? Physical education and games? Creativity and critical thinking? Getting outside and exploring the world, both man-made and natural? (Honestly, my fondest memory of elementary school is me picking honeysuckle from the bushes in the forest just down the drainage ditch from our playground. We’d drink the nectar and smell the flowers. To this day, the smell of honeysuckle does something to me.)

Okay, I thought. Maybe we’ll go the private route. We’re already paying out the wazoo for daycare. We’ll just take that money and funnel it into a private school. And boy do they have cool schools in Brooklyn. Campuses with fields and pools. Curricula that include hands-on science, field trips, art, music, drama. Except…

The cheaper end of private is still almost TEN THOUSAND dollars more per year than we’re already paying. And that doesn’t include the price we’ll have to pay for fall, winter and spring week-long camps, after-school programs that last until we get off work, and a summer program or summer nanny for July and August.

So back to public school searches. There are a few that sound really promising. But they are all in Manhattan, in zones filled with multi-million-dollar townhouses and tiny apartments running thousands per month.

At that point my stomach was starting to hurt, and I was glad I had begun to consider this nearly TWO YEARS in advance.

I’ll need that much time to either: 1) Make an appointment with Joyce, talk to all of my teacher friends, tour every public school I like, find an apartment in our preferred school zone that doesn’t bankrupt us and move there before January 2011, or 2) Research, develop and found a working co-op home school with other like-minded parents who think that NYC has too much to offer to keep a kid chained to a desk all day, watching TV.

Besting New York City Education = my new hobby

Just writing about the good parts

December 2, 2008

I’m halfway to figuring out the camera for this new computer, and this has inspired me to write a bit today.

I have kept notes about little things Charlie has done, ways that he’s grown. All of it is cute, and sweet, and stuff I want to remember when he’s taller than I am.

But I can’t help noticing that it’s usually only the good stuff that makes it to the computer screen. Not the moments of panic, or aggravation, or sheer rage. This stuff happens, but I guess I am still too Gen X to share it all with the world. At least not until I can process it for myself.

I have to remember: Terrible thoughts do not mean terrible actions. (Charlie and I both have been learning self-control.)

What is it they say? Look to what someone does, not what they say? I can take comfort in that.

But my terrible thoughts do mean that this parenting gig is not all smiles, hugs, and gushy kisses—even if those happen to be the parts I like to remember.

Sometimes family can make you see the worst in yourself, even if you don’t want to look.

How to retire and then have babies

October 30, 2008

On this site about equally shared parenting, the authors often feature parents who manage a balanced life. Balance usually means a less than full-time schedule for both parents and equally shared child-raising and housework, as the name of the movement so clearly implies. Though Jesse and I work at being equal, it’s often harder than it sounds. Pete and Simi, though, make it sound like freakin’ paradise.

Today, I read about their sweet life in Colorado, and I was as jealous of them as I am of those people who can afford 3.5 million dollar apartments in Manhattan. If you’ve been to Boulder, as I have, and contemplated moving there because it was wonderful, as I have, this story is even more envy-inspiring.

Read about the good life by clicking here.

And hilarity ensues

October 30, 2008

I love this blog: The Bloggess.

It is just like the craziness going on inside my own brain except really, really funny.

She had a post the other day about a swimsuit site that showed many tests for potential customers, such as jumping and fruit holding (don’t ask), and she commented that the real test of a swimsuit would be the following:

Like maybe a chick in a one-piece who looks exactly like me at her community pool leans over to see why her child’s ass seems to be exploding and then she realizes that her husband failed to put a swimming diaper on the kid and so now the diaper is soaking up all the pool water and expanding like a giant mushroom cloud and the kid is looking at you like “What the f*ck is happening to my junk?!” and you’re all, “Don’t panic! Walk slowly toward the bathroom!” but the kid is like “Pick me up! I’m being eaten by my diaper!” and so you do but then the pressure makes the diaper seams burst and now you’re covered with the gel stuff from inside the diaper, which, it turns out is like a bluish crystally-jelly and you’re repulsed and fascinated all at the same time and you run to the bathroom and the crystal-jelly stuff is leaking out behind you like a trail of breadcrumbs and the lifeguard is giving you the stink-eye and you finally get to the bathroom and the gel inside the diaper is continuing to expand and so as soon as you take off the kid’s suit the diaper rips open from the sheer internal pressure and lands with a splat and the jelly sprays all over everything and then your childless neighbor from down the street walks in and sees you bending over in the middle of the bathroom, splattered with diaper filling, trying desperately to use wads of brown paper towels to clean the probably cancerous crystal-jelly off a naked toddler and you try to smile at her like this is the sort of thing that happens all the time and you consider standing up to explain that this is all your husband’s fault but before you can straighten up your kid sees your boob perched precariously at the edge of your bathing suit and punches it and then it falls out of the top of your bathing suit. And then your neighbor rushes out of the bathroom and you want to scream at her, ”Don’t run from me! BEHOLD! THIS. IS. YOUR. FUTURE!”

