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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stinky vocabulary

The Family has a dog. The Family has an old dog. The Family has a big-boned dog. The Family has a lazy dog.

The Family has an old, fat, lazy dog.

The Dog* is a 10 year-old Black and Tan Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She is also a lazy little chunker. In her defense, she has a bum heart but in all honesty, she has been lazy since the day after she outgrew the term “puppy.”

We all have our weaknesses.

As good dog owners, we give The Dog her heart meds and feed her a low-calorie diet. Given that I am not going to make her salads twice daily, this means a fish-based kibble.

Yum.

Here’s the thing about old dogs that eat fish food: they have foul breath. “Unpleasant”  doesn’t begin to describe the odor. I am talking about genuinely smelly air escaping that darling, furry face with every exhale.

The Kidling is not unaware of The Dog’s exhalation affliction. She had the misfortune of being downwind of The Dog one recent day, which I became aware of due to the sudden, seemingly unprovoked screwing up of those darling Kidling facial features.

“Mom, what’s haleytosis?” she asked.

I told her it was clearly exactly what she thought it was (confidential to readers: No, I do not read her the dictionary in lieu of bedtime stories. I have no idea why she knows this word).

“Grody!” she exclaimed. “It’s grossin’ me out. I wish she would close her mouth!”

So do I, but since she won’t, I’m going to kiss that smelly little old dog face. Love is not only blind, but lacking in another sense as well.

_________

* Not her real name.

garlic WHAT?

I know I make a lot of confessions on the pages of this blog, so I hope you don’t mind if I add another.

The Parents are terrible (terrible!) about having The Kidling help around the house. Chores–or “chewers” to The Kidling–are far more of a chewer for us to manage than to simply do the damn thing ourselves.

I know, I know: responsibility, blah blah. Contribute to the family, blah blah. Feeling helpful is good for self-esteem, blah blah. I am well aware of every argument in favor of giving children chewers. Hell, I even agree. But that doesn’t stop me from not being the mother in practice that I wish I were in theory.

Sorry to disappoint, dear readers.

Now, we haven’t eschewed chewers completely; rather, we have taken the path of least resistance. We have The Kidling do the things that won’t make us lose our marbles if they aren’t done right/quickly/immediately. The Kidling “helps” put away dishes and gets out napkins and utensils at dinner time, but that constitutes almost every item on our menu of chewers. The only other thing we consistently ask for The Kidling’s help doing is fetching things from our wee garden.

The Family has a modest vegetable garden in the back yard. It is far smaller than usual this year because The Dog is getting old and didn’t eat all of the rabbits when they were babies this year.

Slacker.

Six tomato plants, some peppers, and some herbs are the only plants this year that survived the adorable little thieves that can’t stay away from The Family’s buffet. While making dinner, I often send The Kidling out to harvest basil and garlic chives from our little patch of dirt. I asked my dear daughter to bring me garlic chives last weekend and she looked at me oddly.

“Why’s it called chives? Why’s it called chives? Chives sounds like vagina. Like it’s a vagina kind of plant that pees.”

Um… okay.

I tried to let that one slide without much reaction (though I worry about the note that will come home from The Kidling’s kindergarten teacher when they work on the long “I” sound).

Fast forward to tonight’s dinner prep. I made a summer staple around here, caprese pasta. The Dada got to do the basil-harvesting honors, and I think The Kidling felt left out. Just before everything was ready, she wanted to make sure I had everything I needed, offering, “Do you need some ‘ginas?”

Choking back a giggle, I confirmed that that would be the perfect addition to our meal.

brown paper packages tied up with string…

Bedtime. Snuggles. Chit chat. A question:

The Mama: What are your three favorite things to do in the whole world?
The Kidling: Ride horses, pet horses, feed horses… Can I have four?
The Mama: Sure.
The Kidling: Ride horses.

one of these things is a little different…

The Dada has a thing about matching: he hates it. If we are wearing clothing that even approaches the same color family, he either changes his clothes, or he politely requests that I change mine. I have no desire to be the parenting version of Thing 1 and Thing 2, so it seems a fair enough request.

