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To my daughter, after your first week of school EVER

Dear AB,

It’s been an important week, your first week of school. Junior Kindergarten. Such a big step, but for you, who were so ready (even though you’re not yet four), the most natural thing in the world.

When you first visited your class in June, you were really proud of how you walked right in, and Mummy went away for the whole hour… “And I was totally fine!” The same was true for your other hour-long visit last Friday, in your real classroom with the senior kindergartners there: you did school like a pro.

Leading up to your first full day, you were nothing but excited. You were counting down: “I can’t believe the day after the day after tomorrow I’ll have my first full day!”, “I can’t believe the day after tomorrow…” and so on.

This past Monday, we had our last official “Mummy Day.” I was entranced listening to you play in your bedroom with a family of hair clips… They are the kind with jaws, so they can talk, hug, exchange fond words. There was a Father clip, two daughters who are tiny clips, and one in two pieces that you dubbed “Little Broken.” We played and had lunch and read stories. We had a lovely, mellow day in which I got all nostalgic (though I kept it mostly to myself).

I’d say you spend at least eighty percent of your time pretending. Sometimes you’re a character (Elsa or a kitty or Hermione or a grownup lady). Sometimes I have to be a dragon for a few seconds so your stuffed unicorn can cure me back to being human. Sometimes you’re busy mitigating the trouble your best imaginary friends (Golla and Sparkles) are getting into. Sometimes it’s your own kids (Asuna, Anuna, Alella, and Sybo) who are up to shenanigans. Sometimes you’re taking business calls on your defunct flip phone. Sometimes you’re singing in your own language. Sometimes I’m your daughter and you’re my mom (and you get to call me “Dinah” in satisfied tones). Sometimes you’re building schools out of MagnaTiles and populating them with your small friend toys (family of fairies, family of monkeys, family of turtles, etc.).

Being bored never even occurs to you. Your imagination keeps you fed. It’s awesome.

On Tuesday, your first full day of JK, I got to accompany you to school, along with both your aunts. You had picked out your outfit in advance, and you were so confident and adorable we could barely stand it.

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You gave us all hugs, and you let the teacher show you where to line up, and you trooped right in the door with total poise and trust.

first day of school doorway

I’ve seen a lot of small kids at drop-off time, and many, many of them have trouble saying goodbye. I know you’re brave, but I was still impressed – and a little surprised.

Last year, you had quite a few sad drop-offs at day care. And (I hope) I’ll never forget the moment at Family Camp this summer when I was leaving to run an errand… I’d already said goodbye, and as I was getting into the car I waved and called “I love you!” and you called back “I love you!” And then, as you stood there all tiny and strong, that Love jumped up into your throat, and even though you knew I’d be right back, tears sprang to your eyes. You didn’t really cry them, you were bravely watching, but I had to come back for one more hug. Then one of your Family Camp other-mamas swooped you up and I knew you were okay. (But I was teary-eyed. I knew exactly that feeling of when you say goodbye and suddenly Love gets a bit overwhelming.)

In truth, on that first day of school, after you’d hugged Auntie Emi, you wiped one eye, but you were so composed that it might have been a head-cold tear rather than a sad one.

On each of the four days of school, you were happy at drop-off, and happy at the end of the day too. If you’ve had sad moments at school, you’ve never mentioned them (although you have said, on two days, “I missed you today,” but not in a tragic way). I, on the other hand, got all weepy on Wednesday evening, having to admit to myself I was having some withdrawal after so much kid-time this summer – and fully realizing that my baby is in school, and things will never be the same. I miss you already.

There’s no question that you’re tired. There have been lots of meltdowns in the evenings this week, compared to over the summer. Some rebellious behaviours are intensifying as you test boundaries – and as fatigue makes rational decisions more elusive. We try to get you to bed earlier and earlier, but it seems you could always sleep more. I hope we’ll soon find the right groove for you to be rested.

