A Lesson for Blake or a Lesson for Me?

So today was one of the hard Mama moments in life.  Blake, who is now 5 years old, had made a decision that he did not want to go to school this morning.  It may have had something to do with the fact that we had to take down his blanket fort in order to have his room cleaned.  It may have had something to do with a long weekend full of fun and family and food.  Or it may just have been that he didn’t want to go to school.

I literally (LITERALLY) had to drag him out from under his bed (damn you, MALM bed from IKEA for having such a perfect hiding spot for children built right into you!).  He whined.  Kicked.  Whimpered.  He didn’t want any part of going to school.  He wouldn’t put on his shoes.  He wouldn’t put on his jacket.  We were late so my patience was growing thin.  I tried reasoning.  I explained that part of being a kid is to go to school.  Mommy and Daddy go to work, you go to school.  This is where you learn new things, play with your friends, and have fun experiences.

There was nothing I could say or do that was going to make school look any better to him today.

When we arrived at school, he dragged his feet to the kindergarten spot.  He put up every resistance.  Gave me every reason why he shouldn’t have to go to school, namely being that he just didn’t want to.  And that is when it started.  The tears.  The large, pleading tears and a quivering lip with the words “Mama, I just don’t want to go.  I don’t like it.  I don’t want to go to school.”

My heart broke.  He brought me to my knees just like that.

I looked up to see one of his kindergarten teachers at the gate.  I smiled, despite the feeling of my stomach hitting the ground, and quietly explained that Blake was having a rough start to his day and didn’t want to be at school.  At this point, the tears were streaming down his cheeks.  She smiled back, with an understanding nod, and got down to his level.

“Blake, tell me about Thanksgiving.  Tell me how your weekend was!”

Nothing.  He didn’t look at her.  He just kept quietly crying.  I could tell he was trying to hide it.  Trying not to show his friends that he didn’t want to be here.  Trying not to show how vulnerable he was at that moment.  So hard for a little guy who is quiet to begin with.

“Blake, why don’t you come with me.  We’ll walk together to our room.”  She gently took his arm, trying to reach for his hand.  But he just kept looking at me with wide eyes that were welling over.  He reached out for me and grasped my legs, almost pinching them in desperation to not go to his classroom.

And at this point, I became a Mom puddle.  I got down at his level, gave him a big hug.  Partly to comfort him and partly so that he wouldn’t see how upset I was.  He wouldn’t let go.  He pleaded with me to not make him go.  Asked me to let him stay with me for the day.  The tears kept flowing, and he choked them back.  I swallowed hard.

said “Blake, it’s going to be okay.  You need to go to school today and I’ll see you at dinnertime.  Daddy will pick you up at the end of the day.  You’re going to be okay.  I love you but I have to go.”  

And I stood up.  It took every ounce of strength to take a step back from him.  He looked up at me, defeated.  He knew he was going to school.  He slowly turned, still crying, and walked with his teacher, who knew that this was just as painful for me as it was for him.  But Blake didn’t know that.  I’m sure he just thought I didn’t care enough to bring him home.  But what he doesn’t yet realize is that I care too much to bring him home.  It’s such a fine line that I walk sometimes.  That line drawn between wanting to embrace them through every hard lesson and stepping back, allowing them to learn the lesson on their own.

I watched as he walked to the class.  His shoulders were forward, his head down.  The conversation in my head was just as difficult as watching him walk away.

“Would he be okay?  Will they call if he’s still upset?  Will anyone make fun of him for crying?  Does he know I love him?  Is he mad at me right now?”

I made my way back to my car and texted my girlfriend, a mom of two boys.  She put me at ease, kind of.  We all have those moments, she assured me.  It feels really, really awful.  Like shitty awful.  Feeling like a bad mom.  Feeling like I’m not able to be there for my son.  Feeling like I’ve let him down.

I kind of got over it.  I went to the gym.  I got my grocery shopping done.  Tom got home and over lunch I told him what had happened.  It was still gnawing at me.  I hadn’t heard from the school so I’m sure he was fine but that uneasy feeling of now knowing how he was wouldn’t go away.  And then my phone rang and the name of the school was on the caller ID.  It was his teacher, calling to reassure me that while he was incredibly quiet, waiting for the bell to ring, once inside he was himself.  He was talking with his buddies.  He answered questions about his weekend.  He was back to being Blake.

I know these lessons in life are as important for me as they are for my kids.  I just disliked going through this one as much as Blake did.  I can’t wait to get home tonight, give him a big hug, and rebuild his fort.  I want to build the warmest, coziest, pillow and blanket fort we can. Because there’s a part of me that knows it will make both of us feel better.

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More from the mouths of little boys

So a few months ago I wrote this post about how Blake, our four year old, had some interesting ideas for how to play the game of Simon Says. Yup, that’s my son.

