Transitions

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Transitions can be hard.

Little things seem enormous when the babies that once slept peacefully on your shoulder grow and change right before your very eyes.

And forget about the mom guilt.  It doesn’t matter if you work full time, part time, or stay at home.  I’ve spent the past six years making sure that I didn’t miss a beat (even while I worked part time), and still the little changes feel large and life changing.

Kids grow.  They learn, laugh, play, and cry…and all the while they grow up.  As much as we might want to freeze time or screenshot every moment, they just keep moving forward.

It’s exciting and fun and fills you with pride, but is also brings tears and longing.  Because the truth is that each little milestone is a big step toward independence.  And while we might take pride in each moment, big and small, we also know that they are separating.  They are doing what we helped them to do, and yet we want them to stay by our sides.

It’s up and down, this parenting gig.  Highs and lows are everywhere – and the feelings are simply overwhelming.  Rolling waves on the mighty Pacific have nothing on the give and take of letting go and moving forward when what you really want to do is hold them close forever and ever.

But…we have to let go.  In tiny steps, with tears hidden beneath smiles, we have to let go.

This week on moonfrye – Liam made a big change.  He handled just as I knew he would – with ease and comfort.  I, however, am still a work in progress.

And don’t even get me started on Riley’s loose tooth…I am so not ready for big teeth, my friends.

See you at moonfrye!

Project Happy: The Best Kindergarten Teacher

It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to sit down and reflect on the small moments of happiness…not because they don’t exist, but simply because life is busy.  We’ve been through some big transitions around here, and I needed the space to help my kids adjust to a new routine.  Ok, maybe I needed some adjusting too…why does school have to start so early?

Liam walked into his first day of preschool without a worry to speak of.  I thought that he would cry.  I worried that he wouldn’t like it (Sean likes to refer to him as a “stay at home son”).  I feared that would just keep to himself instead of engaging with the other kids.  And, as predicted, he woke up on that first morning and declared that he had no intention of going to school.  Huh.  We talked, we cuddled, I promised to stick around until he felt safe, and we agreed to tuck Giraffie into his cubby (just in case).  And off we went.  As promised, I stayed for a little while, gradually moving toward the door.  After about 1/2 hour, I told him that I was running out for coffee.  I hugged him, kissed him, and reminded him that mommy is always in his heart.  With glassy eyes, he looked up at me and said, “it’s ok, Mommy.  I will be brave.”  It nearly broke my heart.  I ran to the car and sobbed, wondering why a 3 1/2 year old boy should have to be brave.  I considered going back early.  I couldn’t think of a single thing to do but worry during those two hours.  And when I returned to pick him up?  He was singing with the other kids.  He had spent the morning playing with another boy named Liam and having fun.  He shared.  He rode a trike.  He even ate his snack.  In short, he loved it.  He still does.

Even though I miss him terribly on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I am so very happy to see him learning, growing, and making new friends.

Riley had an amazing start to Kindergarten.  She loves her teacher, was placed in a class with her friend, and has already made a few new friends.  She was elated to be sent (with another student) on an important errand to the library and she can’t get enough of homework (who knew?)  Yes, that first week was wonderful.

But then, gradually, there was a shift.  My normally very sparkly little girl was a little less sparkly.  She started to drag her heels in the morning.  She wasn’t as excited at pick-up.  Be week three, she was sobbing in my arms night after night.

Lunch is too fast; I can’t eat my food.

Recess is too hard, there are too many kids.  I can’t find my friends.

I’m afraid of getting lost or left behind.

I just play alone.  I walk back and forth near the teacher until she blows the whistle.

Last week I stopped by recess a couple of times to see how she was doing.  Just as she said, she was playing alone, walking back and forth near the teacher.  My heart nearly shattered.  I fought back tears as I watched from a distance, helpless.

On Friday, I pulled her from school early.  We went out for a family lunch to celebrate Sean’s birthday, and then watched the space shuttle land at LAX.  And a funny thing happened…her sparkle returned.

We spent the weekend cuddling, playing, and just enjoying family time.  With one soccer game, naturally.  My sweet girl was happy once again.

Until Sunday night…when the tears returned.

So I did as any mom would do…I talked to the teacher this morning.  I explained that Riley is completely overwhelmed at recess, that she can’t find her friends, and that she’s afraid of missing the whistle and being left behind.  Then I hugged and kissed my sweet little girl and put my faith in her teacher.

