Aug 16 2018

This Morning, When You Left for Kindergarten

This Morning, When You Left for Kindergarten

Here is what I see when I look at you: a squishy belly tethered to me by a miraculous cord. Doll-sized newborn diapers, still somehow too big. Wrinkled fists and rocking chairs and receiving blankets. Peach-fuzz hair like velvet against my cheek.

Where has the time gone? This summer, we stored another bin of clothes you outgrew overnight. We trimmed off the last of your white-blond curls, watched the fine ends fall to the floor, swept part of your remaining infancy away. The child who stepped down from that chair suddenly had hair the color of sand.

We’ve been through this before, you and I — packing lunches, first-day photos, waiting in a drop-off line — but today, something is different. This feels like the official end of your babyhood and the official beginning of something else, something long and important and transformative, a thing that will shape you while I am not in the room. All I can do from this distance is trust.

Preschool meant three days a week and home in time for nap. It meant family vacations unfettered by a class schedule and playtime instead of homework. You were missing from our home only minimally, just enough to teach you that you would be okay without me there. Today, the house is somehow a different kind of empty.

I hope your teacher is nurturing and patient, that she remembers you are someone’s most important thing. I hope you make her job easier rather than harder. I hope people will be kind to you, though I also know — absolutely, unequivocally — this will not always be true. But even more: I hope that when a classmate is sad or alone or afraid, you will be the one to sit beside her.

I hope you’ll never lose your love of learning — that all the standards and drilling and testing will not interfere with your inquisitiveness, with the wide-eyed way you crave knowledge: everything from how a vegetable grows in the garden to what makes the ocean salty to why grown-ups don’t celebrate half-birthdays. Please cling to your curiosity with both hands and your whole heart.

I hope your new environment will broaden the way you see the world, but not corrupt it. There is such innocence in your questions and observations, such heartbreaking earnestness, held tenderly together by threads that will soon begin to snap one by one.

This morning, you walked forward, toward your future, and I drove away. You don’t yet know the story that is prepared to unfold before you, but I can predict a few likely pages — I’ve been there, as a student and a teacher. There will be so many lessons, in academia and in life, and I am excited and terrified and nostalgic and hopeful to watch you fill in all of those blank chapters.

We’ll settle into a routine soon enough. Mornings like these will become commonplace, predictable, sometimes frustrating. And I know you won’t be wholly changed when you return this afternoon, but one day I will blink and you will emerge from those very same doors at a saunter, a fifth-grader ready for middle school. One day I will ask, “How did it go?” and you may not be bursting to tell me.

But this morning, you waved excitedly, smiled as you bounded away. I cried for the confounding passage of time.

See you soon, baby. Can’t wait to hear all about this beautiful beginning.

Nov 30 2017

5 Sneaky Ways to Practice Reading with Your Preschooler

5 Sneaky Ways to Practice Reading with Your Preschooler

For the last couple years, my husband and I have managed to semi-successfully employ an age-old parenting trick: spelling covert stuff in front of the kids.

“Did you remember to pack some S-N-A-C-K-S?”

“They need to decide which T-O-Y-S they want to give away before Christmas.”

“Don’t forget, P’s friend’s mom is P-R-E-G-N-A-N-T — we’d better bring something other than wine.”

But last night, when I turned to Al and said, “Just so you know, I ordered that S-C-O-O-T-E-R for Baby B today,” my 4-year-old glanced up and gave us a look.

“He already has a scooter,” she said. “Is it broken or something?”

Well. Game over.

If you would ALSO like to sabotage your secret spelling language so that your child will forever be able to involve themselves in every conversation whether you want them to or not, I’m happy to share some sneaky ways we accidentally practice reading. They’re “sneaky” because our preschooler thinks they’re just inherently fun, and that’s the key — turn it into a game, and they’ll want to play.

Note: These activities work best when the child has some base knowledge of letter recognition (both sight and sound). Continue reading

Jun 26 2017

Today I Forgot How to Be Tough

Today I Forgot How to Be Tough

It’s been a long time since I let myself cry. Months, maybe. I’m not talking about the welling up that happens when your baby does something magical, or the occasional wobbly chin because that sneaky-sad P&G commercial caught you by surprise. I mean a heaving, hearty cry that lasts way longer than a single sob, the kind that makes your eyes puff up by morning.

I cried a lot more often in the beginning, when we first moved — but I was pregnant then, and I got to blame it on hormones, and after the baby was born I told myself to toughen up, sister. Most of the time, I am moderately successful at this: I try to end every day (and every post) with a glimmer of hope; I’m a fanatic about practicing daily gratitude; I never go to sleep without counting my blessings, and there are so many — so, so many. An immeasurable amount. I am deeply, guiltily aware of how much worse things could be, and for that reason I sometimes pretend to have no problems at all. Continue reading

May 7 2017

Sorry I Was in Your Way, but the Thing Is I Have a Baby

Sorry I Was in Your Way, but the Thing Is I Have a Baby

As a parent of small children, you often get the vague sense that you are in the way. You notice the quiet cringes as you enter a restaurant, the looks of crushing disappointment when you board an airplane. You apologize thirteen times in the span of a one-block walk because the kids still haven’t learned (after eight million reminders) to look where they’re going.

Sorry. Sorry about that. Say excuse me, P. Look FORWARD when you walk, please. I’m so sorry.

We’re working on it. And most of the time, people are pretty nice — if not warmly understanding, they’re at least tolerant. I’m sure the people who wince at the sight of kids aren’t even doing it on purpose. It’s probably just an automatic reaction. Subconscious.

I’ve gotten used to feeling in the way, but there’s a huge difference between FEELING in the way and someone straight up telling you that you are — something that, this past week, has happened twice. TWICE. In one week. Continue reading

Apr 24 2017

Babysitters, This Is Why You Didn’t Get an Interview

Babysitters, This Is Why You Didn’t Get an Interview

There is a serious shortage of acceptable babysitters.

We used to have four of them: they answer to Grandma, Papa, Granny, and Papaw. Then we moved to a land far, far away, and ever since then it’s just been…us. For everything.

It’s not that we don’t need the help. In fact, sometimes it feels like we really, really need the help.

I would like to write — or speak — a complete sentence without someone yelling for help from the bathroom. I would like to stay in bed when I have a 101-degree fever instead of figuring out how to entertain two small people while simultaneously trying to avoid them so they do not also catch the plague. I would like to one day have a meal with my husband that does not involve high chairs, coloring books, and frantically cutting chicken into teeny tiny bites before someone implodes.

Even though my children are the very hearts of my soul, once in a while a girl kinda just wants to go on a date. That sort of thing requires a babysitter, but here’s the hard truth: the thought of leaving my children with a stranger has always made me break out into a cold sweat.

babysitter

Quite possibly the most accurate meme ever.

We held out for almost two full years. TWO. YEARS. But finally, a couple months ago, I signed up for a popular nannying/babysitting site and published a “Seeking Help” post.

I tried to ignore my niggling reservations. Some of the most phenomenal women I know have nannied (here’s looking at you, Olivia, Kristin, Jenna, and Kim) — there had to be someone out there for us. How difficult could the process be? Continue reading