Seven

It’s so hard to believe Bowie is turning 7. Last year I thought the same thing about 6. Six seemed like such a big number for such a little boy. And now 7. Each year older a kid gets is like moving one point on the Richter scale. It’s just one more, but exponentially more different than the last.

His birthday always seems to fall right around the time the school year is wrapping up, which makes it all feel very formal and official. And so I hereby decree that he shall now pass on to the next year of his life.

He asked me to tell him a funny story about the day he was born. So, I said, “the first thing I ever said to you was, ‘thank God you’re finally out.” Which I thought was funnier than he did. But then I told him about how he didn’t cry, he just looked at me very intently, and I said little things to him and he held my finger tightly. And he said, “That’s ’cause I’ve always loved you, mama.”

This year has been a positive one, despite having a teacher that was very unwilling to help us with his SPD issues in the classroom. He is excelling in math and reading, and is making friends (that’s kinda hard for him to do). He’s still acting out, but the incidents are fewer and further in between.

At home he’s become more agreeable, more helpful and more loving toward us. He’s finding lots of new hobbies and interests. He cannot get enough Minecraft these days. He plays the game on all of the electronic devices in our house, he watches YouTube videos of people playing Minecraft, he has Minecraft figurines, Minecraft Legos, Minecraft books, book marks, pencils, clothing…so much Minecraft.

But, I figure it’s a safe game for him to be playing. We limit his time sitting in front of a screen. But, what I mean is, he’s learning while he plays, and it allows him to explore his creativity. He comes up with, and then builds, some pretty impressive stuff. It’s also something that gives him a great sense of pride, in a world that gives him few opportunities for that.

Seven is walking the two blocks to Auntie’s house all by himself. Seven is no more training wheels. Seven is showing signs of growing out of the worst of the SPD. Seven is helping out around the house. Seven is learning to tell time, count money and tell mom what kind of clouds those are in the sky. Seven is less fanfare around a lost tooth. Seven is wearing boxer shorts, not little boy underpants. Seven is getting kissed by a girl on the playground.

It’s hard to believe he’s turning 7, because you’d think after 7 years of parenting, I’d have more of a handle on all of this. But, the truth is, they are always changing, growing, evolving into the adult they are going to become. Every day is a new set of challenges, and I’m sure I’ll feel as clueless at 17 as I do at 7.

Seven is traditionally a lucky number, and I have high hopes for him this year to come.

bowie's 7th

Reason #4954 Parenting is Just the Best

Over the past week or two, we have slowly ventured into the parenting minefield known as potty training with Ferris. He usually goes on the potty in the morning and before bed, and maybe once in between. I was afraid we were heading into “waited too long” territory, but it finally started happening.

With Bowie, we were new parents and we started right when he turned 2, thinking that’s just when you started, that’s just how it worked. We’d put him on the potty every few hours, like a puppy, and give him a little treat when he went, and then in a few weeks he’d be all potty trained, just like that. Over and out.

Any seasoned parent reading this knows that’s not entirely how it goes. And with Bowie, it ended up being as easy and enjoyable as giving a dental exam to a hungry lion. And the journey that began when he turned 2 didn’t end until he was about to turn 4. There were many a day spent at home with him running around completely naked from the waist down so he could make a mad dash to the potty when he felt that urge. We gave more than one UPS guy the most interesting day of his career.

So, when it came to Ferris, we took a much more relaxed stance on the issue. We encouraged it, of course, but never forced it. Some days he was excited about it, some days not so much. But, it’s starting to work. He’s getting self-aware, knowing when he has to go, though he generally just tells us as he’s going, or shortly after. But, we’ll get there, slowly but surely. And then we wait for our good friend, regression.

But, it’s also been a good 3 years since we’ve really had to worry about the issue at all, and so much of it has been blocked out and tucked away in my subconscious to protect my sanity. I feel like we’re totally new at it again. I hesitate to use a reward system, because we have been showering him with praise whenever he’s successful, which he hates (a trait no doubt inherited from his mama).

