A COVID Halloween

How long did you trick or treat if you’re in a place that does that sort of thing? What age did you stop dressing up? If you don’t have younger siblings, did it all stop a bit earlier?

I ask, you see, because this is RR’s tenth Halloween. I feel like she only has a couple more before she becomes the weird older kid who shows up solo to get candy. It seems like the kids with younger siblings are able to trick or treat much longer than the ones who go alone or in a group of older kids. And yet, this Halloween, there’s no trick or treating for her.

Maybe most parents are letting their kids out but mine is in physical school and I don’t want her bringing her who knows what germs to every person who opens their door. I also won’t be opening my door because I don’t want to hand out candy to kids in the middle of a pandemic. Last year there was a terrible storm that almost canceled Halloween. If a storm could do it, a pandemic most certainly should.

So we’re taking her to our close friends house, an almost pod, if you will, for a two family Halloween party. We’re a big Halloween family so this both breaks my heart and delights me. I’ve always wanted RR to have a Halloween party. My birthday is the day before my mother’s in November so I always had Halloween parties instead of birthday parties (nice, mom) and I have very fond memories of them.

I don’t have any judgement for the folks handing out candy or going trick or treating. In fact, I’m partly sorry I won’t be home to participate. It makes me sad for the kids that are going that there might be fewer houses. Definitely there will be fewer in our neighborhood where there are signs up recommending the kids participate in a socially distanced parade to show off costumes and get candy.

Also, can we talk about ready-made costumes for pre-teen girls? IT’S A WHOLE OTHER WORLD. There’s are jokes about putting sexy in front of everything for adults – sexy Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, sexy nurses, and so on. This year my kid wanted to go as an angel but guess what? SEXY ANGELS. She went with a “dark angel” whatever that is, which turned down the sexy but still you guys, next year I’m making her costume.

Armpits

Just stop now if you are an Armpit Person. I suppose you can take that any number of different ways. The person who loves a nice ripe subway ride in a New York summer. The person who enjoys a pleasant meander through the scent fields on a particularly amorous afternoon. I’m not judging you. But if you aren’t an Armpit Person, carry on, my friend.

I’d wager my nose is more sensitive than most and while I’ve weathered my fair share of pungent predicaments, I never thought I’d be contending with one in my own home. There is nothing quite like a brand new set of pre-adolescent hormones to create a scent soup that wrinkles the nose and waters the eyes. I understand the trouble with anti-perspirants but is it too much to ask for a deodorant that does its job?

I understand I’m asking it to work extremely hard (and I don’t mean fresh as a daisy no smell ever ruin your daughter’s self esteem hard). I’m just asking it to mildly take the sting out of the air. Dancing tactfully through this landmine while preserving said self-esteem is no walk in the park. It’s level ten parenting. I don’t want her classmates to ridicule her but I also don’t want to give her a complex.

After trying many different kinds of deodorants – remember Armpit People, we agreed you would stop at the top! – we’ve finally found one that maybe most of the time can limit the hormonal eau de daughter. But seriously. If you have or had one of these parental predicaments or even your own battle, what deodorant have you found that does the trick? All suggestions welcome – limit dairy? More showers? And the ever popular wait it out. But save my nose friends. Help!

Anxiety, of Course

Are there people who aren’t coping with a bit of anxiety right now? We already know I am and my child keeps chewing on her fingers. My wife seems impervious to it all though, so I imagine some of you must also be blissfully floating through a pandemic. An exaggeration, of course, but that’s what it feels like for those of us (me) struggling.

RR started virtual school this week. It’s an every other week thing but this is the first time she’s back at it since last spring. I checked in on her this morning and she was raptly watching her teacher lead but her brow was furrowed and she was crouched over the screen. Can she understand? Is her slow processing speed keeping up?

I still have questions about how the school is supporting the children who need extra help. They have added an additional teacher to the classroom but shifted away the support teacher who was working with her in the spring. RR worked so hard on her math and reading over the summer and I hope she is seeing the results. But what about school overall?

It doesn’t always work for me to wait and see and deal with each thing as it comes. That’s so often what I hear therapists recommending. Less planning, less problem solving. I have choice words for how that makes me feel. But in the meantime, I can pick back up on some of the other things they recommend, starting with a short meditation each day. RR is joining in (OOOHMMM, she says) and hopefully it will help us both.

