Second

I changed schools a few weeks into second grade. The school that I had attended in first grade wasn’t working so well in second. I came home crying, afraid that I was going to be shot on the bus. I came home crying because all of my friends went off to the “Gifted Program”, which I missed getting into by one IQ point during whatever test they give first and second graders. Whatever test none of us could sit through, yet decided my public school fate. A test I have since learned how to take, but at the time just wanted to finish so I could get back to the classroom. I came home crying because I was bored. Literally bored to tears. I came home crying because I was miserable and felt like I didn’t fit in and never would and no one seemed to care.

Second grade ended up being an amazing year for me after I switched schools. I still know people that I met that year; I still consider one of them a good friend. I remember my teacher Emily. She was short and had very short hair. I remember the reading corner and I remember getting into trouble for saying “sucks” again and again without even realizing the word was coming out of my mouth. I remember pretending to read faster than I could because I wanted to be with the two friends I made the very first day I started. I remember eventually getting to join their faster-reading group after a few months.

I no longer hated school. I no longer came home crying.

Alex started second grade on Monday.

I don’t want Alex to hate school. Not at this point, when he will likely have many memories from this year of school. Not at this point when he is able to comprehend the importance of school but still hate it. Not at this point when he is forming his opinion about himself as a student, as a learner, and as a person.

He didn’t come home crying the first or second day. Instead he cries in the morning before it’s time to go. At pick-up, he tells me that he had a bad day: they had a writing assignment and he didn’t like it, he isn’t in a class with any of his friends, his teacher was “cross” (not to him, mind you, but to other kids), the kids are all mean. There isn’t enough time to play, or to eat, or to talk. He doesn’t want to read out loud or write or learn new ways of doing math.

First Day: Second Grade

It’s hard to figure out how much of his hatred of school is related to the school itself and how much is related to his fear of failure. His anxiety. I have no doubt in my mind that every kid is not mean, regardless of how many times he tries to convince me it’s true. I have no doubt in my mind that he isn’t the only kid who isn’t reading at a fifth grade level as he begins second grade. There is no way that every single thing was terrible, horrible, no good, very bad.

First Day: Second Grade

I’m sure it’s a combination of factors. Whatever that combination may be, I have to hope that today will be a better day.

First Day: Second Grade<

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Gaining Big Kid Status

Alex held on to his baby teeth for as long as he could. We even have adorable first grade pictures with all of his baby teeth still in a row. His little smile remained little for almost as long as I would have liked. (I mean, I could have used a few more years of Little Alex, let’s be honest.)

But now? Now they’re leaving. Each one falls out and his smile changes again. The big teeth are coming in and suddenly wham! there is a Big Kid looking back at me.

Playing

The second top tooth is hanging on for dear life. It must know that I’m not yet ready for him to a Big Kid. I like my Little Kid just fine, thank you.

But it’s not going to last. In fact, if he comes home from school without it today I won’t be surprised. If he comes home from school today knowing ten new words, multiplication, and spouting Nietzsche, I won’t be surprised. It’s all happening so fast.

February 2015

A Bubble

Alex has kind of grown up in a bubble. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but it can certainly make things outside of the bubble especially hard to deal with.

Farm Trip 2014

He’s surrounded by good people. Great people. Caring, accepting, non-judgmental, to-each-their-own, people. People who love his sense of style. People who understand that his interests don’t include sports. People who give him time to open up, to talk when he’s ready (and understand that once he starts he won’t stop), and who don’t push him when his feelings are hurt. People who see him for who he is, for Alex. His family, the friendships we’ve helped him build through our friends and their kids. These people? These people have been in Alex’s bubble. These people get him and love him.

But the world may not. The world raises children to be mean. The world teaches their children that boys play with trucks and girls play with dolls, and anything outside of that is wrong. The world says, “you throw like a girl” and means it as an insult. The world says, “man-up” and means to stop being so emotional and start being stronger. The world tells their children that it’s okay to pick on another kid, or at least doesn’t actively try to prevent it. The world doesn’t teach to-each-their-own; the world teaches my-way-is-the-only-right-way.

Why is that? Why can’t the world grow up? Is it so hard to raise our children to be better than we are? We want them to have a better education, to buy a bigger house, to get better jobs. The American Dream! But apparently we don’t want to raise them to not hold our prejudices as truth. Apparently our prejudices are right and we must pass those down to our children, who can then be bullies to kids who don’t fit that perfect mold of White American Male (or whatever it may be at that time of judgement).

Farm Trip 2014

Ten Years

It has been ten years since I graduated from high school, and I spent many hours this weekend reminiscing and catching up at my reunion.

