Posts Tagged ‘children’

What’s Disney got on that Pile of Leaves

November 11, 2014

I grew up in the 80s and 90s. The economy was good. And we were spoiled.

By “we,” I mean me, my sister, my cousins, my neighbors, friends, schoolmates…. Looking back, it seemed that white middle class kids of the 80s had little wants. We had records and walkmans and pogoballs. We had purple and pink Huffys and LA Gear high tops. We had little plastic charm bracelets. At Christmas, the present opening went on for hours. Nintendos. Game Boys.

My mother loved to travel. My dad was dragged along. They were both teachers, so we all had summers off and every summer we would travel somewhere. Deep into the North Maine Woods to camp. Rented beach houses. A road trip to the Sesame Place amusement park.

My parents were not rich by any means. But, the economy was good, they lived modestly, and they both worked, so we lived a pretty nice life.

The first time we went to a Disney Park, I was nine and my sister was four. It was the first time I’d ever been on a plane and it was, indeed, the trip of a lifetime. But I didn’t, at the time, understand why my parents would have waited until I was almost a decade old to embrace that experience. Many of my friends and classmates had already been a couple of times by the time I went. What took our family so long?

Flash forward to 2014. The economy is trying to pull itself out of the rubble of the Great Recession. Families are stressed and Mommy Wars are front and center. Most middle class families need a dual income in order to more or less scrape by. Nevertheless, the whispered conversation on the sidelines of soccer games, Frozen birthday parties and Moms’ Nights Out is… DISNEY: who’s going, where are they staying and what parks are they doing when they get there? Cruise? Resort? Time Share??? It seems the dream of every child of the 80s is to provide their own children with the trip of a lifetime: to DISNEY.

Why wouldn’t they? Disney is the place where dreams come true! It’s a happy, magical place that transports you to childhood, despite your age. Really. It’s awesome.

But I haven’t had that Disney conversation yet. At times I’ve been tempted. When Rocketman was 2 and I was pregnant with Bubba a family friend invited us to Florida and we briefly considered for one moment going and squeezing in a Disney trip, but I was quickly talked down by my colleagues who had recently gone and couldn’t imagine the experience pregnant and with a toddler.

And, really, that’s the main reason why I’m in no rush. Rocketman is 5, but Bubba is only 2. And, frankly, we brought them to a small nearby theme park a couple of weeks ago that is geared for young children and while Rocketman was in awe of each and every ride and feature, Bubba cry/whined the entire. Time. We. Were. There. For no apparent reason…

So, no, I am not willing to spend money I don’t actually have to listen to THAT again.

But, really, what I think I am holding out for is this:

To my kids, 5 and 2, childhood is magical. With Rocketman in the lead, they embrace every seemingly mundane event with enthusiasm, awe and wonder. Throwing rocks in the water. ( “Look Mom! i found a stone! Can we bring it back to the brook and throw it in???”) Seeing a rainbow appear after a storm. (“Mom, someday can we try to find the end of the rainbow? I think there is supposed to be gold there.”) Storm drains. (“Can we stop and look in the drain?! Look! There’s water!!!) These are the things that greatly amuse my children. And I, in turn, am greatly amused.

Halloween was a biggie. The biggest it has ever been, hands down. So big, that the day Hubs got a new car (for the first time in TWELVE years), Rocketman’s announcement to his pre-K teacher the next day was, “Guess what we got yesterday?? My Halloween costume!!! Oh, and Daddy got a new car, too.” We decorated everything that could be decorated, visited every pumpkin patch in the area, and went trick or treating countless times for countless events. And Rocketman (and in turn Bubba) was more excited about every single piece of it than I’ve ever seen him before. And that is saying A LOT!

So, I was a bit concerned when November 1st rolled around and all the “spooky stuff” needed to be taken down. Resilient Rocketman didn’t blink an eye. He woke up, ran to my room and announced, “Mom! Do you know what today is?? It’s the day after Halloween! That means the leaves have fallen off the trees! And THAT means Dad is going to rake them all up into a HUGE pile and let us JUMP IN THEM!!!!”

So, this weekend, Rockman’s dreams came true. One huge leaf pile, two excited boys and hours upon hours of hooting, hollering, jumping, rolling, and diving. They had more fun than I have seen them have with the giant blow up waterslide we station in the backyard in the summer, the jumpy houses at friends’ birthday parties and the damn amusement park that Bubba screamed through.

I love that they are still embracing all of those “little things” that adults are too jaded to embrace. Kids become jaded too, at some point. Maybe they will too. There is no more “stop and smell the flowers” anymore. Despite the economy, despite the lessons that might have been learned, it’s still, “bigger is better” and “more is more” and let me post it on every form of social media so that you can want one too. And I know that, eventually, they will not be immune.

But in the meantime, I treasure these moments. “Mommy, it has always been my dream to go underneath a leaf pile. And now my dream has finally come true.”

That dream cost us a $10 rake and some very minor man power.

