an open letter to The Kidling and to kidlings of a certain age

“How are you dealing with Kindergarten?” a drop in to our running-club-that-isn’t-really-a-club asked.

“What?” I replied. “Oh. Great! Honestly, I am just excited for her. She is damn smart. She is just really ready to be a reader.”

And with that, I brushed aside all thoughts of anxiety regarding my youngest–my only–child’s matriculation into the garden of children… until two Saturdays ago. On that day, it all came. At first it whispered, politely tiptoeing toward me. Shortly thereafter, it spoke more firmly and picked up its pace. Then it whacked me right over the head.

Jerk.

Because on that fateful Saturday, I found myself at Standard Department Store. Yes, the same one that gave me corduroy shorts with opaque tights in adolescence. Perms and bad bobs in my childhood. But that day, it gave me something else: anxiety.

On that far-from-fine day, The Mama decided to buy The Kidling’s new school clothes. Pretty striped cotton dresses, practical tees and leggings, perhaps a fall jacket… things that scream “The Kindergartner from The Middle(west).” And I did find those things. It’s just that I also found… Other…

Things.

Things that I wasn’t ready to see in size 5.  The details aren’t worthy of recounting,

Tight things, short things, one-shouldered things, things with words I don’t want to read in places I don’t want to read them

but the outcome is: fear. Genuine, chest-tightening fear. Fear of the influence of the world. Fear that The Dada and I will no longer control the message. Fear that–god forbid–The Kidling will actually want those awful things.

Fear that the world won’t be kind.

Fear that The Kidling won’t be kind.

Fear that she will struggle–with friendships, with learning, with anything.

Fear that she will be cruel to friends who struggle.

Fear that she will be judged.

Fear that she will judge.

Fear that she will get hurt.

Fear that she will hurt someone else.

Fear.

Fear.

Fear.

Fear.

Fear.

I was so busy with my fear that I nearly forgot to notice today. But first times are sacred and deserve to be memorialized. So I noticed.

And I am writing.

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Dear The Kidling (and friends);

This morning

After you went outside in your perfect first-day-of-school outfit and played with sidewalk chalk in your perfect-first-day-of-school outfit and covered your perfect-first-day-of-school outfit with said sidewalk chalk and apologized for covering your perfect-first-day-of-school outfit with sidewalk chalk and went inside to take off your perfect-first-day-of-school outfit and changed into clothes.

you went to Kindergarten. Kindergarten! I know you are a genius, but this seems extreme. You were, after all, born just yesterday. Which is why my heart could burst, I am so proud of you.

A few weeks ago, we sat on our front steps and ate ice cream. When I thanked you for being part of my life, you laughed at me. Then you shrugged your tiny little shoulders

Shoulders on which the weight of the world seems sometimes to rest.

and said “Well, you created me,” because you had no choice in the matter.

Which is kind of awesome, because I know you would choose Nana.

Whether by choice or by nature, I am ridiculously lucky to have you. Not that I am foolish enough to think that you are meant to be had. Rather, I am so, so fortunate to have you here. With me. With The Dada. Every day, as part of our crazy little ride on this planet. And, for what it’s worth, I have no idea what I did to deserve you, but whatever it was, I am damn glad I did it. And if that thing that I did occurred in a past life, then I am seriously thanking dead-previous-The-Mama.

Really. Thank you for not being a total jerk to someone with the power to ensure future-The-Mama got screwed over with a boring, bratty kid.

On such a monumental day, I don’t have nearly as much advice as I wish I did. What little I have to offer is so very important: No matter what, be you. Always be you. Even when you forget who “you” are. Even when you lose “you.” Even when the “you” you find is wholly different from the one you lost. Be you. Strong, kind, quirky, clever, smart, stubborn, loving, rambunctious, curious, agile, witty, loud, beautiful, spunky, mouthy,

but not too mouthy

you. Because I love the shit out of you. And I always will.

Love,
The Mama

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sh*t happens

By “sh*t,” I mean traffic citations. And by “happens,” I mean to me.

As The Kidling and I made our way one from the best birthday party ever–water balloons, doughnuts suspended from trees, sunshine, ombré butterfly cake–The Mama encountered a detour. I was in a part of town in which I rarely drive, and I was driving a vehicle I am not used to. I was nearly back on our usual route when I saw flashing lights in my rear view mirror.

Say it with me, Dear Readers, “Shiiiiiiiiit!”

That’s a good start. This time, with feeling: “SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!

Much better. Now, where was I?

The Officer: License, insurance, and registration please.

The Mama: Okay. I am going to reach into my purse and get my license. (Grabs license then looks for other materials. A full minute passes as she looks for her current insurance card) 2011, 2009, 2012… 2010… I am so embarrassed. 2010, another 2012. 2013! (Hands materials to The Officer)

The Officer: Do you know why I pulled you over?

The Mama: Honestly, no. I never drive this vehicle, so I’m guessing I was speeding?

The Officer: No, you just blew through that four-way stop back there.

