Monday, June 21, 2010

No more teachers, no more books

“I’ll pick you guys up at 5:30, we’ll go get your brother, and then we’ll have a “supermarket party.” (Everything’s more fun when you call it a “party,” including sock matching and vacuuming.)

“Don’t we have anything tonight?” my middle son asked.

“Nope! All we need to do is get to the store. The cupboard is pretty bare…” I had been making trips to the convenient (and more expensive) supermarket that was just around the corner from our house since the last time we did a big shopping.

We had finished boy scouts for the year and the spring baseball season had just ended meaning we had a week off from sports before summer baseball started (except for the following night when I learned that we’d need to go to the football field to pick up our equipment for practices that would be starting sometime in August – I do not know when, since I do not appear to be on that distribution list, otherwise I wouldn’t have had to find out about the equipment pick up second-hand).

I had made it through kindergarten orientation and meet-your-teacher day and chaperoning a field trip for my youngest and a busload of other preschoolers. We were maybe half-way through my school-aged sons’ field trips, special projects, field days, and end-of-year concerts. I still had to figure out teacher gifts and plan and execute the two June birthday parties, never mind all the end-of-quarter activities that happen in the corporate world. But soon, life would become blessedly simple. All we would have is summer camp (which includes lunch, meaning I don’t have to plan it and make it) and baseball. My youngest will be joining his brothers at the camp they have attended for the past four years, thus I won’t have to drive two towns away in the opposite direction to bring him to his inconvenient-but-affordable daycare.

Because we “didn’t have anything that night,” we had a real shopping expedition with a list and lessons in price comparison and a plan (“you get the milk and yogurt,” “you choose the bakery items,” “you get the cereal,” “I’ll be at the deli”). I remembered things like ketchup and dish soap and napkins. We had a real sit-down dinner at the dining room table (there was not so much unfinished laundry on it that I couldn’t move it all over to one side), not dinner-to-go out of the cooler in the car or “breakfast night” at home. So what that it was chicken tenders and smiley fries and watermelon for the kids and a frozen “gourmet” entrĂ©e for me. It was hot food that came out of our oven, which means it’s homemade, as one of my colleagues, a mom of two preschoolers, has validated on a few occasions.

And even though I had already worked a full day, I put in time during the third shift because the following day, I had eight meetings in my calendar. True, two of them were “breakfast date with my youngest” (at McDonald’s) and “middle son’s history presentation” (at the elementary school), but I had to plan ahead because none of the meetings would afford me the opportunity to multi-task, thus the only way to get anything ticked off my to-do list was working that third shift.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

All in a day's work

I had just joined a conference call that wasn’t on my calendar, that I had only realized was scheduled because the agenda had landed in my inbox ten minutes before the call.
It would be my 3rdmeeting that morning and it wasn’t even 10:30 yet. My afternoon was crowded with kid-logistics because it was a half-day of school and one of my older sons had a play date; my youngest was supposed to go to a meet-your-teacher event for his new school (he will be starting kindergarten in the fall), which meant I had to pick him up way early from preschool; and we had two baseball games that evening, thus I would have to pick up my oldest from extended day somewhere after the teacher meeting so we could swap kids with another family for carpooling. It was still up in the air when I’d be picking up my middle son from his playdate.
I wondered when I was going to get any “work” done that day, and resigned myself to the fact that I’d be up for the third shift that night (first shift = regular work day, second shift = managing family time, which sometimes overlaps with first shift, third shift = catching up with work after kids are in bed).

Then my cell phone rang.

Fortunately I had the conference call on mute, and when I saw it was my youngest’s preschool calling, I took the conference call off speaker to answer my cell phone.

We have an anger issue today…” the director started.

Oh, thank God that’s all it is, I thought. I had lent my car to my neighbor for the morning so it would be a tricky proposition if I had to pick anyone up before noon.

“When I say we, I mean your son.”

