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.

Advertisements

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. 

Andrew Jackson’s Hands

We took RR to DC to visit the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the Portrait Gallery to visit the Obama paintings. I was particularly excited for the latter because they are so visually interesting and well, I miss seeing that man’s face. Also, RR has never been to an art museum before and I thought that there was a good chance she’d enjoy it given the kinds of lessons she’s had at school and her general overwhelming appreciation for art.

I had no idea.

No idea that RR would find the Natural History Museum only mildly interesting (except for the Aye Aye skeleton which she knew all about…for some reason…). Though given her feelings about zoos, I shouldn’t have been too surprised.

No idea that neither dinosaurs nor diamonds would be considered “big enough”

No idea that the Portrait Gallery at dinner time after a three hour drive and two hours looking at an Aye Aye and judging dinos would be so fascinating.

No idea that a room filled with nearly all white men wearing similar suits, sitting in the same pose, painted in the same style would be the hands down most compelling thing that has happened in recent memory.

And especially no idea that Andrew Jackson and Andrew Jackson’s hands, in particular, would be the highlight of her day and would involve an intense session of investigation and examination filled with pacing and muttering and attempted caressing of the texture of the oil paint.

Who knew.

 

RR and the Earrings

It turns out that third grade math facts are RR’s latest challenge. I don’t quite understand a “math fact” and I’m told this is the way of it these days. All the parents are out of the loop. I don’t think that’s it, at least in the Montessori context. From what I’ve gleaned from our parent-teacher conference and RR herself, math facts are the sight words of the numbers world. I didn’t ask for further clarification since I was pretty sure that this would be the teacher’s lightbulb moment. Aha, so this is why RR can’t put two and two together!

Things RR can do are many and significant. She is an excellent speller, a great reader, she is kind to the other children, her art skills are first-rate, she is a leader and a teacher herself. She’s also super good at using her graph paper to draw pixelated My Little Ponies and using the empty spaces in zeros to build her own tiny artistic snow globes. The Montessori works for manipulating numbers make sense but she doesn’t make the leap from those to basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. It doesn’t help that I’m no math pro myself, including the rarified air of single digit addition.

In addition to RR’s general eschewing of numbers as a thing that are a reality, she is also hugely indifferent to money. We’ve tried tying the cost of things she wants to the concept of saving and spending. We’ve tried handing her coins, letting her pay at a register, and counting change. It appears the only thing she has any investment in are pencils, markers, and paper and it feels wrong to charge her for use of those things.

The school has a tiny shop, Maria’s, where the kids can purchase snacks during the day. The kids leave class with a buddy, traverse the open campus, make their purchases, and meander back to class. While an account is an option, we’ve never given RR one in part because she doesn’t want anything and in part because math! money! skills! We have given her a dollar here and there only to find out she never spends it. In fact, she usually has no idea where it is until we go through her change purse only to find out she never remembered she had the dollar in the first place. She’s basically been on the same dollar for two years now.

The other day we set her on a mission. Go, we said. Go to Maria’s and buy something with these two dollars. Don’t forget to tell us what you spent and how much you had left! So she went. She bought:

  • One (1) Gin Gin, a small, single, piece of hard ginger candy: possibly for $50 or for five cents. Very difficult to say and the witness (RR) was unreliable. Candy uneaten, possibly given away.
  • One pair of earrings made of pull tabs from coke cans: cost undisclosed.
  • Gave fifteen cents to a younger friend, purpose unexplained.

You guys. We gave her money to spend all for herself and she used it to buy me a gift and delight her friends. She excited to bursting when she handed me the earrings and I put them on. Also, she learned nothing of math. This is my child. Competent, wonderful, and thoughtful. But really, really, shitty at math.

IMG_8182

Right Now

RR started the third grade last week. I thought about getting myself a walker and and AARP subscription and then she flashed me and waggled her butt and I figured we had a few years left. She’s more though, in every way. Longer legs, stronger arms, she eats more, she tells more jokes, she has more friends, she says she’s doing geometry, I see her reading books with words like persnickety. I love this new bigness and the unexpected developments it brought along. She rides roller coasters now, fast ones, grown-up ones, and she greets the terror with laughter. Which goes a long way toward describing RR generally.

She’s not fearless but she is right in the center of any given moment. When she gets off the roller coaster she’s laughing, not because she wasn’t scared in the middle, but because that moment passed and now it’s all bright sunshine and smiling faces and the thrill of having done something daring. She she does it again and again because the fear, it happens, but she lands on exhilaration every time and that’s enough. She has always been this way.

gardenfairy

This picture of her four-year-old self shows perfectly how she sinks down deep into every experience. Here, she’s picking raspberries under the jasmine and a particularly spindly tomato plant. I can almost hear her softly humming. I know none of the raspberries made it into the house that day. She’s our garden fairy. She’s of the moment. There are times when I think she can’t possibly last and we can’t possibly keep her.