Fast forward a few weeks and Blake started kindergarten. For the most part he likes it. There are days he comes home and it’s like pulling teeth to find out what he has done in school that day. Other times he can’t stop talking about it. So I’ve had mixed feelings about his introduction to kindergarten because I’m not really sure what he thinks about it.

Last Friday I get a phone call from his teacher, stating that Blake has a stomach ache. I’m assured that he’s playing throughout the morning, but he had complained about a stomach ache multiple times. So, of course, I drive over to the school to find out what is going on and bring him home. I get to his classroom and his teacher greets me, explaining that Blake had said that his stomach “really really hurts” and as if to prove this to me, I look down at our four old and he looks up at me with sad eyes as he clutches his belly.

So, I get his bag, we head out to the car, and as we’re pulling out of the parking lot I look at Blake and ask him to tell me what was going on with his stomach. “How much does it hurt, bud?”

“Oh no, mommy. My stomach doesn’t hurt. I was just bored and wanted to come home.”

Classic. Foiled by a four year old. Already he’s mastered the art of truancy during the third week of Junior Kindergarten.

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P.S. Mr C – you have your hands full with this one over the next year.

 

When did you get so big?

Oh my sweet Blake.  You are four years old four and a half years old (sorry, I keep forgetting that).  I have been in a bit of denial this summer.  I found it so hard to believe that you were off to kindergarten in September.  And now that the day is here, its sinking in, in sort of an incredulous, hard to believe, but yet I’m so proud of you kind of way.

You and I hit it off right away.  Most moms kind of expect that, I suppose.  When it was announced you were a boy, I had a bit of a lump in my throat.  I was thrilled but also nervous.  Were there different rules with boys?  How do I teach you things?  Would you love your dad more than me?  And yet we were like peas and carrots, you and I.  Peanut butter and jelly.

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You stole my heart the first night.  And each day we’ve known each other, it gets better and better.  I have loved watching you explore, grow, and learn.  You are cheeky, with a quiet smile that let me know that you were aware of everything around you even though you didn’t always engage at first.  You were so sure of yourself, I was  amazed at your sweet inner spirit at such a young age.  And your laugh, oh your laugh.  It is infectious even to this day.  I wish I could bottle it.

You have given me so many amazing memories and so many life lessons.

The time, at 2 years old, you chose to play hide and seek in our backyard but not tell me.   Five minutes on the phone with 911, the police on their way, and there I found you wedged underneath the side porch.  You giggled and put your finger to your mouth and said “shhhhh”, just as we had taught you with the inside game.

The fact that you loved your Hallowe’en costume so much when you were 2 that you decided to wear it again when you were three.

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The hundreds of times that you tell me you’ll marry me and only me.  Until I was replaced by Maggie.  But that’s okay because I love that you love your mom and baby sister that much.

The way you insist on wearing your shirt and shorts backwards because “it’s better this way mom”.

How you announce yourself as you come downstairs in the morning by saying “Today is a new day mom!” or by yelling “yahooooo!” as you run around in your underwear.

Or most recently the time you played Simon Says at day camp and asked everyone to touch their privates.

How you melt my heart when you close your eyes at night as I sing you your favourite song.  And how you place your hand on my arm and whisper “good night, Mama, I love you.” before I leave the room.

You, my sweet Blake, already have made an indelible mark on this world.  You make everyone fall in love with you.  I can’t wait to see what becomes of you, what you choose to be when you grow up.  Whatever you choose to do, you will be awesome at it.  Whoever you choose to have in your life will have a richer life for it.

So, on your first day of kindergarten, have fun.  Know that yes, while I will be teary at the bus stop, I am so proud of you and so excited for your next adventure.  Your quiet nature will woo your teacher.  And when she experiences your feisty side, I hope it makes her smile.  She is a lucky teacher to have you in her classroom.

 

Back to School

First day back at school and I’m excited.  Thankfully Caleigh is still at the age where she is excited.  Case in point: I’m editing this blog at 5:15 this morning and guess who wanders downstairs to ask if it’s time for breakfast?  I know that feeling won’t last so for now, I’ll relish it.  We need some structure back in our life.  As great my plans were at the beginning of summer to keep my kids busy, by mid August those plans fizzled.  And for two weeks we’ve been stuck between the happy bliss of warmer weather (seriously, early August temperatures, what happened to you?!?!) and the boredom of later summer.

We’re coming off an epic Labour Day weekend.  We visited friends in Gatineau, Quebec who used to live in Barrie.  We try to get together with them yearly.  We packed a ton of amazing activities into a short three days.  On Saturday, we took in the Museum of Civilization, which also has a children’s museum.  If you’re ever in the Gatineau/Ottawa area, I highly recommend it for kids.  Ah-meh-zing.  That afternoon we also visited the Byward Market and Parliament Hill, which the kids quickly proclaimed a castle.  For the non-Canadians reading this, there is the “castle” aka Canada’s Parliament Buildings in the background.  You can see why the kids wanted to know which princess lived there.

