First Days

IMG_6982First Days…we’ve all had them.  First day on the job.  First day of a new relationship.  First day of marriage.  They are exciting.  They are important.  They are milestones.

I am very familiar with first days of school.  If you count my first days of preschool through college and then my first days of school as a teacher, I think I’ve had 39 first days of school (40 counting tomorrow).  As my principal mentioned in our meeting yesterday, that’s the exciting thing about teaching.  We get to start fresh every year.  So do the kids.  New hopes, new excitements, new firsts.

Tomorrow is our son’s first day of kindergarten.  Now this is a milestone that I am still absorbing.  In fact, it keeps jumping up and poking me in the heart at the oddest times, leaving me in tears made of something I can’t quite describe–not sadness, not joy, but some misty combination of pride, deep love, and sorrow at the quick passing of time.  Our sweet, high-energy, deep-thinking, silly, sensitive, imaginative, roller coaster of a little boy is heading off to kindergarten.

E loved preschool.  He loved his teachers, the books, the block center, the kids, the playing!  Now he’s headed to all-day kindergarten.  In my heart, I know that he will love it, but of course, I am filled with fears too.  I want him to grow and learn and to feel accepted, loved, and confident every day.  I want him to make friends and happy memories.  I want it to go well.

Did I mention E will be attending my school?  Yes, while my husband drops E off at his classroom for his big, important first day, I will be welcoming a bunch of amazing students who are also excited for their first day.  While my son, this huge part of my heart, will be down the hall, timidly beginning his elementary journey, another part of my heart will be expanding to take in these special fifth graders for the last year of their elementary careers.  I want to create a wonderful fifth grade experience for them.  I will work so hard to be the best teacher I can be for them, just as I know E’s teachers will do for him.

There is so much to take in on such a big first day.  Yet my mind keeps roaming back to that first, first day.  After 19 hours of labor, that warm, fragile baby boy of mine was finally placed onto my chest, his heart near mine.  His first day in the world; my first day as a mom.  I kissed his forehead, thanked God for him, cried, and began a life of dreaming, worrying, and loving.  Tomorrow, my husband and I will send E to his first day of kindergarten.  E will be okay.  I am pretty sure we will be too.  It’s a big first day, but we know there will be many more firsts ahead of us.  We will kiss him on the forehead, thank God for him, cry, and continue to dream, worry, and love.

slice of life

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First day of school sign from Remodelaholic.

Parental Truth Telling

Have you ever had that friend that called it like she saw it? Told the truth even if it made you squirm a bit?  Stacey is that friend to me.  I’ve known her since college, and I look forward to the many more years of our friendship.  She’s a quiet, gentle soul, but she’s got spunk.  She’s not afraid to say the truth.  I’m truthful too, but I’m much more guarded in what I say.  I take things in, process them through rose-colored glasses (which I inherited from my mother), and then consider all audiences and their feelings before sharing my thoughts.  Stacey just says it.  I love that about her!

Recently Stacey stayed with my family for a few days.  It was so good to see her.  I always feel like my tank has been filled, my soul has been repaired and restored, after visits with her.  While here, Stacey, my husband, and I enjoyed reconnecting with each other’s children.  Stacey finally got to meet our sweet daughter, and she showered her with snuggles and attention.  She also talked to and played with our loving, energetic four-year old son.  Scott and I marveled at how much her teenage boys have grown, and we smiled as we watched them relate so wonderfully to our children.

Stacey also had the honor of witnessing the multitude of tiny (and sometimes big) meltdowns our son had while she and the boys were here.  Due to the change in routine and extra stimulation of having visitors, E had even more tantrums than usual.  At some point on the last day, hearing me sigh after yet another scream from Mr. Fussy Pants, Stacey put her hand on my shoulder and spoke two words that, after my initial shock, warmed my heart.  “Parenting sucks,” she said.

Now before you get too offended, please know that Stacey loves her children more than anything.  She is an amazing mom (the mom, other than my own dear mother, like whom I constantly hope that I can be), and she is a talented, loving teacher.   I, too, love my children, marvel at them daily, and count being their mother as one of the greatest gifts God has given me. But, full disclosure here, parenting IS hard.  It is exhausting.  To be so invested in these little beings, these special extensions of my heart, and then to have them scream or tantrum or make poor choices—it’s enough to knock down the strongest of parents.  Not to mention the worries and frets they cause you as you watch them now or think about their futures—yikes!  Following Stacey’s bold lead, it just feels good to be honest about this.  For a moment, at least.