So, what were your experiences like? Any pointers for anyone out there doing this for the first time? Any tried and true methods? What motivates a kid who hates praise?

As you can see, he’s having a blast with it, and giving us all that toddler respect for elders.

ferris on the throne

 

Growing Up

Yesterday the director of Ferris’ preschool announced that there were 6 weeks left in the school year. And it triggered that familiar twinge I get each year at this time. Another school year in the books. My babies are another year older.

To add insult to injury, Bowie’s birthday always falls right around the last day of the school year. So he truly does turn a year older.

I know if you’re a parent and you’re reading this that I’m preaching to the choir. It’s tough to see the wee ones grow up into big ones. And then bigger ones. And it’s hard to think about the day they will leave the nest.

I will be just innocently going about my day, relishing in how little my children still are, and then I will see a picture of them from one year ago, and realize just how big they have gotten. And then I say, “Stop growing up so fast!” And I’m only like, half kidding.

But, when they do something completely amazing, like form their first full sentence, or read their first full sentence, or use the bathroom all by themselves, or help their friend up after they fall. Then you’re so proud. You puff out your chest and smile ear to ear, and think to yourself, “I made that. Me. I did.”

I remember when Bowie was little I would think, “Two is just the best age. I don’t want this to end.” But then three was awesome. “Three is just the best age. I don’t want this to end.” And then four was awesome too. And so on, and so forth.

Every new step comes with its own challenges and new horizons. And you look back on the previous years as being so easy. Why didn’t I just slow down and enjoy that more? Why did I think that was so hard?

But, every new step also comes with its own really amazing stuff. Suddenly your kid is capable of things you never even thought of waiting for them to do. And you can have conversations with them. And you can enjoy just hanging out with them. It’s much more relaxing at 6 that it is at 2, for sure.

I know the teen years are hard. Even if only because I was so terrible myself as a teen. But, I know that it will also be great for so many new reasons. And then when they are grown, yes they will leave me, but then I get to watch them go out into the world and become something.

I’ll sit back and watch and think, “I made that. Me. I did.”

boys at the park

 

The Specialness of One’s Needs

I know that a while back, at the beginning of the school year, I was all sunshine and rainbows about first grade and how well I thought it would go.

That’s not exactly the case anymore.

Things haven’t been going well. Bowie didn’t react well at first to the teacher and her methods (and truthfully neither did we). He has a hard time completing his in-class work in a timely manner (compared to the other kids), and it’s been a real hot button issue, apparently.

A meeting was requested with the student-teacher coordinator and a school counselor. They have a record of all the SPD stuff from last year, so we just discussed where he was at, how things were going. And they asked us to have him re-evaluated by his OT, to see where he was at with his sensory issues.

I felt kind of ridiculous when they asked how long it had been since he saw an OT and since we had concentrated on his therapy, and I was like, oh, um, gee, well I suppose it’s been a few years. Parenting ball: dropped.

It was unexpectedly really nice to go back to see the OT, even though it meant my kid still has issues. It felt comfortably familiar. I feel safe at the OT. She understands him, she understands us. All his little tics and habits and antics seem normal to her, like no one else in his life. And she’s got answers!

As it turns out, Bowie has developed a bad grip on his pencil. And it’s causing motor-coordination issues. Something that I didn’t even know to look for, I’m not an OT or a teaching professional, so I would never have known it was an issue. I’m a bit surprised it wasn’t brought up before, and I’m actually thankful that the school made us visit her, because that’s the only way we’d ever have known!

Intelligence-wise, he’s right where he needs to be. Even excelling a bit. So, no worries there. As his OT puts it, with his current grip, he’s just getting too tired when he writes, and he needs to stop and rest and take breaks. Something not entirely conducive to keeping up with his peers. So then he gets reprimanded. And his peers see that, and use it as ammo later. And he acts out.