I’m so glad I had that conversation this morning.

When I returned to pick her up, my sweet girl was happy and full of smiles.  As her teacher stood behind her, playing with her hair and letting her know that she cares, they told me about the new system:  The teacher paired them off in buddies so that no one would ever feel alone and everyone could count on someone else to help listen for the whistle.

When I watched her at recess today, I saw a happy girl running, climbing, and playing with her friends.  I saw my sweet, sparkly girl reaching out to her friends from soccer and smiling as she waved to me from across the crowded field.  I saw my little girl doing exactly what she should be doing:  Having fun.

Today I am grateful for the best Kindergarten teacher ever.  I am grateful for someone who listens and makes changes to ensure that every child is happy.  Today I feel a little bit of relief.

Today I am happy to see my little girl smile…

(My apologies for the lack of pictures in this Project Happy post…Wordpress is working against me.  I won’t let it steal my happy though…)

 

 

 

 

The Meltdown

 

I could feel it coming on a few days prior to the actual event.  There was a subtle shift in the air, a feeling of repetition that caught us all off guard.

 

After nearly three months of pajama walks, swimming, and nature hunts around town, suddenly we were thrown into the system.  Out of nowhere, it seemed, the mornings became rushed, the meals became a project, and late became a bad word (not good news for this terminally late mommy)…

 

The excitement of the first week got us off to a great start.  Wrapped up in new adventures, we quickly made our way down the street each morning to see what awaited in Kindergarten.  With hugs and kisses and smiles galore we said our goodbyes for the morning.

 

For a few days, it seemed almost too good to be true.  While I held back tears almost every morning, my sweet girl didn’t shed a single tear.  She was brave, strong, and independent.

 

Until the weekend.

 

Until she had time to lounge around in her beloved pajamas while eating fresh baked pumpkin spice donuts with her daddy.  Until she didn’t have to race, didn’t have to remember anything, and didn’t have to leave baby brother behind again.  Until she could get back to the business of playing.

 

Suddenly, the new adventure didn’t seem quite so new and exciting anymore.

 

Suddenly, she felt trapped between two worlds.  Her mood shifted ever so slightly that day.  By dinnertime, she was lost in thought and stared off to a faraway place.

 

Under the cover of darkness, she finally broke her silence.

 

I really love my Kindergarten class, but I miss being home.  It’s so busy and fast, and I don’t get to play with baby brother in the morning.

 

I sat quietly, waiting for her to finish.

 

This is a big change, sweet girl.  Five days is more than three, and we had a fun summer together, us three.  We stayed in our pajamas and baked cookies and swam almost every day.  This is a big change.

 

Her espresso colored eyes appeared large and rimmed with worry.  She stared back at me, waiting for more.

 

I am proud of you every single day.  We miss you too, sweet girl.  But you know what the best part of my day is?  Hearing all about your morning while we hold hands the whole way home. 

 

Satisfied, she closed her eyes and slowly drifted off to sleep.  Our hands still entwined, I kneeled by her bed and watched her for a little while, until I could be sure that her worries were gone.

 

Three days later, the tears rained down like a waterfall…

 

Please stop by moonfrye to continue reading this post.

 

Kindergarten Tips for Moms

Kindergarten is a very big deal.  It marks that defining moment when our babies turned toddlers turned preschoolers officially become little kids.

 

Armed with backpacks that cover their entire bodies and lunch bags large enough to hold enough food to satisfy an entire construction site, we send them off into the big world.  The one where we probably won’t be called at the slightest sign of tears, the one where classrooms now hold up to 24, the one where they stay for a little bit longer…the one where our little kids begin to feel a little bit bigger.

 

Some kids are excited, some kids are nervous, but most kids experience a little bit of both.  Either way, the kids will adjust over time.  They will find a friend, eat lunch in groups, and learn new things every day.  Even the very anxious ones will find their way in this new exciting world.

 

But the moms?  That’s another story.

 

Letting go is an impossible task.  It’s hard to trust other people with your precious cargo every single day.  It’s hard to say goodbye five days a week.  It’s hard to sit back and watch them fly, even though this is, in fact, the real task of parenthood.

 

I didn’t sleep for a week before Riley’s first day.  She was ready.  The school is amazing.  She was placed with the teacher I requested and with her best girlfriend.  By all accounts, I had nothing to worry about.