I wasn’t going to go. Weekends are notoriously too busy, and I didn’t have the strong desire to spend time with, well, basically strangers at this point.

I still keep in touch with a few people, though, and one of them is someone I have known since second grade. (A mind boggling thought as Alex is making friends and could potentially know these people for the rest of his life.) When a friend you’ve known since second grade is flying across the country for reunion? You kind of have to go.

So I went.

And ten years isn’t that much time, is it? Sure, we’ve all changed in a lot of ways: everyone had graduated from college, was working in some capacity, many were in graduate school, a few were married, and two fellow alums had babies. But then in other ways it seemed like not much had happened. We are all still young, looking relatively unscathed from life. A little gained weight here (hi! Thanks, baby!), some facial hair there, but mostly it looked like the class I graduated with a decade ago.

And it was fun. Great fun.

I’m so glad I went. I’m so glad I got over my anxiety, my fear about being judged for being a young mother, my concern that people would still be stuck in high school mode, my apprehension that the whole thing would be awkward.

Thinking about being a decade out of high school while simultaneously watching Alex as he navigates his way through first grade is something else. I have distinct memories of first grade. Most of those memories aren’t as strong as the ones I have from my time with everyone I spent the weekend with, but they are there. I remember my teacher, some students, my mom. I remember what I got in trouble for (talking, using the wrong color crayon), what I excelled at (math), and the people who began to help form who I would eventually become.

Will Alex remember this year? Will he look back at his time in first grade when he is in high school and remember struggling with spelling? Will he remember that he excelled at math? Will he remember being bored? Will this be motivating or demotivating to him as he enters tougher academics?

I know one thing for sure after spending the weekend with nearly one quarter of my graduating class: I wouldn’t change where I went to high school for anything. And I really hope Zach and I can provide the right environment for Alex as he continues through school. Perhaps one day he can go to his ten year graduation at the same place that I attend my 32nd.

Farm Trip 2014

Chatty Alex

Guess who is a very talkative person?

No one who knows me or has met Alex will be surprised to hear that the answer is Alex. Very, very, talkative, six (and a half!) year old Alex.

You don’t even need to have a kid to understand the phenomenon of incessant chatter that comes with many of them. There are times when, other than the occasional “mm hmm” or “yeah?”, I don’t say a single word for 10, 15, 20, minutes and he’s still talking.

Now, I love that he talks. I love that he has so much to say to me, to Zach, his grandparents, his friends, just about anyone who will listen. I especially love that he’s been complimented on the fact that his conversations are interesting. We have conversations about big words, Doctor Who, how things are made, imagining what the future will be like, Lego Marvel, and sometimes just very detailed descriptions of something that happened recently.

The problem with having a loquacious kid? School.

Kindergarten doesn’t like it when kids are loquacious.

Like many kids, Alex has a really hard time not shouting out answers. He knows the answer, he heard a kid get it wrong, so he must say the answer now. He has a really hard time not sharing the amazing thoughts that are forming in his head. He just wants everyone to know.

And I love that he is so excited about answering questions, and sharing his opinion, and letting everyone know about his experience with what they are learning about that day. I love that he isn’t just sitting there, mind wandering off, just making it through the day. He’s engaged! And that’s great!

But.

He keeps getting in trouble for not waiting his turn to speak. For talking out of turn and disrupting the class. Now, I’m talking about being dropped down one on the color scale of behavior for the day: from green to orange. He’s never dropped again to yellow. He’s never come even close to being red. And this has only happened maybe a dozen times all year. Basically, this is a good kid who talks too much. (Hello, little version of childhood Mommy!)

But! It’s an issue because, well, it’s an issue. He’s one of many children in a small room and interrupting is certainly a problem.

So, we have talked about this. Lots of times. Again and again. And this week has been good so far!

The real issue here is that we don’t want to quell his enthusiasm. And I really hope his teacher understands that.

March 1, 2014

Kindergarten

Alex has officially started kindergarten. Thursday was his first day, after two full days at his extended day program.

The morning started off relatively normal, with the exception being that I was there to help him get ready. I had requested to come in late for work that day in order to take him to school with Zach. Breakfast, lunch packing, getting dressed…it was pretty typical.

We discussed (again!) how that day would be a new kind of a day. The New Normal. Mommy and Daddy would take him to kindergarten, walk him in, and then he would have a few hours with new friends and his teacher before taking a bus to his afternoon extended day program. He would get to play outside, probably do some crafts, read some books, and have an easy day! It would be quick! And before he knew it I would be picking him up in the afternoon.

None of this was okay.