That got more grim than I expected. And after that adorable picture, too! This has been motherhood for me this year. Constant U turns back from anxiety and what if into the here and now. Start again. And again. It’s not too bad. It reminds me to stay right there with RR, in that moment with her, relishing every last second. But, since it seems sort of contradictory to say all that and not do it, here’s eight.

acuteangle

Down With This Particular Sunscreen

I’ve never been so happy to have sent RR to what some of our friends lovingly refer to as “the chicken school”. And while they do tend the chickens, they also tend a garden, act as custodians to the local wildlife, make herbal teas, read, keep a fish pond to grow fish to eat, do complex math, paint, and play. Apparently I need to add activism to the list because the sunscreen petition I signed this week was a work of art.

Because you’d have to be a dedicated zoomer, here is the text of the three foot long petition, spelling uncorrected:

CHANGE THE SUNSCREEN:
a teacher sined it.
it is slimy
it makes us sweat
it is icky. WE hate it.
it smells.
got a sunburn with it once.
it stings on scratches.
it swelled up a mosquito bite [Inset: “this did happen” with drawing of wound for proof.]
you haft to take off the top to get it on you then it spills on the floor you can’t get it up you can slip and get hurt.
it is easy to get it in your eyes.
[Inset: A picture of the sun. Written on the sun it says “ha ha I will burn you” Under the sun it says “because the sunscreen does not (underlined) work”]
it soaks into your skin.
your eyes water a lot when you put it on your face.
[Inset: Picture of a beetle saying “OW”]
when you want to play on the monkey bars your hands will slip and you will fall and get hurt.
does not (underlined, emphatically) work [Inset: picture of a head/face with red cheeks, forehead, and nose.]
we hate it
WE HATE (underlined) THE SUNSCREEN
it is only 30 percent other sunscreens are way more than 30!
it says “fragrance free” but it has a strong fragrance.
it burns our face [Inset: sad smiley face]
it spills a lot (underlined in bold)
we want a CHANGE (in orange marker)

This is all accompanied by a well-done doodle of Wilma Flintstone proclaiming “I hate Terra Sport” and a page of glorious signatures which I haven’t included although I very much wanted to. Some of the signatories include “parent of X” and “x, the Boss”, “teacher X”, “X the dad of X”, tiny writing, big writing, first names, both names, cursive and not, and one parenthesis after a teachers name in which is scrawled “(As long as it doesn’t have chemicals)”.

I proudly added my signature to the thirty other names. RR has complained before that it stings but it’s sunscreen, I trust the school, and I realize it’s practically impossible to keep 30 sunscreens separate. I’m going to tuck this memory away for the next time she brings home a sheaf of beautiful drawings but blanks when I ask her what 2 x 5 is.

And You Get A Trophy, And You Get a Trophy…

I have opinions about participation trophies. Not that I’d begrudge a kid a little trophy for showing up, I just haven’t particularly supported that approach as a way to motivate or reward them. You know the arguments – hard work is the reward, they won’t value real trophies, it dilutes the work of the kids who deserved them, etc. As with everything parenting though, everyone has an opinion and everyone is right.

RR received a trophy for swimming this summer. She had just barely graduated past Flailing and Sinking when we signed her up. We didn’t put sign her up for meets at the start since it wasn’t at all clear she’d survive the experience. Thank goodness for lifeguards. I was also concerned that swimming would go the way of soccer where we spent most of our time watching her pick flowers and pass the ball to friends who hadn’t had a turn yet, her team or not. Or perhaps ballet, where she spent her time gazing in the mirror. I wasn’t at all confident this would be a success.

But she liked it. RR, who spends a lot of time being neutral about things, actually liked swimming. So we signed her up for swim meets. And she liked those too, once she got over the disappointment of it not being a swim meat.

RR: Mama, what kind of meat will it be?
Me: A swimming compitition, where you race the people next to you.
RR: Yes, but what kind of meat will they put in the pool? Pork? I’m hoping for pork.
Me: …

She wasn’t good at swimming and she didn’t win a thing. In fact, she mostly kept other little girls from coming in last. But she went to practice everyday. She tried hard. She coped with the weekly disappointment of not getting a ribbon and of not coming close to winning, even in the slowest heats. She has even been enthusiastic about the idea of continuing over the winter.

This weekend we had the awards ceremony for the close of the season. The look on RR’s face when they called her up was priceless. She was amazed and shocked and grateful and overwhelmed. She kept holding it above her head as all the kids came to the front, bouncing with excitement. She high-fived her friends (RR has friends!). She was breathless when she came to the back to show us. I had no idea that a participation trophy could make such a big impact on a tiny person. She was so proud of herself and it was clear – that little gold swimmer packed more motivation to try harder and get better and go faster than anything anyone could have said to her.

So here’s to yet another milestone: participation on a team and motivation to do it again.