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Sunday we went to the hot air balloon festival in Gatineau.  It was huge and loads of fun with a midway, performers, activities, and of course hot air balloons.  And because we had not done enough during the weekend, the kids played at a splash pad for an hour and a half in the afternoon.  The best part of this weekend?  Bedtimes definitely no later than 8PM and they slept until 8AM.  Which gave plenty of time for the adults to catch up, enjoy some wine, and then (admittedly) go to bed no later than 10 ourselves.

You know else what was lovely about this trip?  The family we visited is primarily French-speaking.  The parents, thankfully, speak both English and French so we could converse.  They smiled at my futile attempts to talk with their kids and then proceeded to translate for them.  Their kids though didn’t speak any English.  And of course, our kids didn’t speak any French.  But yet for three days the four older ones played without an argument, confusion, or challenge.  They used the universal language of play.  It was beautiful to watch.

So no we are back to reality.  Today Caleigh enters grade two.  It will be her first year without her best friend in her classroom and it makes her a bit nervous.  But honestly I think it will be good for her to assert her own self and create independence.  When asking about her day over dinner, it won’t start with “Well, Allison and I….”

It’s hard to believe she’s entering into her fourth year of school already.  I literally remember the first day of junior kindergarten like it was yesterday.

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That yellow bus taking off around the corner, with my three year old inside.  She was so excited with Allison by her side.  Two comrades.  I was a teary mess.  The red dress she was wearing was the same dress I wore on my first day of kindergarten.  She wore that red dress 80% of her days at school.  So much so that even the principal commented on it to me one day.

Then senior kindergarten.  Notice the red dress.  By November, she was on to wearing shorts over her pants because “I like shorts, mama”.  And of course, with shorts, you wear a t-shirt.  Which went over a long sleeved shirt.  Layers became her new fashion statement.

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Grade one.  She couldn’t wear the red dress because this year it didn’t fit.  But you bet it’s in the closet, ready for Maggie, if she so chooses (which not-so-secretly I really really REALLY hope she does).

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Caleigh is a free spirit.  A daydreamer.  Artistic.  She has motherly instincts, herding her brother and sister around and making sure they are okay.  She has this brilliant love for books.  She throws herself into journals and fills the pages with stories and drawings.  She creates imaginary friends, can disappear into her room on her own for hours, and loves to make up plays in our basement.  She questions everything, has vivid fears, and wants to understand the world around her.  She wears her heart on her sleeve and while that can come with emotional complications, I think its one of her greatest attributes.

If you ask her today she wants to be a part time chiropractor and part time ballerina teacher.  Which is funny because she took a 3 month ballet class when she was three but hasn’t taken any since.  But whatever she becomes, she will be great at it.  And I’m so grateful to have this not-so-wee-anymore being in my life.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

First day back at school!  I’m sure there are a thousand other blogger parents out there who are writing similar posts so I will keep this short and sweet.  It was a big day in our house as our daughter, C, was off to grade one.  This means all day, every day school versus the modified schedule of every other day the last two years.  New schedule, new teacher, new classroom, new backpack, new clothes….all the things that make the life of a five year old so exciting.

For me the exciting thing was the new lunchbox.  Yup, it doesn’t take much in my world.  We picked up a Laptop Lunchbox (BPA-free, easy to clean, and easy to pack by design meals into it!) at a great store,Parenting by Nature.  That was an adventure in itself (for me) as it was a natural parenting Graceland.  Great wooden Waldorf-inspired toys, colourful cloth diapers, non-toxic sunscreens and soaps, organic products….really, I could have spent much more time if I didn’t have a tired and hungry 3 year old hanging off my left leg.

The following pic is a taste of the By Design (paleo) lunch that I packed for C on her first day of school.  Apple sauce with cinnamon, carrot sticks, grapes, coconut flour zucchini muffincocoa sun butter balls (subbed in sunbutter for almond butter to make them nut-free school friendly), and rolled meats stuffed with avocado and tied with chives (the idea I totally stole from NomNom, thank you!).  The muffin definitely has a bit more maple syrup (I used honey) than I would normally use but on the path to becoming more “by design”, it’s a good step in the right direction.

Yesterday, while picking out her first day of grade one outfit, we had a really great heart to heart about the exciting changes she’ll experience.  I think as parents it’s easy to forget how overwhelming a new stage in life can be.  Not only is she going to school every day now but with a new teacher, new routine, and new classmates, there was some definite jitters that we contended with.

I certainly have a lot to learn about parenting (do we ever really know how to do everything well?!?) but helping them to find their inner greatness is something I enjoy being a (small) part of.  She is awesome – she is funny and smart, she loves to laugh, she is inquisitive, and while she comes off as shy in new situations, she just needs a few moments to find herself and get comfortable.  I can’t wait to see what becomes of her life and where it takes her.  Today it’s into Miss L’s grade one class and I truly hope Miss L sees her greatness too.