Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Girl I Got

Dear Little D:

You are turning 3 this weekend.  How did that happen?  I remember when you were born and we barely made in to the hospital in time.  My main memory is in the parking garage of the hospital, biting your father's shoulder through his green padded vest because the pain was so bad.  You shot out, literally with on time for no epidural or even an IV, soaking Dr. M's brand new Nikes because there was no time for shoe covers.  I actually called Grandma and when she asked "Did you get a room sweetie?" I was like "It's done.  She's here." You came into this world at lightning speed and you haven't stopped since.

I was so happy to have a daughter, especially one as charming as you.  You were a great sleeper and then you weren't.  You had a smile that took over your whole perfect face.  You were constantly stroking my hand, really anyone's hand, and you loved to snuggle.  You crawled at 6 months and walked at nearly ten and I forgave you for all that and the fact that you can scale counters, dressers and closets like a little spider with suction cups for hands.

I dreamed of all the things were would do together.  You would love to dress up like a princess and we'd play Barbie and I'd get to put bows in your hair.  If only I had discussed my expectations with you before deciding on this, I would be much less surprised right now. You, even at age three, insist on wearing your Mets shirt and old mesh shorts belonging to your brother.  You ask to wear this ensemble every day.  You fight me every time I suggest your wear a dress. You gave away your Barbies because, as you say, "she stinks" and you refuse to let me put bows in your hair. I can't believe it.  Your one concession to anything in your hair is headbands like that terrible glow-in-the-dark one that Aunt Vicky got you from Justice.

You are not the girl I thought I'd be getting when I learned I was having a girl.  When people say you are beautiful you frown and say "No!" as if it's an insult.  I've stopped calling things pretty and started calling them "awesome" because there's a higher chance you might like them.   You love things that are "cool" and "rock and roll".  You took the play ironing board I got you, ripped off the legs and took it into the shower with you so you could surf, like Daddy.

No, Little D...you are not what I expected in a daughter and yet you are so much more.  You are as tough as you are compassionate. When it thunders you worry "Will Big A get home from school safely?  Is Daddy inside at work?"  You notice everything. You can already do the monkey bars and learned to pump your own swing when you turned 2.   You are definitely cool, cooler than I could ever be since I love to wear dresses (the more ruffles the better) and I collect teapots.  I've never seen a more fiercely loyal sister to your big brother and you are always talking about "our family" and how much it means to you.  You have only 4 friends you really like and you speak constantly about your love for them.  You're not a sweet little girl who plays with baby dolls and loves adorable dresses but you are a force to be reckoned with and it will serve you well one day.

I'm sorry I tried for so long to put a bow in your hair against your will.  It really doesn't matter if you wear a bow or not, I see that now. I'm sorry for the times I tried to convince you that the pale pink smocked pinafore was "rock and roll" when we both know it isn't.  I'm sorry for all the times I tried to get you to watch Dora even though you kept insisting "This is terrible."  You were right, it is.  I'm sorry for how excited I am that purple is your favorite color.  It's the only truly traditionally "girly" thing about you.

But -- thank you so much for being so different than a typical girly girl.  Thanks for being here to remind me to accept and support people as they are, not as I'd like them (or society expects them) to be.  I'm working hard to encourage you to be you, like in Little Miss Sunshine when Toni Colette  encouraged everyone to "Let Olive be Olive." I want you to know that while it was jarring at first to discover I have a tomboy for a daughter I accept you fully.

So Happy Birthday to you, my dynamo of a girl.  I got you the Etch-a-Sketch and the new Mets shirt you asked for and not the Strawberry Shortcake collection I so desperately wanted to buy you.  Or the Elsa doll, in which you have no interest.  Or My Little Ponies.  Seriously, it's cool. 

Thanks for being the living embodiment of everything that matters.  Thanks for making me realize how anti-feminist I was being by expecting you to like all the toys geared towards girls.  You should play with and wear whatever you please.   

And if your first three years are any indication you're on your way to being a strong, determined,  loving happy person and a hell of an athlete.  And I love you, just as you are.  Now let's clink our tea cups together and cheers to that!  Oh, you're running away to inspect your worm collection.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Facebook faux pas

I like Facebook for a number of reasons (one of which being it's a great way to pepper my friends with my weekly musings on this blog). 