Ah, the creepy innards of diapers. We had our own issues with them.

Charlie’s spilled open at the bottom of one of those big blow-up slides at Monkey Joe’s.

He popped out of the slide and landed in a pile of weird gel balls. “What is that?” I thought, as I carried him away, suspicious, curious and repulsed. It was only after we’d moved to another slide that I realized where the weird stuff had come from. Charlie’s butt. By then, I was way too embarrassed to tell the poor employees. I shamefully left it for the closing crew.

I should know by now that any parenting nightmare I’ve encountered has been one-upped by someone. Life does hand out small favors sometimes.

I’m a correspondent!

October 18, 2007

Story time at our local library is really fun. (Thanks, Miss Cindy!) And really popular. So popular, in fact, that on Tuesday they asked a police officer to patrol the crowd! I sent a tip to our local neighborhood blog with the story, which you can read below.

At the toddler story time on Tuesdays, there is usually a crowd. The librarian hands out tickets before the event. If you don’t get a ticket, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to take part, but you can usually snag a place in the back after all the ticket holders go inside. However, over the course of this season’s session, the crowd has grown and grown. (I’m sure it’s because Miss Cindy is so darn entertaining.) Last week the tickets ran out twenty minutes before the start time, and unhappy nannies and moms were complaining, sneaking into line, and generally causing a ruckus. Today, thinking ahead, my son and I got there a half hour before the doors opened. (That in itself is crazy. I haven’t had to get somewhere a half hour ahead of time since I last went to the movies in Manhattan.) We got a ticket. We were lucky, because at the door to the classroom, the librarian had recruited a police officer–in uniform and everything–to take the tickets. When the tickets ran out, no one else got in. I’m not sure if the sergeant was hired specifically for story time, but he was definitely policing the affair. I found it hilarious that a simple thing like library toddler hour could require crowd control.

I haven’t had trouble getting in until recently, when the tickets started disappearing earlier and earlier. (The hassles even made one local mama give up on story time altogether.) The drama was enough that I thought our blog, which has become a bit like a neighborhood newspaper, should know about it. Now, some lady from the NY Daily News has asked for my contact info because she wants to “talk to your correspondent S as soon as possible if you’d be willing to forward along my inquiry.” (See! I’m a correspondent.) I’ll post a link if they actually publish a story.

Mother superior

October 14, 2007

We had a baby shower at work yesterday. The mom-to-be of honor is having her first child, and I remember what that felt like. Some healthy fear mixed in with excitement. Mostly the fear was about childbirth (rightly so). But you never hear much fear about those first few, blurry weeks of living with a new person.

I sat next to a slightly older mother, who has two boys. She’s a wonderful lady, and she always gives good advice about kids in the city. We had a good time chatting about pregnancy, birth and boys, and weighing the truth of being a parent against the expectation of parenting.

When the mom-to-be of honor said, “I’m worried about being bored at home, after the baby comes.”

I said, “Don’t worry, you won’t be bored. You’ll be too sleepy and tired.”

The older mom and I laughed and laughed. We knew what it was like to need to get out of the house and to be too stinky and tired and overwhelmed to figure out how exactly to go about doing that. I wouldn’t really call that boredom. For true boredom, you have to be able to do something else, like read, watch TV or talk on the phone, to alleviate your condition. With a newborn you’re always doing something (feeding, changing, getting to sleep–maybe, then doing it all again). It’s just that what you’re doing may not be what you’d most like to be doing.

And then someone asked, “Do you have a washer and dryer in your building?”

“Yes,” said new mom-to-be. “We couldn’t do this without having that. And a doorman, an elevator and a baby nurse.”

