Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Just for Today

I should be out in the garden. There is work out there, hollering at me...

Instead, I'm contemplating a cup of coffee. This could be a necessity today, what with waking up to a dove-gray sky overhead. It hangs like a waiting blanket, tempting me to curl up in bed and watch more of "Upstairs, Downstairs". There's a lullaby in the air, whispering one word to me-- sleep sleep sleep--in a gentle rhythm. 

Okay, perhaps that's just an aural hallucination, a projection. It's hard to fight it, though. We have had so many moments of sunshine, and yesterday afternoon was so sunny, glorious, even, that the gray rain days just wreak havoc on my seratonin levels. Today, with the gray, it's suppressed and I want to make blueberry muffins for a treat and polenta for dinner and I can feel my body fighting hibernation mode. 

This morning, it took all I had to get off the couch where Kiddo and I had curled up for a little bit of snuggle time. I had to purse my lips and refrain from commenting on  how nice it would be when school is out and we could just be lazy in the mornings. Sticking with my philosophy of letting kids be in the moment, I knew I needed to keep those thoughts to myself and keep him positively focused on going to school. Over the past few weeks, this thought has been increasingly present in my mind: no school means more relaxed mornings; more school means less homework. There is no reason to share these thoughts with him, as all they will do is sow discontent in both of us.

About a month or so ago, Kiddo started two after school classes: an art class at 3:10 on Tuesdays and a Mad Science class at a different school at the same time on Thursdays.  I've worked out a trade for this, so the mother who suggested Kiddo take the science class with her son drives them to the other school and on Wednesdays, her son comes home from half-day kindergarten with us for lunch and a long afternoon. We have a routine: the boys eat, do homework, and then may play as they choose. While all of this is good, it takes some getting used to. Tuesdays, I'm walking to and from the school four times a day, we are jamming on eating lunch, getting homework done, maybe a spot of playtime, eating a snack and then going back. Once we are actually home from the art class, it's time for me to start prepping dinner. See how quickly that afternoon went? Thursdays is also the push to get the lunch/homework/snack thing finished before Kiddo is picked up at 2:50. 

And these days, homework includes any work he didn't finish at school, a small worksheet activity, often a math game and now, there's a request for him to read to me for 20 minutes a day. How the heck did we end up with an hour of homework each evening in kindergarten? Ack!!!

This is a preview of what our first grade days may feel like, one I am keeping in mind for reference. This level of busyness is informative; it makes me prioritize. But it also makes me sad for Kiddo. It makes me mourn his loss of true down time. We've taken a break from eye exercises, but these will start again in August and this will be one more thing to add into the mix of obligatory activities.  Most certainly, we will wait on starting enrichment programs until winter rolls around; just transitioning from summer down-time to schooling again will be demanding. 

We are planning proactively for this. The eye doctor had originally proposed taking a break until September when school started. Joe and I felt that Kiddo needed a few weeks to deal with the challenge of learning new eye exercises, which is a big deal. Starting something that feels so hard right on top of starting school-- well, we did that last September and found that if we have any sort of grasp of history, we would not do this to him (or all of us) again. We also have decided that keeping Kiddo's brain in the game is important, so we are arranging for summer tutoring for him, just to keep his skills sharp. We feel that these are two very concrete things we can do to alleviate the harder parts of going back to school. He'll already be in a new class, learning how to be with that particular group of children as well  as that particular teacher.

Joe and I arrange these things behind the scenes, without a lot of discussion or explanation. For the next 3.5 weeks, Kiddo's head needs to be just in kindergarten, enjoying his buddies and where he is now. That's really the best I can do for him at this point. I'm not a religious person by any means, but there is a little plaque my stepmother used to keep in the bathroom-- I think my sister Amanda has it now-- which has a prayer entitled "Just for Today".  I think of it fondly; in it, the speaker asks to diligently work, to be kind in word and deed, and petitions:
So for tomorrow and its needs
I do not pray,
But keep me, guide me, love me, Lord,
Just for today.

So, just for this day, I will now get up, make that cup of coffee and set my mind to making muffins. That's all I really feel moved to do, it will sweeten up our snack time and be a good surprise to husband and child. Perhaps diligent work is the true remedy for a sominex sleepytime sky? I do not know, but it seems fitting for a day when my tendonitis is flaring up, my seratonin levels are plummeting. After that, I'll make the polenta, to serve tonight covered with red peppers, carrots and kalamata olives, sauteed with some zinfandel and served with chevre and smoked salmon. Because dinner will be good for us,  even if it's only just for today. (I hear that tomorrow's forecast calls for rain and pizza. )

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The **Mother** of all Words!

This morning found me doing a Google search....  "Six year old development". This was less about ignorance on my part and more of a reality check. This is one of those rare times when you can read a few fairly negative statements and get a sense of reassurance instead of a sense of dread. One can read sentences such as:
  "Your six year old is becoming more independent and separate from their parents and other caregivers. He is more likely to challenge adults by saying things like, “It’s all your fault” or “You’re dumb.”

He may talk back to adults and adopt “know-it-all” types of behavior. For example, a child may say things like, “Why should I?” or “Try and make me.”

Well, ain't that grand and glorious? I'm less perturbed by these prospects than I should be. But where is the one line I need? That one line which will make me feel better about the events of the last week? I've looked all through the index of 'Raising our Sons' a day or so ago, and now I'm searching through the topic of language development, mainly because it's linguistically related and no one has told me what to do in this situation.