There’s still a major sensory component. And we’ve added small things here and there in the classroom to help him out with that. The good news is that it’s all fixable. The bad news is it’s to the tune of $500 a month for the therapy, which we just don’t have right now. And insurance won’t cover it until we meet our deductible, but the OT only wants to do sessions until winter break, at which time we will have met the deductible, but therapy will be over.

So, yeah.

The best news is that he likes what he’s learning. He likes to read, he likes math, he likes science. And he’s really smart. I know every mom says that, but really, he is. I mean, I’m not talking ‘gifted and talented’ or anything, but he’s got critical thinking skills, and he can extrapolate on ideas, and I’m just really proud. That’s all.

I hesitate to call him “special needs”. Or to treat him that way. Because there are so many kids out there with much more serious special needs than him. But, when you get the “you’re a terrible parent” stare down from a bystander as he throws a sensory fit in the middle of the farmer’s market, then I feel “He’s special needs.” right on the tip of my tongue.

We do our best to support him daily, hourly, by the minute. But we are also human beings. And the name-calling, the fit-throwing, the hitting, the pushing his brother around, it gets to us sometimes. Being back at the OT means being back in the care of someone who knows how to make this right again. Knows what he needs to bring him back to center.

He didn’t turn the corner sensory-wise until after he’d turned 2. Before that, he was a “normal” baby, no issues to report. He was rarely sick, he was developmentally right on, he was happy and social and outgoing.

So, the change was so abrupt for us. But, we took it in stride. This is what he needs right now, we will do this for him.

And then he had another really great year. Kindergarten was a complete dream for us. Finally he’s acting “normal”, he’s having a “normal” school year, everything is “normal” again. To have first grade not only go so poorly, but to have it going so poorly almost immediately, is a big parenting blow to the gut.

As much as I hate the label, he is special needs. He needs special things from us every day. And from all of the other adults and children he interacts with. For his world to feel right, he needs special things. And as much as I hate to admit it, he’s different than other kids. Even so much different from his brother. The way you need to approach Bowie to ask him something or tell him something is different than it is with other kids. It can be pretty exhausting to deal with that every second of every day, but we are here and we are doing it. I can only hope when he’s grown that he can see that we did our very best. And I hope that by then he’s not so “special” anymore.

bowie swings

Two

Ferris at 2

Two years ago, after a quick but intense labor, and a lightning-speed delivery, they placed you, my little Fer-Bear, in my arms for the first time.

And then I blinked and you are turning two years old. Darn that blinking!

Likes: milk, pretzels, Caillou, trucks, cars, airplanes, trains, crayons, play dough, baths, the beach, the park (especially the slide), hangin’ with the Big Kids.

Dislikes: grocery shopping, napping, showers, having your diaper changed, taking clothes off, putting clothes on, being FORCED to stop moving at the end of the day and get this thing they call “rest”.

Two is fun. Two is tripping over your own feet all day long. Two is climbing the play structure and going down the slide all by yourself. Two is learning new words every single day. Two is finding out that there are some foods you don’t like, and mommy starts calling you “picky”.

Two is preschool! Two is friends. Two is learning, growing, changing. So quickly.

Two is a little bit of independence, and a little bit of being able to communicate what you want.

I always feel like I should be so profound with these posts, but it never comes. The night of your second birthday, Daddy and I went out to see one of our favorite bands, Cloud Cult, and they had me in tears with the VERY FIRST SONG, because I was thinking of you, and couldn’t believe we were at the two year mark already. Here’s a little snapshot of that song:

The stars may fall and the rains may pour,
But I will love you evermore.
You were born to make this right.
You were born to chase the light.

I love you so much, bug.

Mama

When to Start?

Hey gang! My old sharing post that I wrote for Circle of Moms/Pop Sugar a few years back has recently been shared again, and also shared on other sites, so all of a sudden I got this big boost of traffic and new followers. Welcome one and all, I’m so glad you’re here!