“Oh, I knew who you meant. You don’t sound angry...What’s going on?”

“Well, he’s hitting his friends and told his teacher he wants to kill them all dead.”

“Hmmm, that’s not so good. You want me to talk to him?”

“Yes, I would love that.”


I sighed – I could hear my conference call buzzing away on the other phone that I had set down on my desk – and then switched on the perky and cheerful voice for my son, “Hi honey!”


“What’s going on, little man?”

“Hummina friends hummina laughing hummina, sniff.”

Our conversation consisted of him sniffling and sobbing, and me cajoling and consoling. I couldn’t quite get what he was talking about but figured he was upset because his friends were laughing at him.

When the director came back on the line, I learned that he got in trouble when his friends were laughing because he was acting silly during graduation rehearsal and disrupting his class.

“Oh, don’t tell me, he was singing Old Glory, wasn’t he?”

“Yes, how did you know?”

“He was practicing it in the backseat of the car the other night in a raucous way. Never mind the yelling in the car part…uhm…I told him he needed to be more respectful to the symbol of our nation…ahhh…He told me ‘Mom, I’m just kidding!’…I told him that some people…one sec…wouldn’t think that was funny.”

I wondered if that made sense as I was simultaneously IMing one of my other colleagues on the conference call – “brb,” “otp – other line,” “one sec,” “k” – who was looking for some information that I would gladly have been able to discuss if I hadn’t been coaching my son on making a fresh start and brokering an apology for his teacher.

The note I found in my son’s file later that day elaborated that he was “having a difficult time listening to his teachers and following directions” and that he had “several chances to make better choices” and was actually on his second office visit when I had spoken with him.

I am certain that graduating from preschool and all that entails – turning five, leaving the only school/daycare he has ever known, going to summer camp, and ultimately starting kindergarten – is one of the most monumental turning points in my son’s life to date, aside from potty training – though perhaps that was more of a big deal for me, given that if I factored in his two older brothers, I was ending a near decade of diapers.

Ultimately I was able to switch gears and rejoin my conference call and the rest of my day was “business as usual.” When I saw my colleagues in time zones across the globe begin to sign on to IM to start their days. I realized it was time to call it a night.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

More on brotherly love

I was on my way downstairs after church, headed into the kitchen to make English muffin pizzas for the next activity – a Boy Scout meeting to work on one of the kids’ religious emblems.

As I passed through the children’s fellowship area, there were a couple of teen-aged brothers rolling around on the floor with my youngest, who likes to sit with his “big friends” during the service.

“Why does he always sit with them?” My middle son had asked me just that morning. “Oh, probably because they’re nice to him,” I answered matter-of-factly. He just looked at me.
The Bigs were tossing balloons around.

I don’t remember why, but when my oldest approached me with a “Hi Mama,” I asked, “Who do you think felt worse – Abel, Cain, or their parents?”


“Well, I wonder…he’s dead. Do you think he felt much of anything?”

“Oh, I mean Cain!”

“Yeah...I wouldn’t have wanted to be him. But I can also imagine how sad their parents would be…” I kept walking towards the kitchen as my oldest bopped my middle son on the head with a balloon.

I was poking around the kitchen, trying to get organized and find all the ingredients and tools I’d need. I’d only cooked in this kitchen once before and wasn’t sure where everything was. Not long after, one of the big friends came in with my youngest who was crying.

“What happened?” I asked.

My youngest sobbed, “My brother…pillows; on top of…breathe”

His big friend tried to fill in the blanks, “sat on him with…his face; he couldn’t.”

“Oh,” I said as I scooped my youngest up onto my left hip. “Thank you,” I said to the big friend and abandoned him and the project in the kitchen, while my youngest clung to me like a little koala bear. “Are you okay? Where’s your lovey?”

“Yeah-ah-ah…” he said as he popped his thumb in his mouth. I spied his lovey in the bench in the children’s hall and snatched it up as I stalked through looking for his brother.

