Posts Tagged ‘milestones’

Letting go one step at a time.

February 4, 2014

It seemed so much easier when we were younger. For a rather protected child, it seemed like I had all the freedom in the world. My cousin and I would walk next door to the pizza place to pick up our order when we were just 6 and 4. A year or so later, we were allowed to walk along a fairly busy road to the supermarket that was a couple blocks away. All through our childhood we were allowed to ride our bikes through the neighborhood or play in the woods for as long as we liked, just as long as we let our mom know what we were doing. We didn’t have to check in, we didn’t have to be back by a certain time (other than “by dinner”).

But now that I’m trying to figure out how to handle the same issue with my own daughters, the idea of trusting them alone – and trusting the world we now live in to behave itself – seems so much trickier! Today’s world isn’t the same as the culture I grew up in. Unfortunately, the reality is that we worry about letting our nine-year-olds walk through our neighborhood alone to a friend’s house. (It wasn’t just me – the friend’s mom had the same reservation.) I don’t let the girls go alone to the bathroom in certain stores because it would be so easy to snatch them when the front doors are right there. It’s tricky – you have to learn as a parent how to walk the fine line between being cautious and being too controlling and paranoid.

The Ex and Stepmom and I have talked a lot about the subject this past year. Gracie will be ten and is certainly ready for a bit more independence. Bee will be eight – not a baby, certainly, but her temperament is very different from her sister’s. She isn’t as focused and mature as her sister. She’s fabulous and quirky in all the best ways, don’t get me wrong; Bee just isn’t as ready as her sister. If you dropped them both off in the middle of downtown and told them to find their way home, Gracie would be home before I knew it, completely unscarred. Bee would chase a butterfly, get distracted by a shoe sale, lose her sweater (and her homework) somewhere, and convince a live band on a patio to let her play the guitar. And then I would hear for the rest of her life about the time I was mean and “abandoned” her, even though she had the time of her life. You know…in the pretend scenario that is somewhat off-track now. Ahem. The point was that the grown-ups all agree that the girls are ready to start learning to be a bit more independent, but to also make sure we’re not forcing anything on the girls that they aren’t ready for just because we are.

So what does that mean? It means that I’ll keep doing what I have been doing – leaving the girls home alone when I run across the street for short visits. I let Bee decide whether she wants to wait in the car when I run inside to pick up Gracie from her after-school program. I let the girls visit different sections of the store, as long as they tell me where they’re going to be.

And there will be new levels of independence – like leaving Gracie at home yesterday for the 20 minutes it took me to go get Bee from daycare. (In full disclosure, that decision was helped along by the fact that Gracie was still throwing up from the stomach bug. So.) But Gracie’s the easy one. She’s the one who excels at problem-solving and stays calm in a crisis. Bee…she’s going to need some coaching. I mean, she can’t even keep our cell phone numbers straight yet. (Scattered, but dazzling – that’s our Bee.) So on Friday afternoon, I decided Bee was ready for a small step. We were home because Bee had been sick the night before with the stomach bug, but she had been fine since mid-morning. I told Bee I was going to go for a run and she would be home alone for about 40 minutes. I went over the safety precautions – don’t open the door for anyone, only answer the phone if she knew who it was, and to call me if there were any problems. I wrote my cell phone number on a piece of paper and showed her where it was.

And then I changed, told her I was leaving, and walked out the front door. Just like that.

Halfway through my run, my playlist stopped and a call came through on the cell phone. Bee wanted to know if she could have a snack. I told her she could have crackers and water, made sure she was okay, and told her I’d be home in ten minutes. I knew the call wasn’t really about a snack – it was Bee making sure she could call me. I liked that. I like that she (er, um, and I) saw that our system worked just like we said it would. I finished my run, showered, and that was that.

Small steps. Baby steps. And so many other, bigger steps in front of us. But that’s how you have to deal with this parenting thing, I think – prying one finger at a time off the illusion of control. Otherwise I’ll end up with two very needy adults living in my house long after they’re grown, still expecting me to drive them everywhere. If that’s not the perfect motivator, I don’t know what is!

 

 

 

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The Thanta Bwiefing.

February 5, 2013

For those of you who weren’t blessed with my pitiful little hyperventilating self yesterday, yesterday was A Day. The morning started out quite normal; we were all bustling around getting ready for school and for work, when all of a sudden, Gracie bit down the wrong way on a piece of cereal, yelled, and then declared that she was pretty sure she could pull her tooth out. And then she did. Normal so far, yes? Except then it happened…

After biting down on a paper towel to stop the bleeding, Gracie says, “Mom, I think the tooth fairy should give me some extra money. Since I pulled the tooth myself.”

