Monday, September 25, 2017

It's Oh So Quiet

It's that time a year again. Stores have big sections of school supplies, kids are breaking in backpacks, and alarm clocks are going off early again. Back to school! This year my baby boy started Kindergarten. He is there all day with his fourth grader big sister, and so I have more time on my hands than I have had in nine years. I walked into my house after dropping them off at school and it is so quiet. After a whole summer with them at my side I really don't remember the last time my house was silent like this while the sun was shining. I hear cars outside and my refridgerator running.

Dropping off your youngest child at Kindergarten is nothing short of gut wrenching. He was fine, but as I walked away my eyes filled. The lead up to the beginning of school was way worse, but that unknown factor was concerning me. What if he cried like his big sister did? What if he begged me to stay? What if he doesn't want to go back each day? So far so good though. The only tears shed were mine.

I'm not sure what each day will look like for me now. While they have a new daily routine, that is organized and structured, I am trying to figure out mine. My intentions for this year are that I learn to manage my time, since I have more of it now. That I generate some more income, not sure from where yet, but I'm thinking. That I take care of myself and do some things that are enjoyable and fulfilling, not just running errands with my free time.  Lastly, I hope that while my children are off at school learning that I learn some new things as well. Maybe I will take a class, or read a new book (hopefully many) or maybe I will just discover something I never knew.

One step at a time, we will all get with this new routine. I am sure we will all have an adventure to share at the end of each day. I am excited for the new year ahead. When my daughter was three and my son was born, she was holding his tiny hand and she made up a song she sang to him. She sang "Try new people, try new food, try new people, try something new" I am going to find it now and take a listen. I am sure it will throw me over the edge into a crying mess, but the message is a good one.

Friday, September 15, 2017

"There's A Lake I Know"

Every summer since I can remember, my family has spent time in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. My parents were both teachers and in the summer they would work in summer camps to get us all out of the city. When they retired they bought a little house there so they could enjoy the area whenever they wanted. They have a little pillow on their sofa that reads, “You never know how many friends you have until you have a house in the Berkshires." This statement rings true summer after summer when I plan my trip home and have to schedule seeing my parents around all of their friends visiting them.

From the first few months my daughter came into this world, I have brought her with me back East. My first flight alone with her was when she was seven weeks old, and I flew cross country to stay with my family. I go for about two weeks each summer, and my husband joins us for about a week. My son entered the picture and these summers are just part of what we do. Just like me, when I was a kid, we leave the city and land somewhere filled with mosquitos, fireflies, crickets, frogs, woods, and space. Lots and lots of space. I look forward to it all year, and when it is over, I feel such a sadness come over me.

Some days when we are there we go to museums, or shows at the local playhouse. We always go to Tanglewood at least once, which is a beautiful outdoor concert venue. You bring a picnic, lie on the grass and listen to gorgeous live music. Every few nights we go town for ice cream at the local shop, but most days we just go to the lake. We pack our bag, and stay all day. It has a sandy beach, and a designated swim area. There is a playground too, and plenty of kids for mine to play with. We bring nets, and in between swimming my kids like to try and catch the tadpoles. We swim out to the buoys and sometimes even past them. If it is a nice day, that is where you will find us. Year after year, summer after summer, I see the same faces, the same friends.

My friends that I grew up spending summers with in the Berkshires now have children too. Their little crew together with mine are quite a group. This summer all six of them did a little horseback riding day camp in the mornings for a week. It is wonderful to see how many new little people we've made that now get to appreciate summers outside the city. It is, like everything, also bittersweet. Each summer I spend with my parents, the less they are able to join in on the fun. The older and more tired they are. My parents had me pretty late, and I was also late to have my kids, and the obvious downside to that is that we have less time left to be together. 

As the end of my trip gets nearer, I always get sad. I am of course sad to say goodbye to what is truly a relaxed, beautiful vacation. I am even sadder to think that there is a time limit with my family. It's too hard to even think too much about. On our very last day this summer, I took my kids to the lake late in the afternoon when very few people were there. I wanted to squeeze in one more swim. I wanted to say goodbye to the lake.  I needed to get my fill to last me the year. I told my kids I was feeling sad about leaving, and wished I could have extended my ticket. My old-souled daughter responded by saying that if I did, I would only feel this way again next week. She is right, so we packed our bags and said our goodbyes. We plan on returning next year to the very same spot.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

What's Your Story?

The Saturday section of the LA Times is one of my favorite weekend rituals. We still get the paper delivered just for this section. It has restaurant reviews, an expose of beautiful homes all around LA, the latest health and fitness crazes, and my favorite "LA Affairs" stories of love, dating and relationships in LA. Week after week I read these stories about how people met, and are still together today, or how it went horribly wrong, and hearts were broken. Most of the time when a heart is broken in these stories I see a similar theme, where the person realizes they don't actually respect themselves to let someone love them, or that they are too afraid to put their authentic self out there so they put on these fronts, and then wonder why it didn't work out with another person. Or they chose the most unavailable person to be attractive to, and see if they can win them over and then wonder why the relationship doesn't have a lasting foundation.

Mostly when I read these I am so glad that I am no longer dating. I remember my twenties and definitely see some of these patterns in my past. I am pleased to say I grew out of many of my insecurities, and I actually do love and respect myself with confidence. I found someone to love that loves me for who I am and not a persona I created. Pretty impressive for LA, I think. But there is one area where I read these stories and don't think I have outgrown yet. What my "story" is.  From a very young age we learn to believe things about ourselves that may or may not be true. Yet when we grow up we own these ideas and it's hard to believe there is something about yourself that could be different than the way you think it is.

There are so many studies out there that if a child doesn't succeed academically before high school then they stop believing they can. Their identity is formed and they will believe going forward that they are not a good student. In order to help children succeed their confidence and abilities have to be built up before ninth grade. For girls the same idea plays into the way they feel about themselves. Their confidence starts to plummet around middle school, and the idea that they can do anything a boy can do starts to diminish. A couple of years ago there was an “Always" commercial that was so powerful. When young girls were asked to run like a girl, they were strong, determined and powerful. When they asked older girls the same question they did some ridiculous hand flapping silly run. I can see where my own confidence is shaken with disbeliefs of my abilities. I never loved math. I didn't do very well in it, so I believed I couldn't do math. I had one great teacher at the end of high school who was able to help me understand algebra, and I even enjoyed it in her class, but it was too late by them to help me with my SATs, and too late to help my confidence. 

My daughter is entering fourth grade soon. Up until this point I have been able to help her with her math homework. Over the summer, she has a book of school work to so each day, and the math is a bit more challenging for her than the other subjects. She is still a very strong student though. I suggested maybe getting her help from someone other than me and it backfired. She took it as needing help in math, and by the next week I heard her say, "I am not very good at math." I will not stand by and let her believe that about herself. I explained that she is actually great at it and just because it is not easy does not mean that she isn't good at it. I am committed to working on building her up in this department.