Ten and Back to School

Is here the right place to say I cannot believe it’s September? Yesterday, we did back to school pictures in the pouring rain and dropped her off at school. At one pm. For three hours. This is a weird fall, from start to finish, and we haven’t even really begun.

Yes, we sent her back to school in person. She’ll have class at the school every other week and, on off weeks, work from home. She’s supposed to be working independently and we are supposed to be available for support and technical assistance. But this spring that was definitely NOT the case and I learned more fourth grade math than I was comfortable with. I hope this year is different since both of us have actual jobs that require actual work.

This is like breast-feeding and cloth diapering all over. The are you sending her to school I can’t believe you’re sending her to school did you know she was sending her to school back and forth is exhausting. I feel like I need to make excuses. But she’s in private school but the group is small but the safety measures are better than acceptable. It’s just a throwback to when she was a baby and I was less confident in what I was doing. I felt all this pressure. It’s like an old wound I’ve picked open again and it’s no one’s fault but my own. 

In other news, 10 is a weird, weird time. RR is on the cusp of so much but still has one foot firmly planted in little girl land. She still plays with her stuffed rabbits and reads picture books some nights before bed. But her demeanor is changing, her whole self is changing, and she is decidedly not a little girl anymore. Not really. It’s hard to negotiate as she flows fluidly from one self to the next and back again. Hard for me, anyway. She seems to be doing just fine.

This is the first time I’ve understood why blogs go silent (aside from the decaying art form of it all). Her self is more her own and the things I would have told you about feel forbidden. But here we still are and, here we’ll stay, for awhile anyway, since this is more about me than her most of the time. Here’s to a weird September.

Summer Camp

Hoo boy friends, it’s a return to the 1970s. There is no summer camp. We’re staring down three full months of free time while still working full-time. My kid is a delight but she isn’t a go outside and come back when the street lights come on kind of a kid. She’s not a curl up with a book kind of kid. She’s an almost 10 and I want to DO something WITH you kind of kid.

This house isn’t really big enough for an in-home day care teenager to spend time with her and, right now, I can’t picture them going out to do anything other than go for a walk. The pools are closed and won’t reopen. The libraries are closed. The parks are closed. Life is closed and it’s hard to conceive of what it will look like when it reopens.

So I’m making schedules in my head. We’ll get them down on paper. There will be reading and math. There will be walks and exploration time. There will be screen time and cooking class. There will be boredom. There will be stressed out parents and a frustrated kid. There will be happiness and laughter. There will be plenty of free time that she’ll figure out how to fill. We’ll work it out.

I Think We’re Alone Now

Lots of adult conversations happen in our house. Are the pipes really failing? What’s the budget look like right now? Is she ever going back to school? How are interest rates? Should we refinance the house? Are we going to have to put the dog to sleep? And how does this pandemic affect…well, everything? Lots of adult conversations and very little adult time.

You know what else we have? A pair of little ears that want to know about EVERYTHING. What are you talking about? What does investment mean? Why doesn’t the grocery store have food? Will I miss school in the fall? What do you mean no camps? Most of the time we catch ourselves before we launch into adult talk but she seems to always be there.

I know we’re not alone in this (we’re never alone it seems) so what is there to do but send her to play in her room? She desperately wants to know what we’re talking about so she doesn’t want to do anything else but listen. It’s like we’re the most interesting people on the planet. Maybe during a pandemic we are.

Privilege

For as much time as I spend wondering if we’re qualified to homeschool our child, I spend time thinking about how privileged we are as a family. RR has comprehensive lessons provided by her teachers, not just math and reading but co-curriculars, like music, ecology, and art. She has multiple devices with which to do her work and multiple rooms in the house where she can do it. She uploads her work and gets feedback from her teachers. She still has a book club and her friends are all there (who also have fast enough internet) and parents to keep them on track with reading. As I reread that paragraph, I realize I haven’t done it justice.

RR’s teachers have not only replicated her school experience, they have enriched it. The personal attention is still there plus some. She’s getting individual attention from learning specialists whom she normally would only have seen in a group setting. Her teachers hold office hours, including the technology teachers, to help with anything that might go off the rails. At times her lessons seem like private tutoring. Not to mention the fact that she has two adults attuned to her every educational need.

Her workspace is large and well-lit, there is a whiteboard, printer, scanner, clock, calendar, chest of small plastic drawers stocked with pencils, art supplies, paper, notebooks, etc that the school provided. She has everything she needs for an optimal learning experience and she appears to be soaking it up. She has us. We have jobs that are flexible enough to allow us to be with her.

