Thursday, March 31, 2011

Meeting Them Right Where They're At

1:20 today and I said goodbye to my preschool families, locked the back gate behind me and went inside, leaving the door open to get some fresh air into the house. Fed the cat, set dishes in a bubbly sink to soak, threw the pile of preschool laundry into the washer and tweaked the knob to start the machine, then back upstairs to wash dishes, contemplate where drying artwork should go, and checked the email. Well, maybe I checked the email first, before the dishes, but everyone else gets a ten minute break every four hours, and I needed one. Somehow, two-thirty rolled around and so I took my snack of tea, crackers and goat's brie out into the backyard and sat on a huge cedar round and basked. I listened to the repeated melodic chirps of Sweetie-Tweetie, the song sparrow who perches and sings in the neighbor's yard. I pondered the beetles and bugs running through the grass, sun shining on their black enamel backs. Our big Gus Kitty came out and sniffed the air, content to just enjoy being quiet.

It's an exercise, I've decided, in meeting everyone where they're at. My husband's tired, and I plan on sending him off to a gathering this weekend, sans child. I would love to go, but plan on staying home. Kiddo's like Velcro these days, transitioning to four and whiny as anything but still needing lots of Mama love.  Two of my three in my preschool have new babies coming to their houses; one has arrived, and one is due in a week or so. I see their additional need for independence, space and down time. This is one reason I love running a small program: sometimes, children experience preschool as a break from home and need quiet places to play and work alone. Being aware of all these changes is important, and being thoughtful about how to go about helping children who need a little more creative thinking from us at these times is good for me. It eases my interactions, infuses them with more understanding and patience than I might have.

I know what I need too. I'm a bit tired and looking forward to a night out with a girlfriend. We are going to go drink something good and laugh at ourselves and those things that are just bugging us. I'm trying to meet myself where I'm at too, and so it won't be a late night. Being patient with my son can really take it out of me, and I'm needing a bit more sleep. But somehow we are making it. I love the kids I work with, I love my son and very much love my husband. So, I'm trying to be mindful in making sure we're all being taken care of. It feels like a big group-hug of good intention and some sort of spiritual practice right now. Let's hope I can stay successful with it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

What a Day

Sometimes, life really throws one at you.

I woke this morning to some distressing news-- not mine, so I'm not sharing-- and was left feeling the brunt of it for most of the day. Factored into this was some sad news from last week, and the pressing affairs of the day: I had a little boy who was wanting possibly more of me than I possibly had, and a house to transform from "Spring Break" to preschool.

Somehow, dammit, I managed to pull it off. But it wasn't because it was easy.

Paramount to the day was Kiddo's demeanor. Frankly, it was because he was needing a ton of emotional support and attention that my day took the turns it did. I planned to give him plenty of space and room and lots of my time this morning. We did puzzles. He ate and ate and ate, the hallmark of a growth spurt, and was by turns happy and restless and tearful, whiny, angry.

I think he hated having to go back to the status quo. He's gotten a lot of individual attention, which he feeds on. I could see that the mere fact of my doing dishes after taking my shower was too much for him. We got outside a.s.a.p. to run some errands. He didn't want to walk up the big hill on the way to the nursery, so I instead suggested that we walk to the grocery store with the smaller hill first instead, and hit the nursery on the way home to look at fountains and buy seeds. This actually worked perfectly with my plans; a fresher Kiddo does better at the grocery store, and should I have to leave the nursery due to his not minding-- (because you know, I will take you out of there)-- this wouldn't be critical stuff I wasn't buying. Prescience is a lovely thing, because this was exactly as the end of our nursery visit played out. After finding a Bowles Mauve wallflower I'd wanted for a while, Kiddo wasn't able to stay with me, and so I made good on my word and left without the seeds. We'd seen the fountains and he'd known what would happen in advance. In my opinion, this was his way of saying 'I'm done', so I paid for the wallflower and we went home to order seeds from the catalog and have a snack.

5:15. One playdate later, the new plant, well...planted, and Kiddo is in big, noisy tears. He tells me he scraped his finger on the fire hydrant when he and his buddy were piling pulled-up grass onto it, to make a nest for spiders. By the way, the whole block can hear about this horrible scrape. It must have a band-aid! He is consoled, he's gotten the hands washed in perfectly-modulated warm water, the neosporin gently applied with QTip, the bandage gently applied, and he's calmed down. Until I notice another cut on his hand to put neosporin on and then suddenly--"Owwww! Owwww! Mama! It needs a band-aid! It hurts...."

We are sooo tired. But I get out a snack; some pistachios, some carrot and hummus. And when he doesn't finish the carrot or hummus, I still put some asparagus salad on his plate, some sole too, and just tell him to eat until his tummy is full. We are past falling apart by this time, and have caught our second wind, both he and I. I have kept my cool the entire time, he's pulled it together at moments when I wasn't sure he would, and we are still chugging along.

Finally, now, half-past ten, I've cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed the school area. I've lost a game of cribbage to my dear husband, have drunk a glass of wine. What a perfectly crappy day. And yet, even in the midst of all the whining, I was still able to use my 'friendly voice'. To ignore all the window-dressing and to get to the point: getting my "want you to hold me", tired, "need all your attention now" kid to come to ground, gently but firmly, to get the stuff on the list done (only one thing wanting) and to just get through the day without falling apart. One of us made it. The other one is asleep right now. Think I'll join him.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Celebrating the Little Milestones

This morning, I got the surprise in my life. In the best way possible.

