Thursday, August 27, 2015

The First Day of Kindergarten

My Dear Ryan,

As I write this you are spending your first day in Kindergarten. You have probably eaten lunch by now. Hopefully you had fun at recess, and are enjoying meeting new friends. I hope its the BEST day ever!!



You were so excited this morning. So. Excited. It made me think back to your first days of Preschool. I remember you sobbing every day for at least a week either when I dropped you off, or often, after I left. You always seemed to keep it together for me, but then once I was gone you just missed me too much and the tears started flowing. Twice I got a call because you were so upset the teacher was worried I would have to come get you. It never got to that point. You always pulled your brave face out about 1 minute before I would pull up to the school and I'd get a call that said, "He's fine now."

But this morning was so different. You were eager and excited to get there. When Daddy, Zachary, Connor, and I walked you up to the front door you were ready to line up without even giving us a hug goodbye. But then the administrator who was about to take your hand said, "What about a hug for Mom and Dad?" Then of course you gave your signature "monkey hugs" and you were off. You headed into school with the confidence and swagger of a kid who'd been doing this forever. As I yelled, "Have a great day! I love you!" you tossed a nonchalant wave my way.

I'm not gonna lie...the ease with which you headed off today stung just a little bit. But mostly, I was just so, so proud of you. I know you're going to have a great day. But I know you are confident that I'll be there at the end of the day to hear all about your day. And I know you're excited for that, and for all that will happen in between drop off and pick up.

So many moms talk about how sad they are on this day. And I suppose if I let myself linger too long on the idea that you will now spend the majority of your days in the presence of an adult who is not me then I get a little sad. But then I remind myself that many parents spend the majority of their days away from their children who are in daycare, from the time they are tiny babies and I am immensely grateful for the past 5 and a half years during which I have been home with you almost every single day.



And yes, if I stop to think about how tiny you were, and how big you are now, and how there are so many moments lost in between that I don't remember, then I get a little sad. I can no longer hear your "baby voice" in my head. I don't remember all the cute words you said incorrectly. Sometimes I wish I could just make time freeze. But I can't. And so, I look at you, and at the beautiful person you are becoming and I rejoice.

Jumping for JOY! 
This morning I sent you off with excitement and pride knowing that you're ready. You are kind. You are brave. You are curious. You are eager. You will do fantastic in Kindergarten. And I am so proud that Daddy and I have somehow managed to help you develop into that beautiful little boy who is so very ready. Daddy and I didn't (and still don't) know what we were doing all the time as parents. We've stumbled and made mistakes. We've yelled too much at times. We've unfairly expected too much of you at times because you're the oldest. We'll no doubt continue to make mistakes from time to time. But looking back, I know each of your days was filled with love. There were always many "I love yous" exchanged, so many hugs and snuggles. Lots of books have been read, games played, matches wrestled, and tickles fought. And at the end of every day you have fallen asleep safe, secure, and confident that you are loved because you're you. And though we haven't done everything right, we've done that right.

So, today I watched you head into elementary school for the first time and I stood in awe of this amazing little person that Daddy and I created and have helped shape into a wonderful boy. I know you're not perfect. I know you'll make mistakes. But I know you're awesome. And today, I'm letting myself take a little credit for that. I am reveling in the fact that WE MADE IT! We made it to Kindergarten with your sense of self not only in tact but strong. I can't wait to see what the future holds for you, sweet boy. I'm so fortunate to have a front seat for what will no doubt be a fantastic show.

Here's to many more firsts!

Love always,

Mama

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Night Before Kindergarten

Below is a letter I wrote to Ryan and read aloud to him the night before his first day of Kindergarten:




August 26, 2015
My Dearest Ryan,

Tomorrow you will start Kindergarten. What adventures await you! You will learn new things, and meet new people.  Who knows, you may even meet someone who will be your friend for the rest of your life?! You will have so many new experiences. You’ll learn new games, new songs, new facts, and new skills. You will probably feel new feelings, too! School is a wondrous place. The possibilities of what you can do, achieve, learn, or change are endless. We can’t wait to watch the possibilities unfold.

But Ryan, I want you to know that there is nothing in this world that Daddy and I want more for you than to view school as an opportunity to grow as a person and to practice being kind and brave. I’ve told you before, we don’t care if you’re the smartest, or the fastest, or the best artist. But we care that you are the best YOU that you can be. Try your best, work hard, have fun, and be good. We know you are amazing. Now is your chance to show the rest of the world!

