Walking Away

As a Mom and an education professional the beginning of this school year looked different for me than the start of school years passed. This school year was different because my five year old son started a new school. I started the school year on a scooter after having surgery on my ankle. Instead of driving my son to school and myself to work, my mother picked us both up and delivered us to our destinations…kind of like the old days when I was a child and she was my taxi; except we are older and an extra mini-me is tagging along in a carseat.

I was determined to “walk” my son into this new building with new faces and new ideas…that’s what mom’s do, right? So my Mom would pick us up each morning, drive us to my son’s school, and unload the scooter so I could “walk”, I mean “roll,” my son into school. Then my mom would load me up and take me to work and unload me again. I would roll away, dreaming of day I can walk away from the car on my own without assistance.  After about two and half months, I was cleared to walk again and our routine returned to normal.  I walked away.

On scooter or feet, there were many days at the beginning of the school year, when I walked my son into school and he held my hand tight or clung on to me because goodbyes can be hard (and kids are generally experts at guilt tripping parents). There were days he clung to my neck like a chimpanzee and days my skirt felt like it might fall to my knees from him tugging on me.  After dropping him off at school, I would get in my car and on the way to work worry about him. Luckily, my drive time worries were short lived with less than a mile drive to my place of work and the realities of my workday smacking in the face as soon as I enter the doors. But, on the short drive and throughout the day I worried about how long this behavior would keep up? Was he not transitioning well? Was there something I was missing? Shouldn’t he be outgrowing the clingy stage? And on and on the questions grew within my heart and mind.

For the first months of schools, we kept our routine up each morning, me talking about how big boys act at drop off and shoving him onto an activity with his friends or into the arms of his teacher as I dropped him off. I bribed him with ice-cream treats and other rewards if he acted like a big boy.  And then one day, it happened. I walked him into his classroom and he just walked away without a kiss, hug, or a goodbye. No tears. No chimpanzee moves. Nothing. I was stuck between the two conflicting universes of happy and sad. Should I skip out of the school singing or mope out crying? I think I skipped out of the building and then I cried.

Then a few days later, something bigger happened. We pulled up to his school one morning, I parked the car to get him out, and he said “Mom, I am going in by myself today. Just stay in the car.” To which I replied “well, I will walk you across the parking lot to the building and get the door for you.” And he replied to my suggestion with “No, I don’t want you to. I got this Modder (Mother).” So off he went across the parking lot with a bounce in his step wearing his oversized backpack and carrying his lunchbox. I watched him walk away.

As I watched him walk away, I recorded the moment in my forever memory bank. I played it over and over in my head for days to come as I thought about his new found behavior…his new freedom to walk away.

The remainder of our morning drop offs this year, go something like this. He unbuckles his car seat and hops out of the car. I help him put his backpack on and give him his lunch box. He gets a big hug and kiss from me. As he walks away, I yell out “I love you, have a great day, and make good choices.” Without turning around he yells back, “Okay, I love you too and I will. Okay Mom.” I watch him walk away from me and bounce with pep in his step to his next adventure. I walk away and I get in the car, close the door and my heart says a silent prayer of thanks for him with a universal request that the world is gentle on him today. And, let’s face it, that he will be gentle on the world, too. Each time he walks away, I can’t wait to hear about his great adventures on the other side of his day.

Not too long after he started walking into school on his own, I captured this video to remember the feelings and emotions I experienced of him walking away.

I have thought about the emotions associated with walking away. I know my Mom was happy to see me walk away and not have to haul me around anymore as a teenager and as an adult on a scooter, but she was probably also a little sad that she wasn’t needed in that same capacity any longer. It seems that society has programmed us to think of walking away with sadness and loss. Walking away has a bad connotation to it- it makes us feel like we are giving up, calling it quits, or losing something. When I think about moments I have walked away, for good/happy reasons or failure/sad reasons, it seems that happiness always emerged eventually. So maybe walking away isn’t so bad and it really is about seizing the next opportunity, rather than losing something you are walking away from in that moment. Maybe what you are walking into is more exciting, than the loss of what you are walking away from.

It’s my job to teach my son when and how to walk away. There will be various forms of chimpanzees that want to hold on to his neck to hold him back and prevent him from moving forward. Heck, there will be a day when I am senile and I might act like a chimpanzee. However, I want him to know the strength of being able to walk away and listen to his inner voice that says “I got this.”

