Friday, September 19, 2008

No Room for Error in a Child's Life

My head is on a swivel. I know, you’re thinking ‘ok, yeah, and what mother’s head isn’t,’ right? I guess I am just starting to feel the effects now of just how exhausting it can be.

Nearly every vehicle pulling into Alexandra’s preschool is an SUV or minivan. For nearly 20 minutes at arrival and dismissal you can see the fleet of hig-off-the-ground cars pulling in and backing up one after the other, and in many cases in unison. The parking lot happens to be adjacent to the lovely playground that sports two exit/entry ways, a peeve of mine for sure.

The rules at her school are that children must be escorted by parents and caregivers into school, but brought out by teachers to waiting caregivers and parents at dismissal. I have to say, I like the latter a lot because I can park next to the sidewalk, hop out of the car and collect my waiting child.

I try to get to school early so that she and Annika can play on the playground before school starts-- considering I have to get Annika out of the car anyway and why not save myself the screaming fit which is to come if I don’t allow the baby to stretch her legs instead of tossing her in and out of the car like a bag of sand. The benefit to arriving early also is that there are three times fewer people than at dismissal and the same goes for the lesser activity in the parking lot. The luxury of arriving early doesn’t always bode well with me, so i am now faced with having to allow them playtime at dismissal.

This means I am dodging book bags that are strewn about on the playground floor, trading pleasantries with the other moms whom I just know are judging me already because not only do I appear totally frazzled in my attempt to locate both girls, but also that someone else does drop off and pick up on most days, and trying to keep an eye on Annika hoping she doesn’t get walloped in the head by someone swinging, or fall off one of the many playground structures; and Alexandra who is typically on the other end of the playground intertwined with about four dozen other kids the same height. This coupled with the barrage of cars pulling in and out like soldiers going off to war.

Today was one of the days I did manage to get there early. Both of the girls had the chance to play for a few minutes: Alexandra on the swing and Annika in one of the wooden structures. Suddenly the doors pop open and the children begin filing into school. Within the split second it took me to bend down and lift Annika, the eight or so kids and their parents have disappeared. When I turn to find Alexandra, she’s gone. All that’s left is her blue Ariel backpack and an empty yellow swing moving back and forth like a scene from a horror movie. When I call for her there is no response. So my thought is that she’s filed in after the rest of the crew. When I go to her classroom, there is no Alexandra! Where is she? Luckily my friend Usha is there to grab Annika and I dart out the door in my search. There she is on the playground--alone, unfazed that she’s shaved 10 years from my life.

This has proven to be too much for me. Starting today, playtime after school is over. I just can’t handle it. I am in a constant state of panic anytime I have to take my eyes off one of the girls for just a second. I know I should give Alexandra more credit because she’s nearly four already, but I would be a complete hypocrite if I said she’ll be fine. I have quoted to many and most that “there is no room for error in a child’s life” and I take that as gospel. I can’t rely on my good teachings or better intentions to believe that she’ll do what I expected of her. She’s still too young in my opinion and I have to do what is right for us all. That’s the role of a parent, right?

I don’t know how other mother’s do it. God bless those of you who manage but I have discovered my limitations one by one, and this happens to be one.

I know that this phase too shall pass and soon things will get easier, but I need all of us here to witness that. So I am doing everything that I can to ensure the safety of my children and continue to live by my motto sited above because after all in my opinion, there is no room for error in a child’s life.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Teaching the "Wright" Way

In his quest to beat Friday afternoon rush hour traffic and to spend more time with the family, Andy was admittedly rushing out the door a little too briskly when he took a headed down a flight of stairs at his office. He is okay—bruised body and ego aside.

As he entered the house—generously limping—Alexandra rushed to his side asking for a recount of his occurrence. When he described what happened--he was walking down the steps with a few things in his hands when he tripped and luckily was able to catch himself before getting terribly hurt. She quickly felt it was her duty to teach him right from wrong.

“Daddy, you have to be more careful and hold the rail.”

His response was that he did, and that we always hold the rail when walking down the steps.

"But daddy, you have to walk slow down the steps and not rush."

We knew our teachings would later come back to bite us. This, I am sure, is only the start of what is to come!

Later she triaged his wounds and sauntered over to the bathroom to quickly fashion a bandage to his boo-boos. Princess Band-Aids or Ratatouille? Your choice. Ratatouille was the selection and he walked away with numerous colorful images across his legs admittedly feeling better than his doctor-in-training had adequately shown her early skills.

