“Superman is having a very busy day,” Marcel observed with empathy while watching Superman last night. There were bad guys being foiled and heroic feats of Lois Lane savings going on about the time he matter of factly declared this. I might conclude the kid can relate. With a few weeks left of kindergarten, a newly developed penchant for gymnastics class, a very fast big brother to keep up with, several good friends to connect with, and all the father’s day cards he’s working on, the kid is busy. (Yes, I said all these Father’s Day cards. We have about sixteen in a large brown envelope waiting to be delivered. But this may require a post of it’s own.) There are also Nana’s to play with, new walls to scale, flowers to water, lettuce to pick, and lots of things to build. Superman is having a very busy day indeed.
It’s been, uh, let’s say rather full around here.
Kindergarten is big. It is about as demanding a shift on a little guy as it gets. A thousand new things to learn how to do well. Add a a zillion hundred new names of your new friends. Take away your mom and brother’s easing, reassuring words, looks, and hugs all day and you are setting up a little person for hard patch. He’s handling it beautifully at school. His teacher has nothing but great things to say. He is smiling when I pick him up.
Then we get home. Two words: OVERWHELMED EMOTIONS. This looks like outbursts of the vocal and physical variety. Things in flight: toys, fists, demands. Often his entire four year old self racing as fast as he can (which is FAST) in the opposite direction from me. Shrek and I have had some great conversations about how to best support him. Reasoning wasn’t working. Time outs were turning into complete mayhem. Then we reached out to other circles as well. What we’ve come up with that seems to be really helping-more connection-more hugging-less time outs-and lots of reassurance that these are BIG EMOTIONS and they are OK and that he is DOING GREAT.
An example of a successful switch it up intervention was last night. He and Sam were watching a movie. He lost track of the plot because one of the characters spoke in a heavy accent. He stands up right in front of the television screaming; “I HATE THIS. IT MAKES NO SENSE. I AM GOING TO TURN IT OFF NOW!!!” Asking him to please sit down, or count to three with the promise of a time out would lead him strait to Melt Down Avenue before you could say; “Don’t throw that remote!”. Instead Shrek suggested that I stop folding the laundry in the other room, and offer to sit with him in my lap, and explain the narrative when necessary. He was cuddled in my lap, quietly watching and laughing in seconds. When the dishes were done, Shrek joined us too. Maybe this seems completely obvious to you. But to me–who was so into CONSEQUENCES for everything, it has been a great reminder to switch it up, CONNECT MORE and find what works better. It has also been great to realize that what works for one fantastic kid, is not necessarily working for the other fantastic kid. Why this was an ah-ha this late in the game?
What is the parable about the rabbi who tells the man that if his home feels crowded and overwhelming it is time to buy a goat, a cow, a horse and so on and so on?
Yesterday we welcomed “Friendly” or “Sky” or “Bird” depending on who you ask into our home. Sam in particular is thrilled to have a parakeet. I’m enjoying it too. Lots of opportunity for literacy; “Read to us what he can’t eat again Sam?” and “Parakeets really need quiet in the house to adjust.” It was really sweet to have this be a FAMILY decision, including Shrek, to get the bird or not after a student’s family asked us if we’d be interested in the bird, cage and all. Having a pet is a big deal, and this felt like a great place to start. A bird requires daily attention, and care, but it doesn’t poop on your floor, or bark.
So, why did they want to part with such a beauty? SHE’S ANNOYING according to the daughter. Huh. To be discovered?
Now to some seeing a large pair of industrial strength boots under your kitchen table might be annoying too. Or perhaps it just a sign of a welcomed change, a growing family, and wait what was that parable getting at?
So although I still feel a rather palpable feeling of loss when I walk around the community pool near the skate park and see this:
in a few steps I have the pleasure of watching Sam leaping into his own in magical ways, that remind me how precious it all is, and not just in the summer time.
I hope your new starts and transitions are not all feeling like “dropping into the big bowl”, but if so, remember that once you leap, you do reach the bottom, with another chance to climb up, up, up, and try it again!
He’s hanging in there.
He read a book that he colored in himself, and stapled together.
He sleeps about 14 hours a night. Hard.
He eats for three.
He looks a year older already.
He says the names of his new friends in his sleep.
He tried school lunch and loved it.
He “forgot” he had a packed lunch the next day, and had another school lunch.
He fell apart around dinner and bed time almost every night.
He shook his head in complete disbelief when I told him it was Saturday, and there was no school today, and said; “Well if you are certain everyone is home today, then I’ll stay home too.”
Today both Sammy and Marcel have agreed to share their last summer journal entries* with their adoring fans. In Sammy’s case we wrote the opening sentence together, and then he dictated the rest. He’s been working on starting sentences with different words (instead of always using the word then) and ending with a closing sentence. When he can dictate, his writing is much meatier because he doesn’t limit himself to words he can spell! In Marcel’s case, the “post” is a drawing of a special memory, and a few sentences dictated to me about the drawing.
Since the week of starting school is about all of us JUMPING in, these posts feel wildly fitting. To safe and easy landings to all of you, wherever you are in the leaping.