We were getting ready for the walk to my son's preschool, and I'd asked Kiddo to put on his zip-up fleece jacket that he wears under his raincoat. I'd run in to use the bathroom and when I came out, Kiddo was standing in the hallway with the biggest grin.

"Mama! I zipped up myself!" he crowed triumphantly.

"Wow!" I couldn't keep my own smile off my face. "I am really impressed! You really worked at that!" Kiddo's almost a month shy of turning four, and this was the first ever time he'd done this at home. I didn't mind helping him-- and I don't have any magical ideas that he'll never need help with zippers again-- but this was big stuff. We had to honor this.

"Let's take a picture" I said, grabbing the camera and then setting it down again. "Here, we need a sign so we know what to remember." Living in a preschool, paper and markers are always within reach and so I quickly wrote "First Time Zipping Up Fleece at Home" and he held it up. Click! Captured for eternity.

I showed him the picture and then there were two happy Kiddo faces: one on the camera, and one right in front of me.

We make a big deal out of birthdays, kindergarten, the days our babies took their first steps or uttered their first words. I think, though, that the little milestones deserve recognition, because they do require our children to really stretch themselves and persevere through those little challenges of self-care and becoming more independent. Kiddo is doing a lot of work these days. He's learned how to blow his nose, which is huge, and his teachers are really stretching him as they help him learn how to play in groups. He's sometimes very tired in the evenings because he's being asked to move out of his comfort zone of independent play and really work with other kids. This manifests itself, some mornings, in foot dragging and "I don't want to go to school today" and mostly, a lot-- and I mean a lot-- of being held by me. Like a toddler, he ventures out into his world apart from me, and then needs to reconnect in a big way. I'm trying to be patient with it, because I see this is really hard for him right now.

So, today, his work of zipping up his coat was especially meaningful. He hadn't wanted to go to school, and he got ready anyway. He likes to be more dependent on me, wanting me to do things for him, and yet, he did it anyway. He doesn't like to always apply himself to trying those fine-motor challenges, and he still got that coat on and zipped all on his own.

"I hope you feel proud of yourself. This is a big deal, sweetie." I hugged him and then we got our boots on and headed out into the rainy day, one big/little milestone down, and so many more to go.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

All You Teachers....

Although I've been out of the poetry loop for a while, sometimes someone comes along that knocks my woolen slipper-socks right off!

Here's a poem for the profession by Taylor Mali. Thanks, Peg, for sending me to this poetman!

I (heart--big, big heart) my teacher friends. All of you. If I could paste a lovey-smiley face in here, I would. But I'm just too stupid on the computer.

And Amanda, even if you are busy, you should read this. It's for you. Love ya!

PS- For those who love language and want more, here's another lovely thing. Don't worry, it's on YouTube, but you can still read it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


It's that time again. Time to wave goodbye to the Mamaworldforum for a while.

I've been toying with doing this for the past few weeks, really. But today, I just felt surly about the whole damn thing. There have been a lot of obnoxious posts on recently-- my favorite was the self-designated Mother Goddess who had a rather scorched earth approach to those who didn't breastfeed their children up through the time they received their PhDs. Okay, I'm exaggerating by a few years, but it was that kind of crazy! And I'm having a hard time with all the punitive parents, who advocate teaching babies how to behave by hitting and slapping them. "A sting on the hand" is a frequent suggestion of one poster. I'm always tempted to ask her "What sort of sting? Do you carry a bee around with you? Do you think your kid is so stupid you have to hit them to teach them, or are you just that impatient that you can't be gentle?"

See, told you I was feeling surly.

I also see things I don't want to see. Like a young mother trying to start a business, yet her potential ad reads like a child with a cellphone wrote it. Or the mother who wondered if the daycare should be restraining her daughter, screaming and crying, in a high chair for an hour at a time because the three year old wouldn't nap. Or the young mom whose husband's tactic to teach their baby not to bite is to bite him back. Or the parents who were so mad at their son for messing his pants that they told him Santa wanted the Christmas gifts back because he wasn't 'being good.' Or parents who think they can punish their child into minding. This is all an ache on my heart.

There are stories of bad caregiving, by nannies and grandmas and husbands. There are people who get sucked into other people's dramas and want to butt in, and fortunately ask for advice before doing so. Whether they take this advice, I don't know. There are also the usual hot fire questions: " Is TV bad for my 3 week old" and "to circumcise, or no?" and then I roll my eyes and wonder aloud: "Really? You don't know how to use Google? You don't know how to make up your own mind about this, so you are asking a group of strangers, some with questionable levels of intelligence?"

Oooh, surly strikes again!

And there's the endless parade of potty problems. It really does deserve its own website. Pottypedia, maybe?

I could go on, but the point of this is to say that it's time to put my energy in other directions for a little while. So, I'm going to go do that now. And any of you Dramapedia ladies want to leave a comment, feel free to do so. Some of you, I will sorta miss. Some---oh, not so much.