Figuring out how to let life win sometimes

I constantly feel the pull of work vs. life. It’s a strong one, but luckily work allows life to win as often as it can.

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One such example was Friday, when I was able to take the morning off to be a chaperone for my son’s first field trip. I had about two weeks left of work before maternity leave and at least a month’s worth of work, the only other reporter in my department was on vacation and my editor was doing her best to prepare to be gone for a week of vacation herself. But without hesitation she said, “Go, take the time off. Have a great time and be careful!”

Not only are my co-workers pretty accommodating, they all are a bunch of mother hens to this pregnant chick.

I’m not sure if Miles will remember moments like this in 10, 20 or 30 years, but I know I certainly will.

When I heard that St. Theresa’s preschool through second grade would be taking a field trip (Miles’ first-ever) I quickly asked his teacher if they needed any chaperones. I’m not sure if they really did, but thankfully the kind Mrs. Bartley graciously said, “Of course,” giving me permission to tag along.

The students all piled onto a big yellow school bus, another first for Miles. We talked about that part of the field trip the night before because I wanted him to be prepared. I was trying to squash any potential fears of doing something different. But there was nothing even remotely scary about the school bus, well unless you count the frighteningly ridiculous number of times he asked about when he got to ride it between bedtime Thursday and school drop off Friday morning.

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All the parents were to meet the kids and the bus at the destination — Goebel’s Farm in rural Vanderburgh County. I was anxiously waiting outside of my car, camera in hand, to catch the bus pulling in and Miles descending the steps. Of course life happens and the bus was about an hour late. I made the best of it and pulled out my laptop and whipped out a story while I was waiting. (See, work won there!)
When he hopped down the steps with his teacher’s help the smile on my guy’s face was visible from across the parking lot. He spotted me and started to run toward me.

“Mommy!”

Gah! That sound of pure joy and glee at seeing me. That has got to be one of the best sounds and feelings in the world. We all filed inside and learned about how pumpkins were grown, the difference between the different kinds and even met a chicken. It was fun to see Miles interact with the other students and for the other teachers to tell me how sweet and cute our little dude is, reassuring to hear because you always wonder how well behaved they are when you aren’t around.

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The whole group piled onto a straw ride (it wasn’t hay, we learned) out to the pumpkin patch where we got to traipse around all the growing pumpkins. It was magical watching Miles discover things he found, hearing him excitedly proclaim his discoveries of “punkins.” The group headed back to the main farm, home to the amazing barn slide. We’d gone to Goebel’s a few times last year and spent quite a bit of time playing on the barn slide.

Mrs. Bartley picking out the class' pumpkin.

Mrs. Bartley picking out the class’ pumpkin.

This thing is no joke. It’s pretty high up and has some challenging steps to tackle. Last year, when Miles was still just 2, he definitely couldn’t navigate his way around up there alone and Michael and I took turns going up and down with him. But with the whole class lining up to go up the slide I thought Miles would be OK. So my nearly 37-week pregnant self decided to watch from the ground with some of the other teachers and parents who skipped the slide.

But after Miles made it all the way to the top, I saw him coming back down with one of the teachers. He was too scared to do it by himself and wanted his momma. Heart melts, of course, and I quickly start to climb the stairs with him. When I get to the top a parent and teacher exchange glances with each other and then eye my now pretty obvious baby belly.

“Are you sure you should be doing this?” one of them asks.

I laugh, “What, go down a slide pregnant with my son? Of course I should do it!”

So Miles and I zoomed down the slide.

What a fun morning. It was just a few hours but it was full of memories and moments I’ll treasure. I’m not sure how many field trips I’ll make, but I’m hopeful I can do at least one a year. I’m grateful to have a kiddo that is happy and proud to have me tag along and an employer who values the importance of family time.

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‘Reconsider’ your decision

There are days that I struggle to find a blog topic. Today I have about four swimming around in my head. But this one, the one where I ponder the letter I just received suggesting I quit my job and pull my son out of preschool, well it made its way to the top.

I want to stress that I really do appreciate this reader’s feedback for a number of reasons — it tells me people are actually reading (yippee), it gave me a chance to once again examine why we’ve made the schooling decisions we have, it’s renewed my confidence in those decisions and it gave me something to blog about.

Every couple weeks my editor will choose one of these blogs to run in the newspaper as a column. She chose to run the blog I wrote about being anxious about Miles’ first day of school on our education page just before school started for the two large public school systems. In the column I talked about my free-spirited little guy who loves to play with trains on the floor with no pants on, and who’s favorite activity is to run around screaming random nonsense.

