On your first day of Kindergarten

You’d quietly put on your first-day-of-school dress and pulled your hair into a ponytail, finished with two barrettes and a cloth headband, before the rest of us were out of bed.  You chose cereal for breakfast, and then stationed yourself at the coffee table to color a picture of a horse with markers.

When we arrived at school at 8:40 I walked you to the kindergarten playground, then into your classroom where you placed your pink REI backpack–the one we bought for your first backpacking trip on your 4th birthday–into your cubby.  We returned to the playground where, after telling me I could go, I picked you up and gave you a hug.  When I put you down you turned and walked toward the slide with a confident “Bye!” and a wave.

It was then that I almost cried.  Almost.

So there you are now, not even 30 minutes into your school day as I type this. You will have P.E. today and computers.  You’ll read The Kissing Hand and Pete the Cat.  You’ll do math and go on a tour of the school.  You’ll spend your day with Mrs. Koontz, two assistant teachers, and 24 other 5-year-olds you’ll come to know well. 

You and I have come so far, my love.  It was not so long ago that your favorite place to be was asleep at my breast.  Now, for better or worse, you walk away from me and enter the world of public education.

Public education.  The idea stresses me more than any we’ve faced together.  Through my work I know almost every teacher at your school plus the principal and vice principal.  They are motivated, caring, and fun.  It is not them who worry me.  Through my work I also understand current trends in education as well as the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Standards.  It is here, along with the ultimate goals of education as espoused by our society (“To prepare students to compete in the global economy!”), that I recognize shortcomings in the system.  They sit in the pit of my stomach.

Nonetheless, my love, you today enter a lovely little kindergarten with an easy-going, small town feel, surrounded by mountain views.  There is no other option here, yet you are still fortunate.

You have the chance to learn to read, a lunch box full of food, the freedom to style your hair in any way you see fit.  You are among the lucky ones, Maisie.  Always remember that.

And I am among the lucky ones, too.  For I have been, and continue to be, molded by your hand.

Baby Girl, never doubt how proud I am to be your mother.

I hope you’re having a good day.  I’ll see you at 3:10.

Mommy

 

A strong will

“He’s strong-willed,” his teacher says.

“Thanks, we like him that way,” I reply.

Not obedient, passive, a pushover.

You, a toddler who is assertive, stands up for himself, and one day, stands up for others.  A boy who shares his ideas, defends classmates against bullies, befriends the unpopular kid.  A man who asks for what he wants, isn’t afraid to say no, never turns a blind eye, and risks humiliation and failure in finding and following his path.

Your dad once carried a stranger out of a bar because he was harassing a woman.  Be like your dad.  Not because you think the woman incapable of caring for herself, but because you have the wherewithal (infused with the right number of beers) to aid another.

Be a mix of compassion, confidence, and competence.

Be strong-willed.

Just don’t be an asshole about it.

 

 

On hitting kids

One of my biggest regrets is hitting one of my children.

Another is not saying anything while someone else hit her child in my house.

According to surveys, the majority of American parents hit (or spank, if you prefer euphemisms) their kids (and sometimes even babies).  The following video is a summary of the research on spanking, which overwhelmingly shows it to be damaging to the child.

Sickeningly, nineteen states still allow corporal punishment in schools.  See if your state is among them at stophitting.com.

(Yes, you may have been spanked and “turned out fine,” but how much better might you have been if you had never been hit at all?)

Finally

Looking up and peering outward she sees all is arranged in proper order.  Perfection does not exist, but maturity and gratitude whisper that she has arrived in a place as utopian as any.

Finally.

Finally.

If she knew then what she knows now she would be foolish to bear children.

If she knew then what she knows now she would be foolish not to.

The mindless ordinary, the kind of mundane rooted in the deepest desires of many.  She has wallowed in it, face-down, tear-stained, and in deep recesses, ever-grateful.

The bubbling resentment and defeat of a lioness confined to a cage while life in the savanna, broad and stimulating, continues.

The awakening of purpose beyond pleasure, beyond companionship, beyond mothering.

The surge of a soul who is more.  More power, more richness, more kindness.  More who she might be in her winter years.

The feel of the pieces slipping into place on a timetable of neither her design nor her desire.

Finally.

Waking up each morning in content anticipation of the day’s unfolding.

Of her life’s unfolding.

Of their life’s unfolding.

Finally.

Showing love

I gave away the last of our cloth diapers.  The Ache washed over me as I looked at them boxed and ready to move in with a new family.  A period in my relationship with my children has come to a close, and while I am thrilled to no longer be responsible for diapering, I cannot help but ache for the loss of this way in which I’ve shown my children love.

Yes, I have shown love through diapering.  Carefully fastening cloth to small bodies.  Scraping and swishing and washing and line-drying and stuffing and placing in the brown wicker basket with the cream linen liner.  Until it is time to carefully fasten them again.

Likewise, breastfeeding has come and gone.  Unmedicated births happened two and four years ago.  Even the Ergo has not left the closet in months.

How will I now show love?  Now that the time for these expressions has expired?

Through lunches packed for school;

Hikes to Castle Rock and “turtle rock” and “whale rock” and any other place where boulders are just the right size for scrambling;

Waking to take a small boy potty;

Trader Joe’s yogurt smoothies;

Bedroom reorganization;

Tales from babyhood;

Actions expressing love for their father;

A part-time job and relinquishing care to others.

The ways in which we show love are ever-evolving.

The Ache stays same.

The rest of my life

Yesterday afternoon I poured myself some champagne, flat from being open since New Year’s Day, and celebrated life.

Monday was the first day of the rest of my life.

Have you ever had that feeling?

For the first time a week passed much like I envisioned when, last spring, I wrote an outline of how I would ideally spend my days.  Time with family, time alone, time to write on this blog (or at least think about it), time doing a job I like, time interviewing for a job I love.  (And no time changing diapers–not part of the plan but important still.)  I’d been anticipating this particular week since mid-December, and although there was one piece missing, I’m optimistic we’ll get there.

Watching portions of the Mom is in Control Telesummit I was struck by the messages of some of the speakers.

Live life by design not by default.

True self-care is fulfillment not pleasure.

True self-care is lighting up not numbing out.

How many times have I said I became a stay-at-home mom by default?  And many times have I gone to Target alone in a pleasurably hollow effort to care for myself?  And how many times has logging on to Facebook to promote my doula business or my NOCIRC chapter, both fulfilling endeavors, morphed into using Facebook to numb myself?

Shamefully too many.

Change is slow.

Glacially so at times.

But greeting the first day of the rest of your life at long last is thrilling.

I must drink champagne more often.  It may not always be bubbly, but life is always worth celebrating.