Tag Archives: letting go

This is Good: All of It.

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I spent most of my first Mother’s Day in tears. Even for a crier like me, it wasn’t how I had planned to spend the day. But I had the triple header of saying goodbye to family that had been in town for the week, saying goodbye to a house we had planned to buy, and preparing to put my son in a new daycare. (For those keeping track, this is childcare plan #4. Hubby astutely pointed out that we have had almost every form of childcare possible at this point: nanny, in home daycare, live-in care with my mom, and now a daycare center.)

Of these major life events, the daycare was causing me the most tears last Sunday. The idea of getting used to another stranger looking out for my son seemed almost more than I could handle. (Though the excuse to spend $150 at Target for “school supplies” for my son’s first day in daycare was some excellent retail therapy.)

SPOILER ALERT: I LOVE the daycare. The detailed daily report of what and how much he has eaten, the times and lengths of his nap, and the diaper changes and numbers of BMs calms my inner helicopter mama. Just kidding, nothing calms my inner helicopter mama. But it is an appreciated OCD step in the right direction.

No, my crying about the daycare has nothing to do with the quality or satisfaction with the daycare. Instead, it has everything to do with watching my beautiful baby boy go on his next big adventure. It is about seeing him grow up and go places and have adventures without me there.

I kept asking my husband, in the midst of my tears, “What if they don’t love him as much as I do?”

Because when it comes down to it, that’s what I want. A world that despite all evidence to the contrary will hold my son in kindness and compassion. A world that will accept him for the perfect person he is. A world that will nurture and adore him.

I look in his innocent face and think that there is absolutely nothing that has happened in his world yet that would make him believe that the world is anything other than those things I just listed. And I find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the reality to settle in, for prick of the spinning wheel, his birthright in this broken world.

I’ll be honest, there’s another side to this coin. It isn’t just the avoidance of pain. The other question that I ask over and over again is… (I’m ashamed to admit this.)

“What if he loves someone else more than he loves me?”

I am the center of his universe. I am the most beautiful and hilarious and exciting thing in his world. And I just love that. I love all of it. I love the attention and the adoration and the acceptance. And if I’m being completely honest (and usually I am) I don’t want to give that up. And letting him go means giving him the opportunity to realize that I’m not the only amazing person in this world.

My husband and I were talking about our son last week and I said something like, “That’s my boy.”

And he replied, “He isn’t yours.”

I obviously responded charitably. Something along the lines of, “SHUT.UP.YES.HE.IS!” But I instantly knew it was true.

Ugg.

I get it. I know that my job as a mom is ultimately to let him go. To let him explore the broken and ugly world, teaching him to see the beautiful in it and to cherish the good. To trust that he will love and be loved by more people than just me; and that this is healthy and right. To put into practice my husband’s words: my son does not belong to me.

But that often seems impossible. Or leaves me in tears on Mother’s Day.

The week after our son was born we asked our pastor to come and pray for him. She came and gave the most beautiful benediction and blessing over his life. And she left me with the best piece of parenting advice. We had been told a lot of “get as much sleep as you can” (useless, useless advice) and “enjoy this time because just you wait, when he’s a teenager you will be miserable.”

In contrast, she said, “It seems like just yesterday that my kids were little, and now [my youngest daughter] is in college. And it was all good. From the time they were babies to now. All of it is good.”

Today is my son’s nine month birthday. We went to the park and he sat in the bucket-seat swing and he laughed and laughed as I made silly faces and kissed the top of his head when he swerved my direction. It is hard to believe that nine months ago I could only image his face, the dimple in his check, the blue of his eyes. And it’s even harder to believe that nine months from now he will be walking around our living room and climbing our bookshelves. In nine years he will be in school, and nine years after that he will be graduating from High School.

Each step of the way, I will be learning how to let go, over and over again. And maybe there will be some miserable teenage years. There will almost certainly be those who do not show my son the kind of love I believe he deserves. And I suppose it is possible that one day he may love someone more than he loves me. (Ugg, again.)