Oh ho ho ho – the words sounded innocent enough, but I looked up at my darling little eight-year-old because those words sounded awfully full of knowing. I looked right at her, Gracie looked right at me, and damnit to the mothership if her eyes were sparkling with mischief. Did she know? She must! Wait…did she? Was she in on the Tooth Fairy Conspiracy? She had asked very leading questions about Santa the past two Christmases, but since her sister had been around each time, so there wasn’t a chance for me to confirm her suspicions. The only option I had was to heap shovels full o’ magic and believing on top of her and cross my fingers. I thought it worked…but did it?

I sent the kids off to school and then, yeah, I started breathing into a paper bag. The Ex agreed. I was going to have to do it. I was going to have The Talk with Gracie about who exactly was behind all that magic. And then her childhood would be over and she might hate me and my heart would break into a million pieces. And how was your Monday?

One of my co-workers tried reassuring me: didn’t I remember when I knew, but didn’t want to know, and didn’t want to let on that I knew so I could keep the presents coming? NOOOOO!, I told him! I never suspsected! I was the gullible kid who kept right on believing, until my mom had to break it to me sometime after Christmas in third grade, and before fourth grade. I remember bawling, sitting there on my bed. I felt so betrayed by my mom, and so sad that there was no such thing as magic. I think having the magic ripped away was even worse than feeling betrayed.

You can see why I was little worried. Kim told me she thought Gracie would be fine. Gracie loves being in on secrets, and feeling like a grown-up – what better set up for that is there?! She could help me wrap Bee’s presents and feel like she’s in on alllll the secrets. Massive power trips always make her feel better. Ah, but I know my Gracie, and she’s also prone to dramatics. Her heartbreak could be epic. This could have gone down either way.

Which is why, last night when her sister was in the bath, I handed the kiddo a soda to try to buy me some goodwill. “Gracie, I have to talk to you about something.”
“Uh…okay.”
“When you said you thought you should get extra money for pulling your own tooth…did you believe that? Do you really believe in the tooth fairy?” I allowed a note of incredulousness into my voice, trying to lead her to the right answer.
“Absolutely!” she fervently agreed. “Who else could find Bee’s tooth when she lost it outside and put it back under her pillow?”

Crap.

I changed tactics. “You don’t believe that Steggy – your sister’s dinosaur is real, do you?”
“No. I just say I do so she won’t be afraid. There aren’t dinosaurs outside, Mom. And they’re not nocturnal.”
“Right. Because that isn’t logical. It doesn’t make any sense. We just pretend so she’ll feel good and so she’ll believe in magic, and because it’s a little fun Like tooth fairies.”

I had to spell the whole dang thing out for her. And, um, whoops – she really didn’t have any idea. I explained the tooth fairy – and assured her that she would still get money, that nothing would change even after her sister had outgrown it. Then I had to explain that meant Santa too. I thought Gracie would break down then – she looked absolutely devastated. But she rallied when she remembered that she had even said that Santa’s handwriting looked like mine. Bless her little codebreaking heart. She connected the dots to the Easter Bunny on her own. And then she did panic.

“What about God, Mom?”

Rather than give her a complete existential crisis (hey, an 8-year-old can only take so much), I said simply, “God is real. Well, God is still the same.” She can grapple with this is-he-or-isn’t-he when she’s a little more equipped to figure out her own answer. But it made me giggle a little later that one of her first reactions was to think that the entire religious sector was in on pulling a fast. I mean, I guess that made as much sense as learning that parents were playing Santa.

After that, she was completely okay. As in, unfazed. As in, really, not a single tear shed. The complete opposite of where I thought the night was going. “Are you okay? Really? You’re fine?” I asked her more than once. I told her about when I found out so she’d feel like she had “permission” to lose it a little, if she wanted. Then I played up the whole top secret nature of the Santa conspiracy. She was NOT to tell her sister – she could help me play Santa, but she wasn’t to say anything. She could NOT tell her friends. Most of them probably didn’t know, and even asking if they believed might be the thing that made them not believe any more, and that wasn’t fair. She could talk to any grown-up about it as long as she made sure it was in private, so little kids didn’t accidentally overhear anything. And, most of all, she was NOT to overdo it around her sister or anyone. “You’re a horrible liar, Gracie,” I told her. And it’s true: if she’s lying for someone else, if there isn’t any self-preservation involved, the kid couldn’t lie to save her life. Lying to me about brushing her teeth, though, sometimes she can get away with it.

Gracie laughed, knowing how true my statement was, and agreed to all of the club rules. That was it. In the blink of an eye, my kiddo wasn’t a little kid anymore. In real life. She was cool with it. We didn’t even need to make an emergency phone call to Auntie Kim, who, anticipating her ability to talk out loud after a root canal, starting practicing saying, “Thanta ith weal in thpirit, Gwacie.” But all the practice was in vain – Gracie, it turns out, is more ready to grow up than any of the grown-ups in her life are. Which is just as it should be.

