Wednesday, September 17, 2008

All that we let in

Planets hurling and atoms splitting
And a sweater for your love you sit there knitting.

~"All That We Let In," Indigo Girls

I've had this song running through my head a lot lately. And it keeps making me cry.


Steve Inskeep wakes me up every morning at 7:00. Amiable as he is, I usually don't want to hear from anyone at 7:00 AM, so I hit snooze at least a couple times and plunge back to sleep. Between snoozes, though, I catch up on current events. And by the time I'm up and moving at 7:30, I've heard about hurricane refugees, financial collapse, and political scandal.

And then I help Sam get dressed. He picks out each item carefully: underwear, socks, shoes, shirt, shorts. The mornings are getting cooler, and he's not happy about having to wear pants more frequently. But there's no time to dwell on that, because we've got a lunch to pack. He chooses cheese and crackers, apple slices, juice, and candy corn. We pack it all up and head to the bus stop on the corner. He boards easily now, without a glance in my direction. But just in case he does look back, I smile and wave. He's happy. I'm happy.

Then Grace and Malcom and I take a walk around the neighborhood. I love fall mornings, cold with dew and warm with sun. Why was I ever sad to see the summer end? This is the perfect time of year. We return home to do chores or run errands. Grace stands on a stool next to me while I chop or wash or clean in the kitchen. She helps me pick up toys, and moves her vacuum back and forth right next to mine. We move outside to work in the back yard. While I sand and paint, she runs around the driveway pushing Sam's bigwheel. She stops and climbs on sometimes, to check if she can reach the pedals yet. She's happy. I'm happy.

It's time for lunch so we pull out some leftovers. Grace isn't nearly as picky as Sam is, but she won't turn down a handful of candy corn either. And then we gather her provisions: a pacifier, her musical bunny, and a fistful of my hair (still attached). I lay her down in my bed and snuggle next to her. I read while she twirls my hair and falls asleep. Sometimes I nap along side her. Or I get up and read blogs or make phone calls or work on projects. We're both happy.

By the time Grace is through napping it's almost time to pick Sam up from his bus stop. He's always tired at the end of the day, so I turn on The Backyardigans and try to needle some information out of him. "Who did you sit with at lunch today?" "What's Barnaby up to?" He avoids my questions while he nibbles on his after-school snack.

Grace snacks and watches TV with Sam while I start to think about dinner. Or she helps me in the kitchen. When it's all ready, Coach comes home and we eat. After dinner we might go for a walk, or play video games or work in the yard or hang out with our friends. We're happy.

And before we know it, the time for jammies has come. We brush teeth and read books and work on Sam's homework. If Sam's up for it, there may be some snuggling. He falls asleep pretty quickly these days, and then we're down to just Grace. She loves climbing in and out of her new toddler bed all by herself, but she'd still rather fall asleep in Mommy and Daddy's bed, if she can get away with it. (She usually can.) Either way, she's fast asleep, and back to her own bed soon+.

And then Coach and I read or blog or watch TV. There may even be some snuggling if we're up for it.

Sounds idyllic, doesn't it?

Of course, we have our ups and downs, our grumpy slumps, tantrums and fights. But on days like these, when the weather is perfect and the kids are adorable, I can almost forget about everything else. Well, maybe "forget" isn't the right word. I know it's all out there: horror and destruction; financial disaster; private heartbreaks and global tragedies. And even some honest-to-goodness atoms splitting. Steve Inskeep's told me about it all in the last couple weeks. But none of it scares me as much as it probably should. I just sit here (figuratively) knitting. And this is the part that gets me all emotional -- realizing that for all the madness going on in the world, from the other side of the fence to the other side of the globe, I have everything I need right here, right now. I am happy.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Who's crying now? An update from pre-k.

So, after all the reported trauma of Sam's first day of school (during which I never left the building) (and which lasted less than two hours), I could hardly be expected to make it through his first full day (Friday) (which began and ended with a solo bus ride) (and lasted eight hours) without shedding a tear or two.

But it was just a couple tears, and I held them back until the bus drove away.

I spent the day getting stuff done at home, where I could stay close to the phone, just in case. It rang lots of times, but it was never the school telling me Sam had already had three accidents and soiled his last set of clean clothes. Success!