Still, you are eager to go to school. You say, “All I do is sing songs and play and have snacks!” And there are lovely things in your classroom; when we asked you about your second day, you said with delight, “I discovered something that was new to me: a basket with a pegasus inside!” And you’ve made some friends and learned some names. You’re happy. I wish there were a way I could witness you in your new environment.

I wish it could always be this way. You are full to the brim of sheer you-ness. You are fierce. You mean business. You’re imperious, eloquent, wise. You possess a degree of empathy that’s unusual even in older children. You also have buckets of snuggly affection to spend on those you care about. Your dancing is of an earthy lyricism that must be seen to be believed. You love to look at yourself (especially when accessorizing) in the mirror; Daddy and I say nothing, because although we hope you won’t obsess about your appearance, we also know there will come a time when you look at yourself and don’t feel the pure pleasure you do today. You are beautiful in so many ways, and right now, you really know it.

Sometimes I involuntarily imagine the things that will bring you down from this place of innocent clarity. I want to cry when I think of the people and the pressures that will make you doubt yourself, or tell you you’re un-beautiful, or bring shame into your self-concept. The world, for all its progress, can still be a cruel place, especially to women and girls. I know you have to be challenged and hurt to grow strong – but I still cringe at the thought. I hope the confidence you have at this moment will survive to get you through the hard times.

Oh, my little girl. In less than two weeks, you’ll be four years old. I could not possibly describe how much, or how ferociously, or how tenderly I love you. Please just remember it’s true.

***


 

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The cold never bothered me anyway.

It’s that time of year when winter seems long – even though in my area of Ontario, it hasn’t been that tough a winter… I’m still thinking of green leaves with wistfulness.

Here’s my three-year-old in her FAVOURITE OUTFIT, showing off her dazzling lack of tuning, made up for by her soul-deep commitment to the role. May it warm your heart in the midst of the snow… or at least make you giggle a bit.

***


 

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#NaBloPoMo, Day 10: Walking

Today, I’m grateful for the ability and opportunities to walk.

This morning was one of those mornings I’m not proud of, as a parent.

I woke up at the normal time. AB, as has become her custom, came into my bed right around the same time, and we had a really nice little snuggle.

When I began rousing the kids to get ready, though, they were reluctant and dawdling. They have been better this year than last at knowing that we have to use our limited time wisely in the mornings (or Mummy gets stressed out and uses a not-so-nice voice), and we were doing okay… until poor AB slipped on the stairs in a fresh puddle of cat pee. And when I say puddle, I mean a full-on bladder-fed lake, gracing a three-stair expanse, that got her pjs AND the clothes she’d picked to wear, as well as E’s socks, all wet and gross.

Our boy-cat Nico was the culprit, but it’s not his fault (he’s under the weather). It was nobody’s fault. But spending ten minutes cleaning up and disinfecting the stairs meant that when AB got her usual stubborn face on re: wardrobe choices, Mummy started using the not-so-nice voice. And after that tipping point, AB started digging in her heels about every step of getting ready, and E got all upset about Mummy’s tone of voice, and my irritation could do nothing but build up.

Those are the times I wish I could flip a switch and make myself be calm, and not react, and just find the gracious way to move things along… but I haven’t been doing as awesomely at that as I hoped I would be, especially during a week where I have not been having good sleep-luck.

Our friend and neighbour was just passing our house with her daughter as we tumbled out the door – she could tell right away that it was one of those mornings.

But once we were walking, we all calmed down. The air was brisk and bracing, and we trooped through fallen leaves and got our blood pumping, and it just felt good, in spite of everything.

It helps that we were walking to school, and not to the bus stop as we always have in the past. Being one minute late for the school bell barely even counts as late; being one minute late for the bus means you have to rearrange your morning.

And walking is just good for what ails you. It’s something humans were built to do well and often. For me, in the mornings, it lends perspective. It helps me to remember – all the things going “wrong” in the mornings are minor blips – and it’s the literal change of pace that allows me to snap out of the loop of impatience.