Jump! By Sammy
Yesterday Shrek, my brother and I built a ramp. First, we got a wood plank and found two other little pieces of wood. Next, we found a piece of pipe. Then we put the little pieces of wood together with nails, a hammer and a drill. We attached them to the ramp part, and added the pipe after we cut it to a littler size. To make it more stable we added a small piece of scrap wood to make it steady. Finally we smoothed the edge so that I could go up it without bumping. The best part was when I jumped in the air.
Jump II by Marcel with a preface by Mommy
Preface: We had an amazing weekend with my brother in his new digs, south of us in Massachusetts. During the visit we went on an incredible 1/2 day whale watching cruise, where we saw several humpbacks jump completely out of the water.
In Marcel’s words; “this is a picture of of one whale jumping on one side, and a much bigger whale leaping out of the air on the other side. I am holding onto Uncle. Other people are on the boat too.”
* The goal was one journal entry a week over the summer. It ended up being more like one a month, with a total of three. We’re hoping to keep the journals up, at least once a month. It is a great deal of fun to go back and see how much we have grown in our writing, and thinking, not to mention all of our adventures.
The kindergarten screening was today. Too soon to tell just how relieved he is, but here’s to hoping! His teacher is clearly all about reassurance and welcoming. His classroom looks magnificent. Sam happened upon his new teacher too, who also is a rock star. No, really. Musician by night, amazing educator by day. He saw the names of his friends, and felt better too-although he doesn’t reveal 1/100th of what his little bro does. I have to remember to check in sometimes.
Because I’m doing this post on a mobile device-I’ve got the pictures a little out of order (flip the first 2), with no patience left to discover how to fix that. I have a little transition triggered head cold telling me to slow down… HA! Thanks for all the supportive comments on and off line in the last few days with all of our life shifts. We’re going to spend a couple of days chilling with Uncle this weekend in his new home. Everyone is really excited about that too. Bring it on!
And yes, Sam is wearing a self adhesive yellow mustache in one of the photos. Doesn’t every dentist give them out?!
2. Check in
The “What if I’m not good enough” gremlins have taken over Marcel’s central processor. The kindergarten build up is sending my angelic sweet pea into the lead role of the Hot Mess series at the Mama C ville community theater. Tantrums barely describes the constant flow of tears, kicks, thrown objects (mostly at Sam-who should be wearing the helmet) and the all around refusal and chaos mode he seems most comfortable in.
Yes, I’m reassuring him. The world is too. It doesn’t seem to be helping.
Yes, I’m acknowledging his feelings, and trying hard to give him strategies to navigate the feelings (breathing deep, lots of rest, almost no sugar, tons of exercise). We’ve gone to the playground at the school a few times every week. None of this seems to be helping either.
Tomorrow he meets his new teacher at his “screening”. This, I have insisted will help. “After you meet Mrs. Bindergarten and see your classroom you’ll feel so much better!” He seems skeptical.
But if I had to start a new full time job, with little real knowledge of the expectations, place, colleagues or BOSS I’d be a hot mess too. Being the child of a demi-perfectionist/ control seeking Mama is not helpful at this time perhaps?
We just got back from the library, and checked out every “first day of school” book we could grab. Overkill?
In the car this morning he says; “Will I always be able to find my room? What if someone else is at my cubby?” We’re getting closer to harnessing the beast I’d say.
Any other parents out there with some back to school jitters under your roof? What are your best strategies? What’s helped the most?
Marcel: Mama do you love yourself?
Me: Yes. Yes I do.
Marcel: How can you love yourself if you are not brown skinned? Continue reading “In the name of love”
The workshop that I presented; “I can talk about race in the classroom” was by all accounts a big success today. The post workshop reflections were 95% positive–which says as much about the audience as the presenter really. The educators were open, willing, and very present! I was prepared, passionate, and speaking from a place of truth. That is always a great combination. I’ll try to write more about the experience, and the work, when time allows. But the suitcases are trumping the keyboard here. Continue reading “On workshops, suitcases, and holding on”
Sam “graduated” from kindergarten yesterday. He packed the outfit in his backpack–and changed into it after recess. He told me that I didn’t need to email his teacher to remind him he needed to change his clothes, because he would remember…
He received an award for READING because he came so far (from being a non reader to reading at almost a 2nd grade level at the end of K) this year. You’ll hear me gasp when I hear that he was given the reading award.
I cried a lot.
My son has left early childhood.
My son is infinitely capable.
what post would be complete without a little shameless begging for a vote. And please take time to scan the list, and vote for other bloggers, with a special request to help keep the voices of birth parents, and adult adoptees on the top 25 too. Their voices are often underrepresented on these lists.
On the humorous front:
Sam was writing a thank you card to his PE (gym) teacher, and concentrating very hard on his words;
Dear Mr. L, Thanks for teaching me PE. Love Sam
When he read it out loud-upon successful completion-his brother says; Sam why did he need to teach you how to pee? You already knew how to do that!
On the way to Sam’s closing ceremony (read: trophy hand out in less that five minutes. Which will be the shortest awards ceremony we will ever get to attend) Marcel hollers to the car next to us; “Oh YEAH we are rockin’ it now!” If we had a car radio, that might be understandable. He was just feeling the moment… Continue reading “We’re rockin’ it alright”