One of those ‘How did my mom do it?’ moments.

May 10, 2012

Last week we faced down yet another milestone here at Casa de Katie, although I’m not quite sure I’d say we quite conquered it. In fact, I’m not sure I want to repeat it again anytime soon, but I’m sure that’s just me. Either that, or my mom had nerves of steel, and we know that ain’t true.

It was Wednesday night, the night before Corrie’s surgery. I needed to run across the street to give her some money for the jewelry I’d bought from her. [Hey: no judging. As I told my boss who was giving me a hard time for breaking the budget, I was shopping for cancer. Er, well, 25% of the proceeds from the jewelry sale went towards Corrie’s team’s fundraising for their 3-day walk. So shoosh.] She needed to close the sale before her surgery and I owed her a goodish chunk o’ change. That and cracking jokes at her expense before she left for surgery the next morning – it had to happen. It’s how you show you care, people.

Only one problem: as soon as we got home, Gracie started complaining about her tummy and then she started hurling. I knew she didn’t feel good – she looked pathetic. Either it was a nasty stomach bug, or else her allergies had left her a sniffling mess. Sniffles don’t sit well on tummies, you know. But if it was a stomach bug, I probably shouldn’t bring that mess anywhere near a pre-op patient. Hurling post-surgery=lifelong hatred of massive proportions. What to do?

In the end, I talked myself into it: Gracie was 8, she’s mature for her age, and I had been doing it for ages by the time I was in 2nd grade – she was going to have to stay home by herself while I ran across the street. The thought alone gave me goosebumps down to my toes, but I knew – pathetic pallor aside – Gracie would be fine. I’d only be across the street. I wouldn’t be gone long. I’d have her partner-in-crime sister with me, so she wouldn’t be tempted to get into something she shouldn’t be doing. There was homework to focus on. And I wasn’t kidding when I said I had done it – and a whole bunch more – by the time I was her age. I stayed home alone while my mom stood with the kids at the bus stop – at the top of the street. I had walked with my cousin to get pizza next door. My mom had even let me and my cousin walk to the grocery store a block away. And I’d never set the house on fire or gotten kidnapped! She’d be fine!

I, however, was a nervous wreck.

I only stayed at Corrie’s for about ten minutes – there’s no such thing as ‘just dropping something off’ when me and Corrie orher husband John in the same room. No one gasped with shock when I mentioned Gracie was home alone with her puke bucket. (In fact, I got raucous laughter when I sang my Big Bang parody: Gracie plays her bucket bongos while she does her homework.] And best of all, when Bee and I arrived home, everyone and everything was still in one piece. Although I did get a rather whiney and pathetic rendition of “You were gone a long tiiiiime!” from The Sick One.

Still, success aside, I don’t know that I’ll be doing that again any time soon. Gracie was unphased, but my nerves might need a year or two to calm down before we try another attempt.

Guess what happened two days before Christmas?

January 6, 2012

Good thing the Tooth Fairy’s been keeping emergency cash on hand. Nothing hurts worse than only having a $20 in situations such as these.

Bee’s favorite part? Gracie didn’t lose her first until well into 1st grade. Ah, sibling rivalry: how you beat me about the head.

I’ll take Any Happy Little Milestone for $800, Alex.

May 12, 2011

We were more than halfway through bath night when it hit me – I had hardly been involved in all. I’ll admit it – I did a happy little dance right there in the middle of the hallway where I was standing.

See, they don’t really tell you about all the milestones you’ll celebrate when you become a mom. Sure, they mention the Sleeping Through The Night thing, and the First Night Away From Your Child and First Day of School. They never tell you that you’ll scream a giant Hallelujah to the heavens when your child learns to buckle her own seatbelt (and you never have to stand in the rain again) or how thankful you’ll be when you can send your child into the restroom at the store and you don’t have to wait inside, trying to figure out where to stand that isn’t in anyone’s way while you listen to running commentary from your child’s particular stall (hoping like heck she won’t say anything about anyone else who happens to be in there). The joys of real parenting!

Well, I celebrated another one of those moments last night: I realized I am no longer needed to bathe either of my children. Not only is my lower back singing at the wonder of no longer scrunching over for 30 minutes four (or more) nights a week, but good lord – the free time! I can clean my entire kitchen in between safety checks! I can empty a dishwasher! Or fold and put away an entire load of laundry! (The trick of it was – it almost made it seem like doing those chores was a treat, too! Because one child was in the bath and the other was playing with whatever toy she can’t enjoy when the other is harping on her that she’s playing it wrong – I think we were all furtively looking over our shoulders, wondering when the blissful alone-ness was going to screech to a halt.)