But because don't live in a house made of lollypops at the end of a rainbow, I'm also aware that many people use Facebook to brag about their lives.  But we all know that just because it's on Facebook doesn't make something true. (Case in point, my husband's new friend's wife looks amazingly skinny in all of her Facebook photos.  I girded my loins to meet this perfect specimen of womanhood only to behold that she has the biggest ass of anyone I've ever met. How did this not translate on Facebook? I was both shocked and delighted that she was actually human.)

But back to the bragging versus sharing when it comes to personal details.  If you've shared something, i.e.; "Check out my...pregnant twin sister....giant martini the size my head........muffin I baked that looks just like Obama"....it should make people smile.  When you brag something "Isn't my daughter just the cutest girl in the world, eveh?...Look, my son got another A+....future president!..I have the best hubby in the whole world, much better than yours!" people generally want to punch you in the throat. However, they are more likely to roll their eyes and knock you out of their newsfeed.

But one thing I never thought about, but now I think about is that some people post photos on Facebook with the added bonus of leaving people out.  I didn't realize this until a friend pointed it out to me, but now I do.  She shared how sad she feels when parents post pictures of kids' birthday parties on Facebook and her child isn't invited.

Gulp.

Guilty. 

I have been guilty of doing this in the past but you can bet my husband's friend's wife's ass I won't be doing it again.   When I posted pictures of my kids' birthday parties, it was more in the spirit of "look how awesome this cake is!" or "look how big my little boy is getting!" or even "look at all his adorable friends...surely he won't be up on the bell tower one day!"  I certainly didn't mean to make anyone feel left out, and yet in hindsight I'm sure that some people did.  Seriously, why didn't I just make it a private group?  Who wanted to see all those kids besides their own parents?  And probably Grandma, who could easily be added to a private photo album.

As our kids get older and both their (and our) social circles grow, the reality is that you can't always invite everyone.  It doesn't mean you're not friends or not friendly but seriously, do we need to rub it in each other's faces?  I tell my 6 year old son not to discuss any birthday parties he is attending on the bus or with other kids in his class because not everyone is always invited.  If we can impart such wisdom to our children, we can certainly reign in our out-of-control egos enough to restrain ourselves from putting certain things publicly on FB.  Just use a private album to share all the awesome pictures of the party with the only people who care, anyway -- the parents of the children who attended. 

So I've come up with a few rules of thumb that work for me. They may not work for you, but I've come up with them so I am never the cause of some little girl looking over her mom's shoulder on Facebook and exclaiming an anguished "Why wasn't I invited to Little D's birthday party!?" (Truthfully, because she only wants to invite her brother, her cousin and the plastic dog she calls Coco)

Family events such as pumpkin picking, cookie decorating or birthday parties are all fair game for public posting.  Kids' birthday parties where you didn't invite the whole class should perhaps be put in a private album. 

Church, sports or scouting events where everyone is welcome?  Post to the world! (You may even get more participants!)

Pictures of you in your boxers?  Please don't.

Pictures of Ryan Gosling in his boxers?  Early and often please.

The point is, I'm trying to carefully consider what I'm posting these days, before I post it.  If it's an attempt to make my life seem "oh so glamorous" (like I need to prove this...I have two small children and I'm a bookworm -- how much more rock n' roll can things get?!) or, more importantly, I think it will perhaps hurt someone's feelings, I probably will not be sharing it with the FB world.

Our FB posts, just like our actions, have consequences.  I will carefully consider my motivations in posting status updates and photos, especially when it could potentially leave someone feeling left out.  As left out as my husband's friend's wife's ass was in all of her FB photos. (But we all know she doesn't exist anyway and was just a construct invented for today's blog.)









Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mature mamas, why hast thou forsaken me?

We are outside a bagel place, a Fellow Mommy and me. Our boys are playing on the sidewalk.  Our girls are prancing about.  Fellow Mommy is holding her sleeping 11 month old.  We are stealing some snippets of adult conversation.  It's glorious. 

A women in her mid-50s drives up and scowls at us.   I smile back.  That's my default with scowling. It's usually random and annoying enough that the person scowling skulks away.  But she holds her glare, stomps out of the car, gives us a disgusted look and busted out with:

"Maybe you should watch your kids."

What? 

"Excuse me?" I said.

"I coulda hit 'em with my car" she muttered as she lumbered towards the doorway.