The Mama: What four-way stop?! Where?

The Officer: Do you see where that car is turning? Right there.

The Mama: Really? I don’t see a stop sign.

The Officer: Well, you can drive back there and look–

The Mama: No, I believe you. I just don’t see it.

The Officer: Just a minute while I take these back. (Returns to his patrol car. One second passes, then–)

The Kidling: I’m so embarrassed!

The Mama: Why? You didn’t do anything wrong. Mom did.

The Kidling: I’m so embarrassed. I told you not to go so fast!

The Mama: Sweetheart, I wasn’t speeding. Apparently there was a stop sign back there that I didn’t see.

The Kidling: Why?

The Mama: I don’t know, babe. I don’t drive this way often and I just didn’t see it.

The Kidling: Why did he have to pull us over? Why is he back there? I told you not to drive so fast! (Many more admonishments as The Kidling discusses real and imagined transgressions)

(silence, then–)

The Kidling: I don’t suggest you tell your husband about this.

TBoTK, version 3.0: vagenealogy

The Mama… Kindergarten… Anxiety… The Best of The Kidling…

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vagenealogy

After a glorious Sunday morning at the park and afternoon at the pool, The Family relaxed after dinner by watching Olympic Track and Field Trials while eating Ben & Jerry’s straight from the carton. It was a beautiful day, made perfect by this unexpected inquiry:

Alice: Mom and Dad, how’d you get here? (an “oh shit” look passes between The Mama and The Dada) I mean, who got you out of her vagina? (looks pointedly at The Mama)

The Mama: Grandma

Alice: And Dad? Who— Who got you out of her vagina? (The Mama exits the room in a spasm of failed giggle containment)

The Dada: You know.

Alice: Oh yeah. Nana. (looks around) Where’d Mom go?

The Dada: She went to the next room.

Alice: (greedy fingers grip the Ben & Jerry’s) Now it’s all mines.

If there is a pithy conclusion to this interaction, then I don’t have it. All I can say is, my life might now be complete. Holy crap, Alice. I love the shit out of you.

TBoTK take 2: our wee omnivore’s dilemma

In honor of the countdown to kindergarten,

81 hours, 58 minutes. Not that I am keeping obsessive, excited, fearful, worrisome, anxious track. Because I’m not. Doing that. Nope. Not The Mama.

I bring you The Kidling’s highlight reel, “The Best of The Kidling.” This blogpost details one of The Dada’s and my all-time favorite phases that our dear, darling, thoughtful, curious, mature, brilliant, unique child

Who is getting OLD. Seriously. Kindergarten? This is bullshit. I want an exchange. Can I get Toddler Kidling back?

went through: omnivorous conflict. Without further ado

Really? Nothing further? Surely I can kvetch just a little more? Right? “It’s my blog and I’ll write what I want to” and all that?

I bring you…

______________________

our wee omnivore’s dilemma

Not a wee dilemma; rather, a wee omnivore. With gratitude—and apologies—to Michael Pollan*…

Early last fall, The Kidling became keenly aware of the fact that her meat is derived from (previously) living creatures. The Family is technically omnivorous, but we are functionally closer to herbivores. The Mama does the cooking, and I love vegetables and can really take or leave a hunk of meat. That said, I do prepare it at least once a week, so The Kidling’s new insight made for an interesting few months at the dinner table.

In spite of Alice’s voracious appetite, she is a rotten little booger at the dinner table. Not, mind you, the breakfast, lunch, or snack table. Go figure. Dinner time is a textbook power struggle. She does everything but eat. Her typical dinner routine is:

  1. Happily fulfill dinnertime chore of putting napkins on the table;
  2. Sit down;
  3. Yell, “I have to go potty” and run toward the toilet;
  4. Return to the kitchen 5 minutes later with pants down, saying “I haven’t washed my hands yet, but I want to tell you [insert random story here]”;
  5. With pants still down, microstep back to the toilet to wash hands;
  6. Run back to the table;
  7. Talk;
  8. Play with her food;
  9. Sing;
  10. Talk;
  11. Sing some more;
  12. Take one bite;
  13. Repeat Steps 7-12 two dozen times.

Dinner is exhausting, to say the least.  It should come as no surprise, then, that the evening Alice realized she was complicit in the death of an innocent creature began thusly:

The Mama: Eat your turkey, Sweetie.

Alice: What? This is turkey? What’s that?

The Mama: Like the bird. Turkey.

Alice: I bet he isn’t happy about that.

The Mama: No, I don’t think he is, Alice.

Alice: Did you hunt it?

The Mama: No.

Alice: Why?

The Mama: Well, everyone does what they do best. It is most efficient that way. A farmer raised it.

Alice: Did they cut his head off?

The Mama: Yes.

Alice: Oh.

(extended silence)

The Dada: So, I’m doing a load of laundry! Lights! (The Mama and The Dada engage in a spirited discussion of the laundry. Blankets! Towels! It worked. Conversation officially changed.)