“I don’t want to go to kindergarten. I don’t want to make new friends. I liked my old friends and my old school. I don’t want to go.” He told us again and again that it wasn’t going to be okay.

Before we left for the school, I wanted to take a few pictures. At the end of the year, and the beginning of next year (FIRST GRADE OMG), I’d like to look back and be able to compare. I’d like him to be able to see how much he’s grown, and what a change he has gone through in one short year.

The pictures weren’t easy. He cried. He whined. He reiterated that he hates pictures and he doesn’t want to go to school and he most certainly is not going to smile. Or stay still. Or be a reasonable human being.

First Day of Kindergarten

With some distraction, mostly by Zach because I was getting frustrated in addition to feeling horribly emotional about the whole thing, I managed to capture a few cute moments; a small number of the pictures turned out okay and will, in addition to the not-so-great ones, be treasured.

First Day of Kindergarten

When we got to his new school, we parked, took a short walk to the elementary school entrance, and stood around with what felt like a million other people. Every kid. Plus every parent. Plus a second parent for most kids. Plus grandparents for some kids. The playground was overrun with every small person in the place, and when it was time to line up behind the kindergarten teacher Alex melted down.

He told me he was scared. He asked me to hold him. To pick him up. To cuddle with him. To please pick him up or at least hold his hand.

We walked in together. Hand-in-hand, the last kid in line behind his teacher, tears streaming down his face.

I held it together until we were in the room, Alex in his assigned seat, crying and begging us not to go. Telling us he was scared. Telling us he was sad. Asking when I would pick him up and how long it would be and how long is that and would I please come get him before lunch right when kindergarten was over. I couldn’t hold back the tears. He was so sad and so scared and I just wanted to pick him up and walk him right out of there.

But of course, I didn’t. Zach and I hugged him, told him we loved him, and left. I did my best not to keep crying, but on and off throughout the day as I thought about those minutes before I walked away from my crying kid, tears would fill my eyes and I’d have to text Zach and say, “He’s okay, right?” (He’s okay.)

He was okay. When I picked him up that afternoon, he didn’t exactly have anything positive to say about the whole experience, but he wasn’t crying. He came home, ate dinner, and was generally his normal self.

As I looked at his kindergarten folder after I put him to bed that night, I pulled out the typical first-day-of-kindergarten poem/craft:

Kindergarten Poem

Three days later and I still can’t read it without crying. That third paragraph gets me every time.

Alex, you were brave, buddy, and you did get by.

First Day of Kindergarten

These Are The Days

Tomorrow morning is Kindergarten orientation. 

I’m a little freaked out, a little nervous, a bit excited, and highly anxious. Did I mention scared? Because that’s true, too. 

Something about Kindergarten is scary. It’s not yet real school, but it’s the closest we’ve come yet. In our district, it’s a half day program, with an option of “Extended Day” to allow for a full day of sorts. We, obviously, will be doing the full day option, with both of us working full-time, regular-hour, jobs. (And let me tell you: working regular hours has been amazing. I am finally, finally, home every evening. I finally don’t go a day, or two, or three, without seeing Alex due to ridiculous work hours.)

Alex will be in school. Public school. With assignments. And classes. And other students who are also in school, public school, with assignments, and classes. 

He’s really growing up. It’s crazy amazing. 

Friend Easter

A few months ago, I brought up Kindergarten with Alex. I explained the new school thing, exciting new playground, even more friends. I tried to make it sound Super! Exciting!

I must have failed miserably, because for the next few months he would burst into full on sobs any time it was mentioned. In fact, he would start crying even when I didn’t mention it.

“I…don’t…want…to…go…to…a…new…school.”

Little man broke my heart time and time again. He explained that he likes his current daycare. He likes his friends and doesn’t need new ones. He likes his teachers and doesn’t want new ones. He loves his playgrounds because there are two of them, and they both have benches, and there is a tire swing and regular swings, and a play house, and monkey bars, and a slide…

He told me time and time again that he didn’t want to leave his current school. He wanted to stay there forever.

One night he was crying so hard he was barely breathing, and I have been panicked ever since.

Something changed, and somehow he is now excited about it. I don’t know what happened, but some combination of knowing that some of his favorite friends are in real school already, that half of the day will be in an extended day program that has iPads, and that he will become a “School Aged Kid” like the older children who currently visit with his class during the after school hours to play, has made him okay with it. Some bit of information, or combination of multiple factors, has made starting Kindergarten in a few months okay. Whatever it was, I’m thankful for it.

“Tomorrow I get to see my new school? And then next week I get to go?!…Aw, man! I have to wait until after the summer is over?!”

Not just yet, Alex. You are still a little boy for a few more months.

Friend Easter