Part of being the best YOU possible is learning to be kind. Go through your day with your eyes wide open. Keep an eye out for the kid who is extra shy, scared, or lonely. Try to help them be a little less scared and a little less lonely. Say hello. Ask him to play. Smile at her. Offer to share your snack…yes, even if the snack is your most favorite snack in all the world and you wish that I had packed more of it for you. Being kind isn’t always easy. But, it’s always right. And sometimes doing the right thing means you have to be brave.

Sometimes it will be hard to do the right thing, the kind thing. Sometimes you’ll worry about what to say, or how to help. But dig deep in that big heart of yours. You are naturally caring. You instinctively know how to make people feel better. Trust those instincts. You’ll be amazed at how much of a difference you can make!
There may be times when you see one student being mean or unkind to another student. These are the times that really require bravery. Don’t stand back. Don’t let that child who is being unkind think that it’s ok. Show him or her that being kind is the best way to be, and that doing otherwise will not win him or her any points or any friends. Show them what being kind looks like by standing up to them confidently. And if doing this seems too hard, or too scary, because sometimes it might, then tell a teacher or grown-up what happened so they can help.

Ryan, there is nothing you can or can’t do at school that will make Daddy and I love you any more than we already do. We already love you as much as we ever could or ever will. And that is a WHOOOOLLLEEEEE LOT! There is nothing you can do to make us love you any less. We love you because you’re you, because you’re ours, and you always will be. We hope that all the love we have for you will help you be able to show that love to the other kids you will meet at school.
Ryan, we want you to love school. We want you to have fun. We want you to explore, learn, create, run, play, ask questions, and have new adventures every day. But most of all, we want you to grow into the amazingly kind, caring, and thoughtful little boy that we already see glimpses of every day.

Have a blast at school sweet boy! We can’t wait to hear all about it! I love you so, so, soooooo much! I love you to Pluto and beyond!

Love always,


Mama 


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Connor Matthew: 10 Months!



My Dearest Connor,

Today you turned 10 months old. I always find the 10 month mark a little bitter sweet. It's the point where you've officially been out of my belly longer than you've been in it. And it is a reminder of how fleeting those pregnant moments are. I know I will never feel the flutter of little kicks from inside ever again. And while pregnancy can sometimes seem to last forever, it really goes by so quickly. I cannot believe that you've been out and about in this world for 10 months! I look at pictures from a year ago, when you weren't here yet and it seems like yesterday. And yet, remembering our family life without you is hard to do!



I apologize that I didn't write a post when you turned 9 months. As I mentioned when you turned 8 months, I expected that might happen. July was a BUSY month. We moved on July 2nd, one day after your 9 month-day. So, while I am amazed I remembered to take pictures for your 9th month, I did not find the time to blog. And, honestly, its probably just as well. I was a little stressed out with life at that point in time. Who knows what that post would have said! But one thing I can say, is that despite the stress of moving, you were a constant reminder to just soak in the moments and not wish them away. I think as my youngest, you will always be a reminder of that for me. Its easy, when going through life with three little people to wish for the future....when you and your brothers will be more self sufficient; When you won't need me for every. single. thing. And yet, when I think of that, of not being needed as much, I can feel the tears brimming behind my eyes. I know I'll miss these moments. And so, I'm doing my best to soak them in the best I can.

 


And Connor, there is so much about you to soak in. You are just a joy. You smile often (just check out the HappyConnorC hashtag on Instagram for proof!...Will all those hashtags still exist when you're 30 and one day reading this?? I hope so!) and you giggle delightedly. Your laugh is truly contagious. You wave hello and goodbye at anyone who will wave back. You have mastered clapping and you do it any chance you get, particularly for yourself when you stand all by yourself. You get the biggest smile on your face, clap excitedly, and just wait for someone to clap with you and say, "Yaaaaayyy!" You say "Mama" as clear as day, and sometimes, I think I hear you say "Dada," even if its not as clear yet. You crawl anywhere and everywhere, pull up on everything and cruise around furniture, along railings, and up steps. You can't make your way down yet, and have precariously tumbled a few times off the single step between NeeNee and PopPop's kitchen and family room. Who knew one little step could be so pesky!