I apologized to my kids for being sharp with them, and we had good proper hugs and kisses as I bid them goodbye at school. I’m also very very grateful for the forgiveness of my kids.

And now, because I get another chance every day, I will try again to remember:

be-the-calm-sunset

***


 

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#NaBloPoMo, Day 7: Sixty Percent

Here’s a Saturday post, sneakily written on Sunday and backdated to Saturday. Heh.

This gratitudinous moment is for my part-time status at work, something I’m actually actively thankful for every day. I work 60% of a full-time contract at my school, which means I have two full days, two half-days, and one day off per week. I am able to walk E to school, four days out of five.

I am in awe of moms who go back to work full-time after their maternity leaves and seem to manage just fine. I don’t know how they do it. It takes levels of organizational and emotional strength that exceed mine, that’s for sure.

On my day off, AB and I get to hang around the house. We walk E to school, and then we often walk over to the grocery store. A lot of the day usually involves housework, especially since the move, because I feel the need to check as many things off the To-Do list as possible any time I’m at home.

But I also remind myself that I took this time, not just for my own sanity, but for the quality time with her. When she knows it’s “Mama Day,” she is always jubilant, throwing her arms around my neck and squeezing and saying, “I love you, Mama!”

This week, my day off fell on a Friday, and I felt like the luckiest person in the world, sitting snuggled with my yummy little three-year-old on a sunny couch, reading stories. (Especially since the night before was Mammoth Meltdown night. We needed to get our groove back.) Sometimes we run errands, sometimes we play with her stuffies or tea set or dress-up clothes, sometimes I just listen to her singing while she plays, or “reading” books to herself.

I know it’s these simple times I will later look back on as beautiful beyond description, shaking my head to remember she was so little and precious and fascinating. Whatever my schedule ends up being later on, I will always be grateful for this extra time, at this moment in our lives.

***


 

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Happy Birthday, Three-Year-Old!

Dear Baby AB,

It has already been two weeks since your birthday! I know you’re not a baby. You are THREE. That is BIG. But of course, you’ll always be my baby, so I reserve the right to call you that.

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I just want you to know, belated or not, that we’re all besotted by you, despite your status as one of the most sporadically aggravating humans on the planet.

Right now, as you turn three, you are the driver of an emotional rollercoaster your whole family rides on. You feel entitled to fly into a fury if someone helps you with something you’ve decided you must do yourself. (And your fury often includes kicking and hitting along with the screaming, even though those things never get you what you want.) You will randomly make up rules on the spot and vehemently scold the person unwittingly breaking them. You utterly refuse to be hurried when it comes to choosing your wardrobe for the day. You seem to get a kick out of insisting that you DON’T NEED TO PEE until the last possible second (or sometimes, unfortunately, later). You will cut right into someone else’s conversation and then get all mad that they’re interrupting you, shouting, “SHUSHH!!!

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During the first few weeks of school, you decided you no longer liked our daycare provider, who has been taking care of you and your brother since the beginning. You said she was mean to you, and you even tried to convince us that she punched you. (Someday you’ll understand how funny that sounded.) [Lovely di-hards, in case you’re worried, we would consider the possible veracity of these allegations if we had any doubt at all that they’re false. But we don’t.] You told poor M that you didn’t like her and didn’t want to be there, right to her face. There was clinging and sobbing at drop-off time. Poor M was wondering if you might actually need a new daycare provider. (We are gradually getting past this, though, with a bribe-y sticker chart and lots of reminders that we love you SO MUCH, even when we are apart, and that M loves you too.)

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On the morning you turned three, I asked you if you felt different, and you said yes – you felt three. Then, when Auntie Beth came up to wish you a happy birthday, you told her that “three is cooperating.” There was, according to you, going to be a whole new level of cooperation going on in your three-year-old world.

