‘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.

 

Throwback Thursday

Way back then the hubby and I did actual touristy things every once in a blue moon. This trip to Memphis was our version of a one-day vacation. Most of our vacation time back then was spent driving up to Indiana from Louisiana to spend time with my family.

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These days most of our vacation time is spent driving down to Louisiana to see his family.

During those trip five or so years ago we would try to make an overnight stop midway somewhere different so we could have a little mini-vacay.

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This trip to Memphis in 2009 was a fun one. Here’s some of the memories from it. We look so young. And I still wear that shirt ALL THE TIME!

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ISO: Patience, tolerance and grace

This isn’t the first (nor will it be the last) time I talk about a need for patience and grace when it comes to my son. I love him; I love him so much I can’t even put it into words.

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He is precious; he’s sweet; he’s amazing; he teaches me something new every day; he brings the biggest smile to my face about a hundred times a day; he’s curious; he’s independent; he’s magical. I honestly cannot imagine life without him.

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But you know what, he’s also stubborn, cranky, fussy, loud, rambunctious, downright mean, disobedient and so, so, so obstinate.

That’s the reality of kids I suppose. Who am I kidding, that’s the reality of relationships with everyone — friends, parents, partners, co-workers — there’s a lot of beautiful but with it comes some painful and ugly too.

But when I have mornings like this one when nearly every moment I’m having to “take a deep breath and count to four” (thanks Daniel Tiger for the anger management technique) because I feel “so mad I want to roar” (yell really), it’s harder to see the sweet, loving, amazing kid and not focus on the cranky, fussy one I spent the last two hours with.

“I want Cubby’s coconut cereal!”

Seriously kid, what is Cubby’s coconut cereal? Obviously you’ve been watching too much “Jake and the Neverland Pirates.” I tried about everything we had in the kitchen (including cereal where I sprinkled coconut on top) and NOTHING satisfied this crazy, for real the kid was dead-set on Cubby’s coconut cereal, demand.

“I don’t want to wear clothes!”

Mmmm … well you have to. Am I being unreasonable? You can’t go to school, heck you can’t go anywhere, without clothes. Please, put them on. I don’t care what you wear; you just have to wear something. (He decided on pulling his fish socks ALL the way up to his knees, insisting, “They have to be bigger!”

“Daddy, you need to say you’re sorry!”

This was said with tears, desperate tears to be exact. Our morning routine is for Miles to go upstairs and wake his daddy up just before he goes to school. Miles crawled into bed with Michael and in his typical crazy, hyper fashion was playfully beating on Michael to get him up. Michael rolled away from Miles and accidentally (i.e. barely) elbowed his stomach, and Miles collapsed into tears.

“I need my rescue. I need it; I need it now!”

This, this was repeated at the highest volume possible for several minutes. His rescue is a particular train that happened to be in the basement. And this was in those last few “we’re running late for school” minutes of trying to get everyone out the door.

Some weeks we just have glimpses of that mean kiddo that kicks the furniture and then throws himself to the floor slamming his fists on the ground with a TV-style tantrum that I seriously didn’t think happened in real life until recently. And then other weeks I feel like the good night snuggles and “I love you Mommy!”s are few and far between.

Like everything, there are seasons. But during this season when this mama is dealing with a not-so-easy pregnancy the ability to stay cool, calm and collected during these major meltdowns and downright mean Miles moments is getting harder to come by. I don’t like to label parenting techniques/methods/styles or whatever you want to call it because we all are really doing the best we can for our family. But if I had to try to describe it, or put a name to it, the “peaceful parenting” method is closely what Michael and I follow when it comes to discipline with Miles.

We do our very, very best not to yell. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen because unfortunately it does. And our tone and volume of voice certainly changes as the situation changes. We also don’t use any kind of physical forms of discipline (hitting, spanking, etc.) When Miles was little redirection was the No. 1 method we used to try to change/correct misbehavior. These days we direct Miles to his bedroom for a timeout (or some other area if we are out of the house) where he can stay until he can calm down and apologize for the misbehavior.
But back to mornings such as today where from the moment he woke up he was screaming, crying or whining all the way to school I really, really, really have to work hard to find that peace that is coming harder and harder to come by deep down to practice our peaceful parenting.