"I guess if you were driving on the sidewalk!" Fellow Mom bristled.

"You should look after these kids.  That's what I had to do." the grouchy woman continued as she went in, presumably to gobble down an everything bagel with extra cream cheese. 

I felt my face got hot.  Was I not watching Big A and Little D, so enthralled was I with the adult conversation I was stealing in the middle of the day.  Did I let them run around the parking lot?  No, this was not the case, as the air karate chopping of the boys and the pirouettes the girls were doing were happening firmly on the sidewalk. 

So my next thought was that the Grouchy woman was drunk. Maybe SHE should be the one watching herself.

Or maybe she was having a bad day.

Or maybe...just maybe...could it be...did she forget how hard it is to have small children?  It seems that a number of older moms have forgotten how hard it can be to parent a young child.

They are the ones that turn around at church and glare at me when my kids drop a hymnal on the floor. 

 "I'm here!" I want to yell. "I could be sleeping in or going out for pancakes with my family that I didn't make.  At least I'm trying to give them a life based in faith!"  But I don't say that. I shush my kids and threaten to take away Wii privileges if they don't pipe down.

They are the ones that roll their eyes when my kids spill a lemonade at the WindMill.  "It's the WindMill!" I want to explain. "It's geared towards kids!  I could understand your reaction if we were at The Molly Pitcher but c'mon!"

They are the ones at Target that huff and puff if my child bumps their purse as my traveling circus is stampeding past them to get to the toy aisle.  "I'm sorry!" I say.  I apologize for myself and my children constantly.  I'm sorry for their very existence because it might inconvenience someone else.

Why am I doing this?

Why?

a.  I'm not the jerk that takes my children uninvited to parties and weddings. I never take them to a fancy restaurant, let alone after 8 pm and have them meltdown, thus ruining the nights of couples that actually did get a sitter.   I don't assume that my children's company is a precious gift to be inflicted upon everyone.

b.  Children can be loud, clumsy and spill things.  Okay?  They're kids, they're not perfect robots. I wouldn't want them to be.  They're learning and I'm trying to teach them.

c.  Most of you judging me are parents of older children.  I see them with you.  Did you forget?  Did you forget what it's like to have small children?

Because I think you forgot.

I think you forgot how tired I am because sometimes my children are up in the night with accidents, illness or nightmares.  I think you forgot that that my children are still so attached to me that sitting down to pay bills without a child wrapped around my bicep is a luxury.  I think you forgot all that and now you judge me when you used to stagger around my Nikes.

Just because your kids are preparing for college and you can go out to eat without hiring a babysitter doesn't mean that you should forget that young(ish) moms like me still struggle with the rearing of small children. 

Please don't judge me because you have amnesia regarding how hard those times were for you.  Please share with me your wisdom, because you've gone through it, and tell me it's all going to work out okay.  The next time my child melts down in the middle of Kohl's because I won't buy her a Hello Kitty sprinkler tell me you've been there and I'm doing a great job.  I need to hear that.

You don't know how much I need to hear that from a woman who has gone before me and lived to tell the tale.

And please watch where you're driving next time when there are small children running about.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Steve Jobs I Am Not

Unlike Vanilla Ice, I try not to do anything to the extreme.  Technology is no exception. I don't swear off Facebook (obviously) but nor do I track my every move and meal.  For a combined 45 minutes a day FB is amusing, fun and occasionally informative.

There's an article flying around (I saw it on Facebook, actually) that not only did Steve Jobs' kids never use an iPad while he was alive but that other tech professionals severely limit their kids' screen time. I had to tear myself away from FB and do some thinking. Is technology really as addictive as heroin as the article states?  The piece went onto say that if you remove all screen time "your kids will hate you for it right now but thank you for it someday."  Oookay.

I set limits, I do.

My kids, aged 6 and almost 3 are banned from using their hand-me-down Wii on weekdays.  Not that this affects the 3 year old since she usually dumps her controller in the back of her toy fire truck and drives it out of the room each time her brother plays.

Weekends we try and limit video games to about 45 minutes per day. I feel pretty good about all this, but during the week I've been known to let my son watch a video or two on my laptop (Either Mario or Minecraft) and my daughter definitely watches tv...usually while I'm sitting with her trying (unsuccessfully) to get work done.  The Jobs' anti-technology stance when it pertained to their kids spooked me so I decided to try taking away ALL screen time yesterday and watching the fun.

