Tag Archives: kindergarten

Back to school.

Ahh, it is back to school time again. And not just for the kiddos, this year. For me, too.


You see, five years ago, I gave up teaching for what, in a lot of ways, has been an even harder job as a stay at home mom, albeit with smaller adult to kid ratios. Maybe if you don’t move to an insanely small home in a prohibitively expensive city, and maybe if you don’t lop three quarters of your income and living space away at the same time, you have an easier go of it, I wouldn’t know.

But I spent five years sitting on the economic sidelines. And I had thoroughly convinced myself that I would never be fit for the work force again. I made several awkward attempts at it, but my most recent approach of having a job find me just wasn’t working. “Give it another five years,” another mom urged me. “I think it could happen!”

But now–miracle of miracles!–I have rejoined the gainfully employed! I teach kindergarten! And it’s awesome! And it’s kindergarten! We are going to have so much crazy fun! And the kids are hysterical! I’m beyond excited!

And beyond terrified. What if I forget how to work? My memory of how jobs work is a little fuzzy. I gather that they want me to be there every day, around the same time. And apparently, I am supposed to stay there all day. Does that seem right to you guys? And I am supposed to dress up, not just in the jeans without holes. Yikes. I urgently need to know if skirts with cargo pockets are still a thing, or if I’m totally screwed.

To launch this whole job thing, though, it has taken a really large village. So many wonderful people have come forward, arms linked together, to make this possible for me. It’s a good thing you can’t see me typing, because I am actually crying as I think about everyone who has babysat my kids, cheered me on, lugged my laundry to 8th Avenue, bought me a(nother) glass of wine, texted me that it’s all going to be fine. Even the boys I have abandoned to their fate at the afterschool program rush toward me at pickup, joyfully asking about my day, thoughtfully inquiring if anyone has the same lunchbox that I do. Truly, I am blessed.

So I’m going to ask you guys a favor, too, if that isn’t too cheeky: send me off on this adventure with all your good wishes, okay? I’m going to need them.

***

You may ask yourselves, why has it taken me an entire month to get this first day of school post up? Well, things came up. And work is a damn lot of work. I’m tired.

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Filed under Not cool, Mommy, The outside world

40 winks . . . to zero.

The end of the school year is approaching. This is a time that once filled me with joy and now leaves me with large amounts of dread. Two boys, one mommy, no outside routine. It could get ugly, people.

Mostly this terrifies me because once school gets out, it means the end of the nap. Our Little has been on the verge of not needing it for a while now (which explains why he is still banging around in his crib at this very moment), but I’ve been insisting, because nap time is also “Mommy’s utterly self-indulgent restorative time.” And it will come to an end. Soon.

That in itself is somewhat remarkable, because at least someone in my care has been napping now for five and a half years. And while this happened, I could flip my brain around for a little while and do things, like . . . well . . . umm, actually I’m not sure what I did, but it must have been terribly important and productive. You can take my word for it. But I worked hard to get each one of those naps.

After all, there is no shortage of accepted wisdom about putting your baby to sleep. Indeed there is an entire industry centered around this one–seemingly simple in practice!–activity. I followed none of this advice with Little. None.

Don’t nurse the baby to sleep! Put him down awake! Let him learn how to fall asleep on his own!

If you live in a tiny apartment (with the crib directly in the middle), just throw all that good advice out the window. I nursed our little guy right out, for bedtime and for naps, until he was almost 18 months old.* Why did I do this? Well, mostly because I had to. If I put him down awake, he was going to stay that way. If I wanted him to sleep (and I did–desperately) I had to put him down asleep. Otherwise, I would have to barricade myself and his older brother in our bedroom for two utterly silent hours. As it was, there were times when I had to count on a 3 year old not making ANY noise for 45 minutes while I bounced, snuggled, and shushed the little guy until he finally succumbed to the sandman. That is like asking a 3 year old to list the works of Shakespeare in order of publication, or to gulp down the kale smoothie without complaint. (To his credit, he did the first thing like a champ. The other two, well we’re still working on it. When was A Winter’s Tale written, again?)

Ever since Big went off to school, I have the luxury of spending lots of time to get the nap going. I still cuddle and sing him to sleep. It takes time, yes. And I put in that time, because that nap is my only break in the zany tedium blissful cakewalk that is stay at home mothering.

What do I do during nap time? I read. And I eat lunch. All by myself. (It sounds vaguely pornographic, doesn’t it?)