But, if we were to jump in with the Disney thing right now, would the leaf pile still hold such value? Dining with Mickey might make the backyard picnic my kids cheered about today seem a little lame. Dancing with Cinderella may outshine dancing to the Wiggles DVD and ending up in peels of laughter. Dropping a rock into a storm drain may not seem like so much fun once they’ve ridden in a log down a mountain of water.

I look forward to the day when my kids are old enough to appreciate all that Disney has to offer (and also the day where I’m not working half time and can afford all that), but I cherish the fact that my kids are, today at 5 and 2, leading the life that every adult dreams of. One where every day is filled with magic and wonder and adventures await each season in your own backyard.

FWD: Trash Talk

November 22, 2013

Last week at this time I was not speaking to my husband. My best friends knew this, and why this was, but I was unclear about whether or not he was aware that I was not speaking to him. I mean, I spoke to him.  “Did you pack Rocketman’s lunch for tomorrow?” “I think it’s your night to read to Bubba.” “Make sure that set of gloves that I put out gets to school with the baby.”  Co-parenting stuff. Because, that is what is pretty good about our relationship: even if we are totally having a bad marriage moment, we are still pretty good co-parents.  In fact, sometimes that feels like all our relationship has time for.

Anyway, I was pissed off.  I was tired and I felt overworked and under appreciated. And every little thing that he did pissed me off more.  So on Sunday night, when I got a special Mom’s Night Out with the girls, I vented my heart out over a couple of Sangrias and was met with a great deal of “Amen Sisters” and “Hallelujahs.” And then I stewed in my anger for a couple of more days until I received an email from the Hubs on Wednesday asking me out on a date Saturday night. Which took me down a couple of notches until I realized that I was in charge of securing a babysitter for this very rare event and I was pissed off all over again.

I emailed my BMF (Best Mom Friend) who had been there cheering me on during Mom’s Night Out and asked if she’d babysit.  I included in my email that Hubs either knows that I am pissed off and not speaking to him and wants to make amends or he continues to be oblivious and this is a coincidence. I sent if off on Thursday and received the reply first thing Friday morning at work: No problem! It will be fun!! (Love this woman.) I proudly checked finding a babysitter off the list and quickly forwarded her reply to Hubs at work.

As soon as I clicked the mouse, I realized my mistake.  The snide email that I had sent to her two days prior was attached to the forward that I had just sent. Now he would know that 1) I really hadn’t been talking to him all week, and 2) I might not have discussed why I was angry with him, but my BMF knew all about it! I think that I actually blushed at that point.

When my BMF called later to find out the details, I told her that I didn’t know if we would still be going out on the date thanks to my mishandling of the mouse that morning. She laughed at my story and then said, “I hear every word of where you are at right now.  You guys NEED this night out.”

And she was so right.  Hubs never mentioned the email, though I know that he read it.  And I tried to let everything go because I knew I was going to actually have time to have an uninterrupted conversation with him and did not want to waste time bitching about week-old annoyances. Plus, the email thing was pretty obnoxious.  So we were pretty much even anyway.

One night of a grown up dinner out with a couple of drinks followed by a rocking rock opera changed everything.  My nasty attitude, my melancholy. My doubts about our marriage beyond co-parenting had all evaporated by the time we were giggling over our second glass of wine. We talked.  We laughed. We rocked out.  And we were the same couple that we were five years ago, before the first positive pregnancy test.  And four years before that when we moved into our first house four months after our wedding. And eight years before that when he told me he loved me for the first time and I freaked out and told him he couldn’t say that because this was just supposed to be a summer fling.  Even though I loved him too but was so afraid to admit it.

Being parents is this fun, crazy, wild, beautiful thing.  And often it’s exhausting.  And that shades everything else that isn’t parenting. Including your relationships. And then date night comes and you hope and pray that those butterflies you felt in your tummy 16 years ago show up over dinner and that you still are able to banter back and forth giggling the way you did way back in the days when there wasn’t a small person climbing into your bed in the middle of the night or throwing the dinner that you just spent an hour making all over the dog and laughing.

And then I was standing in this old converted mill swaying to this rocking guitar and screaming all the words to the song and my hip bumped his.  And he put his arm around me and I laid back against him and every stupid thing that I was pissed off about for a week disintegrated. And I felt the butterflies.

So the moral, I suppose, is: let’s not  allow this whole parenting thing to be so consuming.  Let’s get out every now and then and take the opportunity to rediscover who we are as husband and wife for a moment instead of mother and father. And also: don’t forward an email before reviewing everything in the thread.


November 10, 2013

I attended my first IEP meeting yesterday.  It actually wasn’t my first.  I probably attend one every other month and have been doing so for the past 13 years. But this was my first on the other side of the table.  For the first time, my name noted “parent” next to it as opposed to “teacher.” And that changed everything.