I picked the wrong week to give up drinking.

I blurted out the bad news when I picked up Big A from the bus stop.

"Can I watch a Minecraft video after I do my homework?" he asked as was his custom as we meandered home.

"No," I said.  "No screen time today."

"WHAT?!" he said as he launched into his whiny voice.  "BUT I've had a hard da-ay!  I was doing my best at scho-ool."  Any whiner who can turn a one syllable word into a two syllable word is good, very good.

"I no watch t.v.?" Little D repeated.  "No.  I say no!"

They both became as grumpy and irate as I am when I'm on a juice cleanse.

"We're going to the park!" I announced over the din.

I loaded their protesting little selves into the car as they moaned and groaned. 

"You may hate me for this now," I quoted from the article, "but you will thank me for it one day!"  That actually shut them up.  They were intrigued by the concept of "hating me" and talked it over in the back seat.

We had a lovely two hours at the park.  We ran into 3 families we know. Yay and everything.

But I didn't get any reading or writing done, I didn't fold laundry and get to vacuum the floor as I was basking on a park bench.  It wasn't very productive.

And then it occurred to me.  Did Steve Jobs' wife even work?  Didn't they have a nanny?  A full-time housekeeper and possibly a cook?  And a myriad of resources? My kids' dinner wasn't going to cook itself.

After a long day of school and 2 hours of fresh air, exercise and imaginative play the kids were beat.  I came home and put on Teen Titans Go for 45 minutes (which is actually my current favorite cartoon) with zippo guilt as I prepared dinner and did a whirlwind tidy up of my home. I even sat with them on a couch and dashed off a book review as they giggled along with the show.  It was "Meatball Party" by the way, in case any other nerds are reading this.

And then we had dinner, did bath time, read books and I put them to bed.  I'm sorry I didn't set up a playdough station or finger painting experience instead of letting them watch tv, but

a. I had already done that earlier in the day for my 3 year old and

b. I was just plain tired. 

I get a little crazy when it comes to going to the extreme. It's just not for me.  I'm not removing screen time from my children's lives.  And I don't think other parents should feel bad about occasionally occupying their kids with screen time to make their own lives easier...especially when it's something their kids clearly enjoy.  The key word here is occasionally. Don't feel guilty if you sometimes use it to your advantage.  Isn't that what technology is there for?  To make our lives easier?

We all know the kids who are permitted endless hours upon hours of tv, video games and iPad access.  They're obvious. They're impatient, irritable little beings who are often struggling at school. They have no interest in connecting with others.  Most parents care for their kids too deeply to allow them 4 hours straight of Call of Duty daily.  But I hope parents don't get scared to use small amounts of technology in their children's lives. Like the occasional donut, it's fun! Technology will be a part of their lives in the future unless your kid decides to grow up to be a dairy farmer in a remote area with no Wi-Fi. 

Do what works for you, not what worked for the Jobs' family.  Their budget for household support staff was probably slightly larger than yours.



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

You have it all.

I'm not sure if it was because I ate an enormous piece of chocolate babka at 9 o'clock or because I was going to be late with another book review but as I staggered off to sleep last night I was feeling pretty down on myself. I was angry that I scarfed dessert so late instead of drinking water with lemon. I felt like a big loser for not getting the exercise I had planned. And I felt a failure for not filing my review on time. I skulked off to bed in a cloud of self-loathing.

"Will you check on the kids?" I called to my husband who had already bounded up the stairs to the bedroom.  I caught a reflection of my scowling self in (of all things) the microwave and it hit me, in that moment, how lucky I was to have to sleeping children in this home and to have a loving partner willing to check on them and in fact to have a warm home at all. 

A strange thought popped into my head.

It occurred to me that I have it all.

And I felt like a real wanker for being so ungracious in exerting my thoughts and energy on being so unkind to myself instead of appreciating the fucking Eden that was continuously blooming up all around me. What the hell is wrong with me. I'm down on myself about A PIECE OF CAKE?

Attention Mommies (and the few daddies who read this blog):

Amidst your crazy days of work and parenting where you have crammed so much into your day for the betterment of others and while you've been a source of love and support for everyone around you and you are bone tired....

