Monday, December 12, 2016


Third grade is supposed to be challenging for little girls in the friendship department. I heard this a few times but when I recall my own third grade experience, I don't remember it being in issue. I do remember it in seventh grade, but at eight I was blissfully ignorant to any big issues with friends. I also didn't have as many friends as my daughter has now. I was friendly, I had a few really good friends, and then one best friend. That's back when you really did have one best friend. Now that "best" word gets thrown around too often and it is really quite a tricky description for a type of friend.

Arielle and I met in second grade. I was a new student, coming in from a different school after the year had already started. I spotted Arielle right away and she had a roller skate hairband in her low ponytail, and a superman lunch box. The shock of coming from a school where all girls had to wear dresses, and the desks were all lined up in neat little rows, to this room where the desks were set up like tables and kids wore what they liked was a big change. There was so much color in that room compared to what I came from, not only in clothes, and skin, but also in the fun way the class was set up. It was decorated. Arielle had the cutest sneeze I had ever heard. The class giggled when she sneezed because it sounded like a little mouse: achoooooeeee. I thought to myself if this kid (who I wasn't so sure at that point was a girl or a boy) had such confidence to sneeze this way, sport a superman lunch box and a pony -- then this kid is interesting. I was right. She became my closest friend and remains that today.

Arielle and I played after school for hours. We would later be allowed to walk to each others houses. There were days and years  where all of my memories of childhood are combined with her image. We shared the deepest secrets and the darkest fears. During the summer we would go our separate ways and I would cry at our goodbyes. We stayed close until junior high when it seemed everyone around us got shuffled around. We were no longer in class together and she matured a bit faster than me. It took me a bit longer to adjust to not having her around. It also took me longer to find my way in a big new school. Eventually we found new friends. We went our own way but were never far apart and in college we became close again. Despite my move cross-country, Arielle is still a very close friend. We see each other anytime I am home in NY, and now our children play together.

As girls, if we had a disagreement, we would be upset for a minute and then be laughing the next. Our moms only got involved if we asked them too. Now, I feel like everyone is on high alert with anything that fits under the banner of being "bullied." I reached out to a mom last year whose daughter wasn't exactly being warm and fuzzy to mine. I put a lot of thought into reaching out, but after quite a few days of my daughter feeling hurt, I wanted to know if she had heard anything on her end. She was very receptive and explained that her daughter indeed has a hard time playing with more than one child at a time. She apologized if it was at the exclusion of my daughter. She also said she didn't want to get involved unless I thought my daughter was being bullied. Well, I would define bullying to be something more aggresive than leaving someone out, so I dropped it. I did some reading on the subject, and I learned tools to help my daughter to communicate with her friends. I also learned that after a certain point she has to handle these obstacles independently. 

I recently went to her classroom for "back to school night" and I could tell third grade is a step in the more serious direction. Gone were the drawings and presentations about what they did their first week of school. It was all busness. My daughter doesn't seem to notice that it's a bit less play and a bit more work, and that's as it should be. She is where she is supposed to be. She is still learning, in her classroom and with her friends. Her closest friend she met when she was a baby — they are inseparable when they are in the same country, but unfortanatly she lives in London. She has a bunch of close friend here too, but I don't think she has an Arielle yet. I look forward to when she finds her. As tricky as it can be to navigate close friendships, life is much sweeter with good friends.

Friday, December 2, 2016

He's Got A Way About Him

When I found out I was having a baby boy, my friend told me that little boys love their mamas. She described that love as a deep, strong bond that was unbreakable. 

Just after my baby boy was born, I waited for that feeling to start. For that love to grow. It wasn't instant, so I wondered if it was because I was so in love with my little girl that this new little baby in no way could ever mean as much to me. Then one day when he was only a few months old, I was holding him in his room and all of a sudden -- I felt it. I kissed his soft, warm, bald head and said "I love you. I really do."  The rush of it all was so surprising.

From that moment on, I understood what my friend meant, because I felt it. The way my little boy looked at me made my heart melt. The way he would reach for me, hold my neck, or hold my hand — I would fall in love all over and over again. There is no comparing siblings of different genders. Girls and boys are very different. Sure I can talk about their births, or how long I nursed them, or what stuffed animals they both gravitated to, but that is about where it ends, because my two kids are very different. I  know you can have two daughters and two sons be very different from one another as well, but in my own case, I can see some clear differences that fit more into typical girl or boy behavior. My daughter is more emotional and will come snuggle in a gentle way, and my son is more physical and will tackle me to the ground, all in the name of love. His hugs can be painful, his kisses hard, and his cuddling is anything but still.

Over the summer, he went through a tough period. He was freshly four, and well I could just stop right there, because four has never been a fun age for me to parent. Again, though this four looked very different from the whining, pouting, crying four from my daughter. This four had whining, but also anger and hitting. At the time, I feared that my son was Dennis the Menace in the flesh, and I began read as many parenting books as I could. I tried every tip, trick or piece of advice, none of which worked. It felt like all the fun, cuddly little boy stuff seemed to disappear. He wasn't as affectionate and he honestly wasn't very easy to like during that time. The only that I had forgotten was that this too is a phase, and "this too shall pass."

Indeed we came out on the other side and my little wrestling bundle of love returned. We are back in a delicious phase of intoxicating hugs and kisses. They are random, and impromptu, and I welcome every single hug and kiss.