And while you are happy most of the time, that's not to say you're never sad or angry. You're very strong willed. If someone takes something from you that you want (but can't have) or tells you no about something you're trying to do, you yell and screech and have even been known to throw your little body backwards in protest or lay face first on the ground. Oh, your toddlerhood is going to be awesome!


But, I am certain your happy, strong-willed nature will serve you well as the youngest of three boys. I have no doubt that you will never let your older brothers take advantage of you. At least I hope not. Speaking of your brothers, they both continue to love you tremendously. Ryan still dotes on you and loves being the biggest big brother who can truly help with you at times. He will often play with you in your crib in the morning while I am getting ready since there is really no "safe" place for you to play upstairs at NeeNee and PopPop's house. Zachary is beginning to realize that you can now get into his stuff and thus you're a bit of a bother to him at times, but overall, he sees you as his "baby Don-na" (he cannot say Connor well, despite the fact that he now talks up a storm!) whom he enjoys playing with and he loves being "the big helper in our family" as Daniel Tiger says. I love watching the two of you play together and lately Zach has been asking to "read" books to you and it is so cute to see him make up stories as he turns the pages in books for you. I've told you this before, and I'll say it again: Your brothers will never be replaced. They are your first friends. They will one day be the only other people who remember your childhood. Cherish them. Love them. Forgive them. Call them (no, texting is not the same. Don't let anyone say it is. Pick up the phone. Hear each other's voices, and check in!). Enjoy them.



We've been busy the past few months not only with packing and moving out of our home, but also with fun. We went on your first ever full family vacation just two days after moving out of our house and into NeeNee and PopPop's house. The timing was terrible (we'd planned this vacation long before we ever knew we'd be selling our house!), but we still had a blast. Together with NeeNee, PopPop, Uncle John, Auntie Cindy, Uncle Mark, Auntie Catharine, Caitlin, Julia, and James we all stayed in a gorgeous big beach house in Bethany Beach, Delaware. You saw the Ocean for the first time, tried to eat the sand, rode a carousel for the first time, went swimming in the pool in our backyard daily, and just generally were a pleasant little guy to be around despite all the many changes that were going on in all of our lives (I don't think you had any idea where "home" was at that time). You had your moments, but for the most part you thoroughly enjoyed having all your brothers, cousins, uncles, aunts, and of course beloved NeeNee and PopPop all within such close proximity. We made many very special memories and had a blast!






Connor, you are so very, very, very loved, and I hope you never, ever forget that. We have so enjoyed you being in our life for the past 10 months and we can't wait to see what the next 1,000 months have in store!

Happy 10-Month Day!

Love,

Mama




Thursday, July 23, 2015

Just Eat Your Pancakes

If you are a parent and spend any time on the Internet, you have certainly come across the drama that ensued when a small child in a diner in Portland, ME was being loud and the owner lashed out and yelled directly at the child. There is of course a lot of back and forth going on. But, there are a few things we know for certain, as the diner owner hasn’t disputed them, or said so directly:
  1. The owner yelled directly at the child…who was not even 2. 
  2. The owner referred to the child on her Facebook page as “it” and a “beast.”

I think based on those facts alone we can agree that the owner of the diner has some, well, let’s be nice and just say “issues.”

The Washington Post has since published a response from the Mom of the child (you can read it here).  She paints a picture of a normal 21 month old, who was getting antsy as she had to wait a long time for an easy breakfast (three pancakes). She explains that it was raining, and that is why they didn’t take the child out of the restaurant, and instead decided to try to eat as quickly as they could and then leave. Honestly, I don’t really care what happened. What I care about are the reactions that people have had to this mother. In the comments section the parents are being made out to be monsters who should be “sterilized” and the diner owner is a hero.  One commenter said taking a child who is tired and hungry out in public is “child abuse.” Another said the mom is a “self-centered jerk.” I’m sure worse things have been said, but I only scanned the first page of comments (and there were at least 300 more pages to go).

I would love to meet all these perfect parents who feel that they can be so easily judgmental of a parent they have never before met. If so many parents have such perfect children, then the future is certainly bright! But a parent of perfect children, I’m certainly not one of them.

I have three boys ages 5, 2, and 9 months. And until recently I would say they were fairly well behaved almost all the time. Even in restaurants. But, we recently moved. And the creatures who have invaded my children’s’ bodies and taken over have given me the biggest dose of humility I have ever been given.

