Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Big Week, Big Feelings!

It is not surprising that I cried during the fifth grade culmination ceremony. My sweet girl was chosen to read a speech that she wrote about her elementary school experience. She was keeping it a surprise, and a surprise it was. Her writing took me back through every step of her growth, and the way she read it with so much poise, made it impossible for me to deny how mature she is now. What I didn't expect from that day was how emotional it would be, not just for me but for she and her friends. At the end of the ceremony I got on stage with the rest of the fifth grade committee and we thanked the teachers and principals. When it was my turn to speak, I was holding it all together until I saw that her teacher was also tearing up. When I found my daughter afterward, her face red from crying, I grabbed her and held her. All I could tell her was how very proud of her I was.

After the ceremony, we took her for lunch, and we also stopped by at a friend's house where they were having a little graduation party. It hadn't sunk in though. I was still processing how much bigger the culmination was than I had imagined. The kids put so much time and practice into the performances. Every single child sang, danced, and was highlighted. It was quite impressive. When it was all over, all the students were signed out by their parents — and just like that, they were done with elementary school. I didn't feel celebratory as much as I felt full of emotions. I kept waiting for the excitement to kick in, and I hoped that my melancholy mood didn't take away anything for my child's big day.

We all went to the beach in the afternoon, and the mood lightened as everyone relaxed in the sand together. We had friends to be with and we stayed for hours. That night when this very full day was coming to a close, my girl came into my arms and started to get sad. She realized that her week long sleep away camp was starting only a few days later. She said she was sad to leave so quickly, and scared of going away for the week. This is the third year for her at camp, but the timing of this was overwhelming.

The night before camp was so hard on so many levels. The butterflies in her stomach seemed to multiply. She couldn't stop the tears, and even after saying goodnight she came back downstairs crying. I ultimately fell asleep in my clothes next to her around midnight. She needed so much reassurance that if she needed us, we would be there for her. We promised that if it was bad enough, she could come home. We promised we would check in, but no matter how many times we promised she kept needing to hear it.

The morning of, she woke up, got dressed, but couldn't eat. On the car ride to camp, she began to cry again. She asked me to feel her head, and asked for more reassurance. I turned around and reminded her that we promised, and to stop asking. I explained that her head was thinking in circles, and that it is making her even more nervous. I explained that she had the power to replace some of those fears with excitement. I reminded her that when the repeating thoughts came in that she should imagine a big stop sign, to stop the thoughts, and then change them with something positive. I also told her that the build up to the actual drop off was probably worse than the actual drop off, and that she would likely be okay once she got there.

All of these tools that I passed on to her were taught to me over time. I have not mastered them myself. I certainly did not succeed with many of them when I was her age. In fact I wouldn't dare tell her that I was never quite able to reel in the big hysterics I had at camp when I was a kid. Nor would I share that I couldn't get to the other side of my fears and that I had demanded to be picked up, because I did not want to be at camp. I knew in my gut though that she would be okay. She got out of the car to walk up to sign-in and saw a counselor from last year -- her face changed immediately. She had such a friendly confidence suddenly. When in line to check in a new camper was in front of her. The mom explained to us that it was her daughter's first time, and right away my suddenly happy camper chimed in with, “Oh, you are going to love it, it's great!"

Once she found her group, she bravely hugged and kissed us. She said she would see us Friday. And that was that.

What a whirlwind! The week was so full, for her and for me. She experienced all these new accomplishments and experiences, and I experienced them from the mother perspective, which I think is almost as scary as my first time around. I am so incredibly privileged and grateful to have her as my daughter, and so very happy that she can already apply these coping skills for her fears now. I'm still working on them.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Chill Out

Now that the school year is over, and my big work responsibilities are behind me, it's time to relax. I don't know how to, though. I feel the need to busy myself all day, every day. I am a bit better about doing less on the weekends, but still I can't be in my house without seeing things I need to do. I once read a quote about how we are not defined by how many items get checked off our to do list, or something like that, but I can't even remember it. My to do list is everything. If I check things off it, I should be able to something relaxing at the end of it, but I don't feel very successful when getting to that part.

One of the things that I love to do the most is the first thing that takes a backseat and that is reading a book. If things are busy, I don't get to read. I try to make time for it, but I don't stick to keeping it a priority at all. I am so grateful that both my kids love to read and that my little one now reads independently. One of my favorite things to do with my daughter is read our own books side by side. When too many days pass between doing that, I realize I am not slowing down enough.