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The letter-writer was well spoken and even signed her name. And she was far from mean or ugly (which sometimes people can be.) And I get when you write about this kind of stuff for a public audience you are totally putting your decisions, emotions, family and all that stuff out there for the public eye and scrutiny. And it isn’t a one-way street. I don’t just shout it all out into an empty void (at least I hope I don’t!)

I appreciate hearing feedback, even when it isn’t just a good ol’ pat on the back or, “I totally have been there.” So I welcome this feedback; it’s just kind of jarring. And I’m still processing it all.

The writer pleads for my husband and me to “reconsider” our decision to send Miles to preschool. Instead of doing that, I should quit my job to be at home with him.

“If you feel that Miles needs to start learning — he will do it the best sitting next to his mother — snuggled up reading a book, and then when he has sit (sic) as long as he can — he can get back to playing with his trains, running and screaming not expected to sit quietly a few hours a week, four days a week.”

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We spend LOTS of time snuggled up reading books. We do this at least every night at bedtime, and he sits snuggled up to his FATHER reading books throughout the day as well. And he isn’t expected to sit quietly for those three hours a day, four days a week he is at school. They have recess, they have center play, they go on “color scavenger hunts,” they have a castle complete with dress up clothes for pretend play and there is even a train set there! But in the midst of that play he is getting exposed to other children, a lot of dialogue, the concept of listening to someone other than mom and dad and exposure to some organized learning and structure.

The letter-writer goes one:

“Boys are barely able to do that (referring to sitting quietly) when they are 5 and in kindergarten — there is plenty of time for him to learn — there is no scientific proof that pre-school is advantageous — much more important for him to be at home learning with his mother.”

I think it is important for my child (the only child I’m making educational decisions for right now) to be exposed to some structure and order before “real school” starts. Ideas like lining up, sitting in a circle, being responsible for his backpack and other simple lessons could be taught at home before a child enters kindergarten I’m sure. But the idea of doing those in a setting outside of the home, for someone else and with a classroom of peers is hard to replicate inside one’s home.

And the concept of home schooling is one that I think is great. And I’m sure it works really well and is amazing for a lot of families. But for us, it just isn’t the best option or fit. I work outside of the home, a necessity for our family. We are lucky that my husband is able to stay home with Miles and soon our second son but he does a lot of work from home. That schedule just doesn’t work for home school. Plus, I just don’t think it is something that would be a good fit for my husband (or me, if I was able to quit my job.)

The letter-writer says, “Miles will be expected to act in ways that are beyond his capabilities.”

That just isn’t true. He’s been in school for four weeks now and with the exception of one, “Miles had a difficult time listening” note his teacher has had nothing but great things to say. Her words are the exact opposite of this prediction actually where the teacher has said he has exceeded expectations and is doing wonderfully.

Keep reading (and responding!)​

Day off from school

This week Miles protested going to school every single day. He screamed, he cried, he even ran from Michael throwing himself into the grass declaring, “I don’t like school!”

Today, his day off from school, he wakes up excitedly at 6:15 a.m. (30 minutes earlier than I had to drag him out of bed every other day this week) saying, “I can’t wait to go to school!”

Seriously kid?

When I informed him that today was NOT a school day, that’s when the tears started falling.

Hey, at least he’s mixing it up!

I am far from wishing away time and moments with my little guy who I love SO very, very much. But I’m going to put it right out there — I’m wishing away the tantrums! They can go the way of the doo-doo (is that the old cliché), and I won’t protest a bit.

Here’s to the weekend full of promise and fun times. Hopefully he’ll wake up all smiles tomorrow and declare, “I get to spend ALL DAY with Mommy!”

Have a great weekend.

 

And the prize for the first preschool puker goes to … my kid!

Wednesday, as Miles and I were rushing to make it to school on time — it doesn’t matter what time I get up or get him up, 7:45 a.m. always creeps up on us — my little guy seemed fine. Not a single complaint or whine. He barely touched his breakfast, but that isn’t all that unusual.

I lift him up into his car seat and start to buckle him in when he looks at me with a bit of a pained expression.

“My back hurts,” he says with a whine and a squint.

My first thought isn’t, “Oh no, what’s wrong with him.” It’s, “oh crap, my big ol’ pregnant, sore self must be whining too much. I have got to cut that out!”

