The other night we went to the first Parent/Teacher night for preschool. We were armed with 10 pages of paperwork to complete. As is always the case, I find myself hesitating on the "describe your child" form.
It starts out easy enough. Biographical data, allergies, things your child likes to do in his free time. If you haven't realized yet, I'm a bit of a smart aleck. I'm always tempted to add a little "likes to take long walks on the beach at sunset, enjoys casual dinners on Tuesdays." Or, for the eighteen-month-old crowd, "enjoys throwing sand at the beach ANY time, likes those frozen $1 pizzas you get in the freezer section of the supermarket."
What are you supposed to write there? I find myself describing the usual play suspects. Legos, cars, trains, legos, riding a bike at break-neck speed. Does this really explain anything about my child? Will it open the window to his little soul so that his teacher can jump right in and make him feel comfortable in this new class filled with alphabet charts and graphs? Will The Baby realize that this is the coolest thing ever?
This concern is premature because I haven't even gotten to the part of the form that asks how you, the parent would describe your child's personality. Eek. Surprising, The Boy flows from my heart onto the paper. "Gracious, kind and generous spirit. Willing and able to help just when you need it most."
The Baby? I find myself a little stumped. In describing my children, I find that I often lump them together as two of the same. When faced with this homework, I realize that while they both have a tremendously big heart, The Baby is not really like his brother at all. I find myself tempted to use the words "feisty, mischievous and yes, even "soul-less."
It's not that I really think The Baby has no soul. It's just that some days I feel like he is laughing at all of us for our norms and rules and restrictions. It's clear that he finds rules to be suggestions rather than the law. You can tell him a million times and he still looks at you with that look of wonder like, "you don't REALLY want me to do that, do you?"
The words I chose: decisive, committed, caring and spirited. I thought it was a nice way to put the teacher on notice that she'll probably spend lots of time pulling him down off the top of the shelves. But with that smile and determination, you just have to laugh. At least, I hope she does.
If you didn't get a chance to send a little sidewalk chalk love to the kids in your neighborhood this week, it's never too late. Check out these fantastic pics from Everyday Heartbeats for more inspiration. If you want to own this project from A-to-Z, you can even make your own chalk.
If your mother guilt is kicking into high gear with the start of the new school year, never fear. Devra and Aviva will give you permission to tell yourself (and your kids!) the truth and get on with being happier and guilt-free. Brene Brown from Ordinary Courage offers yet another alternative--why not celebrate finishing the first week of school with some good old fashioned family fun?
If you find yourself (like me these days) in constant negotiation mode with your firstborn--the future world class litigator of your family--console yourself with this good advice on keeping things positive. Or better yet, write a love letter to that child who's a little tough for you these days. You'll find yourself warming up and getting the energy you need to meet the challenges of this age and stage.
If you are a mother to toddlers and lamenting the fact that there will be no back-to-school for you this week, you are invited to cozy up to the good companionship of these mother interviews--a perfect way to spend naptime. And if that toddler won't leave you be in front of the computer, pull her on your lap for some worthwhile fun here.
What caught your eye in the momosphere this week? Share your favorite links in the comments below.
A proud Jen holding a minutes old Lucy
We have had a problem prepping Lucy for preschool lately. It has to do with "Jen-love" as I like to call it. This might be because Jen completely delights in Lucy. Everyone needs someone in their life who thinks you are brilliant, clever and can do no wrong.
One of Lucy's new teachers at school is named Jim. I've tried to talk about him a lot to give her a sense of familiarity. The problem being, she only has Jen on the brain.
On the day of the home visit from her new teachers:
Me: Lucy, do you want to make some cookies for Liza and Jim?
Lucy: For JEN? Oh sure, I love make cookies for JEN!
Me: No Lucy, for JIM.
Lucy: No mama, I make cookies for Jen.
One more attempt at clarifying and getting her excited about school:
Me: So are you excited to go to school? Jim and Liza are going to have some great things waiting for you.
