Motherhood Musings: September is the New January

Here it is, the beginning of September, and I feel like it’s the New Year.

As a mother of school-aged children (albeit one is in a preschool program), both attending full-day, full-week programs for the first time, the back to school season seems to me to mark a new beginning much more than the traditional change-up of January 1st.

DO NOT PIN september is the new january www.fromwholecloth.com

DO NOT PIN september is the new january www.fromwholecloth.com

Adjusting to so much sudden newness — new schools, new teachers, new schedules, new bedtime and wake-up routines, managing to get them fed and one to the bus on time – creates much more upheaval than the January 1st fervor of casting off the shadows of last year’s shortfalls while scrambling to boldly proclaim new health and personal resolutions, and remembering to change your date references to the new calendar year.

Perhaps September is the new January. I can see that working in our society with its love affair with rebranding. Please, someone make a meme to that effect, which we can all post and pin endlessly.

And it doesn’t help that summer is such a tease. Bidding you to come and sit awhile and imagine what life could be like if there weren’t any real world responsibilities, as if it were possible for adulthood to be as carefree as youth.  As a parent, all summer long you know the return to reality is lurking out there, ready to stare you down come the end of August, but there are ample and tantalizing distractions to help you succumb to the siren song of summer. Beach days, hikes, picnics, family vacations, dips in a pool, spontaneous explorations, gardens, bugs, wildlife, fairs, ice cream runs, glow sticks galore, fireworks, more ice cream; not to mention the unavoidable diversions like longer days with a lingering sunlight that pushes bedtime well past the time your child’s little body actually needs sleep.

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DO NOT PIN, Summer Swim, september is the new january, www.fromwholecloth.com

DO NOT PIN, Summer Snooze, september is the new january, www.fromwholecloth.com

DO NOT PIN Summer Fun, september is the new january www.fromwholecloth.com

And then suddenly the calendar changes to the first day of school; and the momentum shifts, you’re in overdrive.

During my years of full-time lawyering, my performance goals and the firm’s were tied to the traditional calendar year. Each month’s performance marched you closer to the final accounting in December. There was no escaping the established January to December measure of time. But with children it’s so different.

The concept of time is still so ambiguous, so un-measurable, for children. It’s that limitlessness that contributes to their sense of wonderment and curiosity. After all, what isn’t possible when time is simply a continuum, not an ordered, impending beast full of deadlines and due dates and pickup times and late fees.

Of course, that limitless mentality backfires into a hot mess when trying to convince them they need to go to sleep NOW or they’ll be inconsolably tired the next day, or that we needed to leave the playground LIKE 15 MINUTES AGO or dinner will be late and baths will be late and this ultra-sensitive pressure-cooker called our “schedule” will explode into a million pieces.

I admit I’ve never been good at take it easy, go with the flow; although I’ve certainly expended effort to make it look otherwise. Historically, my only flow has been the one I create and try to control by squeezing it around the neck into submission. In fact, when I finally made the decision to leave my job in order to stay home with my family, I had this really hard core expectation of my new role – I was going to be the CEO of the home. It was my job to be in control of all the home/family needs. Um, embarrassing.

How stupid. Ridiculous, really. And even worse, it doesn’t work! It is fairly obvious, although it took me an incredibly long time to learn, that the need to control is mostly born out of fear and anxiety. Yep, take a minute to let that sink in, and then tell me how cool you feel being a control freak.

So, I guess if September is the new January, it’s only appropriate that I make a resolution or two.

I’ll go with trite. Trite but true. Be present more, breathe more. Instead of focusing on that clock, the ever-present schedule, the self-imposed sentence of my mental to-do list, just be mommy. Because, after all, that is my job.

I don’t need to have the cleanest house, my kids don’t need to read by age whatever, I don’t need to make everything for them, we don’t have to be perfect, breakfast for dinner is a real thing. And so on. But kids do have big needs – mostly and simply to feel loved and safe and encouraged. And every time I yell or, even worse, curse, because I feel we’ve fallen short of some arbitrary standard of measurement I’ve created, I degrade that safe environment and I invite anxiety into our home. We know these things, but we ignore them. We need reminding.

A reminder to myself: My job is to support my children, not to confine them with kooky expectations, or comparisons, or to-do lists. There’s no such thing as perfect. I can’t control everything. Who would want that job anyway?

Motherhood Musings: 5th Birthday

Dear readers, I thought I’d take a break from sewing talk to share some of my recent thoughts and observations on motherhood. If you’ll be so kind as to indulge me…

Tiger Towel 1

It’s official. I am now the mother of a five-year-old.

Five seems so big. In a way that his first through fourth birthdays did not affect me, I am suddenly struck by how much older he seems to me. And despite the still thumb-sucking, and the requests to be held and hugged and to snuggle, and the way he often reverts to calling me “mama” rather than “mom, and even if we’re holding off on kindergarten for another year, it is like there is no denying that five years old is no longer a little, little boy.

Five is big. Five for him is full of ambition, even when he’s still working on all the skills necessary to achieve. Like wanting so much to ride his bike without training wheels, and tie his shoes. Five means getting dressed by himself but still struggling with socks. Five is being so proud to be a big brother.

But five has a certain fragility to it. It is a tightrope walk between toddler and big kid. More big kid than baby, yes; but the steps toward big kid are often uncertain and slippery. While we wait in line at the grocery store, he boasts to strangers, “I just turned five.” It is an announcement that belies his usual hesitancy about talking in public or drawing attention to himself. It is as if he’s trying out his five-ness on them. Looking for assurance that he’s on the right path.