Versions of this exchange took place every time meat dared appear on the table. The Kidling’s comments ranged from, “What animal is this” to the sad-voiced  “What animal are we going to eat tonight” to the ubiquitous (audible sigh) I bet he isn’t very happy about that” to the horrifying and hilarious evening on which we had steak: “I feel bad about that. (very long pause) But it is yummy.”

I should add that we respect Alice’s autonomy, and never make her eat anything she doesn’t want to consume. Except broccoli.

______________________________

*Whilst adding this hyperlink, I discovered that none other than the amazing Maira Kalman has recently illustrated Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. I am head over heels for Maira Kalman’s work, and own her charmingly illustrated edition of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. I should add that, in my fantasy world, Ms. Kalman illustrates the real book version of the book of alice. I even tweeted about it once. The Mama can dream, no?

TBoTK

‘Tis the week before The Kidling begins Kindergarten. As such, I have determined this to be a weekend of “The Best of The Kidling.” TBoTK, if you will. But really, don’t.

I anticipate TBoTK weekend lasting longer than a weekend, so allow me to apologize in advance. Or not. It’s my blog and I’ll do what I want to.

Without further ado, I bring you a post from the archives…

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the big question

Let’s start this weekend off right, shall we?

Friday afternoon, Alice asked me The Big Question. She did not propose, though she has done that before. No, she asked something far more difficult for me to provide a proper response. Without giggling, that is.

The Kidling was concerned about whether she is older than The Kidd-o, or whether The Kidd-o was actually born first. I told her that, in fact, The Kidd-o was older. Alice was understandably ticked.

Alice: But you told me I was older!

The Mama: No, sweetie, [The Kidd-o] was born ten days before you were.

Alice: Why?

And this, dear readers, is where it gets good. I began a windy monologue on how babies are born when they decide to. Babies come out, I told her, when their bodies are strong enough and they are ready to live in the world. Alice, delighted at her autonomy from a very young age, listened carefully. After a brief pause while she processed what I was telling her, she asked…

Alice: How’d you get me out anyway?

The Mama: Actually, Alice, you came out of my vagina.

Alice: (very long pause) Whoa. (giggles) That’s funny. (another long pause) Vaginas? (yet another very long pause) So I got peed out? In the toilet?

At this point The Kidling began verbally working her way through the details: home birth vs. hospital birth, toilet vs. bed… Surprisingly on-point insight was interspersed with a lot of “that’s funny.” I confess we were driving during this conversation, so I jotted her funniest utterings on the back of my “to-do” list when we were parked at stop lights. Unfortunately, I had to sacrifice some pretty funny stuff to the far more important priority of our physical safety. I know. I apologize.

Her final wisdom on birthing came with the observation that “you came out of Grandma’s vagina, then I came out of your vagina.”

The significant time lapse between these events clearly did not register. Which is why I love living with a four-year-old. And lucky for you, I write this sh*t down.

Happy weekend!

flashes of brilliance (or sparkle, as the case may be)

This weekend, The Mama got her hair done. Finally. I’ve been rocking the same look for nearly two years, and the time had come. Now, we’re not talking about a little trim here. No, this was a major change: bangs. And it looks damn good, if I do say so myself.

The Kidling was less than convinced. When she first saw me, she smiled in greeting before her face fell. “I liked you better without those,” she informed me.

“You’ll get used to them,” I replied. The look in her eyes told me that was not likely.

Later, I told The Kidling we looked alike now, since we both had fringe on our foreheads. Clearly I was reaching, but I thought–perhaps–making the fringe seem more familiar might lead to less animosity. Right?

We walked to a mirror and studied our reflections. A moment passed before I noticed, “You can see my gray hairs now!”

“That’s too bad,” The Kidling responded.

“Oh no,” I corrected, “I like them. They’re sparkly!”

The Kidling shook her head, “The older you get, the less you’ll like them.”

How does this chiłd know everything?

 

 

The (old) Mama

The Kidling just walked in the door with her father. She didn’t see me, so I walked over to say hello.

        “Oh, you surprised me!” she exclaimed. She stopped, cocking her head and studying my face. Moments passed, then finally, “You look old!”

I laughed. The Dada laughed. She continued,

“Well, in those glasses, you look old.”

I laughed again. The Dada laughed harder. She went on. Again.

“You look like Carol. An old Carol.”

At this point, The Dada was struggling with his effort to contain his mirth. The Kidling ran from the room, heading toward the bathroom. She came to a sudden halt around the corner, then turned around and screeched back into the kitchen.

“At least you look like Nana. An old Nana.”

Delightful.

And as much as I love her beautiful, kind, and wise Nana Carol (though occasionally I am less fond of her mocking offspring, The Dada), I do believe I will be returning to my regular specs. This 30-something mother doesn’t need to look like anyone’s grandmother.

Also? The Kidling is a total shit.

Just like her father.

observations

“Wasn’t it gross when there was the card at Target that had the baby panda that said, ‘if I was more thankful, I would puke a rainbow’?”

-Alice Munchkin Kidling

July 3, 2013