Lucy: Jen is going to be at my school? Oh how nice.
I give up.
The other night I was crying in a pregnancy induced overwhelmed moment.
Lucy came to comfort. She put her hand on my leg.
Lucy: Are you sad mama?
Me: Yeah, but I'll be alright.
Lucy: Do you miss Jen? (thinking this surely must be the reason for tears)
Lucy: Oh. (dumbfounded)
Every kid needs a favorite auntie I guess. Josiah absolutely adores "Cook" who is Kris.
Jack has a soft spot for our other sister Katie.
Lord help us when Jen isn't at preschool the first day. Poor Jim.
Who was the "auntie" when you were growing up that completely adored you? Who is the Supersister in your child's life today?
I have a confession. When PBS launches a new kids show, part of me sighs. The problem is that with the creation of Super Why and Word World last year, my son is absolutely obsessed. This makes my husband laugh because The Boy's obsession involves the need to spell everything. If you have a three-year-old asking you incessantly how to spell something, you should be happy right? "D-O-G, dog, C-A-T, cat, R-A-I-L-R-O-A-D-T-R-A-C-K, railroad track." Then there are those moments when he spells on his own. "T-L-K-R, DOG!!!! Mom, I spelled DOG!!!"
Every day is a request to watch a specific episode of Word World involving Pig and a pie. I have no idea. The Baby, who won't even remotely watch television, does like to scream "Wo Wo" when the theme comes on.
You can imagine my dismay when The Boy first saw the commercials for the new series Sid, The Science Kid. I'll admit I prayed he wouldn't notice. But he did. And it started.
The Boy: Mom.mom.mom.mom. Did you record that Sid? I want to see that Sid show.
I stumbled through the channels (thank God for living within 3 local PBS stations) and found Sid. Sid started singing. Sid started dancing. Sid got a magnifying glass.
A magnifying glass. The roof could have caved in and The Boy would have stayed where he was, riveted on the fact that Sid's teacher GAVE HIM A MAGNIFYING GLASS. Add two bugs, a journey to discover how a rolie polie moves, more dancing and we had a winner. The husband was delirious that there was actual science discussed. I was excited to see that Sid's parents were a biracial couple, something that is very common around here but is not often represented in children's programming. Aside from some excessive giggling from all the characters, it's fairly easy for kids to follow and gives great ideas for keeping a science journal and recording your scientific findings.
The Boy loved it. Loved it. I was just glad he didn't ask me to spell "magnifying glass." It's only a matter of time.
I'm not the world's most anxious parent, truth be told--especially now that we are out of the zero to three category of parenting where mere survival is a work of art. Now that my kids are school-aged, I'm happy to let things unfold for the most part, read up on everyone's developmental tasks and go from there.
I do have one or two areas that make me slightly mental and one of them is bedtime. I don't care if you stay up way past the sun all summer long, but come school time, I want you on the schedule and fast. I don't mind anyone crying in their cereal if he's having an honest emotional moment (not to name any names here), but please, dear God, don't let it be because you didn't get your prerequisite eleven hours of sleep. (And trust me, it's eleven.)
I promise I'm not making it up. Every year we do our annual research on how much sleep everyone needs for their specific age and stage. (Your pediatrician is your friend on this one.) Then we get out a piece of paper and factor in how much time everyone needs to actually get ready for bed and then truly fall asleep. Those numbers put together help us find the ideal bedtime. And yes, when you add in all that dawdling for a certain person in our family, that means you have to start the process at five o'clock.
But really--factoring in prep time does eliminate tons of stress for me when I have to get everyone moving. When you've already confessed you need ten books and one hour to fall asleep, you're less prone to argue when I ask you to at least get started. Now. I still struggle to get everyone in bed and asleep at the ideal hour, but at least bedtime is more of a group project and not just some edict Mom passed down from on high.