This truth telling may seem to run against the themes of my other posts.  I know I’m not alone.  We all post happy pictures of our kids on Facebook or Instagram, gushing with pride and love.  It’s not dishonest.  Those are the parts that we hold onto at the end of the day.  Those are the moments that lift us up and make our buttons burst.  If I am like my mother, I’m pretty sure those will be the ones that I remember when my children are grown.  But maybe we need to hear from each other now and then, so we don’t freak out that we’re doing something wrong.  Let’s just remind each other.  Parenting is hard.  It can even “suck” sometimes.  Totally worth it, wouldn’t trade it for the world, but it isn’t easy.  Thank God we have our spouses, our dear friends, and our families to lean on in the process.

When I’m Bigger

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I don’t know if this is rare in children, or if it will change in a couple of years, but my son, who is almost 4, is in no hurry to grow up.  And I love it.  For a while this year, whenever someone called him a “big boy,” E would stomp his foot and be quite adamant.  “I’m not a big boy.  I’m a little boy!” he would shout.

Now that he has finally resigned himself to potty training and the world of Toy Story and Cars underwear this summer, E is not as upset about being called a big boy, but he’s still very clear about the levels of big boyhood.  He repeatedly asks for assurances from my husband and me that he will watch Spiderman when he’s older.  Other than that interest, however, he is perfectly happy being his age–being a little big boy.  He likes his freedoms. He accepts his limitations.  He enjoys being a helper.  He loves just being.  E is a model for living in the moment.

Over the past month or two, E has even turned being young into an excellent excuse for putting off all that causes discomfort or fear.  When faced with eating an undesired food, going potty in a public restroom, or doing anything too noisy or frightening, he calmly states, “I’ll do that when I’m bigger.” No regret. No self-judgement. E is perfectly comfortable with where he’s at in life.

While certainly as a mother, I want E to explore new things and gain confidence as he ventures into this world, I also am comforted by the fact that he is clinging so greatly to his early childhood.  I know already how quickly these years are slipping by us.  So many times, I’ve teasingly admonished E and his sister for growing too fast.  I’m grateful E is willing to stay my little boy for at least a little longer.

Of course, I still have the typical motherly worries of how E will do in school, whether he’ll have friends, and if he’ll be nice to others and make good decisions. Instead of dwelling on those concerns, I need to follow E’s lead and live in the moment too.  I need to look at bugs with him, blow bubbles, listen to his stories, and take every single request for a snuggle.  When my son is so deeply entrenched in living the good life on his (almost) four year old terms, I might as well join him!  Those other worries?  I can face them when I’m bigger.

The Joy of Rereading

E Reading

“I’m reading!” my toddler insists.  E will not even look up to listen to my question or comment about the book he’s reading. When he’s into a book, he’s fully engaged.  Though I feel a little sad by this early independence, I also am very happy.

I have been reading to E since he was in the womb.  At 2 1/2, he makes his teacher-mama proud.  He loves books and often wants us to read to him.  He always asks for one more book and then another “one more book” before naps and bedtime.  When things get too quiet in the house and we can’t see E, we often find him in front of the bookshelf or in a corner of the room, surrounded by books, reading them to himself one by one.

E’s bookshelves have gotten a bit overcrowded lately.  I recently tried to hide away some seasonal and simpler books until E’s sister arrives in the fall and we get a new set of shelves for her room.  Tonight, after not seeing them for two weeks, E was asking specifically for some of these hidden books.  Even with newer books and library checkouts at his fingertips, E does not tire of reading the old books.  He simply loves to reread.

This makes me think about the rereading my students do and that I do as an adult. Many students seem to have their “go to” books–trusted books they know will satisfy again and again.  Sure, I want them to stretch their wings and find new titles, new genres.  I can’t deny them, however, that pure joy of a story well told.

I know that satisfaction too.  Like listening to a good song again and again, when I reread I rediscover old friends, uncover new beauty, and gain new understandings and appreciation.  Most times, I do choose to read new books.  So many books, so little time, right?   But what if I do take that break from the new and go back to the old?  What might I gain?  Looking at the joy on my son’s face as he pours over each page of that worn, drool-encrusted book I tried to hide, I think I might gain quite a bit!

My unfinished list of books to reread:

  • Walden, by Henry David Thoreau–Fell in love with it at 16, though I couldn’t fully understand it.  Reread it at 25.  What a different perspective as I reread!  How would it appeal to me at 40?
  • Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott–A childhood favorite–I may make myself wait a bit longer and read this with my children.
  • Any Harry Potter book, by J.K. Rowling–I know what will happen, but I never tire of the characters and the pure imagination behind the series.
  • The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver–This was the first of her novels that I read, and I felt like I had found my author-soul sister.
  • The Shipping News, by E. Annie Proulx–She’s my other favorite author, and this is the first of hers that I read.  I still can picture and feel the stark, chilly setting.
  • Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini–Such a tragic and beautiful story!

What books would be on your list?