Wimp, I thought, chuckling. I felt like a worn and rugged cowboy smirking at the just-off-the-train city slicker. I survived a natural childbirth followed by no sleep and the daily grind of lugging baby (and laundry) down four flights of stairs. I admit it. I felt wise, and, yeah, okay, superior. It ain’t right, and it ain’t pretty, but for once, I’m gonna go with that.

A good day

October 10, 2007

Yesterday was one of those days when I wanted to throw Charlie in the river, but today was one of those days that made me wish we could spend every day together.

After a morning of getting dressed and giving medicine to the sound of Elmo singing the water song (“Water, water, water, water, water, water…”), we headed to the library for story time. (Mama: “Do you want to go to story time? We’ll sing songs and get some books!” CW claps his hands, nods his head and smiles ear-to-ear. He likes story time.) We sang, shook the shakers and danced the hokey pokey. Then we checked out a book about America and headed to the playground.

(Digression: Charlie loves flags. Flag was one of his first words. A month or so ago, Jesse taught CW to say “U-S-A” whenever he saw an American flag. Now, Charlie likes flags even more, and he says “Eh-Eh-Eh” every time he sees red, white and blue or anything with straight stripes. This America book was perfect for him. We have read it at least four times already today.)

At the tot lot, CW shared his sidewalk chalk, took the big slide, chased birds and swung high in the swings. Lunch was a whole grain grilled cheese with grapes and “Mah” (that’s milk, yo). At nap time he went down easy, though he only slept 45 minutes.

I’ve been putting him back to sleep when he wakes up too early, and he’s gotten good at sleeping an hour or two for almost every nap. Today, he woke up too soon, but even after lying quietly in the bed for 20 minutes he wasn’t ready to fall back asleep. I laid beside him, pretending to be asleep. (The experts call this modeling.) When I peeked from under my lashes, I saw him smiling at me. When I didn’t respond, he touched my nose. Still no answer from Mama, so he put his finger on my eyelid and lifted up. That’s one way to wake up a sleeping lady, I suppose. When I opened my eyes, he laughed.

While he slept his small sleep, I managed to get most of the bills finished. The only to-do left at the end of his nap was filing all of my receipts and letters. Since the office is the no-Charlie zone, and he was wide awake, I decided to put him in the connecting play room. With the far door closed, he could see me through the gate in the open door into the office. He played for a while by himself. I could hear him chirping and babbling as I put away my papers. But then I noticed his voice was much nearer than it should have been. I turned around and found that he was in the living room, heading into the no-Charlie zone. I guess he can now open doors.

After that trick, we went back to the playground, made Playdough cut-outs on the kitchen floor and then had a snack of cheese and applesauce. The apple-blueberry sauce was on sale, so I got several cups of it. He ate one serving, and then reached for the pantry. “Mama, mama, mama”–one name is never enough–“epples?”

Epples? I thought. He knows how to say apples so what was he saying? After a few minutes of hit and miss, I finally had it. Applesauce. When I pulled a new cup of applesauce out of the pantry, he smiled. “Epples!”

Of course when he was done, he was covered in blue, so we jumped in the tub where he proceeded to play his first pretend game. He stuck his hand into an empty cup and came back with his fingers pinched together, as if he’d picked up something. I held out my hand and when he gave me the nothing I said, “Thank you.” He laughed and laughed. And then repeated the game a dozen times. (He also thought the picture of a baby riding a chicken in the Wow! America! book was funny, too. He’s got a sense of humor, that one.)

Then it was footie pajama time and he went to bed without a protest. (I think I wore him out with all the playing today.) The good thing is that I didn’t fall asleep at 7:30 while putting him to sleep, like I usually do, and I actually had a chance to cook supper and write a post. Like I said, a good day.

Adulthood sucks butt (this week)

September 29, 2007

Community volunteer work is supposed to be good for you, something a responsible adult does. You help your neighbors, meet new friends, make your corner of the world a little nicer. It is not supposed to make you want to slap people upside the head, throw your child in the river, and finally up-end that bottle of Oxycontin that has been sitting around since you got your wisdom teeth removed. Obviously, volunteer work affects me poorly.

As you can tell by my lack of blogging over the last few weeks, I have been too busy to sit down and get my thoughts straight.

There was our trip to Louisville, KY, to support Pawpaw’s show, the Gospel Connection, and Aunt Jenna’s southern gospel group, Higher Hope. There was the return to work with deadlines looming, since I didn’t work on anything while I was away. There were my freelance projects, needing a quick turnaround, and then a revision after that. And then there were the Friends of the Greenwood Playground.

