Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sometimes I Forget The Milk

You caught me staring. I quickly looked away. Moments later I couldn’t help but look again and immediately you saw me. I smiled. I could sense your stress. I could sense your urgency to move along as quickly as you could. I could sense that you felt you were on the clock. You fumbled in your bag for a couple of minutes and finally pulled out some crackers to hand to him while you moved along to select a couple of peppers.

It feels like yesterday that I was you. Today I move at a slower pace throughout the store than I did back then. Today I calmly choose my selections. I stop to look up a recipe on my phone and make sure I am getting all the necessary ingredients. You however, stand in front of the bagels and ask him which one he wants. He points at the blueberry and you place it in a bag for him. You lean over and kiss him gently on the forehead and he giggles. It is in that moment that I am flooded with memories. I know all too well how annoying it is to be stared at with what can only be described as the “enjoy it mama because it goes way too fast” stare. Yet here I am staring at you and thinking that exact thought.

I have no idea how I got here. As I walk down the aisles with no one to entertain with each stop of the shopping cart, I wonder where the time actually went. When I was in it I felt like I was never going to go the grocery store and remember everything I needed because someone was always crying. Luckily it was rarely me, but shopping with a baby and a toddler is pretty much the equivalent of taking the Bar exam while running a half marathon, IMPOSSIBLE. I never came home with everything I had intended to buy. I was just thankful that I came home with both of my children and that I remembered the milk.  

I remember smiling nervously at people behind me on line as my tired child began to melt down. I remember feeling like the checkout belt had to move faster than it was moving. I remember feeling like I should not be sweating so much from a simple trip to the grocery store. I remember loading groceries into the back of my SUV in the pouring rain, and strapping my youngest into his car seat all while hoping and praying that he would not in fact fall asleep on the short car ride home because I really needed him to nap. I needed him to nap so that I could unpack all the groceries and cry about the fact that I had forgotten to buy the flipping milk.

It’s not easy to be where you are. If someone tries to tell you it is they are lying, but I want you to know that despite the difficulty it is a sweet spot in time. You don’t need me to tell you that this time will pass because you know how time works, but if you will allow me just for a moment I want to tell you to get the bagel, kiss his forehead, and take a deep breath. The world will keep moving despite the fact that you forgot the milk, again. The people on line behind you will forget about the fact that your child was whining and crying the entire time you were checking out. You will look for a fast forward button more times than you can count on what seems like a simple grocery store trip. I promise you though that one day in the future you will look into your organized cart, full of food and milk, and you will miss that bagel eating buddy.

I have always known that times moves fast. Nothing proves this more though than having children. The ironic part of parenthood is that most of the time you don’t realize how much you loved a stage until that stage has passed. I have yet to encounter a stage of parenthood that I would describe as easy. They all come with challenges, but I have yet to look back upon a stage that has passed and not missed it. Sometimes it’s from a distance that we realize just how perfect that horrible, difficult stage of parenthood was. Sometimes I forget the milk just so I can go back with one of the kids after school. We might happen to stop for a bagel on those occasions. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Teachers Move Mountains

You know that feeling you get at the end of the day when you just aren’t sure you have an ounce of energy left to give? Your children have brushed their teeth, finished their baths, been read to and tucked in nicely, but they still need one more cup of water. They need one more story. They need you to tuck the blankets under their legs. Just as you say goodnight and whisper one last I love you they ask for a tissue. When you finally turn off the lights and close the door you debate watching one episode of your favorite show on Netflix or simply falling into a sleep coma in your bed, and 9 out of 10 times the sleep coma wins. You know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the end of the day parent burn out. It’s that time of day when we are completely depleted of our energy and our ability to be the best version of ourselves.

I have two children and I experience parent burnout on the regular. I’m not exactly a morning person either, but after my first cup of coffee I’m ready to tackle the day. Coffee helps me cope with the spilled orange juice that somehow landed on the dog during breakfast, the fact that the eight year old can only find one of his shoes when the school bus will be arriving in less than five minutes, and the ability to Google whether crocodiles get married before the bus arrives or the five year old just won’t be able to go on with the day. Now take all of this and multiply the amount of kids by more than double. That’s right, take my two kids and just add in another thirteen to fifteen kids. You have a headache just thinking about it don’t you? I know I do.