What I want to talk about today is if and when you sent your little ones off to preschool. I was recently criticized for the fact that Ferris will start preschool literally the day he turns 2. According to this person, there’s no need to send a 2 year old to preschool, and he’s “just too young. You shouldn’t do that.”

We didn’t start Bowie right away at age two, but he was only 2 1/2. His birthday is in May, so when the new school year began in August, he was 2 and 2 months old. We didn’t get a spot at that time, we got one in December, when he was fully 2 1/2. Honestly, it felt like he was developmentally light years away from where Ferris is right now, and will be in September (when he gets to start). But, Ferris has one of those early fall birthdays, we have a spot waiting for him, and that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

Maybe it comes across as me just wanting to get rid of him for a few hours a day. Which, I’m not going to lie to you, is a part of it. But, this kid is really, really ready for preschool.

From what I’ve gathered from all the people I’ve talked to over the years who did not or will not send their children to preschool at all, people have two main visions of preschool.

Some people think it is school, as in where you sit at a desk and a teacher teaches and gives projects and maybe you’ll get a little playtime.

Others think it is more like a daycare. They go off to be taken care of by other people for the whole day, 6 to 8 hours, and there’s little to no emphasis on learning or development.

Our preschool isn’t like that. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of them out there. Ours is play-based, and there’s a bit of learning. That’s mostly for the older children (about to head to Kindergarten), but everyone has a dedicated music time, and stories are always read at snack time. The toys and games and activities chosen for the kids are also chosen to help them with specific types of learning and development for their age. Plus, they’re only there for 3 hours a day.

That’s why I’m ok with sending him there on his second birthday. He will love all the things there are to do there, and he will love the social aspect. But even after I explained all of this, that’s when I was told it’s just not necessary.

Of course it’s not necessary. I didn’t go to preschool. A lot of people my age didn’t go to preschool. But just because you don’t have to send your kids doesn’t mean they won’t benefit from it. And it doesn’t mean you’re slacking on your parenting. It just means you’ve chosen to send them to a place that has way more toys and games and activities than you could possibly ever have at your own house, and you’re allowing professionals to spend a few hours a day giving them some guidance.

All kids are different too. Maybe her kids (who are older now) weren’t ready when they were 2. And that’s ok! There have been kids at our preschool that just weren’t ready either. They will drop out of the program and wait a while, or maybe just decide preschool wasn’t for them and never come back. That’s just something we as parents need to evaluate. For our OWN children, not someone else’s.

What say you, readers? Did you send your child(ren) to preschool? How old were they? Did it work out? Would you choose to do it the same way again if you had it to do over again? Have you ever been criticized for sending your child “too soon”?

By the way, we go to a co-op preschool, where I have to work one day of the week. Until baby siblings are one year of age, they can tag along (in a baby carrier while you work). Here’s a picture of Ferris at school when he was about 10 months old. He’s going to LOVE it.

Farewell Kindergarten

My Dearest Kindergarten Graduate,

The day I sent you off into your classroom for your first day of Kindergarten, I stood in the hallway that smelled like old books and fresh pencils with the other Kindergarten parents. We smiled and hugged you guys and said, “It’s going to be so great! You’re going to make so many new friends!” What you don’t know is that after you were inside, and we were instructed to move along now, we all went out for coffee and cried our eyes out.

I cried for a lot of reasons. I didn’t think my precious baby was ready for the full days away from me, having been a pretty constant companion of mine for the first five years of your life. And I wasn’t sure you were up for the challenge yet of sitting in your desk, listening to your teacher, and doing school work. Keeping you at the dinner table until you’re finished eating is plenty difficult. Mostly I cried because I knew you could do it, because you were such a BIG KID all of a sudden. You were not my baby anymore. Sending you off to school was one of those moments where I feel like I’m watching you grow right before my eyes.

I went to pick you up that afternoon, and you had on a paper bracelet that announced “Kindergarten is fun!” And you were jazzed to go back the next day. You had made a bunch of new friends already, and you had done some really fun things that you proceeded to tell me about for the remainder of the day.