My husband and I both are not homebodies. We both itch to get out most days, but the kids crave being at home and not being rushed out on days off. When I see them both struggle to motivate on the weekends, I wonder what I am teaching them about relaxing. Just like the distraction of TV or phones, one could argue that keeping children busy all the time doesn't breed creativity either. I am sure I am not leading by example on the benefits of boredom, if I never let any of us get bored. I am a little concerned that if we had a day at home with no plans, that they might not even know what to do. They would both read a book, then I bet they would ask for a bunch of snacks and then the next question would be, "What are we doing today?"

Over-planning a day is a great skill of mine. The lack of hours in the day gets me all the time. I want to stuff more and more in a day, because I have too many things I want to do. Life is short, so I want the most juice for the squeeze. I do not think I am going about this the right way though. I do believe I am doing my kids a bit of a disservice by not giving them more downtime. There is only one way to find out. Summertime and all the downtime that comes with it. If staying home means I have to make more snacks, quell more arguing and fend off begging for TV, then I am making plans. Big plans.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

You Are On Your Way!

As my girl's fifth grade culmination rapidly approaches, there are lots of feelings in this house about it. She told me yesterday that she is beginning to get sad about saying goodbye to elementary school. This has been her home away from home, longer than any has been to or will be again. It's the end of a sweet chapter and the beginning of new adventure ahead.  I am also sad, happy, proud and terrified all at the same time.

In wanting to remain positive and excited for her, I will be there at her promotion with smiles, hugs and a card with lovely words of praise.  However, this is the letter I really want to give her, but have decided can wait just a bit until I let her read it:

Dear Sweet Girl,

Congratulations on finishing fifth grade. You have come so far and I am so very proud of you. I love watching you navigate academics, friends, and fun during your years in elementary school. You have been so successful, and have participated in so many wonderful opportunities through these years. You put yourself out there for the Spelling Bee and for Student council President, and even though these two things made you afraid, you tried your best. When these things didn't go your way you took the losses in stride. You have also accomplished so much, from winning art contests, writing contests, being part of student council for three years, to singing in the choir and performing all through school. I love watching you grow, and I love seeing how happy you have been at school.

You also had hard days at school. Days when you cried when I tried to say goodbye to you in the morning. With each year you attended school, you got more and more comfortable, but back in Kindergarten you had a hard time saying goodbye through April. In first grade it took you until Thanksgiving to say goodbye without tears and in second grade, it only took until Halloween. Some days you would cry when you got home from school, because of issues or misunderstandings with friends. Sometimes you would get sad if you didn't do well on a math test, or on the rare occasion that you forgot something important at home. Overall, you have been so happy at school, and it has been so wonderful watching your confidence and spirit soar high.

I love you so much, so I feel the need to explain that this may feel like its all about to change. I will do everything humanly possible to keep your confidence high, but it is not all up to me sweet girl. Middle school can be rough. You will see things, hear things, and experience things that you haven't before. You will be curious when all your friends ask you to join them in trying new things.  It will feel exciting, and thrilling to break the rules once in a while. I will not get angry if you do, but please listen to that voice inside you that will scream to you if something doesn't seem right, when something (or someone) doesn't feel right. You may not always want to come talk to me, you don't have to, but please talk to someone you can trust who is older and wiser than your friends.

You will be part of a much larger group of students next year. You will make new friends and have new opportunities. You might feel for the first time that school work is challenging and it might overwhelm you. Its okay to not get great grades, its okay for you to fail a test, its okay to feel like its too hard. Its not okay for you to give up though. You have to ask for help before it gets to hard, and there will be so many people you can ask. Please do not think this makes you look like you're not doing well, because if you're asking for help, you're doing great. Students around you may make school work look easy, please do not waste too much time comparing yourself to others. Its human nature, but we really all learn things at different paces. You will get there.

Friends that you know and love now may change over the summer. You may change over the summer. Physically and emotionally, you will see changes all around you. Kids can be mean, and they might be mean to you. I will never tell you to ignore them, because it isn't possible. People will hurt you in your life and that pain might be deeper than any pain you felt before. You may not understand why, and they may not understand why either. Surround yourself with people who take care of your heart and fill you up. You can always come to me and say you need a hug. If you don't want to talk about anything you don't have to, but please let me hold you when you need. No questions asked if you don't want. You have my word.