We both felt very proud of her and her caring ways. We’re hoping this spurs a real interest in her and if it pans out, moreover leading to a terrific scholarship to Penn!!! :)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering 9-11

I couldn’t allow for the day to end without remembering 7th anniversary of the most tragic day in modern history: 9-11-01.

Of course we all can recount where we were and what we were doing on that day. The awful images are etched on our minds. The days and months that followed passed slowly, and I just felt hollow.

For me, each day following 9-11 meant living in fear. The rumors of what would be targeted next—an extremist carrying on board the subway a backpack filed with explosives, tainting of our water supply, Anthrax, and who can forget the red bar that scrolled across the television screen reminding us that we’re in a heightened state of alert.

I was married only a few months prior to 9-11-01. We purchased our first home together that same year, we were beginning our lives together, and yet in an instant we suddenly had to start thinking of our mortality--Set up life insurance should something happen, arrange for a will, remember to say I love you, and see you soon should you never see one another again, remember to breathe each breath as if it was your last.

The day for me started as usual. I was in my high-rise office when I received an email from Andy. I wish I had kept it but something tells me I probably deleted it immediately after receiving. Why? Because the message read something like this, “a plane just hit the World Trade Center.” Moments later, after I brushed it off what I imagined to be a small-craft Cesena that veered off course, I received a second message. “do you think it’s terrorism…?”

That is when I got off my chair, walked to my boss’s office (we are both former reporters so you one would have thought I’d already be on this) and found he was dragging a television down the hall. We watched in horror as the second plane hit.

It was as if time stood still and I went deaf.

I worked in public relations so we quickly had to put together our crisis communications plans—though we had none. Working with human resources, and building management we decided it would be best to shut down the building. It was, after all, a high rise in the path between NYC and DC.

I, like most of the city, scurried to the train station only to find them all full and on a standstill. People lined major streets holding signs scribbled on lined paper with anything they could find—for me it was eyeliner—noting their destination hoping to hitch a ride home, or close to it. There were no strangers that day.

I eventually found a bus route home. Three hours later, and many attempts to reach Andy by phone with no luck—remember there was no cell service—I arrived a few miles from home where he found me wandering around twisting my head toward the sky for any signs of planes in the air. It was eerily silent.

For the hours following the attack I attempted to get it touch through downed phone lines with old co-workers in NYC and friends and family in Connecticut who could see the smoke billowing from the towers, and those who I knew were traveling that day, to hear their voices and calm my fear that something tragic may have happened to them.

These were not good times for anyone, me included. In the weeks following I missed the mortgage payment and spent most of my waking hours while not at work glued to the television for days on end watching over and over the planes hitting the towers. I was just flat out depressed.

Now seven years later I think we all can say we live our lives just a little differently. For me, 9-11 changed everything. It’s probably one of the biggest reasons why I left my job after having children. Traveling is no longer a longed-after activity for me. And the thought of one less day with my family is forever frightening.

Maybe 9-11 has shown us a lot of lessons. Lesson in love and life, and what to cherish and how not to sweat the small stuff.

For every replay of those planes hitting the Towers or Pentagon, I hear a whisper from God reminding us to slow down, be still and cherish every day, for you never know when it will be your last.

Up in the Morning and Out to School...

"Whose child is this?" I asked one day Seeing a little one out at play
"Mine", said the parent with a tender smile" Mine to keep a little while
To bathe his hands and comb his hair
To tell him what he is to wear
To prepare him that he may always be good
And each day do the things he should"
"Whose child is this?" I asked again
As the door opened and someone came in
"Mine", said the teacher with the same tender smile
"Mine, to keep just for a little while
To teach him how to be gentle and kind
To train and direct his dear little mind
To help him live by every rule
And get the best he can from school"
"Whose child is this?" I ask once more
Just as the little one entered the door
"Ours" said the parent and the teacher as they smiled
And each took the hand of the little child

"Ours to love and train together
Ours this blessed task forever."
(Author unknown)

As I snapped the final photo of Alexandra with bookbag in hand and a hard grin on her face I felt the lump forming in my throat.

I was totally surprised by my reaction, really. I mean, Alexandra has been the care of others since she was a mere 14 weeks old so why would I be overcome by this emotional wave?

I guess It all has to do with seeing her grow up.