You’ve had a few hiccups along the way, but overall you have done so well. You soared academically, and made amazing strides socially, strides that a year ago when you were graduating preschool, I’d never have guessed you could have made. You’re not a real fan of homework, but who among us is, really.

So, we bid adieu to Kindergarten. It was a fun, exciting, challenging year full of new adventures and new horizons. Congratulations on completing the first of your 13 years of schooling. May first grade and all the grades to come be as magical and empowering and fulfilling as Kindergarten was for you.

I love you so much, and I am so proud of you!

Mama

 

In the Blink of an Eye. And the Yank of a Tooth.

Bowie lost his first tooth!

His class has a tooth chart of some sort, I don’t know a thing about it, he just comes home from school every day with a new tooth chart report of who lost a tooth and who was about to lose a tooth. A few of his classmates have lost 4 or 5 over the course of the school year, and he was beginning to fear he would leave Kindergarten and not have left his mark on the tooth chart.

So, a month or so ago when his two front bottom teeth started feeling a little “wiggly”, the kid was so jazzed, I thought his head was going to explode.

The one that fell out kept getting looser and looser and looser (not as fast as he wanted) until he was able to push it all the way horizontal with his tongue.

It was pretty obvious to us that night that it would fall out VERY soon, and we didn’t want it to fall out in bed, or him to swallow it in his sleep or something. So, we coached him along, and eventually it just popped out. He was very relieved that it didn’t hurt, and he thought it was pretty cool how much it bled.

Now he’s got a big gap, and the tooth next door is also very wiggly, so that gap could probably get bigger. And cuter.

The little dude is about to turn 6. That’s S. I. X. I was in mega denial, but this milestone kinda seals the deal: he’s a bona fide big kid now.

The Playground Structure that Taught Me Something About Myself

Most of the playgrounds in San Francisco have been remodeled, rebuilt, revamped. And they look great, and modern, and they’re lots of fun. Take a look at these pictures of the completely amazing playground at Dolores Park for an (exaggerated) example.

There are a handful that have not been updated since, oh I don’t know, the 70s? 80s? The dangers and hazards at these things are a work of art, yet they oddly draw me in as a mom. They look like the playgrounds I grew up playing at. And I like that.

One such park has no official name, but has been dubbed by the neighborhood the Blue Boat Park, or more simply, the Boat Park. It’s close to our house, and is a neighborhood favorite, and we’ve been there many times for play dates, birthday parties, or just the Mom-needs-to-get-out neighborhood jaunts.

There’s a bunch of stuff at this park for the kids to play on, including, as the name suggests, an old blue boat that rests in the sand, a gloriously tall and skinny metal slide, old school monkey bars and wood, tons and tons of unfinished wood. There were, until recently some amazingly dangerous baby swings, but those have been replaced.

There’s one structure in particular that at first had me a little worried. It’s a wooden structure with a crazy, curvy, old school metal slide and a fire pole. The only way to get up in order to go down the slide or fire pole is to first go up a simple ladder made of metal tubes. Or to go up the slide the wrong way, a neighborhood kid favorite. The structure is also really tall, so you can’t lift your child up onto it.

 The tendency, I think, for a modern American parent is to go up on playground structures with their kid, at least the first few times. Especially if they’re under the age of 3. And especially if it looks like this one. But on this structure, you can’t. There’s just no easy way, or safe way for that matter, to do it. So, Bowie, like all the other kids, had to patiently wait until he was big enough and coordinated enough and brave enough to climb the ladder himself. And that day did eventually come.

I didn’t think a whole lot about it, beyond our first day visiting that park, and being a little disappointed about it. Until the other day when I saw a mother trying as hard as she could to carry her small daughter up onto that structure. She tried and she tried until she realized that it’s not safe to do, and then she finally gave up. But she said, “The city should really just take this one down.”