But I am holding onto my pastor’s words. Having faith that I, too, will look back and be thankful. This is good. This is a gift. The loving and the letting go.

All of it.

261755_10150290602379874_2436766_nRachel

Lessons Learned While Teaching the Alphabet

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This past week, I witnessed a miracle.

Let me back up. Last November I returned to work after spending the first three months of my son’s life figuring out how to keep a human alive, while also making most of the recipes I had pinned on pinterest. (But not the crafts. Why did I even pin those? I have been looking for a needle for three weeks now to sew up the hole my dog chewed in my pants and I can’t remember where I left my needles. Why I thought monogrammed anything was a possibility is beyond me.)

I sat down with my principal to make a schedule for working with small groups of students, my position this school year. I mentioned off-hand that I thought I should work with some kindergarteners because I believe in early intervention. Also, I’ve never worked with kindergarteners before and I wanted to know if it really is as hard as my kindergarten teaching friends say. (The answer to that question in a word: yes. In three words: I love it.)

I started pulling a group of three kindergarten students who did not know their letters. I very quickly fell in love with Alex. I already knew he was my favorite when he looked up at me after three weeks and said, “Ms. Wanson, you really meant it when you said you’d come get me every day!” Then he crawled into my lap for our read aloud.

This group quickly became the highlight of each day. When rearranging groups to prepare for our standardized test, my assistant principal looked at my schedule and asked why I was working with a K group. (Kindergarten not being a testing age.) Before she could say anything else, my principal said, “You can’t take away her K group. That’s why she gets out of bed in the morning.”

And it is true. When I cried about going back to work most days in December, my husband would say, “But what about Alex.” And he was sure to get an earful of Alex’s crazy antics from that day. Alex isn’t exactly a well-behaved student. My favorite students never are.

Last week it was my job to give Alex his reading test to see if he moved reading levels. He came to me in November without being able to pass the pre-reading test. In January he passed pre-reading (indicating he knows some of his letters and rhyming words) but threw a crying fit when I asked him to try spelling a few words.

I gave him the test. He knew all but three of his capital letters. He knew all but three of his lowercase letters. He knew all but eight of his letter sounds. He could match the beginning sounds of words. But then the miracle happened. I asked him to watch me read a book. I tapped on each word as I read. Before I could tell him it was his turn, he started reading.

And reading some more. He turned the page. And he read that page, and the next, and the next. And even when the pattern in the book changed, he ended the book with, “I like school.” The three words printed on that page.

I’ve always been an intermediate and upper grade teacher. I have never witnessed the moment when a child first starts to read, when the words are no longer sticks and circles but have suddenly become thoughts and ideas.

It was magical. It was this sacred miraculous moment. I am not exaggerating. My heart raced and the tears started forming. And all the while Alex just kept going, wanting to know what came next, not stopping once to think about the fact that HE COULD READ!

We finished the test and it turned out he can spell, too. Or at least enough to pass two more levels. I high-fived him and congratulated him. He grinned and jumped up and down. And asked if he could get a colored pen because he had passed his test and it was the nearest object to him. Who can blame him for being an opportunist?

Then he turned to me and said, “Am I not gonna come to you anymore?”

He realized what I had already known. That my time of working with him was ending. I had taught him and he had learned. He was ready to move to the next thing, and I wasn’t part of that next thing.

And it broke my mama heart.

Letting go. I am really not good at goodbyes, in whatever form they take. I am of the mind that every goodbye could be the last one, so make it count. Or better yet, avoid it altogether.

But the problem is that I can’t avoid it. And sometimes I get stuck in the goodbyes, near and far. It brings up the fact that I am not, despite my every best effort and a whole lot of wishful thinking, in control of those goodbyes or when they come. Which frankly pisses me off. And the people who console me by telling me that those feelings are hormonal can take a trip off a cliff as far as I’m concerned. Maybe my feelings are hormonal. But they’re also real.