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This has not really panned out. That very evening, you were violently uncooperative about bedtime, and it was actually rather awful. We are still trying to figure out the best ways to deal with these moments.

But then. You’re also the most adorable sweetness-pie in the world. When you’re not angry, you’re wonderful.

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You dance like a princess and a rocker and a belly dancer – all with equal fervency. You love to do gymnastic poses, inspired by the aerialists you saw last summer. You read new improved versions of our storybooks to yourself for long periods of time (even the names are changed – you are great at making up names. Your current favourite is Golla). You sing often, in your own language, whether or not you have an audience. You are full of ideas, brimming with imagination and leadership, and you’d be boss of the whole world, if the world would let you.

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You and your brother have lots of arguments that involve the above-mentioned fury… but then again, your relationship is also full of sweetness. You make up games no adult could possibly invent, and play them happily. E is often content to acquiesce to your imperious commands, with an affectionate chuckle at how cute you can be when you’re ordering people around. When you’re peaceful together, it’s a blessing to watch and listen.

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And you’re full of love. You give amazing big squeezy hugs, and tell your people that you love them on a regular basis. There is nothing in life as awesome as feeling your little arms around my neck and hearing, “I love you, Mama.” And then there was that time the other week, when I was about to leave for dance class, and you grabbed my hand in both your little ones, and held it to your soft baby cheek, looked at me with your big oceanic eyes, and said, “I love you the whole time you’re gone, okay?” My heart almost burst.

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Sometimes, you’re so beautiful in your you-ness, I can hardly stand it.

Here’s a little video I started making many days ago, to celebrate your third year. I love you always, the whole time, and I hope I always remember exactly how saucy, smart, tender, fiery, and special you are at this moment.

***


 

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Preschooler No More

11:36 a.m.

Dear E,

Today is your first full day of kindergarten – JK. I am sitting here fervently wishing I were a fly on the wall of your classroom. Are you having fun? Are you nervous about anything? Did (do) you like your first recess? Are the other kids nice? Have you eaten any of your lunch? Are you remembering to ask for help when you need it? I know that by the time you get home, you will remember approximately three things – if that – and they probably won’t be the things I would ask you about.

I was so proud of how ready you were today.

You have gone from saying “I don’t want to go to school” earlier in the summer to “When do I get to go to school??” just recently. (I think the turning point was when we bought your backpack and lunch bag and indoor shoes.)

You have visited your classroom twice, and met your teachers. Your first time there, at the JK visit in August, you found your name tag, went right in and had only a moment or two of hesitation, holding my hand, before you began exploring the different (lovely!) activities on the tables… You had your friend C with you, a bit older and experienced with school, so I just sat aside and watched you and the other JKs discovering your classroom. I could perfectly imagine you as part of your big class, doin’ the kindergarten thing, just like the JKs I taught two years ago.

Then Friday was an hour-long visit – with no parents. You had been a bit worried about it; the night before you’d said to me, “What if I get lost?” We have talked a lot about school in recent weeks, so you wouldn’t stew with your worries – and so you’d have an idea of what to expect. Daddy says that he dropped you off with no fuss at all, and when he picked you up, you wanted to go to school the very next day (Saturday). You learned (and remembered!) the word bibilothèque. You told anyone who wanted to know, “I went to school! I had my first day, and next time I’m going to ride the bus!”

So, on this cool, sunny morning, Daddy and Auntie Em and Baby AB and I accompanied you to the bus stop. You had a few moments where you weren’t sure you wanted to take the bus after all, but when it arrived, Daddy helped you up (those ENORMOUS steps with your GIGANTIC-looking backpack) and you sat in the first seat. You didn’t cry. You waved to us calmly – we were smiling like mad so you wouldn’t forget how great it is to ride the bus – and then you were gone.

photo

Your posse waded home through a wave of emotion and nostalgia. Daddy fretted about the things you might not be ready for, and whether you would be okay. Now that I’ve spent plenty of time in kindergarten classrooms, I could confidently tell him that you would be fine – you’d probably already had circle time, been to the bathroom with a group or a buddy, played at recess… but of course I was fretting inside too, because that’s part of what moms do.