On a side note,

I’m officially changing B’s blog name to Rocketman. He inspired me yesterday, the day of the first IEP meeting where he would be the main topic of conversation and where his name (his real name, not Rocketman) would top all of the 13 paged document that I would have to sign to indicate my approval of the plan. “Rocketman” came from a morning made more difficult than we are used to due to the typical November in New England drop in temperature. This led to chaos of misplaced gloves (that were in his pocket), the panic of a missing hat (that was on his head), and the delay of taking off all of his layers once he arrived at school (despite my constant urging). A bit frustrated, I exclaimed, “My goodness! You are out in space today!” As which point a big goofy smile spread across his four year old face as he responded, “Coool! I love outer space!”  On my way back to my car, ready to head to work with my overstuffed brain overwhelming me, Elton John’s “Rocketman” came on the radio. And I smiled and thought, “Yes.  That is who he is.  My goofy little Rocketman.”

So now we are back at the IEP table where I am on the other side facing a speech pathologist and the head of Child Outreach. Ready to fight my fight and to show them I know a thing or two about education, about the law, about my child’s rights as a soon-to-be special needs student. But it didn’t take much. Apparently they were on my side.  Apparently they seem to have a desire to meet my child’s needs as well. Or so it seems so far.

So it wasn’t a fight or an argument or a disinterest that propelled the meeting. It was a serious, thoughtful discussion about Rocketman and how his needs might be eventually met. And why it is imperative that his needs be met.

I listened and listened and listened.  And then it was my turn to talk. And they were giving me free reign to talk about my kid. Which was strange. Because everyone wants to just talk and talk about their kids, but who ever gives them free reign to do so? But there they were, asking questions about Rocketman. Wondering how it was that while he has an exceedingly strong social emotional skill set, he struggles with sensory issues to the point where he cannot wear a button-down shirt without putting up a fight, runs blindly screaming during a fireworks show and gets so overstimulated by his baby brother that he flaps, grunts and stomps until we have to send him to his room for a break. Or a time out.

And the head of Child Outreach folded her arms thoughtfully and said, “What is so unusual about this case is that, typically, children that have these types of sensory issues struggle with social issues as well. Whereas the list of strengths that you just handed me are actually really good strengths to have.”  Which is fabulous and frustrating at the same time. Because, while it’s nice that my sensory kid does not fit the typical sensory profile, he still has ALL THESE ISSUES. And the issues are impacting his life, and mine, in wearisome, troublesome ways.

I am hopeful.  I have a little boy who is very smart, very sweet and very well adaptable.  He has a magnificent preschool teacher, a empathic pediatrician and a proactive mother.  He has strong, smart women in his life who care very much about him and will move mountains to get him what he needs.  Or at least I will.  I am ready to move mountains to get him what he needs. My silly and smart, sweet and so very funny Rocketman.


August 30, 2013

B, C and I attended our last music class of the summer today. It is a class for toddlers and preschoolers that is run by an elementary school teacher that I worked with. He is wonderful, the kids love it and so do I.  Every class, the teacher reads one story aloud to the children. Today’s read aloud was “Mortimer” by Robert Munsch.

The teacher introduced  the read aloud by building some background.  He told the children that Mortimer was a boy who had trouble falling asleep and asked if any of the children had trouble falling asleep.  Of course my B, who has had over a year’s worth of struggles with sleep, (If he doesn’t nap during the day he is tired but falls asleep at 8.  If he naps he is rejuvenated but falls asleep at 11 and battles with us every hour until then) raises his hand. He announces to the class that he sometimes has trouble falling asleep but makes sure that he is in bed by 10:00 because that is the time that the police come to the house to see if all children are asleep and if they are not the parents get in trouble. (I may or may not have told that story a few times in great desperation not realizing that my little white…story would be exposed in front of a colleague, several parents and grandparents and a group of toddlers and preschoolers.) Luckily, the teacher responded that there happened to be police in the story that he was about to read (they were actually called because the child would not go to sleep and was being too noisy!), too, and it became a great opener for him to begin reading the book.

The story was delightful and quite relavant and when my hubs asked about music class at dinnertime, Ben was quick to recount the story.  I remembered that there were several Robert Munsch ebooks that I could access through my library and at bedtime tonight we picked one to read and laughed the whole way through.

I have been teaching elementary school for fifteen years but have somehow missed the bulk of this man’s work.  Curious, I went onto his website to read his biography.  It was incredibly interesting and inspiring.  I learned that this enormously successful author gets most of his stories from listening to children. In his bio, Robert Munsch states, “I hope that everyone will talk to their kids honestly, listen to them, and help them do their best with their own challenges.”

This is something that I have always believed.  What children think, feel and say is enormously important and many adults seem not to respect that. But it was a good reminder to me. Four-year-old B has a great deal to say. But he says it through stutters of um, um, um, um, the, the, the, the, that, that, that, that… It can prove to be very frustrating and I often would like to cut him off and finish his sentence and move on with my day. Especially when I am tired. But then, that wouldn’t be fair. It would make it appear that, as his mother and the person who should love him the most, I am disinterested in what he has to share. And then, would that mean that what he has to share lacks importance?

So, this impromptu author study will be a reminder, then, of how important it is to listen to children.  Their perspectives are fresh and not jaded. They experience without judgement and report  without bias. They are funny. They are bright. And they are a piece of who we are that has been lost over years of hardened reality . We should listen.  I will listen. And I will appreciate and respect the amazing stories and perspectives that come from these silly little people that still have so much to teach us about life.