4th Grade

Believe me, I know. Fourth already? There’s nothing like the passing of another birthday for your child that makes you reckon with the passing of time. Her ninth birthday is looming and I can’t count the number of people who have said “I can’t believe it, nine already? She was just a baby!” Don’t I know it.

I have lots of things to say about fourth grade but this post is really about the passing of years and the ending of third, in particular. RR attends a Montessori school and the children are grouped into classrooms spanning three grades. She has progressed in the same classroom since she was 5, with the same teacher, and the same children. This year’s crop of first graders has been a particularly enjoyable experience for RR, who is young for her age and happily plays with and teaches the smaller set.

Her teacher has been a compassionate, attentive, kind, funny person who has taken RR’s same traits and helped them flourish. She’s one of the most calm and thoughtful people I’ve met and I know for certain that we can thank her for helping RR’s personal space bubble evolve, nurturing her drawing skills, ensuring she could read and write beautifully, and teaching her to channel her frustration at learning new facts into curiosity and enjoyment. You guys, Montessori has been the right choice for RR since the beginning. I’m sure you know how it feels to just know you’ve made some parenting decision solidly right.

But today it ends, friends. Today is the day she rises up to fourth grade. The last day of school. The last day in this classroom with this teacher. I’m not great with lasts as a general rule but I’m a wreck. Somehow this artificial moment makes me feel like my little girl is gone, replaced by the person who has been glimmering in the distance. I’m thrilled with that person’s confidence and maturity, I’m not so thrilled to be saying goodbye to my baby.

I know, I know. You’re right, of course. You always are. This IS artificial. She’s still the same person. It’s a ceremony is all, a last day, a bookmark. But I’m a cryer, happy or not, and I’m an emotional disaster. I need all your tips to keep from crying. Cause I have a day to get through and no real confidence I can get through it in one piece.

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Am I Doing This Wrong?

I have no idea if I’m doing this parenting thing right. As far as I can tell, there’s not a commonly agreed upon metric beyond the basic ‘do no harm, no, seriously‘. I can also tell that this is a common insecurity held frequently by people doing a damn good job. I look at you all as paragons of parenting or paragons of good advice, or both. Perhaps you have advice or speculation?

Things I have worried about of late:
1. Not encouraging RR to be on the swim team (stick-to-itive-ness)
2. Not insisting she learn to swim AND breathe (survival)
3. Not taking her to practice riding her bike (practice is important if you want to do something well)
4. Not buying her oil paints and a guitar (it’s worth it to nourish your hobbies)
5. Letting her watch too many YouTube videos (live life in person)
6. Not having more playdates (social life is also important)

Now, I know no one is perfect. I did bake cupcakes with her this weekend, Debra played stuffed animals with her, we didn’t make her run errands, we played with her in the pool, hell, we TOOK her to the pool which, given my current body image, was a feat. Still, she says she’s lonely and she still watched too many videos and didn’t ride her bike. This is a lack of follow-through on my part and what is that teaching her? If we continue on this path, it becomes a downward spiral so let’s not.

How do you let it all happen without worrying? How do you handle it when your child says she’s lonely but doesn’t have particularly close friends? How do you insist she leave the cool house to practice a skill she doesn’t see a need to learn? It’s useless, this worrying, but here we are. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I feel better.

The 80s Called

For the first time, there are kids in the neighborhood RR’s age. I’m delighted by this and more delighted that at least one of the families is relaxed enough to let their kid ride down to our house. Of course, this means that my child rides back with her to her house since our house is decidedly Not Fun.

And since my child rides back with her it means she’s alone out in the world on a street with no way to call home. Or, she’s having fun in the neighborhood, potato potahto. Between D and I, one of us is decidedly more anxious about the entire thing. Will she come back? What if something happens? What if she gets hurt? How will we find her if she’s missing?