Selfishly I feel a strange and unwelcome sentiment that turning five has suddenly and irreparably catapulted us down the road toward his adulthood. Like a super-sized gravitational pull toward a time when I won’t be the answer for all his questions and worries. When I check on him for the last time before bed each night, I have to fight the urge to whisper “stay little” in his ear. I am embarrassed by how unsettled I feel by this. And yet I recognize it is one of the quintessential hypocrisies of motherhood and aging in general. We want our children to grow up and figure things out on their own. Just not too soon. We want them to be independent, but to need us too. We want to matter.

I must sound ridiculously dramatic. I know. But I was blindsided by how this birthday was tinged with some bittersweet. I’m going to chalk it all up to a fleeting melancholy due to all the changes culminating at this time of year — the end of summer laziness, a new school year for my son, my youngest starting nursery school, new work obligations for me, shorter days, longer nights. Life moves on, as it always does.

And, the truth is, I still really, really matter to him. And we’re lucky enough to still be at the stage where a tiger towel and cake pops pretty much assure my “best mom” status. But more on that next time.

Thanks for listening!

 

Toilet Training the Second Time Around, Around, Around

I have no desire to pressure my daughter on toilet training, but she has recently taken more interest in what goes on in the bathroom. And by interest I mean, she yells “pee pee” every time I walk into the bathroom. At present there is very little volume control with Daisy; her volume starts at the mid-loud range and only goes up from there (perhaps she thinks that’s the only way she’ll be heard over her brother). The volume combined with her relatively low and sometimes raspy voice can make her sound like an insistent Lauren Bacall.  I don’t know, maybe she’s sneaking out for smokes during nap time.

I think maybe I waited too long with my son and missed some of the signs that he was ready to start toilet training. I suppose it also didn’t help that my daughter was born about a month or so after we started any attempts at training with Eli. That definitely put training on the back burner. As eager as I was for him to learn, it just seemed so much easier to change two sets of diapers, than to juggle a newborn while sitting by the potty with my son and trying to display the patience necessary for training. Heck, I struggle with patience under the best of conditions! He’s now comfortable with the toilet on all accounts, and even has a penchant for “watering” a certain area of the backyard, so I suppose there was no harm in waiting.

Up until now, Daisy’s interest in the toilet was defined by her apparent belief that the toilet is a mini-bathtub. It started with her calling the toilet a “bath”. I would try to alleviate the confusion by pointing and saying “toilet.” Then she upped her game. She started filling the toilet with bath toys on a very regular basis. I’m not sure the rubber duckies and other marine figures enjoyed their new habitat as much as Daisy did. Thank goodness she hasn’t figured out how to flush yet!

Determined not to miss the signs of training readiness this time around, I decided to place a training potty in the bathroom today so that it would become familiar to her. No pressure, but it’s there if she’s interested. No sooner had I placed it on the floor that she toddler-ran up to it, leaned all the way over and stuck her head in the bowl and yelled “echo, echo, echo”. The girl loves herself a good echo. Well, we’ve got to start somewhere.

Vacation Debrief

When the Go-Go’s sang “vacation, all I ever wanted…,” they clearly were not envisioning a vacation with young children in tow. A song about vacationing with young kiddos is more likely to include lyrics such as, “What the heck, I’m actually paying for this experience??!” or perhaps, “Did I really voluntarily choose to spend ten days throwing my children off their schedule and suffering the bitter consequences? Well, at least I’m somewhere warm for this torture.”  Or, “I thought I ordered wine with dinner, not whine.” (Although the latter is probably not limited to a vacation utterance.)

Yes, we got away for about ten days. Yes, I’m grateful for that. But, man, it was work. I think the biggest problem is that, for some reason, I have yet to fully wrap my mind around the reality that the days of carefree vacationing, where the biggest worry is the weather and a great dinner reservation, are gone for a number of years. I go into it still naively expecting to unwind and have a truly relaxing experience, despite the fact that I’m traveling with two young children. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad. In fact it’s not even that it’s bad at all, it’s just … different. You have fun family moments, and then you have the moments when you’re ready to shove everyone into the rental car and drive immediately to the nearest airport and book the next flight home regardless of cost.

The highlights of our trip included great weather, a fun trip to the zoo where Eli ran from animal to animal for more than five hours, swimming in the ocean, and lots of time together. Also, Daisy arrived in Florida with eight teeth and left with twelve. Apparently we booked the four-molar package.

The warm weather felt amazing, particularly after a week of bracing cold at home prior to leaving. It was great to not even have to think about the weather and layer your clothes to stay warm. However, it induced some confusion for Eli, who was at first resistant to me dressing Daisy in onesies, and nothing more, for romping around.

“Mommy, Daisy needs pants,” he kept insisting, and I explained that a onesie is a perfectly acceptable wardrobe choice for a baby in warm weather. Finally, he accepted it. “Mommy, you know, sometimes we just don’t wear pants on vacation.”  I was too tired to ask where and with whom he has been vacationing.

We returned home just in time to experience Storm Nemo. The official count for our town was 40 inches of snow. Yards, roads, sidewalks, driveways were (are) all indistinguishable. Just a big, thick blanket of white. Such a thick blanket that no one knows how to remove it and where to put it. The town has contracted a fleet of pay loaders to help move the snow out. The rumble of their engines and  the beep-beep reverse signal portend freedom from the snow-lock.

Freezing rain has moved in today and so we’re on day four of being mostly home bound, and schools are cancelled for tomorrow, as well. Cabin fever has most definitely set in. We’ve already made Valentines, played board games, sung the heck out of our song repertoire, baked together, read together, done a family movie night.

 

 

We’re all starting to get a little silly. This morning my son discovered how similar “peanut” and “penis” sound, and, of course, finds this hysterical. Any idea what he says I had for breakfast with my oatmeal? Oh, brother. I thought I had at least until age 5 until this kind of stuff started. I think I need a vacation.