See, we didn’t just move. That makes it sound simple. No, we sold the only home my three children have ever known. Before selling we somehow managed to keep the house in pristine condition 24 hours a day for three weeks (yes, I know we were lucky it was only three weeks) while it was listed for sale. During this time the boys certainly weren’t able to play and make messes as easily in our house, as we had to be able to clean up and leave on a moment’s notice. The level to which they picked up on all of this was evident when my mom was babysitting and my two year-old said, “I dusting so we can sell house.” (No, I never made them dust. But, he was pretend-playing and had CLEARLY picked up on a lot.)

We purchased a new home to be built. But that home won’t be ready until the end of October. We moved out of our house and into my (very generous and gracious) parents’ house on July 2nd. On July 4th we headed to the beach for a week-long vacation with my entire extended family (parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, and nephew) that had been planned long before we ever decided to sell our home. So, in 2 days time my boys were living in three different homes. I don’t think they had any clue where “home” was.

Clearly, they’ve been through a lot of change in a short amount of time, and it has been hard. Really, really hard. I’m a Social Worker. I’ve tried to prepare them, and help them understand, and cope as well as possible. But, when a little kids’ world turns upside down, well, they act out. Out of fairness to my children I’m not going to air their dirty laundry and tell any of their acting out stories. But, there are definitely some people in Bethany Beach, DE who probably think my kids are brats (for the record, they’re not) and I’m pretty certain my parents think I’m the worst Mom in the world given the way my kids have been behaving over the last few weeks. (Sorry, Mom and Dad! I swear they’re not normally like this…Really! They aren’t!)

All of this is to say that yes, I may be a little sensitive to the plight of a mom with an acting out toddler right now. But I hope that even before parenting these children who are so not my children that I would have been more understanding and non-judgmental to the mom of the 21-month old in the diner in Portland.



The whole time I read about this Diner Debacle I kept thinking of the quote that says something like, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about,” (which has been attributed to anyone from Ian Maclaren to Plato).  I’m not saying that my move is a battle, or that the parents in the diner were fighting a battle (the mom doesn’t mention one in her Washington Post response, but it’s certainly her prerogative to keep it private if she was). But, that diner owner didn’t know that! The harsh commenters don’t know that.  When did we as human beings stop giving each other the benefit of the doubt?  Especially, as fellow parents, who have been in the trenches with tiny dictators, we should know that parenting is HARD…so hard. Even when not fighting any particularly difficult battle, sometimes, parenting is a battle in and of itself. We should want to support our fellow parents and help them out, not break them down and berate them for responding in a less than ideal way to a typical toddler.  

And to people who don’t have children, please, just keep your mouth shut. Parenting is truly one of those things that unless you’ve done it, you have no place judging those who have. And even those who have done it, have no right to judge, because, remember: hidden battles.

 As I mentioned, I’m a Social Worker. I’ve spent my career working with really, really sick kids. I always think about these kids when I see children having a hard time out in public. Even when a child is really sick, they still want to be normal. Their families still want to do normal things, like, eat out at restaurants. You never know if the tantruming child at the table next to you is the sister of a child who is hospitalized and possibly dying. You never know if the little boy whining and crying in the booth across the restaurant just spent the past 60 days in a hospital for chemo or radiation or surgery, and upon discharge asked to go to his favorite restaurant. His parents probably knew it was a bad idea. But what parent isn’t going to grant that simple wish to their brave child?


So, let’s stop judging. Let’s start helping. Be that parent who brings a toy you have in your diaper bag over to the tantruming child to try to distract them. Be the parent who catches the eye of the frustrated parent and mouths, “Been there. Done that,” and smiles. Be the stranger, who doesn’t have children, who makes a paper airplane and sails it over to the child with a note that says, “smile.” (Yeah, that sounds cheesy, but I bet the kid would stop crying!). Be a helper. Or, at the very least, don’t be a hater. Don’t spew anger and judgment. Remember when you’ve been at your worst and how you’ve made mistakes, and acted in ways that you regret? Then imagine you’re 2 and don’t have a fully developed brain, and can’t process emotions effectively. And remember that when parents are stressed out and embarrassed they sometimes make poor decisions and can’t think straight and decide to just try to scarf their food down as quickly as possible instead of immediately removing their kid from the restaurant. If eating in a diner—come on, this was NOT Le Diplomat (if you live in DC and haven’t been….GO!) This was a casual diner. The kid could not have been disturbing that many people—just take a deep breath, relax and enjoy your pancakes.