Of course, some of these things are also true when she’s home alone when we go to the grocery store. There are equally dangerous things in the house but for some reason it feels like there’s less to worry about. We know the statistics about kidnapping. My sister was part of a failed stranger danger child snatching when she was six so I’m not really excited about those particular statistics.

RR does not have a phone (yet) but she’s equipped with a device to buzz when it’s time to come home. I just KNOW she will leave a phone behind unless we make her take a backpack with her everywhere. Maybe we’ll give her a fanny pack to go with it when we do cave. Teeny tiny fanny pack.

We’ve definitely gotten less worried the more she does it but does the nagging what if she doesn’t come back ever go away?

The Artist

I don’t know what sort of child I thought I’d get, but I figured she would be a regular child. Sort of good at lots of things, sort of interested in lots of things, sort of unremarkable in all those things. After all, I was that child – smart but not a scholarship winner, a strong swimmer but not olympic quality, a good enough writer but not a prodigy. My parents encouraged me to play the piano (mediocre) and go to ballet lessons (I’m more elephant than gazelle). They said my writing was strange and they didn’t come to swim meets. I was a regular child who was regular at things and I don’t feel badly about it.

RR is not a regular child. She is okay at many things and she’s moderately interested in lots of other things. Mostly, she is a talented artist. Very talented. She’s not nine yet (as if that were a magic number) and she’s in an oil painting class for the first time. She’s rolling out painting after painting. Every week I’m increasingly struck by her talent.

Let me reiterate, she’s eight. I haven’t done anything in my life as well as RR paints. It’s possible she’s mediocre and my parental blindness can’t see it but I’m pretty sure she has something special.

I don’t know how to nurture this except to keep her in art lessons. This wiggly, mischievous, scamp (she’s the very definition) is perfectly happy to paint in silence for two hours every Sunday, to endlessly practice digital drawing, and to perfect a parade of novel My Little Pony characters in her room on scraps of paper. And, of course, I stand in awe when she’s not looking.

The Man Is More Interesting

As someone who is about to give the IRS all of her money for therapy, I’m delighted couples’ counseling has gone so well. Couples’, isn’t it? Even though we are a singular couple? So many people have told me that it’s helpful, that everyone should have it, that it would help, and I’m relieved they were right.

PS – I’m sitting in a coffee shop right now and the man across from me is quite obviously listening to a phone call on speaker wherein a bank is talking to a customer about his need for a loan. The man is not the customer. The loan is not his. Is this what it means when it says “this call may be recorded for training purposes”? It’s actually a man in a Panera listening in to make sure customer service is what it should be?

Anyway, it seems as though we might be winding counseling down. We’re certainly communicating better and the missing pieces are beginning to resolve. I’m worried that in time we’ll slip back into old habits. I’m worried that the things that were broken are only patched over but, as the therapist would say, whose to say they aren’t healing up instead of patched? She’s probably right, she often is.

PPS – I have just now coughed loudly, thanks allergies, and the man looked alarmed. Considering he has had speaker phone on in this busy, noisy place, the bank probably can’t hear me so perhaps the man is worried for my health. He doesn’t seem worried about the lack of income of the person requesting the loan.

So we will taper the therapy til it’s gone and see if we can get past the visit with my mother and make sure the patches are scars and the kind that make you more interesting – not bandaids on wounds that needed stitching.

PPPS – I think you should know that the bank lady just said “there’s a lot of static on this line” and the man is referring to a lot of paperwork he has spread in the chairs around him. I wonder if the man is legally listening in on this conversation. This is clearly a heist in action.

Besides, I love my wife and I think it’s likely we’re recovering. You’ve been hanging in there with us, for some of you ten years (or more). I thought you’d welcome a happy update.

PPPPS – The man ran out and left his laptop. I assume he’ll be back, richer, but we’ll never know.