I make sure he’s not sitting on anything and say, “You’ll be OK. Let’s go to school!” and buckle him up. We drive the two blocks to his school, and he hops out of his seat, grabs his backpack and runs up the sidewalk like he does every other morning. We smile to the woman holding the door open and make our way down the hall to Miles’ classroom.

About four steps in he grabs on to my legs and starts to whine.

“Mama, don’t leave. I want to stay with you ALL DAY LONG!”

Note the ever important ice cream bucket.

Note the ever important ice cream bucket.

I keep moving across the classroom with him attached to my left leg and hang up his backpack on the rack. I look at the teacher who seems as puzzled as me at his clinginess this morning. He’s been going to school for three weeks now and not once has he even acted like he notices I leave, let alone does he seem affected or upset by it.

I kneel down, “Honey, I love you but I have to go to work and you have to go to school. It’s story time. That’s exciting! Daddy will pick you up soon, and I’ll see you tonight. I love you.”

The whines quickly turned to tears (real-live wet tear drops) and then tears to screams as I peeled him from my leg, and with a heavy (and somewhat concerned) heart I left the classroom. I could hear his shouts, “No, mama come back,” as I walked down the hallway.

ACK! It was terrible.

I went to work and did my best to put the thoughts to the back of my mind as I worked on finishing up a story and made a few phone calls for future stories. A co-worker was at my desk and we were mid-conversation when I see my cellphone flashing, “St. Theresa’s School.” Uh-oh!

I apologize and pick up the phone.

“Miles threw up in the classroom.”

“Eww that’s gross” and “Aww, my poor boy,” are the thoughts running simultaneously through my head. I call to alert Michael (who is much closer) and he retrieves our poor, sick kiddo.

After I know he’s home and is OK, just feeling terrible and pukey, I can start the inevitable, “You’re a terrible mom” guilt trip. Sigh. Will it ever go away.

“How did you not know he was sick?” “How could you leave the school when he was screaming for you?”

You get the picture.

Miles spent most of the day sleeping and whining about his tummy hurting. “I need to get the pukies out but I can’t.” Michael had him all set up with fluids, his blanket, “the real Thomas” (aka trains on YouTube) streaming on the television and an ice cream bucket from the recycle bin, just in case.

At one point Michael thought Miles was fast asleep, and he went to move the bucket to the side.

“No Daddy I NEEEEED that bucket.”

When I got home there was lots of snuggles and a few tears when the stomach cramps hit him. But by 9 p.m. whatever it was that had hit him had seemed to have left and the kid scarfed down some toast, blueberries and even an egg. He was asleep by 10 and when he woke up this morning he seemed fine.

So, the moral of the story — eh, I don’t know. I certainly can’t panic over every little complaint of an ache or a pain. Maybe the biggest lesson learned was the importance of the ice cream bucket. Yep, that’s it.

Not listening … my son, never!

Today when my husband picked Miles up from preschool he gets pulled aside by one of the school staff that helps with the drop-off/pick-up routine every day.

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“Miles had an especially difficult time listening today,” she said. I have no idea what the tone was as I wasn’t there and Michael doesn’t have a great brain for those kinds of details. But in my imagination it was pretty disappointing. Oh wait, no, it was ominous.

Dum, dum, DUM! *Insert suspenseful music here*

OK, let’s get real. The kid is three. Like just turned three. Actually, during the open house last week I learned from the teacher that this year is unusual as many of the kids are on the young side of three (although Miles is by far the youngest having only turned three nine days before the first day of school.) Most years the preschool class there is filled with kids who are either three and almost four or already four. So she admitted that things weren’t going as smoothly as normal.

I certainly want my little guy to listen. I want him to contribute to the classroom and not be a distraction. But I’m not really sure how you achieve that. We talk about the importance of listening. We try to practice it at home (trust me, we ask him to listen A LOT!) But what more can you do? What other strategies are there out there for “encouraging” listening.

We model listening giving him lots of opportunities to talk and to really be heard by my husband and me. And we certainly point out when he interrupts someone while talking and ask him to listen.

But again, he’s three. And a spirited, strong-willed, stubborn-at-times three at that. He is my child after all! My mom keeps apologizing to me for “cursing” Michael and me with a kid that apparently is just like me when I was a kid.

I don’t want to “squash” his spirit. But I do want him to be a productive and active part of the classroom, not a distraction. Advice for strategies to meet in the middle? What have you seen with your kids? What’s worked? What was a flop? Any teachers out there want to give me advice from your perspective?