I don't think Sam would have described his day as successful, however. In fact, moments after getting off the bus that afternoon, he was in tears again because his teacher wouldn't let him bring home his (stuffed) puppy. I also learned about a tall five-year-old named Barnaby* who told Sam he couldn't sit on the storytime rug. He didn't really have anything positive to say about school, and by bedtime that night Sam had concocted a plot for the two of us to sneak into the school and take back his puppy. After that, he planned to be done with school forever.

I'll admit I was a little bit worried about all of this. And he did get me a little vaclempt with his earnest pleas to let him stay home with me and Grace. "I just love you so much," he told me. But I made it a point to be upbeat and enthusiastic. I reminded him that last year he didn't like ABC School** very much at first, but once he got used to it he loved it. Always ready with his next objection, he said, "But I don't want to go to a school with a teacher."

I fretted all weekend, until we had an unexpected breakthrough. On Sunday night, when Sam saw the snacks I'd stocked for his lunches, he suddenly couldn't wait to pack up his selections and get going. "I wanna go to school," he said enthusiastically.
Sam ready for the bus on Monday morning. ( He picked out his own clothes.)

There were still a few tears about Puppy on Monday morning. I suggested that we pick out another stuffed animal to take to school so he could bring Puppy home. "That won't work," he assured me. He still didn't think his teacher would let that puppy out of her sight. "I'll write her a note," I explained. "She'll send him home if I write her a note." He looked doubtful, but finally agreed that we could pick out a new animal after school. "It has to be snuggly with soft fabric and have airplanes and frogs on it."

I wasn't sure I could really meet his specifications, but I nodded my agreement and we headed off to the bus stop without further incident. When the bus arrived, Sam took Ray's hand and boarded without looking back.

He came home Monday afternoon cheerful, without a mention of Puppy or the hypothetical new snuggle toy. He did mention that Barnaby said he wanted Sam's lunch, but Sam didn't give it to him. I'll wait it out a few more weeks before I raise the alarm about the Pre-K bully. But be warned, Barnaby. I've got my eye on you.

All in all, I'm surprised at how quickly Sam has transitioned from anxiety to enthusiasm. I'm still alarmed at how small he looks in that giant backpack. And I still think the school day is a little too long for a four-year-old. But I just love him that much more when he comes home. Look at him standing there. How can I not?

*Not his real name, just in case he's innocent.

**A once-a-week co-op preschool with a group of friends from church.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

I cried

Sam started school yesterday. It's just pre-K. But it's not that pansy kind of pre-K, all singing and playing and snack time. No, this is the real thing. All day, every day at a public school with eighth graders! And there's going to be some hard-core learning at this pre-K, I'm told, a regimented curriculum of letters and numbers animal sounds.

So this is serious stuff, and it's no wonder that I cried when I dropped Sam off. Right? Right?

Also, before you judge me for being a hyper-emotional maniac*, you should know that Sam was also crying, clinging to my leg and running out of the room after me screaming "I want to go to your class, Mom! I want you to stay with me forever."< At that point, I knew that it would only get worse if Sam saw me tearing up, so I had to turn my back and walk away while a classroom aide shuffled him back to the classroom.

The good news is the first day was only a half day, and the parent orientation ("my class") was pretty short. I was back to Sam's classroom within an hour, and found him sitting in a tall cubby, holding his frog blanket. When he saw me, he asked "Mom, can you snuggle me a little bit?" (Cue waterworks.) The aide told me he sat in that cubby the whole time, but he didn't cry. I wish the same were true for me.

The even better news, though, is that I really like this school. And I like his teacher even more. In a district full of failing schools, we lucked in to one in "good standing" with a teacher who is not just "highly qualified," but kind, patient, and down-to-earth. So, I think that if Sam can bring himself to leave his cubby, he'll have a really great year. Me too. I think.

*A fair assessment, considering my track record with public waterworks: the rental car place, the doctor's office, Wal-Mart. Yep, I'm a basketcase.

**I should note that "forever" to Sam means something like "until I think of something else." But, I should also not that apparently he has not yet thought of something else, because just moments ago as he buttoned himself into his school clothes, he came in and told me "Mom, today, I don't want you to do what the teacher says. I want you to stay with me in my class."