Wait Stop

Lately, I’m spending a lot of time reminding myself to remember this moment. I’m taking mental photographs of everything and searing the remaining babyisms in my brain (the latest, and newest, clubhammer: the ending of the movie that leaves you wondering what will happen in the next movie. See: Mama, I can tell we’re going to get a clubhammer in this movie. What will Spiderman do next?! Also, if you haven’t seen Into the Spiderverse, it was great). If I get the chance to cuddle, I’m cuddling. And even though last week’s solo bedtimes were hard, I reminded myself overandoverandover that this prolonged reading/rocking/holding time was nearly past.

This is the time of year where one of the biggest growing up milestones happens. Santa. We’ve established here (and can you BELIEVE the oldest post is from 2009? You guys, we’ve been together nearly 10 years. I love you, too.) that Santa is alive and well and, no, I’m not willing to entertain your “beliefs” about the matter. After ten years, it’s like you don’t even know me. And we are not going to couples counseling. To the point, we’re fully committed to Santa. We read the books (this one, in particular, is wonderful), we make the calls and get the videos, and we discuss the vagaries of chimney negotiation and “helpers.”

I imagine this will be the last year she visits and sits next to him. Some of her friends are already too grown-up for this activity and I imagine she’ll be one of the older ones visiting him this weekend. I don’t have any particular attachment to that moment because it’s not a part of my own childhood. Santa, my father explained, is far too busy to sit around listening to kids make their case right before Christmas. No, those are just guys in suits doing good deeds. So we’re done with “lap sitting” (there are not actual laps involved, thank goodness) and I’m probably not going to tear up. Probably.

Once she says she doesn’t believe anymore we’ll have a choice. Do we go the route my family took or do we go the popular route: Yes darling, you’re right, but now you get to be the Santa Claus for other people. I mean, I’m obviously buying the Santa gifts here. It will break my heart to say it. It looks like I won’t have to make the choice this year (we’re already picking the kind of cookies to leave out) and thank goodness for that. I’m still grieving my dad, I’m not ready to lose Santa.

Remember The Nanny?

You might want to start here. In 2012. Basically, nothing is different now. 

But you’re still reading, I guess, and so I should probably clarify again that there are no actual nannies. None. No nannies. Pity. Why aren’t there nannies?

Well, I am the nanny*. This week, anyway. Debra is away living her musician dreams and RR and I are spending the week together and trying not to catch the house on fire. I was actually prepared to not be the nanny this time. Who cares if she plays games on the iPad on a school night? So we eat McDonald’s for dinner, whatever. Bedtime? What’s that? She’s not going to suffer long-term because I’m only up to so-so parenting for five days. 

Apparently though, I’m not actually capable of dialing it back. During yesterday’s snow day we read books, practiced math, and made a gingerbread house from scratch. She had chicken, homemade buttermilk biscuits, and spinach for supper (which was delivered on time and arranged in a pleasingly fun face), wrote a sweet note to mail to her grandmother, and went to bed early after a story and lullabies. I did have one point of failure. Rather than going out to build a snowman with her, I just helped her make the face and then, when she came in cold and rosy-cheeked, gave her hot cocoa that I mixed up from a delicious recipe.

This morning I walked her to school, after using Debra’s guidelines to pack her the world’s most perfect lunch. I have no idea what this evening will hold but I’m willing to bet the nanny will have everything under control. Kidding, I’m not so crazy that I refer to myself in the third person. Yet.

I’m pretty sure we can blame this one on my mom so there’s something. When she mothered, she was over-the top wonderful. It always came with an equally over-the-top crash at the end and, as I got older and less cute, stopped happening at all. I was relieved, actually. The hills and valleys were exhausting. I don’t think she ever pretended to be the nanny so I’m not sure I’m on the side of right here. But RR is happy and I’m amazing, even if I am maybe, a little, pretending to be something I’m not. 

*For those that don’t click links: Since RR has been alive, during lengthy times of being the sole caregiver, I’ve pretended I was the nanny. Nannies get paid to be awesome and patient and perfect and I’m a much better mother when I pretend I get to go home at the end of the night. I swear I’m not as crazy as this makes me sound. Go read the post.