 

But sometimes the aftermath of infertility follows us.  I fought long and hard to have her, and I don’t believe I will every truly be able to just let go.

 

I prepared myself as much as possible.  I practiced deep breathing and holding back my tears so that I would be able to get through that first drop-off with a big hug and huge smile, because that’s what Riley would need.  It worked.  I was able to hold it together just long enough to get back to my car and sob to my mother (a woman who faced this impossible task four times over).

 

And as I watched the clock and wondered what she was doing every single second of that four hour window, it occurred to me that Kindergarten moms could take some solid advice from Kindergarten students.

 

Get excited:  Your child is off on a brand new adventure.  She will meet new friends, learn new things, and come home with endless stories to tell.  Soak up that excitement every afternoon.  Ask a lot of questions, listen to those stories, and be present from the moment she returns to the moment she sleeps.  Be excited about all of these firsts…

 

Smile often:  We teach our children that a smile is a sign of friendliness, but do we always follow our own advice?  Greet the teacher with a great big smile each morning, as this is the person caring for your child for the next few hours, after all.  Leave your child with a big hug and even bigger smile.  When you worry, they worry.  When you smile, they know that all is ok.

 

Be friendly:  You are sending your child off to make new friends and meet new people, but this is also an opportunity for you to do the same.  Reach out to the other parents and start building those relationships.  You are all in this together.  It’s a great time to find support and get to know the parents of the other kids in the class.

 

Listen carefully:  Listening skills are essential in Kindergarten.  The projects get a little more complicated and the instruction is a lot more guided.  Your child will spend her days listening and reacting.  Step away from the iPhone and do the same.  Ask your child questions and sit and listen to the answers without interruption.  We get very used to having them around all of the time, so it makes sense that it’s hard for parents to separate when Kindergarten rolls around.  Make the most of the parent-child moments that you have by listening carefully and taking an interest in what your child has to say.

 

All feelings are ok:  We always tell our children that it’s ok to feel happy, sad, mad, or confused, but we don’t always make room for those emotions in our own lives.  It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious about this transition.  It’s also normal to cry and feel sad that your little one is away from you more.  Make time for those emotions.  Talk to your partner, your mother, and your friends.  Work your way through it the best that you can so that you can be happy and excited for your little one on the big first day.

 

Reach out:  Get to know your child’s teacher.  Complete any forms provided with as many details as possible.  Often these forms are a way for the teacher to get to know your child.  When filling out Riley’s form during the orientation I mentioned that she really shines when given the opportunity to feel helpful.  Guess who got to deliver forms to the library on the third day of school?  She hasn’t stopped talking about it since.  Teachers appreciate input, but they also appreciate positive feedback.  Send a little note to let your child’s teacher know that your child is really thriving.  Sometimes a quick note goes a very long way toward building a great parent-teacher relationship.

 

Ask for help:  You wouldn’t want your child to sit in silence when feeling completely overwhelmed, would you?  Reach out and ask for help when you’re going through this process and if you hit any obstacles throughout the school year.  You want your child to have an amazing first school year experience, and that starts with you.

 

I’m here to tell you that I survived the first week.  I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher.  I couldn’t have asked for a better classroom or a better friend by her side.  I cried my way through that first day and stared down the clock as the seconds slowly ticked away, but the look of pride and happiness on her face when I picked her up that day?  Was well worth the tears.

 

And I would do it all over again.

 

Be strong mamas, you’re about to witness an incredible transformation…and you don’t want to miss a minute of it.

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Feeling Big, Feeling Little

Most days, she feels big.

Most days, she feels confident.

Happiness practically oozes from her pores as she swings high into the clouds, climbs tall buildings, and creates works of art beyond compare.

Most days, she feels happy.

But three mornings a week, my big girl feels small.

Three mornings a week she sits frozen in her car seat, silent but for one whispered request.

“Please hold my hand, Mommy.”

I whisper back words of encouragement.

I know you feel scared, sweet girl.

I understand.

I felt that way too, when I was little.

But today you get to cook.  Today you get to make a dinosaur and paint outside.

She stares, vacant, out the window and watches the world pass her by.

A few minutes into the ride, the tears begin to form at the corners of her endless brown eyes…

Please stop by moonfrye to continue reading, “Feeling Big, Feeling Little”.