With all these people you meet, you will likely have a crush on one or two of them. Please don't show them all your cards. Be discreet because you may change your mind and you don't need everyone you are crushing on to know you like them. Be yourself around them. Giggling, and talking really loudly around them isn't being yourself. Keep your feet on the ground, take a deep breath and try to think about what you're going to say before you say it. People are attracted to calm, articulate people. You are very articulate when you are calm. You do not need to ask or tell me anything when you want to kiss someone for the first time. Just keep in mind that it is very different from what you see on T.V.  Both people kissing need to participate and it may involve
using your tongue. If you don't move your tongue around, the other person might just stick their tongue in your mouth, resulting in you gagging. I know from experience that this could make a nice experience not so nice the first time, and it may take you a while to get it right. Do not do anything if you don't feel ready to. Not everything is comfortable the first time, but it is a lot more comfortable with someone you trust. You are not missing out if you walk away from an experience if it doesn't feel right. You are the first person you need to protect at all times. Listen to that big voice inside you again, and if isn't loud enough, take a moment to yourself so you can hear it. Its called your instinct, and its never wrong.

Next year you will come to me and ask me for new things. You will want a phone, a new pair of shoes, and a cool backpack and other things that a lot of kids around you have. I will not get you all of those things. I can't afford to and you will not need them all. Please do not beg me for them. If you really want something, I will help you figure out a way to make enough money to buy them for yourself. Having those things will not make you happier. Having things can sometimes make you feel more included, but if you can't have what everyone else does, you will survive. If someone doesn't make you feel included because you do not have what they have, then they are not a good friend. There will always be people around you that have more than you. There will also always be people who have less. Be aware of our differences and then look past those differences and find the good in your friends.

When you were a baby, I went on a hike with you in a pouch strapped to me. I saw a friend and told her that I loved having you as a little friend to hike with. She warned me to never think of you as my friend, and that my role to you is your mother. I agree that I will always be your mother, but I will also always be here as your friend. I am quite skilled at wearing different hats. I can wear one or two hats at a time. I will have times where I have to choose one, but if you really need me, I can wear the one you need.  When people hurt you, it may change you, but when people love you it may also change you. You changed me and opened my heart in a way I didn't know possible. I love that it was you who made me a mother. I am so lucky to get to be on this adventure with you. Please do not grow up too fast!  You only get one go around with childhood, so please take your time.  Sweetness, here's to you! Well done! Take my hand and I will let it go whenever you want. You're going to be amazing. You already are.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Be Prepared!

Summer is on it's way, and I am so excited to not have the typical school schedule for my kids. I happily stop making lunches the day before, we eat dinner when we want, and bedtime becomes more of a suggestion. We have a few organized weeks of summer camps, but the rest is pretty relaxed. I only work a few days a week right now and my kids can come with me or go to friends, so I have the luxury of not needing to over-plan. Summer for me is mix of some schedule and much more wait-and-see adventures. I know that for some people the last part is not enjoyable, but there are pros and cons to not having a plan all the time.

When we leave the house as a family, most of the time, I grab water bottles, food, sunscreen and whatever supplies we need for the day. When my children were small, I always had spare clothes, and diapers in the car. I still carry wipes with me, now used for sticky ice cream hands more than anything, but I have them if we need them. This weekend though, we all left the house, drove all the way to ride ATVs for my husband's birthday, and when we got there, it was so windy. I looked around the car but I didn't have any sweatshirts for us. Knowing the ride would have been miserable in the wind and cold we drove all the way back to the house and got them. Either I was in vacation mode, and so I was more lax in my parenting preparedness, or my kids are getting older and so I feel less responsible for their wardrobe. I think it was the former though, because I too walked out without a sweatshirt. 

A friend of mine once told me that lazy people are actually among the best people to hire. He was lazy and so he always was careful with how he spent his time. He was effective and efficient because he didn't want to waste any extra time if he didn't have to. Now, lazy and unprepared are two very different things, but I wonder where I land between those two sometimes. Admittedly, I do not like sitting still very long, so I do not think I am lazy, but I do know how to procrastinate quite well. I don't enjoy sitting down to a pile of work, and yet I don't like avoiding it too long either. When I think about my work ethic, and what I will do as my children get older, I have trouble picking a lane. I love so many things, and yet some of those I love don't make great careers. Then I have some things that I do well, but don't love, and those do make great careers.  When I sit with that, I end up sitting in neutral, and sitting isn't great for someone always on the go.

Looking at what I prepare for and what I actually move on, has been interesting. I don't think I have any one consistent pattern with this, and that is probably why I have so many new things I would like to try. I will pick a direction at some point, but for summer I am steering clear of drawing any lines in the sand — unless they are made with a sand bucket and shovel, since we will definitely be going to the beach this summer. There is no dragging my feet to go there.