We are so very lucky.

Spring Break

Spring Break is nearly upon us. We know for certain that the teachers won’t be teaching (if they ever needed a break, the time is now) and it leaves us with an entire week to structure for RR. We’ll keep up some of the language and math – we know she needs it – and come up with something, anything else to do.

This is made more complicated by the fact that both of us are working from home. I read something that resonated with me: We are not working from home, we are in a crisis working in our houses. In fact, we are working in a crisis and it’s exhausting balancing everything. So what to do for a week of open-ended time for a person who wants nothing more than to watch youtube and hang out with us?

I know I spent time outdoors finding things to do, but this child isn’t that kind of child. Maybe she could be if I sent her out more often but the fact is, right now, she isn’t. And, before I go further, let me be clear that I know how fortunate we are to get this time with our child. That this is an unquantifiable, incomparable gift. But my stars, if I have to listen to five days of Why can’t I play games on my iPad. It’s not a school day, I’ll take that gift and crumple it right up.

So, help me with a list of stuff to do. Parameters: won’t go to the mountains, can’t wander around shops, limited ingredients for baking, low tolerance for pillow forts and mama-centric pretend. Here’s what I have so far:

Scavenger hunt
Rearrange bedroom
One board game per day
Some math and language everyday
Making breakfast for dinner
Painting a tape on canvas painting
Making ice cream
Choosing a recipe to make that she’s never made
Raking mulch and planing flowers
Taking a walk to the river with the dog
Talking with friends
Self-face-painting

What else have you got?

Tropical Nut Island

Three-year-old RR gave us the saying Tropical Nut Island. Long time readers will remember that it’s how she referred to herself over a short period of time, usually shouting at the top of her lungs, “I’m a TROPICAL NUT ISLAND!” The non-nut island folks near and dear to her have never figured out where this came from but we can dissect its meaning well enough. When she was three, it meant running around, hair flying, arms waving, laughing. Craziness, we called it. Now, at nine, it feels more like Enough Already.

The other day she brought her Tropical Nut Island self to the observatory where we were having an intimate gathering of co-workers and their families to sky gaze through the giant telescope. There were other children there – a 4 and 5 year old – and a few adults, all of whom were ushering the little ones calmly from place to place. Our child eventually laid on the floor and spun herself in a circle. I don’t think she was bored, rather the opposite. She just had nowhere for the enthusiasm to go. Now we call it ADHD but not I’m going to take you home right now. I truly think she was doing the best she could to find an outlet for the bouncing inside her head.

I’m probably the stricter of the two of us, with a (probably needless) focus on manners and seemliness. But even my wife’s body language was WTF even though she, mostly calmly, snapped at RR to get up. RR was a bit dismayed as being sharply spoken to but I’m 100% with my wife on this one. There’s no floor spinning outside of your own house. At home, with just your family, spin all you want. Not that she ever has. This was…new.

Mostly her ADHD manifests as distraction and wandering. She either has a laser-like focus on what she’s doing or she has no focus. There’s no middle of the road. The resurgence of Tropical Nut Island made me question whether we’re doing her a disservice by not looking into medication. I have really complicated feelings about that and it wasn’t recommended, not yet, so I have a spit of time to wonder about why my feelings are so complicated and what we’re going to do about that. In the meantime, welcome to Tropical Nut Island.

Observation

My childhood self would have very much liked to be in a Montessori school, I think. Ours in particular. We had the chance to observe RR’s classroom and it was a revelation. All of the children were focused and working on different tasks, a lesson on finding areas was going on in one corner and another on geography in the quiet ecology space. Even my child, the one full of vim and vigor, was settled on her knees, deep into square roots.

I’m sure there are days when the volume is louder and the kids more antsy. Just as there are days where a stillness falls over the room. But I imagine the sheer number of places to work – carpet, tables, comfy corners for reading, a laptop area, even outside – mean that the kids have just enough room to spread out. And by kids I mean all 30 or so of them. It’s not a small class. At one point, the sun came out from behind the clouds casting warm light over the entire classroom, leaving the kids with little halos of sunbeams.

Every month when a bagillion dollars comes out of my account, I think of this classroom and these teachers. The kids with their work ethics. And, of the gorgeous grounds over which they have the independence to roam. It hurts, the money, but we are so very lucky that we can do it at all. Very, very lucky.