I have only met one of these ladies in person, and they all seem very nice. I accept full responsibility for taking things too far and way too seriously.

We wanted to put on a puppet show this fall with a marionette theater. All I had to do, said the nice Friend leader, was call the puppeteer to set up a date and then get the event permit. Easy peasy, I thought. This was not like organizing, oh, say, a massive daffodil planting (another opportunity that I wisely passed on). This was a small, get-your-feet-wet volunteer project.

Me and puppet lady played phone tag, for weeks, even before I went to KY. When she finally talked to me, I realized that what they say in the theater district is true: every actor is a diva, even the puppeteers. She wanted a day “with a big crowd.” What day is that, exactly? Since I’m new to the neighborhood I didn’t know, but I had to “grab the date right away.” Of course, she then didn’t answer my call when I tried to pick a date the next day, after speaking to the Friends. When I suggested to the puppeteer that we set up the show in the sprinkler area, which is a big open space in the middle of the playground, she said, “The sprinklers will have to be off during the performance!” First, it will be October. You know, when it’s cold? Second, would I have suggested the spot if the puppets, the stage, and the audience would be wet, in October? No.

Okay, so the show was finally set. Next, the permit. It takes no less than 21 days to get it approved, says the website, the lady I call, and the dozen (I swear, I counted them) signs at the permit office. We have less than two weeks before puppets will be arriving. On the chance that our permit will be fast-tracked, I must get the application in the day I finalized the show details, which was this past Tuesday. Instead of frolicking in the park with Charlie, as had been my plan, I had to fill out a form containing questions I knew nothing about (Do we have insurance? What events did we hold in the last two years? Dates and descriptions, too! I just moved to the neighborhood, people.), get it printed and get it to the office before 4 pm. The lady told me this at 2 pm. CW was asleep, and I had no printer.

So, I took just-awakened, getting-ready-for-snack CW to the library where he pulled books off the children’s shelves while I screwed up my computer reservation. I got absolutely no computer help from the four librarians I asked. One of whom, after giving me an explanation of children’s versus adult’s computers, proceeded to say to her co-worker, who was trying to help me, “I just explained to her…” As if I wasn’t there. As if what she’d explained to me actually had anything to do with the problem I had described. (Never treat a mother like an idiot. Just because she has to speak babytalk between asking directions does not mean she’s incompetent. You WILL have evil eye thrown all over you.) One kind, wonderful librarian guy finally helped me print out my form. (He couldn’t help me keep CW from wiggling, whining, and wanting to run out the door and into the street. The poor kid was hungry, but I hadn’t been able to cook him much since, oh yeah, our kitchen sink was broken and I’d had to remind the landlord twice that morning to FIX IT, PLEASE.)

A half hour later, CW and I were on my bike, heading to Park Slope. (I suppose this counts as bike ride #6, though I haven’t gotten to write about #4 and #5 yet.) We reached the office at 3:30 PM. Ah, but not really. The lady out front said, “It’s downstairs. Go around to the side door.” So, we go. We unload from the bike. I prevent Charlie from diving head first into a trash can that was so disgusting it could only be appealing to toddlers, and rats. We found the door on the left, down a long hall. Guess what? That wasn’t it, either. It was out back. In a different building. So we went out back, up uneven stone stairs, beneath some construction scaffolding to the door another lady pointed out to us. Nope. The office we wanted was actually around the building. Trudge, trudge, trudge. We made it!

We suffered through a short lecture on how our permit might not go through because–as the signs all proclaimed–they needed 21 days to process it. But, she said she’d do her best. It was all I could ask for.

Charlie and I finished our ride with a stop to the bike shop where Dixon fixed my popping gears with one magical touch. Finally, I thought, our day was looking up. Then we got home to find a notice from the IRS about dividends we never received. They want to charge us more than a thousand dollars in taxes and fees for money we never got. ARGH!

Deep breath.

I remember, just out of college, when I had no car payments, no insurance payments, no retirement plan, no child whose future I had to take care of…I only had a phat new apartment in Florida with a pool and a dishwasher and a job that let me goof off a bit while I made more money than I’d ever made before. $15,000 a year, anyone? I remember thinking, this is what it’s like to be an adult, paying your way, taking care of business. Why did everyone say it was so hard?

Okay. I get it. Lesson learned.