Mind you, for several months now, I have to keep his nap to a bare minimum, lest he be staring at me wide awake as I tumble into bed. But if he doesn’t catch that tiny bit of sleep midday, our evenings are spent with a tiny boxer who can’t hold his liquor. If he isn’t punching the cat or his brother, he’s slumped over one of us, declaring his love and fealty. So I know that my quiet, sanity-restoring literary lunches are not long for this world.

And quickly. Once Big is paroled from kindergarten, trying for nap time would closely resemble a hostage situation. Scooping out my eyes with a spoon sounds like more fun. Plus, I don’t think our fire escape would support all those hostage negotiators and SWAT teams.

So it goes. I have 7 (seven) more nap times left until they are gone forever. I am guarding them fiercely. You can forget about getting me to volunteer for stuff –PTA, I’m looking at you! After those seven naps, I will have to scramble to find that utterly alone time somewhere else — maybe when they are both peeing? That should buy me at least 2 minutes of solitude.

The nap is dead. Long live the nap.

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(Have any of those doomsday scenarios of ignoring sleep advice descended upon us? Nope. He can fall asleep by himself and sleeps all night. Rivers continue to run toward the sea.)

*His older brother is not native to the Fun Apartment, and could take all his naps in ANOTHER ROOM. Shortly after we moved, he stopped napping. Too much fun, I guess.

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Filed under Living Small, Mistakes I have made

Something for everyone!

As I think about struggles in school a bit more, it brings me back to something that I’ve puzzled out and been kicking around for a while. Here it is: Everybody gets something.

Got it?

What’s that? It’s a tiny bit unclear? Well, here’s what I mean.

Remember when we were all pregnant? Some people had swollen ankles and some didn’t. Some people had itchy skin, some didn’t. Some had gestational diabetes. Some had to have antibiotic iv. SomeĀ  folks did the whole business at home when the time came and some people scheduled c-sections in big hospitals.

And then we all had newborns, and some slept, and some didn’t. Some nursed fine, and some didn’t. We had babies and some crawled fast, and some didn’t. Some ate everything in sight, some went on quirky one ingredient diets, some came to the table with their game faces on. Then we had toddlers, and some of them expressed themselves in complete, grammatically accurate sentences while others grunted and pointed. Some potty trained themselves, while others had parents compelled to research just how big diaper sizes get.

And it seems, it’s still like that. At school, some kids are hanging their coats in their cubbies just fine. Others, not so much. Some are reading every word on the wall, others are still flipping their Bs and Ds. Some kids sit on the rug and listen silent and rapt to the lesson. Others chew on their neighbor’s sweater. Everybody gets something.

And the something you get, in your kid, is the something you handle. It might not be easy, but you manage the [bed sharing/non eating/bed peeing/obscenely early rising/mitten losing] because what choice do you have? And you talk to other parents, and they tell you that their kid is [bed sharing/non eating/bed peeing/obscenely early rising/mitten losing] and you think “Sheesh. Lucky we don’t have that. I couldn’t handle that.” Because everybody gets something.

And your something is also your beloved child, for whom you would do [almost] anything. And that’s really something.

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Filed under Not cool, Mommy

Delinquency

There’s not an easy way to admit this: My son is having trouble in kindergarten. Lots of trouble. And not the usual kind of trouble. Most kids who struggle in kindergarten struggle with the academics, the learning part. Not my kid. He’s a year and half ahead, according to the principal. Yes, the principal was at the meeting.

The learning part? No problem. But that’s not all kindergarten is. It’s also doing part. It’s knowing how to line up, how to hold a pencil, how to raise your hand, how to walk down the stairs, how to sit on the rug for a minilesson, how to put your folder away, how to find your partner, how to bring your lunchbag and gloves home again. It’s the business of school. And that’s where the trouble is: in the business.

Before I threw away my promising career, I was a teacher. And I specialized in the lower grades. “I know about kindergarten,” I told myself. “I know about kids who are 5. School is going to be easy for my kids.”

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. And let me tell you, I have a whole new perspective on parent/teacher meetings. My son’s kindergarten teacher couldn’t be more patient, kind, diligent, willing, resourceful, and all-around-awesome, but it is very hard not to leave the third meeting about your child’s behavior and not think “I have screwed up my kid so much that he is doomed to failure at school.”

So, what’s the trouble, you ask? Is he hitting other kids? Is he throwing blocks? Is he inciting rebellion? Nope. But he’s not listening, or if he is, he’s not doing. His class is late for everything because they are all waiting for him to get his act together and get in line. Does he hurry, knowing they are waiting? Nope. Instead, he creeps down the stairs during dismissal, seemingly unaware that the entire school backed up behind him. He has missed all of choice time some days because he took 15 minutes to put his folder in his backpack.

