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

The Kidling was happier than this to return to school. I swear.

The Kidling was happier than this about her return to school. I swear.

On this day that is traditionally the first day of school, The Mama stands in

Sappy, whiny, sentimental

solidarity with family members everywhere sending their

Kids who are totally ready to go to school and have probably been ready for months but whose parents/grandparents/responsible adults are worried sick. Seriously! Think of all the things that could go wrong! I could send lunch money when all the other parents packed lunch, I could pack lunch when all the other parents sent lunch money, I could forget to pack lunch or send lunch money, thereby making me a pariah and–

babies to the first day of kindergarten. May your worries be unfounded, may your tears be few, and may the force be with you… or something.

_________

A few days ago on a morning run, my running pals and I were making conversation. Idle chit-chat, at first glance. The kind that helps us get through the miles but that, in the aggregate, shines light into the corners of our souls.

“How are you dealing with Kindergarten?” the fastest of us asked.

“What?” I replied. “Oh. Great! Honestly, I am just excited for her. She is damn smart. She is 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 Generic 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 be hurt.

Fear that she will hurt.

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, to you, Dear Kidling, I write:

_________

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.

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

_________

* This post originally appeared (in an ever-so-slightly different form) in Kidlingville on September 3, 2013. And you know what? Not a damn thing has changed.

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our obligatory back-to-school post (but this one is pretty good)

You might have noticed that The Family has been MIA. Not actually MIA, so don’t go making any phone calls. But seriously, how funny would that be:

Operator: 9-1-1, what’s the emergency?
Dear Reader: I want to file a missing people report. The Family has been too quiet lately.
Operator: Your family?
Dear Reader: No. The Family. I haven’t heard much from The Mama in the last couple of months.
Operator: Your Mama?
Dear Reader: Hey, you don’t have to be rude!
Operator: No, I mean your mother.
Dear Reader: Huh? Oh, no, not my Mama, The Mama. And The Kidling!
Operator: The killing? Is someone hurt?
Dear Reader: No! The KiDling. My favorite kid who I haven’t ever actually met. I know she talks nonstop, and I haven’t heard a peep from her all month. I’m a little worried.
Operator: Okay. We can send an officer out to do a welfare check. What is their address?
Dear Reader: The Family lives in Our Town, The Middle. Oh, and don’t forget to check on The Pup while you are there.
Operator: (silence)

Which is all to say that you might not know what is going on in Our Life. A brief summary: we had school, then it was summer, and now it isn’t.  Now that you are all caught up…

Without going into too much detail, The Kidling has been feeling pretty under the weather. Nothing serious, but she has been sick in that way that includes both naps and steroids. In other words, she was about as ready for bed last night as I am after my third espresso. So, after her shower, we went for a walk. Accompanied by a moonlit sky and striped pajamas, The Mama, The Kidling, and The Pup meandered around the neighborhood until we landed at her school. We walked through the open field past the playground, stopping to count windows in order to determine which teacher was still there working so late into the night. Once we had figured it out, this child of mine–

the same child who told me her retirement plans by December of her kindergarten year. The one who, just weeks before this summer was to begin, looked her teacher square in the eye and told her, “I’m sick of learning, I’m sick of working, and I’m sick of talkin’ about readin’!”

 –gazed up at the three-story brick building, eyes bright in the moonlight, and said,(sigh) I love this place.”

I do, too.

category: directions

20140416-212342.jpg

Enough said.

on school and learning

Read this. I know it is long, but go ahead. Don’t worry, I’ve got coffee. I can wait.

. . .

. . .

Are you crying? Well, I am.

I see The Kidling in this frustrated, insecure face, and it breaks my heart. Even something far less dramatic than the testing described here–the everyday work of kindergarten–has affected my dear girl. She has a phenomenal teacher, but she feels so much pressure from somewhere. Her peers? Herself? I don’t know, but I do know that she meant it when she asked if she could retire from kindergarten a few weeks ago. Being six is, it seems, just too hard these days.

