First Day of School!

Tomorrow is a big day of firsts: my first day at a new school, my son’s first day of Kindergarten, my daughter’s first day of 1st grade, and our first year of being together at school. I am so excited for this new adventure. In fact, I have been so busy preparing to start school tomorrow that I almost forgot to slow down and soak in the fact that this is MY SON’S FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN!! It’s funny because I just kind of take the kids with me everywhere, including up to school. It just seems natural that my son, in particular is coming with me on the first day of school, but tonight it all kind of hit me. As we were packing up the lunches, making sure our clothes were laid out and going over our morning routine, I realized just how excited he is to finally be going to school. I know that he is going to love it. He even got a call from his Kindergarten teacher tonight! (Wasn’t that sweet of her to call and check in on all of her Kinders?) I made her a lanyard for Noah to give her as a little thank-you for already being an amazing teacher!

DIY Lanyard

As we were getting things ready tonight, my son said, “Mom, every time I see you in the hallway tomorrow, I’m going to run over and give you a big hug!” Foreseeing the potential Kindergarten chaos that could ensue, I reminded him that he would need to follow his teachers directions, so he might not be able to run over and give me a hug every time he saw me. I said that maybe he could just wave at me instead, and he seemed ok with that. So tonight, as I was tucking him into bed, he grabbed my neck in a big bear hug and whispered into my ear, “Mom, I know I can’t give you a hug every time I see you at school, so I’m going to give you a really big hug now!” My heart melted. He knows how important my job is for our family, and he knows how important it is for him to follow directions at school. He has so much figured out already. I can’t wait to see what else he can teach me this year…

 

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Five years later

Mom

My brother just posted that August is a rough month for him. I know the feeling, but for me it started last month on my son’s birthday. He was born on July 3rd. She died on August 29th. The day after her birthday. This year will mark five years since she has been gone.

It’s always awkward when it comes up in conversation, but at least talking about it has gotten a little easier. The conversation veers to “my parents this, or my mom that” and I have to explain why I’m talking in the past tense. “My mom passed away five years ago.” Oh, I’m so sorry. “It’s ok”, I say. It really isn’t ok, but I always find myself comforting the other person. Shielding them from their uncomfortableness. I’m a fixer. It’s what I do.  How did she die?  “Colon cancer”, I say. I will probably say it even if they don’t ask, because I know that they want to know. I try to make the conversation less awkward. Like we are talking about the day’s events. No big deal. The conversation usually dies quickly, or changes course. No one wants to hear the details. It was Stage IV by the time they found it. She lived about 18 months after she was first diagnosed. That time was a whirlwind for me. The memories are like a comic strip of key events in my mind. The phone call. I was standing behind my house The first surgery. Chemo. The recovery. The back pain. The hospital. The second surgery. The respirator. The nursing home. The decision. Hospice. The final night. The funeral. I have a film reel of memories to fill in the gaps in between, but I think I’ll hang on to those. Nobody wants to hear about them, and I don’t really want to share them.

It has been hard being a mom without a mom. There are so many things that I want to ask her. Everyday things about parenting or life. I need advice on making the right decisions for my kids when it gets really hard. And there is no one to ask. I wonder what she put in her meatloaf, or how she made the clam chowder we had every Christmas. I want to ask her what she did when life got really tough because I know it did. Of course, I have still have my dad, and I love him very much, but talking to my mom was different. I used to call her whenever I had a few minutes (or an hour) to talk. While I was walking across campus or driving to the store. We would talk about nothing for hours, and never get bored. We could sit in silence. Anywhere. And be perfectly comfortable.

I miss her. I wish she was here to play with her beautiful grandchildren. They would love her. She would be the one that they asked for when they were mad or sad. They would say, “We want to go to Grandma’s!” I wouldn’t be upset because I would do the same thing.  They would spend weeks in the summer at her house making cookies and playing house. I wouldn’t have to worry about leaving them with someone I don’t know.

I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I don’t know how you did it.” I thought it was funny because I didn’t feel like I was doing enough. Five years ago, I had a newborn and a 2-year old, I was starting grad school, and making frequent hour-long trips to the hospital. You just do it because what else would you do? Give up? (I wanted to do that.)  Lay in bed and cry? (I did that some, too.) Mom’s can’t give up. They have things to do. I remember her apologizing for getting sick, like it was her fault or she was letting us down. Which was ridiculous because she was the strongest women I’ve ever met. I think the hardest thing for her to do was to say “no more”. No more treatments. No more chemo. No more. “I’m done.” Her body gave up, but she never did.

She taught me that even when life is hard, you keep going. You don’t give up. You push through. You fake a smile until you can put a real one on your face. You do everything you can to help other people, and you don’t ask for anything in return. You look for the best in people.

She taught me what it means to be a mom.

Operation: Avoid the Meltdown

grumpy to happy

Step 1:

The first step in this series of events will look familiar to anyone that has children. The Pout. As a parent, you know it well. You also know that there is a small window of opportunity to turn this pending disaster around.

Things that don’t work

  • Telling said child to stop pouting
  • Asking them what is wrong
  • Asking them what you can do to fix it
  • Asking them anything (avoid questions at all costs!!)
  • Trying to backpedal out of whatever you did to cause it in the first place
  • Ignoring the problem, unless you are REALLY good at ignoring (by now they know that they just need to make a bigger display to get your attention)
  • Sending them to their room until they come back with a less pouty face

No, this delicate situation calls for you to dig deep down into you bag of tricks. Now, I realize that some of you (ahem…elementary teachers) have mastered the art of “Operation: Avoid Catastrophe”, but I am not a natural in this area on child-rearing. It goes against everything instinct that I have. However, I have learned the hard way that “The Pout” needs to be handled with care last it manifest into “The Tantrum”, or worse “The Meltdown”.

Step 2:

The only way to avoid “The Meltdown” is to employ some serious parental slight-of-hand. Distraction is your friend. Tuck and roll. DO IT NOW! Don’t delay. Children find humor and silliness impossible to resist in most cases. Use whatever you can find even if it involves surrendering all personal dignity.

Step 3:

Once you have broken through “The Pout”, you need to keep the momentum going in the right direction. At this point it is safe to say you are in your child’s good graces again, but not totally out of the woods. Children are unpredictable little people that can backflip into “The Pout” faster than an olympic gymnast. Go in for the kill: snuggles and tickles.

Step 4:

By now your child has forgotten that they were even upset in the first place because they are having so much fun being the center of attention. Isn’t that what children do best? Of course it is! As you can see, my little princess is happily posing for the photos that she was desperately trying to avoid just moment before.

What is the craziest thing you have ever done as a parent to regain control of a bad situation?