There stood my once premature baby girl completely consumed with the idea that she was going to school to meet friends and play and have a grand old time. She was ready to get her first set of big-girl wings and fly without a second’s hesitation to look back at me-- Her weepy mother saddened by the fact that her baby is a baby girl no more.

I really shouldn’t be surprised. She loves being in the company of others. She’s also physically and emotionally ready to take on some new and interesting challenges, for starters being in a more structured environment.

In addition to pre-school, she is taking soccer and has entered a more advanced Sunday school program. More advanced in that she is with older children who have had much more interaction with others in a school involvement. All of this, I believe, will be great for her. Stepping stones to the next chapter ladened with an exciting journey ahead.

I just hope I learn to hold it together for when I pick up her!!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Comic Relief

I found this comic (For Better or For Worse, Sept. 7, 2008. Click on the above image for a readable version) to speak volumes about moms in general and the unsolicited advice that is constantly thrown our way.

On any given day I feel like I am on the defense. It may come from family or friends, or worse, complete strangers. The kids are acting up, I am losing my temper—feeling frazzled—and grasping at any and all straws to make my and the girls’ situation more tolerable. And in many cases that means simply giving in.

I have read numerous articles and books, and heard the suggestions from multiple professionals about what not to do, and in my opinion, it’s a heck a lot easier to give advice when you’re not the one on the receiving end.

This I know first hand because I’ve been there. I was a self professed know it all about children. Keep in mind this was before I even had kids. Words uttered from my lips were filled with quips such as “if I were their mother I would…” or “if that was my kid…”

I quickly learned that I was wrong and have since vowed never to pass judgment on another mother again. No way, no how, particularly since I haven’t the slightest clue what one day or the next will bring to my already crazed life.

So what is a mother to do?

Laugh, I guess. Cry sometime, but generally acknowledge and move on. Accept and tackle the task at hand and remember to take the advice you’re being given from those who are not on the inside with a grain of salt. After all, “you can’t be the referee if you don’t know the game!”

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Mean Girls

Recently I found myself crying inside for the way Lex had been treated by her older cousin.

Now I understand fully that older kids at an early time in their lives reach a point when playing with their younger counterparts is just not cool. I get it, but I couldn’t help recently feeling myself breaking inside when Lex was shafted by her older cousin. I felt like it was a school-age me years ago trying too hard to be friends with the most popular girl and being brushed off.

Lex’s five-year-old cousin hadn’t been feeling well that particular day and so was a bit less interested in playing than normal. Under normal circumstances Alexandra and her older cousin typically play well, but as her cousin has gotten older and more interested in “looking up” to other kids her interest in Lex has diminished. I expect I’ll see the same with Lex and other younger children in the coming months and years.

At any rate, Lex approached her cousin a little too excitedly on this day and complimented her on her Ariel swimsuit with no response. Unphased, Lex then went ahead and attempted to approach her cousin repeatedly to play with her and issued a barrage of questions: Wanna play Barbie’s with me? Here you can have this one. Do you like my dress? It has ladybugs on it. Can I play with that too? This ultimately created an unsettling feeling with her older cousin and the response was “leave me alone. I don’t like you. Stop looking at me, you’re so annoying!”

My heart broke.

I warned Lex on our drive that her cousin hadn’t been feeling well and that she may not want to play. And I felt really bad for her mother who admittedly noted how embarrassing it is when kids do that to one other. I agreed, and know that my time with my own children is soon coming.
Later that night I recounted the story to my husband and found tears coming to my eyes. It wasn’t that long ago when I was a preadolescent riding the bus home and felt kids snickering in the back about my pimpled face. Or when I was that kid in high school who was being passed over by friends because I didn’t have the latest handbag, or shoes or cool new jeans or the hottest party at my house. Or when I gained a few too many pounds in college and came home for the summer to have comment said about me.

It was interesting to me that I even recounted this. It doesn’t seem to phase me now as an adult but in times like these, they are brought to mind. And to tell you the truth, I think it makes me a stronger, better person for having learned these early lessons.

Like I said, I know kids are kids and will do what they will. I guess my biggest lesson will be to separate my emotions from those of my children and realize that these experiences will only strengthen their character and in the long-run and not make much of a difference later in life. After all, I’m certain we’ll go through many iterations of this very act. For me it will be two-times over because after all, girls will be girls, and I have two!