On Thursday afternoon, Kiddo and I were out having pizza for lunch. This isn't our usual routine, but with contractors working on the house and making horrible loud noises (contributing to my week-long marathon headache), I decided that doing our reading and homework would actually work better at a rockin' pizza place than at home. He read the sample sentences with ease. He did the simple "choose a word" exercise, circling the word and writing it. 

Then he leaned over and whispered gleefully: "I know a new bad word today." 

I saw that gleeful mischief last week, one night at bedtime; I'd gone downstairs to kiss him goodnight and found him waiting at his door, face aglow. He was pointing to a sign on his door. "Look what I wrote!" He was beside himself, about to burst. "It's A BAD WORD!" he informed me. And sure enough, there on the paper were two letters: AS

This was the time to play 'delighted and stupid' parent. "Oh!  You spelled 'as'! Good for you." I smiled at him and he corrected me in a giggle whisper with wide eyes. "No, Mom, it's ASS!!!" 

Cue the explosion of giggles. Then, he asked for the correct spelling. I chose not to enlighten him and then gently told him that I didn't think I wanted to see potty words around the house; the as could stay up 'as is'.  If he changed it, it would need to come down. A few days later, it was spelled correctly and thusly removed without discussion. 

So, Thursday's pizza revelation shouldn't have been such a surprise, but still... it was. We send our children to school to learn, and learn they do. I just hadn't expected his vocabulary to be so expanded upon. A dear friend had informed him a few weeks ago of the word "Boobies" and now he was apparently a big more sophisticated and wanted to share the biggest, baddest swear word he knew: the "F" word. 

No, not 'fart'. I would have paid money if that were the worst thing he know. I'm talking the REAL "F" word.  And it was quite unsettling to hear my son giggling excitedly, eyes big with wonder as he whispered it into my ear:


Let's just say that there was a part of me which knew I've been doing a fairly good job with him, because he whispered this as a happy secret instead of enlightening the entire restaurant of his Fancy New Word. Then, being the ever-vigilant learner, he asked me to spell it for him.  Umm, no. Okay, but what does it mean? 

Are you serious, child? 

"When you are old enough to look it up in a dictionary and understand the definition (to copulate), then  you will know. Let me say, though, that if you said that word and I told you what it meant, you would be embarrassed, so it's best not to use that word. " I let him know that like other potty words, he could write them in a book in his room and keep it there, much like the directions I gave him about 'potty pictures'. Those are for one's own self-expression and are meant to be kept private.  

And then, the talking. We talked about NOT using that word at school or with friends. That those sorts of situations would be embarrassing for him and troublesome for the adults. I told him that I trusted him not to use that sort of language at school; that it wasn't something the adults at home said and that we didn't like hearing it, especially from children who really didn't know what they meant. 

But apparently he's good at putting things together. Like bad words. Yesterday he was mad at his Legos and made a sign to put on their bin which read "Fuk Ass". Never mind the rather kinky implication, I calmly explained that he needed to put those words one of his little notebooks; Daddy and I do not like to see those sorts of words around the house. That's why I had taken down all of my snarky refrigerator magnets before he was born, right?

Two hours later, he conversationally "f-bombed" me, saying it as casual if you please. 

I was done being 'the understanding mom'. I'd made boundaries, given warnings and he was waiting to see what would really happen. Time to step up to the discipline plate. I explained that I didn't like to hear that sort of language and that he'd been told that it wasn't acceptable. He was to stay in his room until dinnertime and would lose his privilege of Lego Stay-Up Time, which he'd been anticipating all week. 

And then we walked in on the guys working in the hallway, swearing up a blue streak. They apologized and I'm pretty sure the dour "We are not amused" Queen Victoria look on my face said it all. Kiddo was relegated to an hour or so of looking at books in his room. Thankfully, the guys did try to make it up to me; every time Kiddo popped out, they told him "we're working and you're in trouble-- no talking now" and would close his door. It does take a village, I suppose, and sometimes it's the sweaty guys that smell like cigarettes who end up having your back. This almost made up for the endless Grateful Dead and Neil  Young bootlegs I'd been subjected to over the course of the week. 

In some ways, it's nice to know my kid is pretty on target. He's not actually calling us dumb, although he is finding ways to challenge our authority. One thing I did do was to go down to the basement office and print out a cover for a book of his own.  On lime green cardstock: "Kiddo's Book of Naughty Words and Potty Pictures (they only go in here)"; I've stapled a thick handful of printer paper and a back cover together. He's got an appropriate, designated place for his most objectionable language and goofiest illustrations. I'll likely still be sneaking it out of his room before playdates, just in case he thinks of sharing this with friends. That just seems the logical progression of all this. He's excited to know these new word and I am just as eager to keep them out of sight, out of earshot. I do not want to have that conversation with other parents, the conversation that I refrained from having with his playmate's parents. I know that some parents aren't as guarded with their words, some have a bad temper in traffic. Some kids have older siblings. The bad language is everywhere, I just don't want to hear it out of a kindergarteners mouth. 

This morning, Kiddo has made a promise to us and himself : "I'll keep the bad words inside. I don't even want to think about them. Even if it's the baddest word in the world." Who knows, maybe access to his Legos still trumps potty talk?

Maybe that's another developmental marker: keeping one's priorities straight.

Until next time, my friends...