Perhaps this is revisionist history, but I don’t recall feeling this way as a child. And no, it is not because I am so damn old. You see, I do recall walking to afternoon kindergarten with my childhood best friend. I recall social angst and trying to figure out how to navigate friendships. I recall being asked to stop talking by my ever-so-patient teacher. I recall forgetting that I didn’t have to raise my hand to use the restroom and waiting, wiggly and anxious, to be called on rather than just tiptoeing away.

But I do not recall requesting early retirement.

Perhaps the pressure is due, in part, to the fact that it never seems to end. The fact that she is in school all day. The fact that we have to wake her every morning and she doesn’t get quite enough sleep. The fact that, as a dual-income family, we get home, eat dinner, bathe, read a story, and head straight to bed (see above re: sleep). She has a great after school  program that allows her to play and discover organically, but this has been a rough winter, and an outdoorsy kidling needs to get her skinny little bum outside to be happy.

So where does this leave parents?

I want The Kidling to succeed, but what does that even mean? It’s not like she isn’t going to learn to read eventually. Why is it such a big deal that it happen at a particular time or in a particular way? I do know that, when presented with constructive learning activities, she relishes the discovery process. Her face lights up with joy when she comes to a conclusion independently. She listens intently as we talk about engineers and dinosaurs. She labors with quiet joy on elaborate drawings that detail a fantasy world beyond any adult’s imagination.

But my book lover shies away from stories when I ask her to read with me. And it breaks my heart just a little.

I don’t have an answer, dear readers. I won’t even pretend to. But let’s think about this, okay? There has to be a better way.

gene(tics) in a bottle*

Alice paused a recent conversation on genetics for clarification.

What? You don’t talk to your five year-old child about recessive genes, alleles, and zygotes? Slacker.

“Before, when you were talking about genies,” she began, “I was picturing two genies: a brown one and a hazel one. And the brown genie and the hazel one flew into each other and whichever one hit first won!” 

Sigh. I hate for reality to destroy that phenomenal visual image. Alas, I privileged truth over novelty, telling my clever munchkin, “Actually, it is ‘genes.’ But I like genies!”

She graciously allowed, “Well, you can pronounce it ‘genies’ too!”

Thank goodness. Life is a helluva lot more interesting when viewed through the eyes of The Kidling. Facts are suffocating.

________________________

* Yeah, so it doesn’t really work. So what?! Accuracy is no fun at all.

anatomy 101

“What’s a boy kind of vagina called?”

-The Kidling

October 9, 2012

regular kid

It must be great fun to work in a pre-school classroom. Case in point, The Tale of the Frisbee.

One day last week one of the little munchkins in Alice’s classroom managed to get a frisbee caught in a tree during recess. Rather than take the half-minute to get it out of the tree, one of the teacher’s aides decided to let the kids work it out on their own.

And I love her for it.

You see, each kid took a turn throwing rocks and sticks to try to dislodge their precious toy from the unrelenting grip of the tree’s branches. According to my anonymous source, the kids spent a good thirty minutes on this task. Then finally— success! Who, dear readers, do you think rescued the frisbee?

That’s right: The Kidling. My kidling.

Proud as a peacock, Alice remained humble, telling her teacher, “Even though I am a regular kid I got the frisbee down and saved the day. I got it down with all my might!”

Regular my ass.

scientific principles

The Kidling is fascinated by the idea of evaporation and absorption. Particularly evaporation. That water can transform into a gas and “disappear” is really, really cool to a four-year-old. We have spent some time talking about what types of materials are capable of these two transformations and examples of when they happen in the natural world. She occasionally gets the two confused, but makes keen observations every now and then about the general principles.

Oh yes, I am an amazing mother who—along with my terrific husband—brilliantly parents my precocious child. Such advanced topics! So easily digested and translated into context! My little genius!

Imagine my surprise, then, when Alice looked at her underarm the other day and declared, “Brownies and stuff absorb into my armpit. It magically… umm… disappears into my armpit!”

Hubris is a bitch.