Hey, maybe he can’t focus, right? Except he can focus. We’ve all seen him do it. Maybe he can’t hear! Except he can hear, we had him tested. Maybe he can’t hurry. Well, take it from me, there’s no rushing this kid. He goes at his own pace. But sometimes that pace is really fast. It’s just not when I want him to be moving really fast.

Is he doing these things on purpose? I don’t know. The principal called it “determined defiance.” I’m not sure if I totally buy the terminology, because to me, defiance has an angry connotation, and the child isn’t angry. He’s just not. doing. it. Maybe it’s just blank stubbornness, abject cluelessness or sheer bloodymindedness.

It’s just sometimes . . . sometimes . . . the imp of the perverse sits on his shoulder and doesn’t let him shift gears, doesn’t let him transition to the next thing, doesn’t let him put his pencil down before he scribbles on his (completely awesome and well-executed) writing, doesn’t let him do the obvious and sensible thing, doesn’t let him give up and join the rest of the crew.

Maybe it’s a question of priorities. He has his number one priority, and that is whatever he is doing at that moment. And any other thing is second to his number one priority. And nothing overrides his number one priority.

It seems now that I was naive in thinking that school wouldn’t be a problem. I assumed that because he isn’t violent, aggressive, and has a great capacity for focus that school would be no problem. I thought coming from a family of educators would mean that school was just in him somehow. He has a natural love of learning, so school is the place for him, I always thought. Completely deluded, as it turns out.

I’d almost rather he struggled academically. That I could do something about. A few flashcards, a little extra practice playing games at home and we’d be back on track. But this is harder. There aren’t flashcards for compliance at home.

But there are opportunities for compliance at home, right? Sure. And I could be using each one to demand compliance at every moment at home. But that’s not my style. When we get in power struggles, I know that I lose when I win, because power struggles with a little kid mean, sure I come out on top, but look who I’ve beaten: my child. So I try and create a sort of obliqueness when our train seems to be heading for power struggle station. I divert the track so we don’t go down the tunnel, because a power struggle is his turf, he can stay engaged in it all day and isn’t afraid to let it get ugly. And I have to stay in it too, and come out on top. Believe me, we do go there, and I hold the Kind-but-firm-no-means-no line, but it’s messy. And I hate it. So when I can, I try and detour around. It takes effort, but we didn’t have to crawl through the screaming tunnel to get there. Hey, it doesn’t always work, but I’ll say this, I’m all for avoidance.

But when these times come up (and they do seem to go in waves) the thing that ultimately helps to dissolve the problem is . . . . well, love. Covering him in love, affirmation and attention, we can do it. Spending quality time wherever we can grab it, that works. Slowing down to his pace to see what’s important to him, that can work too. Somewhere in there, the problems start to ebb and we tug ourselves free, back into sure-footed-five-year-old waters again.

So that’s your solution, you ask? You sidestep a struggle and love the bejesus out of him? Yeah, I guess it is. Not much to go on, is it? All I got, though.

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Filed under Mistakes I have made, Not cool, Mommy, The outside world

Mommy, I thought there would be a garden! With kids in it!

So, kindergarten is at last upon us, and let me assure you, we were ready. After a solid month with two boys and one mommy in charge of all the fun at home, I was not really that weepy when my oldest clutched his new dinosaur lunch bag and ascended the school steps. I was too busy racing at top speed toward the nearest barstool. Sure, it’s a milestone, good for him, good for us, but really it means that my life just got a lot easier. I feel like looking down at my youngest and saying “So, tell me about yourself. You like trucks, huh?”

Due to the school calendar here, Big will actually be the youngest kid in his class. Yet another awesome thing about having Christmas as a birthday: he could be as much as 357 days younger than some of his classmates. In high school, it probably won’t matter too much, but in kindergarten, that’s kind of a big deal. And I think he’s been struggling with his search for his mature self.

Having a 4 1/2 year old (to me) seems kind of like having a kid who is 5 sometimes and 3 sometimes, and who is very rarely anything in between. He’s either solving rather complicated problems with novel solutions, sounding out words to read to himself, or he’s flinging himself around the apartment screaming because he wanted to lick the *other* beater when we made cake. Each day seems to be a toss up of how much time you get to spend with the 5 year old and how much time you have to spend with the 3 year old. Sometimes it’s 50/50. Other days it’s 90/10. And of course there are those days when it’s 10/90.

But maybe, if I put on my 6 month glasses, maybe it’s marginally inching toward more days spent with a kid who is 5 more than he’s 3. Maybe. I hope.

Hey, we're getting there.

Hey, we’re getting there.

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Filed under Not cool, Mommy, The outside world