If there's one thing I don't want at the end of the day, it's any sense of being rushed or hassled or of being a bother. I don't want bedtime to be a task to be completed or a chore to be accomplished. I want my kids to end their days gently and without too much drama. Figuring out a reasonable time that my negotiating firstborn can respect and my free-wheeling second born can accept helps every single one of us so much.
When we get off track, I can confess to the kids that I'm feeling stress over the thought of everyone not getting what they need in the sleep department. That's a lot less stressful for kids to hear than me yelling, "Get to bed! You have school tomorrow!" Nobody enjoys that.
I know sleep is a very hot issue with no easy solutions. How do you navigate the Sandman at your house? How are things going for those of you trying to easy younger kids onto a first time preschool schedule? We'd love to know.
On the eve of my second born heading off to his first day of kindergarten I found myself watching this video over and over again. The video is of a recent speech given at a Dallas Teacher's Conference. The keynote speaker was Dalton Sherman, a local fifth grader who might as well be the next Barack Obama.
The biggest reason I find it so compelling is due to the sheer power and intention in this kid. I began to wonder how he came to this place. Was it just in him? Or was it really what he proposed, that those around him believe in him?
I decided that I agree with Dalton. While every child will not give a speech like his, each child holds something inside that is incredibly unique and makes a mark on this world. This can only grow with adults believing deeply and holding the space for children to discover it for themselves.
It all translates so differently into everyday life and parenting such different individuals. I get so caught up in managing my kids or the busyness of life that I think in little ways I forget to believe in them.
Do we believe that a toddler really can do it himself when he insists?
Do we believe the preschooler can offer suggestions for conflict resolution?
Do we believe our school age kid can really handle disappointment?
At the end of my video surfing I inexplicably felt like I needed a dose of the old tried and true, the biggest advocate and keeper of the idea that children should be loved and valued, Mr. Rogers. His simple truth and consistent message that we are all capable and special reminded me that we have to believe and then just do it. Believe in our kids and give them lots of opportunities to try.
Get your dose of the neighborhood wisdom here.
Comment conversation: What about your child do you believe in today? What superpower is uniquely his or hers?
photo courtesy of noaa.gov
Growing up in South Florida, we were no strangers to hurricanes. But it wasn't until Hurricane Andrew came in 1992 and flattened a good chunk of the southern part of the state, leaving no roof untouched, that we no longer looked forward to potential days off from school or work as we sat out a storm that luckily passed us by.
I remember watching the news coverage of people partying in the French Quarter just three years ago on the eve before Katrina hit. I had that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I watched the eye of the storm that was distinct and a sign of a deadly storm.
Now we have Hurricane Gustav. We are not even near the storm but like everyone else, we are riveted to the news and weather. We have had the news on constantly at our house for the past day or so. Ever since Katrina, there isn't one person who doesn't look at the coast of Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas in a situation like this and feel the dread that is the knowledge of what can happen. We watched as people evacuated. It took a few hours but before long, The Boy started asking questions about the storm. These were some of the things we did to alleviate his fears.
1. Be honest. This is a dangerous storm but people are leaving unsafe areas to find a safe place to stay. My three-year-old cannot understand flooding but he can understand that the mom and dad on the television are getting on that bus or in that car to drive to safety. This fact of parents taking care of their kids has always resonated with my son.
2. Talk about what you can do to be involved. While the hurricane is just starting to hit the coast now and the extent of the damage has yet to be determined, there will be needs identified and ways you can get involved to help some of the nearly 2 million displaced people. Focus on age-appropriate options for helping. My three-year-old can understand that another child his age that doesn't have any more toys would probably like a car or a ball.
3. Keep the conversation light and hopeful. The situation is serious but you need to make your child feel safe. There are so many people working so hard to make sure that everyone stays safe. As difficult as it was for us to do, we finally turned the television off and turned to the computer to get the news because the kids were perceptive that we were getting more and more concerned.
These were just some of the things we did. What do you your kids to help alleviate their fears?