Now, don’t go thinking I’m a horrible, lazy mom who clearly doesn’t care for her children because I am practically forcing them to drown. There are rules to this Bathing Alone thing. The bathroom door MUST stay open – even if your name is Gracie and you are very much into privacy for primping and preening. The bather MUST keep up a steady stream of chatter or sing a song – anything that makes constant noise to let me know that your head is still above water. Only to my two chatterboxes, this rule might seem more like permission than a rule, but whatever. The last rule is that I MUST check on them every few minutes, whether I can hear their sweet dulcet tones or not. Usually the girl-children holler for me to dole out shampoo or check to make sure their hair is sufficiently bubbled or rinsed.

This works well for us. I am afforded a little more quiet each night. We all get a little downtime in between boisterous (and sometimes cantankerous) dinners and pre-bedtime activities. And we all feel a little more independent. It might not be much, but it feels like a Very Big Deal – to all of us. That’s especially the kind of boost I needed this week.

Finding our balance.

August 23, 2009

I may have mentioned a time or two this past year that I a little nervous about Gracie’s debut into the world. Kindergarten is a big step. Navigating the halls from the bus lines to her classroom, taking charge of her own lunch decisions in the cafeteria lines, adjusting to school life surrounded by not just 100 other kids, but 800 other children. Especially that last bit about changing from a big fish in a small pond to the tiniest minnow you ever did see in a rather large ocean. It’s a lot to take in – for both of us.

Thursday night was Meet the Teacher Night at her new school. Gracie’s dad capitulated and agreed that enrolling Gracie in our neighborhood elementary school was the smartest decision. The school is located close to both of our houses and is on the way to both of our workplaces. Daycare provides transportation to and from school for before- and after-care. And several of Gracie’s school and neighborhood friends will be attending. Not that Gracie cared about any of that – she has been jazzed about attending “five-year-old school” for awhile, it’s been Mom who has had the jitters.

I was hoping Meet the Teacher Night would talk to my jitters and see if maybe they would broker a peace deal, but the night got off to a horrible start. The Ex forgot about Meet the Teacher Night. Yes, he forgot. Despite my having reminded him three times the week before and discussing plans explicitly the night before about how he would pick all of us up at the house in time for us to be there right at 6 p.m. At five til’, I texted him to inquire about his whereabouts. I got back a text that said roughly, “Crap. Will meet you there.” I was furious. Gracie started crying and asking where her Daddy was and why he wasn’t coming to get us anymore and why he wasn’t going to see her school with her. I soothed her as best I could and herded everyone into the car. Thank goodness I had only had a sip of wine to calm my nerves and not an entire glass.

Despite the fact that the school was in utter chaos (to put it mildly), things calmed down tremendously once we arrived. We met Gracie’s music teacher (yay! the public school still has music!), who sweetly directed us to the class lists posted on the bulletin boards. We found Gracie’s classroom (the last of five kindergartens) and met her teacher. I was a little concerned because her room was the only one not pulled together, but I later found out the administration had switched rooms on her at the last minute. Gracie and Bee were both shy at first, but Ms. F. helped Gracie pick out a locker (my baby has a real, live locker!! sob!) for her supplies and I filled out a dozen more reams of paperwork. Ms. F. is a sweetheart. She patiently answered all of my questions about how the first day of school will work and how lunch works and said that in two weeks she will host a formal parents’ night so that we can learn how our child’s day will be organized and what will be taught. By the time we were ready to leave (and coincidentally, when The Ex walked in, without an apology or an explanation), Gracie, Bee, and I were all fast friends with Ms. F.

I have to applaud the school for not only having the classroom teachers on hand, but all of the other teachers and assistants and administrators, as well. All of the rooms were open for Gracie to explore and familiarize herself. We walked through the library and met the librarian; we walked around the gym/auditorium and saw the coach (who seemed to be quite popular, as he was in the middle of a scrum of students), we showed Gracie where the cafeteria was and met the nicest Cafeteria Lady you could even imagine. In fact, Cafeteria Lady even walked Gracie through the line to show her (and me) how it would work. Walking back to Gracie’s classroom to say goodbye to Ms. F., Gracie exclaimed, “I’m not afraid anymore, Mom!” The enthusiasm, excitement, and relief in her voice lifted me six inches off the ground. I wanted to say, “Me, either, Gracie-girl!” but I was afraid that might cast a small shadow on her happiness.

Before we left the school, we all traipsed down to the playground, which is quite a distance from the main buildings. Gracie and Bee were thrilled with all of the sophisticated equipment that is out there. I have to admit: I was a little impressed myself, given that it’s a public school in a low-income district of a major metropolitan city. I watched Gracie test out the equipment and couldn’t help thinking that she’s going to be fine. She’ll find her place here in a week or so and we’ll go back to our boring, every day sort of drama. She’s growing up, but she’s ready.

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