I saw him sitting at the craft table with his forehead down on his folded arms.

My pace slowed and I whispered to my youngest, “It looks like your brother’s in self-imposed exile, honey.” It appeared that my middle son was, indeed, very remorseful. I slipped my right hand around his little bicep. He did not move or look up, but instead sniffled.

“Are you okay, honey?”

“No. He always…everyone said…no one likes…”

“Hmmm.” I sat down in the chair next to my middle son facing away from the table with my youngest in my lap. We sat in silence for a good while – my hand remained resting on my middle son’s arm, my youngest’s face now nestled against my neck. Our breathing became synchronized even though other children in the room were making a joyful noise with balloons and pillows.

Momentarily, I said, “It sounds like you two have something to talk about,” as I stood up and slid my youngest off my lap and into the chair next to his brother. “I’ll be in the kitchen.”

When I returned, there was another mom bustling around. “Is everything okay?” she asked.

“Yeah, I am not sure who needed comforting more...and it just breaks my heart to see how my kids fight sometimes, when other times they can be so sweet together…”

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The end of an era

“I don’t want to go to soccer!” my youngest declared.

“Oh, c’mon, honey. You love soccer.”

“No, I yousta love soccer. Now I don’t.”

“Okay, well, just show up. You can get your medal.” It was the last day of the season. Was it just the transition from one activity to the next? He and one of his brothers had been engrossed with sorting through Pokemon cards for a good portion of the morning. This activity included unearthing them from all the crevices of our home, leaving all sorts of examined-and-discarded items in their wake, and some drawers dumped out, too.

“Oh, all right!” Grumble, grumble, as he stalked off to finish getting dressed. “But don’t sign me up for soccer again!” he huffed over his shoulder. Was he serious? Once we got to the soccer field, my son seemed to enjoy himself.

I couldn’t even imagine no more soccer at all, but it was not the first time he said this to me. Two weeks prior he’d added, “I always lose!” (which is ridiculous, because “everyone’s a winner” in U6 soccer – they don’t even keep score). This launched a conversation about how even if you lose you can have a winning attitude and be a good sport about it, specifically applicable to his older brothers’ baseball games – and thus discussed within their earshot – where the competition is often intense. Learning to handle disappointment is also specifically applicable to life, where can't always get what you want.

It had already been bittersweet knowing that the Bigs were giving up soccer – this spring, there was no way I was going to do soccer and baseball since that would mean four different teams in addition to my youngest’s – and I have already signed them up for football next fall.

“Well, you’ve gotta pick a sport. I can’t have you sitting around all season.” I wondered what else he could do in the fall. Karate? Swimming? I’m fairly certain if there was a baseball program anywhere, he’d be all over it. His lamentation this spring had been that he was not old enough for a t-ball team, though he regularly participates in family baseball, especially as the “empire.”

I relayed this conversation to one of the other moms at the soccer field. We both knew things are likely to change once school starts (yes, my youngest will be in real school next year) and “all the other kids” are playing soccer. We giggled over the projected, “Why didn’t you sign me up!?” But maybe not. Just because the Bigs played two seasons of soccer a year since they were four years old, and sometimes had private coaching, doesn’t mean that their younger brother would want to. I, personally, cannot imagine why not, but to each his own.

In all truthfulness, given how much whining occurs on a regular basis, how the kids swarm the ball and forget in what direction they’re headed, or how they just stop and wander off the field, starting over with U6 soccer this past year had been not the best kind of “remember when.” But it was a right of passage of sorts, for all of us. Now the Bigs had to be dragged to their younger brother’s activities, where previously he’d been the tagalong. And as he attended his kindergarten screening at the elementary school this past week (while I sat in the library and waited with the other parents), it was becoming apparent that my baby isn’t a baby anymore.

But no one will see it

I set up the nativity in the back yard again this year. In the past it has been out front near the fire hydrant that is on our property, and...