Good thing I know some things about kindergarten teachers, especially 1) that they’ve pretty much seen everything, and 2) that they are amazing and full of love.

I remember witnessing, two years ago, the parents dropping their kids off for the first full day of JK. Some children were crying and clinging, and some marched right in, eager to get going. Then, once the kids were finally all inside, there were a lot of parents peering in the classroom windows, emotional themselves, trying to see their progeny in the new habitat, inadvertently causing some children to recommence dramatics.

At the time, I didn’t truly understand. Shouldn’t you be thrilled when your child embarks on a new phase, especially if s/he is excited to go to school? (And shouldn’t you hightail it out of there as soon as s/he has successfully made it into the classroom?)

Now I get it: it’s actually harder for parents than it is for kids. I know that yes, we ARE thrilled, and shattered too.

How amazing that you, an incredible creature we’ve so carefully grown and sculpted (or tried to), are now a semi-independent being. How painful that you are now going to go have a whole life apart from ours.

Especially now. When I went to kindergarten, I went for half-days. Even the kids I taught came every other day. You, like most kids in the province do by now, will be going all day, every day. That’s most of your waking time. And I’ve just spent the fourth year of your life on maternity leave, so I’m used to having lots of time with you and witnessing lots of E-awesomeness. (And some other stuff too.) It’s tough thinking about all the cool things you will do… that I will miss. But that’s how it’s supposed to be.

***

9:26 p.m.

The first big day is done… You did great! (And so did we, resisting the urge to get in the car and follow the bus.) Mr. A, our friend who now works at your school instead of mine, was kind enough to let me know that you’d had a good recess and send me a bit of footage of you with a big smile.

What a relief – and only partially surprising. You are so sensitive sometimes, so melodramatic… and then sometimes you are just strong and take everything in stride. You came home with your new communication bag, and your lunch part-eaten (I’ll bet you dawdled), and you were happy, and even kinda nonchalant about your day. (And I was right – there wasn’t much you felt like telling us. Why should you? You live in the moment – that’s what childhood is for.)

You were pretty worn out, though. Dinner was a series of medium-sized meltdowns – which we were expecting. Right now, you’re probably in the deepest sleep of your life thus far.

Sweetie boy, we are SO PROUD OF YOU. You’re a wonderful person.

Love forever.

baby E
Weren’t you JUST this a minute ago??
e and baby ab
Now you’re the SO big brother.

***


 

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Preschooleristics: 8 (or 10) “Close But No Banana” Quotables

1. “Look, Mama! There’s another digger at the instruction site.”

1b) “Let’s go see Auntie Beth in her impartment.”

1c) “Why do you have a doctor’s impointment?”

2. “I just typed a lot of prepostrophes.”

3. “When are we going to cook something on the barbecube?”

4. “Can we play Trevor Pursuit?”*

5. While playing Kingdom Rush: “We’re going to need some more guys in our infantreat.”

6. Having just run super-fast down the hill: “That was pretty runny!”

7. Regarding a tangled-up headphone cord: “Look at this big discussion!”

8. After I answered for the second time that the toothpaste the dentist gave us was “gentle mint” flavour: “This should be Daddy’s toothpaste because he’s a gentlemint.”

*Between Daddy, me, and Auntie Em, we have taught him to play something approximating Trivial Pursuit. Sometimes we make up the questions, and sometimes we ask real ones but make them all multiple-choice. Today he found a question card out of its box and asked me this one:

“Mama, what’s the answer to the pink question: Is it John Louise, Christopher Hoo-Fonz, or Bird Flack?” I wish you could have heard the eloquent pauses between “Chris” and “topher”, “Hoo” and “Fonz”.

I did not guess right, but he was gracious about it.

***


 

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