I'd like you to remember something vitally important.

You have it all.

Do you realize that you have it all? I bet you don't. I bet you totally forget for long periods of time. Chunks of time, days that you fritter away, thinking about all that you don't have.  I do that too.

Like:

I want to kick myself.  Mommies are coming over tomorrow and I still never got window treatments in the living room. What are we, savages? I'm mortified.  And yet...I found 6 fellow moms in my town who with whom I genuinely connect (and who have sweet children my kids adore.) Hence, I have it all.

Like:

I didn't get up and run today. I haven't run in a week.  I berate myself. I'm lazy, I'm unmotivated.  But I have two healthy legs for running and two healthy lungs to breathe.  I can run tomorrow. I can slap this laptop shut and run right now. I can leap around my house if I want to give me neighbors something (else) to talk about. Thus, I have it all.

Like:

My daughter has decided that she hates hair bows, barrettes, and ponytails of any kind. She runs away screaming when I try to brush her hair. But I usually catch her and try to brush as she flails.  Her sparse spikey hair now resembles a cross between Albert Einstein and a cartoon hedgehog.  I'm sure all other moms are judging me for what looks like my indifference to my daughter's unkempt-looking hair. But my daughter has hair.  She's not suffering from an auto-immune disease or another sickness.  Think of how many mothers with suffering children going to through treatment would kill to have their child healthy enough to grow wild, messy hair. Therefore, I have it all.

There are so many things that we all judge ourselves for, and so harshly.  We are not where we are in our careers. Maybe we don't have our dream house.  Some of us, particularly after a cheese binge, can't fit into our skinny jeans, not by a long shot.  But we are gainfully employed, we have roofs over our heads and enough to eat.

We are so critical that we forget gratitude.  We forget that no one can be a more perfect you than...well...you.  And you have everything you need right now.  So just for today, instead of focusing on your lack focus on your abundance.  You have so much of it, do you even realize that?  I usually don't, I'm ashamed to admit.

Focus on the truth, rather than our warped perceptions of our perceived imperfections.

You are wonderful.  You are extraordinary. And you have it all.

You have healthy child?  Check. ( Or maybe you don't. Maybe you have a sick child and you're the best possible parent to care for and advocate for this child. But you have a child and you get to experience the parent-child bond -- a kind of love that's unrelenting. Then, check.)

You are happy?  Check. (Or maybe you're not.  Maybe your job stinks.  How exciting for you to see where you life will take you as you eventually find your way to a career about which you are passionate.  So check.)

You are safe? Check. (Or maybe you don't feel safe because you go to bed alone every night.  Maybe  you want to share your life and home with someone.  How blessed you are that falling in love with that special person is something you have to look forward to.)

Check, check, check!

You lucky duck..

You have it all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Let's Go Crazy

This past weekend I found myself smoking a cigarette that had, only seconds previously, been smoked by someone else's left nostril.

And I don't smoke.

But maybe I should back-up a few days.

Generally, I am a homebody.  I love being home with my family.  I love cooking, wine and conversation. And I love reading books and watching indy movies. I watch a lot of old Batman episodes with my kids. That's pretty much it.  If I can do all of these things at the same time, I really have no need to leave my house or do anything else. 

I'm not a party animal.  I don't hang out at bars. It's rare I go to a concert.  I love date night with my hubby or going out with my friends but we enjoy meandering dinners or brunches out, not wild nights of boozing. (Unless it's someone's birthday)

Becoming a mother has changed me. Mostly into someone so boring and sleep-deprived I want to be home even more than I usually do. I'm totally okay with this.

But this weekend something unusual happened.  My sister offered to take the kids for a sleepover and my husband and I went out for sushi with another couple, Curt and Kris.  At these sushi nights it's all very dignified. We generally eat a ton of sushi, have some laughs and go home to relieve the babysitter.

But there was no babysitter that night. 

There was nothing but a long empty space in front of us that we could fill with the illusion of being young and free again.  After the last of the sake was slurped down, we went to a local lounge where:

I accidentally spilled my entire drink into Curt's loafer.

My husband convinced 3 women visiting from Tennessee that he was a circus performer.  (He gets shot of of the cannon, apparently.)

