Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Scared School-less

As adults, many of us don't deal well with change, whereas children are known to be flexible and more adaptable. But when your child bucks change and seems to be diving head first into frustration and despair, you can literally feel your heart break.

I had the idea to help Liam transition into Pre-K by participating in a day camp program held at the same school he will be attending in September. It boasts fabulous, fun-filled days with two field trips each week. I envisioned him meeting new friends, discovering new places, becoming used to the new commute and getting to the know the teachers and school staff—then skipping off to his first day of Pre-K filled with confidence and happiness.

Well… it was messy… a bit of an adjustment….. OK OK, it was an EPIC FAIL.

Because I can't help myself and feel the need to be positive, I will say that yes, he did get used to the new commute and stopped the seemingly endless cycle of dragging his feet down the sidewalk, then running wildly into traffic. But every other moment was flat-out misery.

Evenings were filled with tears, anger, talking back and total anxiety—I don't want to go to camp. He would wake up during the night because something on a field trip to the seemingly harmless Children's Museum of Manhattan terrified him—I don't want to go on field trips any more. Then most mornings it would be a resigned acceptance that he was going back to camp, except on the days that I pulled out the field trip camp shirt—screams echoed through the building as we tried our best to reassure him the indoor jungle gym they were going to wouldn't be frightening.

Many times I spoke with the teachers—how is he doing? Is he meeting people? Is he having good days?
I heard: He is a smart boy. He is starting to understand the rules. He is very, very loud. He plays well alongside the other kids. He has had some time outs….
What I didn't hear: He is making friends. He is happy.

As a parent, we all think our child is amazing and I know that while I love my kid, not everyone else in the world feels the same way (although they should, ha!) It's just that this summer I felt like Liam was changing, for the worse and no one at camp seemed to notice. To me, it looked like they saw an oversensitive, sometimes hyper, possibly even difficult little boy. Whereas from my (very one-sided) mommy-point-of-view, I was seeing that he lost his confidence, he lost his stride, he lost his joy.
I started to get really upset about it. I contributed to my son's unhappiness… How could I do this?

Camp finally ended for the summer and he is back at daycare full-time until school starts. He is happy to have the break from camp, but now every day is filled with: No Pre-K. I don't want Pre-K. I'm not going to Pre-K. 

I have been feeling very unsure how to handle it (and quite frankly a little lost and overwhelmed) but the other day I had a good, productive conversation with his provider where I finally started to understand why he was so miserable.

The things that make Liam so wonderful are his creativity, his imagination and his free spirit—sometimes these attributes are not exactly classroom-material. I know the teachers this summer had a plan to help get these children ready for school—a plan that included learning to follow rules, something my little eccentric has never been good at.

As a mom who loves her boy, I yearn for him to live in a world of his choosing, where he doesn't have to conform structure if he finds that uncomfortable, but as an adult I know that following the rules is part of life. As much as I wish I could act on every creative whim, I need to go to work or make dinner or clean the bathroom. But, I am just not ready for him to feel like that. I don't want to see his openness and originality compromised. And I am afraid he will lose that slightly-fragile, slightly-flawed artist nature that makes him so special.

School is just a few weeks away… Any advice on how to reinforce that school comes with rules while celebrating and encouraging out-of-the-box thinking?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friendship Never Says Goodbye

Boys, buckets and the Beer Garden
This morning I had a conversation with Liam and it went something like this:
N: You are such a big, smart boy, in a couple of weeks you'll be starting Pre-K for school.
L whispers: Wow…
L: Pre-K? With Elliott? I want to go to Pre-K with Elliott, he is my best friend.
N: How about we have some more breakfast and talk about Pre-K later.

I am not proud of changing the subject because I believe in being honest with my kids, but I couldn't break his heart today…

He is not going to Pre-K with Elliott for two big reasons.
ONE: Liam is going to a different school. The place where he has been attending camp for the last very long, borderline torturous weeks. {You see, he doesn't like camp, like at all. It will be a topic for my next post, so get excited or start dreading it, whatever works for you.}
TWO: Elliott and his incredible family are moving to NC.

I know this is going to be tough on him, my heart is heavy already at the thought of our friends moving miles and miles away, but I also know that Liam may not "get it" for a while. The boys have been attending separate camps this summer, so while we haven't seen Elliott and Co. on a regular basis like we did when they attended daycare together, we have been lucky enough to have spent a lot time with them.

And I know Liam. I know he will want play dates. I know he will ask to go to our favorite places with their family. And I just know he will cry and be confused every time I tell him they moved, well at least the first 700 times he inquires.

So each and every time, I will tell him that's OK to be sad, it's OK to cry. I will tell him to remember all the fun they had in NY and how we have a great new place to visit. I will tell him that we can talk on the phone and maybe even get a tour of Elliott's new home on Skype. I will tell him that he will meet new friends, but that no one can take Elliott's place in his heart. I will tell him that friendship never says goodbye.
And I will try to remember that myself.

To our friends, we say good luck, wishing safe travel and total happiness as they start their new adventure. And we are already looking forward to your first visit back to NY!

Want to know why Liam loves his friend Elliott, click here to read a past blog about these two boys.

Friday, August 9, 2013

My Last Baby

Caking eating, in four parts
When I was pregnant, people would ask, "is it your first? Your second?" And with a laugh, I would reply, "this is my last."

But all joking aside, we hoped, dreamed and planned to be a party of four, so Connor is our last baby—and I can't believe it, but he turned one year last month.

Oh Little Connor, {as Liam calls you}

I feel myself trying to slow down to enjoy everyday moments. You are in too much of a rush to grow and I shouldn't try to stand in your way, but I'm having a hard time letting go because after all you are my last baby.

The first time we met, I felt my heart explode. It was such a calm birth, very unlike when we welcomed your brother—the nurse put you on my chest and you were already so chubby, a little ball of perfection. I remember feeling a moment of peace and knew our family was complete, who knew there could be so many true loves in my life—your Daddy, your brother and you, my last baby.

The early weeks were tough on all of us, you screamed until you were purple, morning and night, there was little we could do to comfort you. But in time {and with specialized formula,} we saw your first smile and discovered you were actually a happy guy who was desperately trying to greet the world with smiles and laughter, my last baby.

You meet each moment with the wisdom of someone who has been here before and doesn't want to waste time on the mundane, like pureed food or baby toys. You are always ready for the big time, waving dimpled hands in the air demanding to be adored, my last baby.

You may be the world's fastest crawler, we even had to fashion kneepads out of Daddy's old socks to protect those pudgy knees. And now you're not only walking but running, totteling around like a unhinged tilt-a-wheel squealing with delight, my last baby.

But you have yet to sleep through the night and you throw the most wall-melting tantrums I've ever seen, which has me terrified for the terrible twos or threes, hurling yourself onto the floor and wailing at the mere mention of the word "no." It would hurt my heart if you didn't look so absurd, your little face sneaking peeks between tears to make sure we're watching, my last baby.

You haven't spoken any words yet, but you chat all day long, parroting everyone's inflections. And when you achieve a great feat {like climbing onto your brother's bed} you bellow the longest, wildest scream and bang on your chest like a warrior, you're our own personal champion for trouble, my last baby.

I still rock you and sing softly because I know the time will come when you won't want your Mommy to lullaby you to sleep, so I cuddle and coo with you, even at 3AM, savoring your sweetness, my last baby.

When you laugh, we can't help but crack up. When you cry, our hearts break too. When you smile, you light our world. And as you grow, we feel our family strengthen.
There are still so many more firsts for you, and lasts for us to enjoy. And we can't wait to celebrate each and every one of them with you, our last baby.