So, here I am, nearly two hours after dropping the kiddo off at school still twitching a little. (OK, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but seriously, this stuff is exhausting.) And searching my dwindling reserves of patience and tolerance. But I’m reminding myself of the moments last night where he snuggled up in my arms and we rocked for a few minutes before he ran off in a bundle of energy.

Ah ha, that’s where I’ll find it. When I feel like I’ve got nothing left — no more energy, no more patience, no more grace — I’ll turn back to those catalog’s of the lovely, amazing, magical memories of my baby bear and I’ll get refreshed.

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What’s your renewal strategy?

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?

Checking in on school

Every day I ask my son, “How was school today? What did you learn.”

The answer is almost always the same, “It was fun; we played with trucks.”

Granted, the kid just turned three (nine days before his first day of school) so I don’t expect him to be crafting complicated multi-part thoughts. But I just keep hoping there will be a little more then, “trucks.” And I’m certainly hoping that his school day consists more than trucks and the occasional Goldfish cracker snack. But talking to him I’d think that was it.

I’ve tried to get a little more out of his teacher when I drop him off most mornings but she’s busy getting things ready for the day and tending to the other kids in the class.

So I’ve been left to my imagination and own thoughts — something that can be dangerous for a gal who tries her darnedest to always be “Little Miss Sunshine” and the queen of thinking the best of people and situations but can also be dragged into those dark corners of “worst case scenario.”

And our sweet little Miles hasn’t been so sweet at home these days as since he started school he’s been boycotting naps and even fighting us to go to bed at night. Being tired for most kids — certainly my kid — often equals cranky, fuss-bucket, melty-tantrum machine.

Here’s a few scenes from our house over the past two weeks:

Miles is hysterically crying because his train tracks won’t go together the way he’d like. I try to help him get the pieces together and ask him to please calm down and take some deep breaths. In between the screaming and throwing of train pieces Miles yells back to me, “I don’t like to breathe.”

At nap time Michael will get him all snuggled in bed after reading a pile of books and leave the room so Miles can get to sleep. Before Michael even hits the door’s threshold Miles is out of bed screaming about not wanting to go to sleep. Michael closes the door and tells Miles he needs to at least rest quietly in his room for a bit. The sound track of screams are soon joined by the sound of toys bouncing off his wooden door and protests of, “Rescue me! Rescue me!”

So yep, things at home have been a little rough. So I was concerned this kind of behavior was the same thing that was happening at school. Well maybe I wasn’t worried about toys being thrown, but I was certainly concerned that maybe he was being cranky or mean to the other kids and teacher.

Announcement of an upcoming parent meeting and open house last week eased my mind quite a bit; if he was acting that way we’d soon find out. We sat through a general presentation with a gym full of antsy kids and then were released to our children’s classrooms. It was fun to get to see the other kids and meet their parents but a huge relief to get to ask the teacher, “So, what’s it been like? How’s he doing.”

Talk about relief — “He’s doing great,” his sweet teacher told me.

“Really, or do you just say that to all the parents?” I asked tentatively.

“Really,” she replied with a laugh. “He’s thriving.”

And then she went on to tell me that many of the other kids is his class were also a VERY young three but that he’d been doing well, listening and had surprised her with his stellar color recognition skills. Now his actual coloring skills, those could use some work, she said with a smile.

Shew! OK. So I guess we can live with a few more weeks (hopefully it’s just days) or adjusting to the new routine and extra brain stimulation. I’m hopeful that this not so nice phase is short-lived and I get my sweet boy back any day now.

Tell me how your first few days of school have gone? How about things at home? Any suggestions for help with transition?

Dear Decaf,

How I love you.
Your big, bad, older brother caffeine has been on my “no-no” list for a while now. Still, until recent times I used to sneak away with him for the occasional dalliance here and there. I know that cheating on you, my dear friend, isn’t kind. But he’s just such a tease. Sometimes I can’t help but give into his temptations and join the “dark side.”
But in the last few weeks, I’ve dumped him and all his velvety, peppy taunts for you, decaf. You are a leaner, meaner, modified version of your brother. You don’t pack much of a punch, but I’ll take your robust flavor and placebo energy boost any time. It hasn’t been an easy transition, but I appreciate your efforts to be there for me each and every morning.
Years ago I’d become dependent on your brother but now am happy with my morning routine of an iced version of you, oh lovely decaf.
So thanks decaf for sticking it out with me. I promise my dedication to you won’t waver this time (at least until this little munchkin makes his arrival in about 60 days.)
Love,
Abbey