We ran into a third couple with whom we're friends and poured ourselves over to The Wonder Bar where at Kris' urging, I staggered up on the stage with the band only to bust out some really bad dance moves.  I pray there is no videotape of this occurrence because let's just say it wasn't pretty.

My husband and I went home about 4 hours past our usual bedtime satisfied that, if necessary, we could still party with the best of 'em.  We crashed into the house giggling, unworried about trying to look passably sober for a babysitter or waking the kids. 

But that wasn't all.

The next night (along with my sister and bro-in-law) were offered tickets to the Rutgers-Penn State game and invited to tailgate.  Rumor had it that the tailgate would include a tent, wings, unlimited margaritas and A TEN FOOT SUB!  TEN!  So after a day of being parents again, what with going to our son's soccer game, having some of his friends over and baking cookies for all we packed the kids off to Grandma's house.  They were thrilled to be having ANOTHER SLEEPOVER and off we went to the Rutger's game.

It was pouring rain and we were with some of the craziest yet most fun loving fans I'd ever seen.  At one point I was pouring Tequila into people's mouths, making sure not to neglect my own.  There was dancing and chili and twinkle lights and a man in a Penn State spandex suit.  The cigarette situation occurred. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. Someone would yell "POLAR BEAR!" and the guys in our group would rip their shirts off and shotgun a beer.

When it was time to actually go into the game, two young drunk guys (age 25, TOPS!) were in two of our seats.  One of them was so insanely intoxicated  it must have taken ten years off my age and he started hitting on me.   We will call him Drunk Youngin'.

"PLEASE TELL ME NEITHER OF THESE GUYS IS YOUR BOYFRIEND!" he said as my brother-in-law began encouraging them to get out of our other two seats. My husband was seated on the other side of me.

"I CAN TELL YOU WITH ALL HONESTY, NEITHER ONE OF THEM IS!" I yelled over the din as I tried to wrench my hand away.

"GET OUT!" my brother-in-law yelled at Drunk Youngin'.  But Drunk Youngin' didn't budge.

My hand was still being clenched by Drunk Youngin and I was trying to pull it away before my hub saw what was going on.

"YOU DIDN'T PAY FOR THESE SEATS!" my bro-in-law continues as he gestures for Drunk Youngins to vacate our seats.

Well, to be fair, neither did we, but this was the principle of the thing. I tried in vain to yank my hand out of this drunk kid's sweaty mitt.

"HOWEVER!" I yelled "THAT GUY IS MY--"

Before I could say "husband" the man I am married to slowly got up.  The gentle giant drew himself up to his full 6 ft. 5 feet and glared at Drunk Youngin'  His eyes traveled slowly downward to Drunk Youngin's hand wrapped around my own.  I was actually scared for the well-being of Drunk Youngin'.  You know the phrase, "Drop it like it's hot?"  Luckily Drunk Youngin' had the sense to do just that.

Here was my brother-in-law glaring at him and my husband icily staring him down from 2 feet above his head.

"You.need.to.leave."  my hubby said quietly.

"Get outta here." my bro-in-law added menacingly.

My sister looked impressed.

As the Drunk Youngins gingerly but quickly scampered out of our row my sister and I looked at each other.  Our husbands had just thrown two ruffians out.  We are just so used to these tender dads tucking in kids and cheerfully coaching sports teams that it was a change to see them acting so...so...MACHO.   I thought we might swoon.

Granted Sunday morning was painful and it was an absolute pleasure to spend the day snuggling with my kids, reading books, playing the Wii and hanging out at the park with them.  But to have some adventures, get a little out of control and feel like something of a party peep felt surprisingly liberating.

There's a lot of responsibility that comes with being a parent.  We don't want out kids to ever see us indulging in too much booze, dancing badly on a stage or pseudo-threatening a silly drunk.  Especially not smoking the once a year cigarette or cigar.  And I don't want to make a practice of this either. 

But once in a while letting loose a bit makes you appreciate the comforts of home, boring though they may be, all the more.    

Alright, I'm out.  Many of you may be finding my mothering skills lacking at this point, but, je ne regrette rein!

That means I regret nothing.  See, I also speak French. Maybe I'm not so boring after all.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

1st kid versus 2nd kid

Today I experienced a strange sense of déjà vu when I dropped my daughter off at her first day of nursery school at the same school where my son went 3 years earlier.   She posed in front of the same sign as I snapped the pre-requisite "backpack shot" and popped it on Facebook.

