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

During this week that is traditionally the first week of school,

In parts of the country where they realize it is too stinking hot to last a full day pre-September

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.

_________

“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.

*********

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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sick.

Look what I found! An unpublished draft! From this time last year (5.29.2014). Beats the hell out of writing something new. Gift with purchase? It is seasonally accurate. BAM.

*********

The Kidling is sick. Before you take pity, Dear Readers, we are talking about a different kind of illness.

School sick.

The Kidling had a rough re-entry into school after the long weekend of fun and activity. She spent several days with one set of grandparents, then got to spend an afternoon and evening with another grandma.

Lucky booger.

The Kidling: I’m school sick!
Natalie: What do you mean, Kidling?
The Kidling: I’m sick of working, I’m sick of learning, and I’m sick of talking about reading!

Someone is over this school year.

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.

on relationships and subtext

The Kidling, as you know (unless you have been living under a rock), is in kindergarten.

Sigh.

My darling, sassy, precocious, obstinate school-age kidling has several older friends with whom she regularly plays at recess.

Sidebar. Did you play with big kids during recess when you were a child? Because I most certainly did not. I lived in a strictly grade-divided time. The big kids picked on the little kids, the little kids cried, end of story. There was no “playing with” or “having fun” going on. Pure torture was the only permissible interaction.

As I was saying: The Kidling. Big kids. Recess. I rarely get an entire story out of her, but I often get little tidbits. Last night, The Kidling started to tell me about a conversation she had with some of the big kids.

The Kidling: Owen asked me a weird question. He said “I have a weird question.” Then he said to Scott, “Should I ask her?” and Scott said, “It was your idea.”

The Mama: (waits. for, like, ever. this part of the conversation was longer than it looks. I can’t remember everything, dear readers, but I do my best)

The Kidling: Then Owen said, “Do you play Minecraft?”

The Mama: Why did he think it was a weird question?

The Kidling: Maybe he thought I would hurt him, but we don’t hurt at school.

The Mama: Well, maybe he just thought it was a strange question because he thought you wouldn’t have played Minecraft? Or maybe he thought you definitely would have played?

The Kidling: (shrugs) I can’t read his mind.

Oh, dear one. This won’t be the only time those words come out of your mouth.

category: directions

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Enough said.

kidling compliments

Those of you who read kidlingville regularly (all four of you) know that The Kidling has been working through some concerns lately. It turns out The Mama was right to be worried about kindergarten and the myriad changes it brings.

Now that I have gratuitously linked to my most recent angsty blogposts, I shall continue.

The Dada and I have been asking careful questions after school lately in order to get as much information as we can about The Kidling’s day without triggering a pity party. As anyone who has regular contact with six-year-olds knows, pity parties are second only to birthday parties in popularity.

So we tread lightly.

This evening yielded some positive information. It turns out The Kidling and her nemesis played together today! And he was kind! Well… kind enough. He did tell my charmingly-coiffed daughter that she had a bald head, but she accepted his excuse explanation that he was referring to his own hairless noggin, rather than calling her names.

The Kidling, it seems, is learning to choose her battles.

Bedtime approached, and we reviewed her day.  Because things had gone far better than usual, I wanted to reinforce that she is a fighter. As I kissed my dear child on the forehead, I told her that we all have rough patches. We will have difficult days and tough weeks, but we survive and get better as a result. “You are strong, you are kind, and you will be okay,” I reassured her.

As a slow smile spread across her face, she returned the compliment. “You are big, you are never late for anything, and you are gorgeous. And so am I.”

The Kidling has returned.

life lessons from the classroom

There is a child in The Kidling’s kindergarten class who seems to cause her some strife. This little dude (L.D.) is feisty, but as sweet as can be… at least when I am in the classroom. While I am a fan of L.D., The Kidling most certainly is not.

One recent evening, we were talking about L.D. and the trouble she has been having with him.

I hope it will be for a very long time that her “boy troubles” are about irritations, rather than rebuffs.

We talked for a while about ways The Kidling could model good choices and about what might be motivating L.D.’s behavior. It wasn’t long before she interrupted me with this wisdom,

“He wants attention and he just attentions us in such mean ways.”

Well said, Kidling. I guess sometimes you just have to step back and let it be.

work ethic

The Family has been struggling to figure out how to work this whole school work thing into our evening routine.

What? Kindergarten is hard.

Last night, The Dada and I worked out a new course of action. As soon as we get home at the end of the day, the plan shall be:

Snack.
Discovery activity. Yes, this is homework.
Explore activity. Yes, this is a bribe.
Dinner.
Bath.
Story.
Bed.

Tonight we tried this for the first time and it was flawless. Positively flawless. After snack, The Kidling wrote two thank you notes for writing practice and it only took two eons. The bribe exploration activity was a fabulous incentive. After watching a wolf documentary (What? It is a school night. We couldn’t get too crazy), we had dinner and moved along with the bedtime routine.

It worked! It really freaking worked!

After a drama free bedtime, The Kidling and I snuggled up in her bed. We chatted a bit and I commented on how pleased I was with the productive and fun evening: writing, wolves, dinner…

The Mama: I’m proud of you, Kidling. Your hard work is really starting to pay off!
The Kidling: (matter-of-factly) You’re forcing me too.
The Mama: Yes I am. It’s my job.

And tonight, I did it well.