This isn’t the book of the dada, so you are probably wondering, dear readers, why I am telling you this.

I thought you’d never ask.

The Family was prepping for an outing Saturday morning and we were at varying stages of “ready,” per normal. The Kidling was about half ready, The Dada was showered, dressed, and prepped to walk out the door, and The Mama– well–

I was washing my face in yesterday’s tee shirt.

Yeah, sorry. I’m notorious for that sort of thing.

The thing is, yesterday’s tee shirt was black and The Dada was wearing a tee shirt, too. A black tee shirt. Unaware that I was sporting a pre-worn, about to be tossed into the laundry chute tee, The Dada stopped in his tracks and uttered a worried, “uh oh…” when he spotted my ebony swath of cotton.

The Kidling, curious about The Dada’s seemingly unfounded concern, looked at me quizzically. I smiled and explained that The Dada doesn’t much care for matching. Before I could continue, she interrupted, disputing the notion that we matched by explaining, “But your shirt has short sleeves and Daddy’s bottom is smaller.”

You can’t get anything by The Kidling. Particularly when that “thing” is The Mama’s bottom.

frenemy #1

We had a play date with the neighbors at the pool a few weeks ago. As we were getting ready to leave, The Kidling spotted a girl she knew from her summer program. Her face lit up in recognition and delight at seeing an unexpected playmate at the pool. She enthusiastically shouted the girl’s name and ran over to the fence to chat with her: “Ellllllla! Ellllllllllllllllllllla! Hi, Ella! Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! Hi, Ella!”

Ella* is, of course, the very same girl who is the topic of this conversation I had with The Kidling mid-summer:

*********

The Kidling was telling me about her friends at camp, and as a nosy good mother, I want to know more about her life than she offers. I ask about her activities, her teachers, her friends… in particular, about one friend with whom she had not been getting along. I’m not dumb enough to think she needs to be everyone’s bestie, but because she is an only child, I feel a need to ensure she is handling her strong emotions with her peers appropriately. So I asked how she was handling this particular monster child. How does she handle the situations? What does she do? So she told me.

“I approximately don’t do just anything. We’re kind of mean to each other. We don’t get along too well. I don’t know how to explain it.”

I decided to change the subject, and asked The Kidling who her favorite friend in her summer program was. She told me instead that, “Ella is my last favorite because we argue.”

*********

Remember how excited she was to see her “last favorite” friend at the beginning of this story? That’s right. The Kidling has her first frenemy.

Lord help me.

_________

* Not her real name. But you probably knew that.

neglect, or why i am a strictly average blogger

Sheesh. I get a great idea then I don’t follow through consistently. Being human is so. damn. irritating.

I somehow neglected a very important step to accompany Tuesday’s story about love. With apologies to the dictionary lovers everywhere…

Per-cep-tionnoun. A social event held for the purpose of celebrating a specific occasion, typically a wedding. Syn. party, soirée, bash, reception.

love

We live in a college town whose inhabitants love their football.  Like, crazy love.  Start tailgating at 6:00 am love. Watch in sub-freezing temperatures love. Sit outside on billion-degree days love.

True love.

Some people in Our Town even love their football enough to commit their lives to their true loves on a home football game Saturday. Yes, that is my idea of hell, but whatever. Love is crazy.

The Kidling and I had the harebrained idea to go to the Our Town downtown last weekend during a particularly loving display: home football game reverie and jubilant wedding party merriment.  The Kidling–my silly little tomboy and lover of all things bridal– was positively elated by her good luck, even as I cursed my terrible choice. Recognizing a rare opportunity for The Kidling to bliss out on two of her favorite things at once, we paused our errand to watch the happy couple and their dear friends pass through the hoards of football fans. The Kidling’s face was bright as she watched them float through the crowd, telling me, “Even though I don’t know them, I wish them a good time at their perception.”

That’s right, girl. Share the love.