But everything else was different.

Let us compare and contrast the first day of nursery school for my first child three years ago and my second one today.

Backpack Preparation

1st Kid: Though he would only be there for 2 hours I packed a water, an apple and some goldfish crackers, JUST IN CASE. I packed extra pants, socks and underwear should he have an accident. I included an extra page with my cell phone number, my mom's cell phone number and our pediatrician's office information.

2nd Kid:  Her backpack (comprised of the Hello Kitty sack that usually holds her sleeping bag) was completely empty. A mere prop for photos.  I'll send in her extra clothes by the end of the week.  If I remember.

Walking Into School

1st Kid:  My husband took off work so we could walk our son in together. I made an effort to suck up to the teachers and engage the other mothers standing around.  I waited in a conference room down the hall for the first hour in case my son needed me, nibbling cookies and trying to make charming conversation with other parents. After all, these would be the parents of my son's lifelong friends. 

2nd Kid:  I skipped the refreshment room altogether just in case some accidental friendly eye contact would lead to a birthday party invitation that we couldn't possibly fit into our calendar.  I sped off in my car as soon as possible, preferring to go home and fold laundry without it being dumped on my head by my two year old while I had the chance.

 Drop Off

1st Kid:  I sob in the car all the way home, get home and sit with my son's trains and listlessly run them back and forth on the track as I miss him and wonder how my baby got to be three years old.

2nd Kid:  I cry a few tears in the car, then begin singing Boyz2Men's "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" and then start cracking up at how my voice sounds. I think this might be a good song to belt out on my sister's work voicemail, especially if she is picking up her messages on speaker. I do so.

Pick Up

1st Kid:  I arrive back at school 15 minutes early, nearly knocking over another mother as I careen breathlessly back into the school, panting.  As soon as I see the teacher's aide I shriek "How was he?  Was he okay?  Can I see him?" like a complete maniac.  She looks at me strangely and grimaces at the fact that I seem to have zero awareness of just how ridiculous I am.  My son runs to me and I burst into tears once again, picking him up and squeezing him to my ample bosom, so grateful am I to be reunited with my child after the eternity of 2 hours has passed.  "I missed you!" I cry dramatically, acting as though he has just returned from 3 years in the Civil War

2nd Kid:  I rush home to frantically do as many dishes and as much laundry as I can, cursing the shortness of her nursery school day.  "Damn," I think when I realize its time to leave.  I didn't even think of my daughter once or wonder what she was doing, so thrilled was I to have an hour alone to do housework. I arrive 5 minutes late.  Her teacher exclaims "She did great!" I look at her strangely thinking "Like I care" but instead I mumble "Of course she did."

Post-First Day

1st Kid:  I take my son out to lunch and pelt the poor kid with questions all about his first day. Who did he play with?  Was the teacher nice?  What did he learn?  When we arrive home I've surprised him with homemade cupcakes in the shape of little apples with green stems made from an organic pureed fruit rollup. I field calls from every aunt and grandmother who ask me about his first day. I save his paper apple nametag and tape it on the fridge.  I claw at the papers in his backpack (with such an interest that one might think they hold the secrets to the universe) and pour over his upcoming schedule memorizing when he has Show and Tell and what time to arrive for the class tip to the beach in a month.

2nd Kid: I throw some chips, baby carrots and a tub of hummus at my daughter and put away the laundry. No one  in the family calls to ask me how it went because I don't remember even mentioning she was going today.  I think one of the grandmas saw it on Facebook and called me, a bit put out I kept this vital information from her. I think Little D's backpack was left in the backseat. I throw away her red apple nametag. I still haven't asked her how her day went.  I'm sure it went well. She seems fine.

I don't think I'm being neglectful here, it's just that with my second child I tend to be way more laid back.  I think it's good for her that I'm not hovering about her, freaking out about her every move. I tend to let her be and  Little D is extremely well-adjusted and happy....a far cry from the bundle of nerves and emotions her brother was at this age. (He was really just a mini version of me). I think he was feeding off my anxiety.  It took a while for me to reign myself in and become a more relaxed parent (and to dial Big A back along with me.)   If I could I have been more chill with my first child, it only would have been to his benefit. 

But c'est la vie.  Live and learn.  A least he got the specially made apple cupcakes.