After locating that lost shoe, toweling the dog off, and learning that crocodiles don’t believe in wedding ceremonies, I send my two boys off on the school bus to school for the day. Every day they are greeted by these amazing humans who as far as I can tell are always the best versions of themselves. I am going to have to find out what kind of coffee they drink. They are teachers and I trust them with the two people I love the most in this entire world for over six hours, five days a week. Not only do I trust them, but I depend on them to teach my children reading, writing, math, science, art, music, technology, health, and history. I depend on them to enhance any development we have started at home. I depend on them to take these tiny humans and help them learn how to interact well with other tiny humans. I depend on them more than they know.

Last night I sat with my kindergartner to read a book before bed. He asked if he could read it to me instead of me reading it to him. I excitedly agreed. With each word that he read and each page that he turned I couldn’t help but think back to September. As most parents who are faced with sending their baby off for the very first time on the school bus, that first day was met with a mix of emotions. We were excited, but nervous. We felt confident though that he would return that day just as excited as he was when he left us, and he was. I remember feeling like he was so small. I remember worrying that he would get tired and miss us. If he did he certainly never expressed it. Instead he came home every day excited to tell us all about what he had done and learned that day.

In September I sent a little five year old off to school and now he seems so much older to me. He’s confident. He’s reading. He tells me all about his friends in his class. He tells me how much he loves his teacher. I tell him that we love her too because the truth is, we do. How could we not. In less than a year she has taught our five year old how to navigate a great big exciting new world and he’s doing it. He’s doing it well.

Our third grader has grown and learned so much this year that there are times I am convinced he could out do me on any math test. (Sshh he probably could) His teacher does not seem to have that burn out thing I talked about. Whenever I see her, email her, or speak with her she is just as enthusiastic as she was on that very first day. I can say with full confidence that she gets truly excited when she sees children learning. It’s a gift. It really is. When my husband and I went to parent teacher conferences this year she looked at us and told us that our son had written his first journal entry that day. She had not read it yet and was excited to read it aloud in front of us so that we could all “experience his amazing imagination” together. I left that day knowing my son was going to learn and grow more than we had ever imagined possible in a year and he has.

I remember when they were toddlers and I was their only teacher. We experienced the world together. We read and practiced numbers and letters. We played in the yard and I taught them their colors. I did what I could to give them a small foundation into the world of learning they had ahead of them. Their teachers however have taken that small foundation and built upon it in such tremendous ways.

As parents we do our best to love our children. We nurture them, discipline them, and protect them. We carry them until they can walk on their own. We hold their hands until they let go and we hope with all that we have that we are doing our best to prepare them to succeed on their own. There is no question or doubt about what we will do for our children. After all we are their parents. Teachers do all of this and more. They do this year in and year out for every child that comes into their classroom. It takes a special person to love and nurture all these children. We all know teachers don’t go into teaching for the money (don’t even get me started on that.) Teachers go into teaching to move mountains. Their passion and love of learning is something that our children will carry with them for years. I want my boys’ teachers, both past and present, to know that we are forever grateful for the foundations they have poured and the mountains they have moved. They have helped us navigate the waters. They have given my boys a lifetime love of learning and for that we are forever grateful. 
"Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops."
Henry Brooks Adams

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Let Them Feel

When I was a kid I thought my parents knew everything. By the time I was a teenager I thought they knew nothing. Now that I’m a parent I realize I was right, both times. I think knowing everything while knowing nothing is pretty much the reality of parenthood. Parenthood is basically getting thrown into the deep end of the pool and struggling to make it to the ladder.  When you feel confident and you master swimming in the deep end of the pool someone throws you into the ocean.  Parenthood is a constant struggle of convincing your kids that you do in fact know what you are doing all while doubting yourself every single day.

If you don’t doubt yourself are you really a parent?  Don’t ask me. I spend most days flying by the seat of my pants. I tuck my kids in at night and I hope that I did an OK job. That’s right an OK job. When I had my first son, the idea of being an “OK parent” was out of the question for me. I was going to be a phenomenal parent. Sure. I was swimming in the pool and I was good at it, only the pool was calm and no one else was in it. Once I had my son I realized that the pool was full of tons of other swimmers and all of those swimmers had opinions on my swimming abilities.