What? A play structure that’s been there no doubt for decades, and has delighted thousands of kids, needs to come down because you can’t carry your 18 month old to the top?

Now, some parts of my momming are very Type A and helicopter-y. I will admit it. And it’s a constant struggle for me to try to keep all of that anxiety at bay and sometimes just let my kids be kids. But, until I saw this frustrated mom at the Boat Park, I had no idea just how well I was doing with that, and also how far I’ve come since being a new mom.

Once I figured out Bowie was going to have to tackle that playground structure on his own, that was it for me. I didn’t put any more thought into it. I didn’t think the structure was a hazard, or that the way it was built wasn’t fair to the smaller children, or that it needed to come down. I didn’t get worried when he finally did figure it out and went up there all alone. I just shrugged my shoulders and went about my day.

That playground structure is a parental exercise in letting go. And I learned from that exercise that I can let go, when they’re ready, and when I need to. We’ll chat about this again when they’re teenagers, but for now, I’m proud of myself.

One.

One year, you guys! ONE YEAR! How has it been an entire YEAR already?

One minute, you’re fumbling with putting a newborn into a carseat, and the next minute you’re picking out a big, chocolatey cupcake for them to tear into.

In some ways, I CAN’T believe that an entire year has slipped by. It has gone so fast! But, then I look back at the many things our little family has been through this past year and ok, it really HAS been a year. Much to this mama’s chagrin. I’m still trying to wrap my head around Kindergarten, and then the baby has to go and turn one. Good grief.

So yeah, Ferris. One. Already. From snuggly little ball of baby love to dimply big boy toddler. So fast!

Likes: kitchen drawers, swimming class, brother, brother’s room, milk, graham crackers, baths, sitting in shopping carts, music, pooping in his sleep in the middle of the night, books, cars, trucks and kitty’s water bowl.

Dislikes: diaper changes, wipeouts, leaving brother’s room, people who eat in front of him and don’t share, sippy cups, washcloths, hats, the safety straps on shopping carts and me going to the bathroom before getting him from his crib in the morning.

He is starting to talk a lot, mostly just using his favorite phrases, “What’s this?” and “What’s that?” But he says mama and dada, and knows how to ask for a baba. He’s learning to say brother and Bowie. When you hand him a Matchbox car, he says vroom. And he has a sign that he makes, where he points with his right index finger at his open left palm. I never taught my boys to sign, so I’m not sure what it means. And it probably doesn’t mean whatever it’s supposed to mean. At first I thought it meant “more”, because he’s usually doing it in his high chair. But, I’m not so sure. Time will tell, I suppose.

He’s been “walking” for a while now. He likes to take a few steps, and then just crawl the rest of the way because it’s faster. But, but, BUT, it’s like he knew his birthday was coming or something because yesterday, after his afternoon nap, he was walking all over the house, hardly crawling at all. And this morning he was (literally) doing laps around the living room. He is READY to be on the MOVE. (Gulp.)

Dear Ferris,

I’d like to tell you that I hope the next few years of your life go much slower than this one did, but I know from experience that just isn’t possible. So instead I will just tell you to have fun now that you’re a not a baby anymore.

You’re a toddler. You’re a KID. Still snuggly and soft like a baby, but a little less so with each passing day. You’re toddling around the house like Frankenstein today, but tomorrow, you’ll take off running into the big wide world.

The past year has been an exciting one for our whole family, and you were along for the ride, no complaints, like a little trooper. Thank goodness for baby carriers and helpful family members.

Now that brother is in school all day, we get to spend lots of one-on-one time together. For one year, until you start preschool. So, I want to enjoy it as much as I can. I look back on that time with Bowie so fondly, I can’t wait to see what adventures we go on.

This time (press time, noon-ish) last year, I wasn’t even in labor yet, but little did I know I’d be cuddling you by 9 p.m. And then the real adventure began, because your arrival made me a Mom of Two. Uff-da.

Love you baby, ahem, big boy,

Mama