And yet, today I pulled a new group of kindergarten students. Without Alex. And there was little Joel, waiting to be loved, his pants nearly falling off and his nose dripping with a cold, eager to climb into the lap that Alex left empty.

Saying goodbye to Alex left space for me to say hello to Joel.

Does that seem worth it when Alex comes up to me in the hallway and says, “Are you going to come get me today? Don’t say no.”

To quote Anne Lamott, “I’ll get back to you on that.”

What I know is that Alex wasn’t able to read and now he can. And that’s a miracle. And by the grace of God, I got to be there to witness it. So if goodbyes are a reality I cannot avoid, then I’m glad that at least sometimes they come served with a side of miracle.

And I’m extra thankful when those miracles are packaged up in the form of kindergarteners.

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Worry & Fret: Parenting

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I read Rachel’s recent post (see My House is a Deathtrap for Children) and remembered those days of constant worry and questioning.  Besides listening to his heartbeat whenever possible with a special stethoscope (kindly provided by my sister) during his days in the womb, I read everything (surprise) I could get my hands on about parenting and subscribed to every parenting magazine out there.  I was going to get this right. Vigilant Mama. I think now, thank God, I didn’t have the internet to turn to or I might have been committed.

The worries? When Nick first rolled over, he was in the family room.  I wasn’t there.  Apparently my golden retriever was watching him (so much for constant vigilance), and he rolled right across the room onto the single layer of red brick that formed the hearth of our fireplace. I found him there with a slight mark on his sweet head and hoped that no one would call DCFS but wondered if I would should turn myself in.  I knew I needed to be careful when he was on a bed, but who mentioned they could cover such a large area when rolling over?  The guilt I felt as a mom who worked outside the house played into this and I concluded that I was not cut out for this motherhood gig. I vowed to remain ever vigilant so that he would never be injured again.

Those who are reading this, and know my son, are chuckling. Or perhaps laughing out loud.  I know we didn’t break every record for trips to the ER but it seemed to me we did.  What kid has 2 concussions before starting high school?  Or who has to have his face sewn up (I will never get over this one) when he is only 4 years old, and making his stage debut as Joseph (Mary’s guy, earthly father of Jesus) the next evening?  Or breaks his arm playing shortstop while all of us are watching him make, what my husband called at the moment, “an all- star play, he could break his arm doing that!”  I have only begun to list these moments and I will stop now because I am having heart palpitations.  I never did make the world completely safe for him – despite my desire to remove all possible sources of harm.

Thank God he didn’t play football in high school (I won this battle) but he still managed to injure his knee playing basketball, which ended up leading to his vocation but that’s another story.  He will be twenty three in a matter of months and I still lay awake at night worrying about everything: is he pushing himself too hard?  Not enough?  Who is this girl he’s dating?  Dear God, please keep him safe on the subway…!  You get the idea.  It is never a good thing to wake up at 3 a.m. because generally I get through this list and then some before dawn.

The battles?  Oh my God.  So many. Over so little. Or so much.  “You may not stay out that late.”  “No you cannot eat that junk, drink that sugar…!” “No video games!”  “You said what to the Principal?!?”  “You call this a completed project???” And so on.  My days as enforcer, “Hurricane Mama,” Big Meanie are over.  Now, I answer the phone and try to remain calm, reasonable, helpful, the sage advisor.  We won’t discuss the dialogue with my inner self which I have at the same time I am dispensing pearls of wisdom!

And despite the fact that he seems so grounded and solid and is taking on the world 1000 miles from home, I am waiting for some deep-seated neuroses to appear – created at some dark parenting moment in the past, when I really, really screwed up.

No, Rachel.  The doctor did not need to tell you to be paranoid.  It is hard-wired deep within us.

And although I am no longer vacuuming like a madwoman or scrubbing floors with massive amounts of disinfectant (I know, there are harmful chemicals in these things so I was careful to rinse, but I still worry that these chemicals did some latent harm), I often scour the internet looking for tips on how to be a great long-distance parent to a kid in his twenties.

Maybe I need to run over and help Rachel scrub her floors with vinegar.

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