To be honest now that my boys are out of the baby stage I find myself wondering more than I thought I ever would if I am going to be able to navigate each new unchartered territory of water we enter. The hopeful answer is yes, but the honest answer is, I’m not always so sure. Facebook has been kind enough to remind me on the regular with my “Facebook Memories” that the baby years are long gone. Gone are the days of napping, snuggling, snacking, and giggling within our own little bubble. We are in the elementary school days now and I have to tell you, they are going faster than I could have ever imagined they would. I’m not na├»ve; I know middle school and high school will be here in a hot second. That’s how this parenting thing works. The days are long but the years…well the years move fast.

Lately I’ve noticed that our family is so busy that the days are flying by and the months are moving at warp speed. My oldest son is eight and my youngest is five. There is something about my eight year old that has changed in the last year. I can see that a big change is upon us. I can see that I am about to get thrown from the pool into the ocean and I’m terrified.

He’s almost nine years old. Nine. Yet somehow I can close my eyes and remember the nurse putting him on my chest like it was yesterday. I can remember his little hand wrapping around my finger. I can remember whispering to him that I would never let anything or anyone hurt him, and I meant it. There is a change in the way both my husband and I treat him now. He has shifted from being a little kid to a boy. We expect more of him. He has responsibilities around the house. He is expected to get his homework done or baseball practice will just have to go on without him. He is expected to clear his plate after dinner. We remind him about doing his best and making us proud. We tell him not to cry when he is fighting with his brother about basketball.  We tell him to toughen up. We tell him to be the big brother and give his brother a turn. We tell him not to get angry at his brother. We tell him not to cry. We flail around in the ocean making mistakes and hoping that we will be given another chance to learn how to swim.

Today I read yet another article about a heartbroken mother who lost her son to the epidemic of heroin. When I tell you it scares me I don’t really think that it accurately portrays how I worry about it. I know that no matter how much we try to protect our kids this is the one thing that can reach out and grab them without discriminating. Drugs don’t care that you took your child to toddler music classes. Drugs don’t care that your child was gifted in reading. Drugs don’t care that your child was a soccer, baseball, hockey, dancing, fill in the blank star. They don’t care. Drugs don’t care that in elementary school your child had everything going for them. Drugs don’t care that they were in the school play. Drugs don’t care that you used to be able to talk to them about anything and everything. Drugs don’t care that at one point you thought your ears were actually going to fall off from how much your child went on and on and on about anything and everything. Drugs literally don’t care about your Facebook memories.

Today when my son came home from school I talked to him for a while about his day. I took the time to listen. I really listened because if the OK parent in me is being honest, I don’t always listen. I often multitask. I look through their folders and empty their lunch boxes all while nodding along to the stories of the day.  I give my kids a snack and have them do homework. I break up fights and tell them to stop crying.

I’ve been thinking about something a lot lately. Why are we telling our kids not to feel? Maybe you’re not guilty of this. I am though. I am so guilty of this, only I didn’t even realize it. It hit me like a ton of bricks that every time we tell our kids to stop crying, to toughen up, and to stop flipping out over what my husband and I perceive to be silly, we are in fact telling them to stop feeling. We are telling them that their emotions are not worthy. Every time they tell us they are bored we try to fix it. Maybe this is some of the problem. Maybe. I say this because obviously as I walk slowly into the water from the beach I can’t possibly already know what the parents out in the deep are dealing with.

I can’t help but think that kids need to feel boredom. They need to feel still. They need to feel the difference between being busy and being relaxed.  Our kids need to feel sad. How can they ever appreciate being happy if we don’t allow them to embrace being sad? We all need a good cry every now and then. We need it. We are humans. We are meant to feel. Kids are anxious for a reason. We are telling them to stop. We are telling them to sit still, to be quiet, and to do their best. Their best? Their best is to be a kid. Their best is to be curious, anxious, sad, happy, angry, overwhelmed, silly, loud, and quiet. Their best is to be comfortable with who they are and know that we, as their parents will embrace them for it.  Drugs allow people not to feel, the question is why are so many people afraid to feel? Let’s allow our kids to feel. Let’s embrace them for it. I’m not suggesting we allow kids to cry and punch, shout or laugh through their entire day. I’m suggesting that we allow them to navigate the baby pool in the best way they know how. I am suggesting that we allow them to feel scared, that we allow them to admit they don’t know if they are ready for the deep end and when they do, it may help to tell them that we didn’t always know how to swim.