There will be lots of times, this precious boy of mine will walk away. This life is his journey to walk, not mine. Really, I am just fortunate to be along for the ride…even if my view is his backside walking away. I hope I am lucky enough to see him walk away to his new big school next year, to middle school, to high school, and on to college (if any Notre Dame reps are reading this-he has plans for a soccer scholarship so just call us because we can commit early). I want to experience the joy and excitement when he walks away from me and onto opportunities like field trips, special adventures, traveling the globe, and serving others. I look forward to seeing him walk away from me and walk down the on isle to commit to the love of his life, to his first job, to go meet his first born, and all the other life moments HIS journey holds. A journey that includes many stops that are his to walk without me.

Today my spoon is full of anticipation of when I get a chance to walk with him like old times. For example, like when his valentine box was just too much too carry and he needed my help or when we had two dozen cupcakes to drop off at school. I proudly jump out of the car and walked with him.

Full Hands, Full Heart

What are little boys made of? According to a 19th century nursery rhyme

          What are little boys made of?

          Snips and snails    

         And puppy-dogs’ tails,

         That’s what little boys are made of.

The same rhyme states that little girls are made out of sugar, and spice, and everything nice. As a girl, I would have to agree. As a mom of a boy I can attest that on top of the snips of just about anything snippable, snails, and puppy dog tails that little boys are full of sugar, spice, and everything nice as well.  Mothering has allowed me to learn a lot about boys…and inadvertently I have a better understanding of grown men. Having a boy was meant to be for me. I think I must have had an intuition that I would raise a son. When we were thinking about starting a family, my husband and I only had a boy’s name in mind. The night before our ultrasound to determine the gender, I dreamed the baby was a boy…and indeed it was clear by the very first ultrasound picture our baby was a bouncing baby boy. I should have known by all of his kicking and squirming during my pregnancy, that I had an adventurous fellow on my hands. As a matter of fact, he punched and kicked me so much when I went into the hospital to be induced, it turned out to be more than him kickboxing my internal organs…I was already in labor and didn’t know it. He was ready to discover the world…he has always been a step ahead of me.

While he has spent the last five years discovering this grand world, I have had the opportunity to rediscover its beauty and simplicity through him. The last few years have been filled with my son saying hundreds of times “Mommy, look!” and then each squeal of excitement for me to look is usually followed by his hands opened wide to show me his newest discovery. I will admit, sometimes when he has been too quiet for too long, I meet him with a little hesitation afraid of what I might see. When this started occurring on a regular basis, I started taking pictures of his hands each time. I wanted to savor the moment because it meant more to me than just seeing a turtle, frog, or a bird. Luckily, we haven’t picked up a snake…YET.

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In all of his discovery and my picture taking, I was reminded how much I love those little hands that grow in size and bravery each and every day. Those little hands are the sugar, spice, and everything nice…the gateway to his curiosity, imagination, and heart. They are the hands that stole my heart. On the days that my hands are full with love, life, and work, his tiny hands remind me to keep an open heart and mind, as well as, to see the beauty in the moment – to “look” at what surrounds me at THAT moment rather than what is behind me or before me.

He uses his tiny hands to stuff his little cheeks full of watermelon, to pray, to make messes, to dig in the dirt, to discover the world around him, to share, to clap, to play games, maybe pick his nose when I am not looking (ughh), make funny dance moves, etc. He loves to use his hands to color, paint, and make creations out of Legos, towel rolls, rocks, and sand. I love when he reaches his hands out to me for a hug. I love how he twirls his fingers in my hair when we snuggle. I love holding his sticky, dirty hands. My hands and heart are full, thanks to this little guy.

His hands remind me of a quote by Taisen Deshimaru, a Buddhist teacher which states “Keep your hands open, and all the sands of the desert can pass through them. Close them, and all you can feel is a bit of grit.” I strive to teach him to always have his hands open to explore, to help others, and to make a positive mark on this big that world we all share.  I hope his excitement for life, for discovery, for people, for nature doesn’t wain as he grows. I hope he always extends a hand to help others, and has the wisdom to know when he needs to accept a helping hand. I hope he knows when to use his hand to give someone a pat on the back and occasionally, give himself one. I hope when life deals him a bad “hand” that he will find the beauty in the ugliness and not close his hands and heart-only feeling the grit. Mostly, it is my hope that I raise him with open hands to share with the world so that he is free to find his place in this world, that I find joy in his discovery, and I don’t feel the grit of the years passing us by so quickly.

Today, my spoon is full of a handful of lessons learned from snips, snails…and a boy begging to add a puppy dog tail to our house.

A special thank you to our daycare

This week was my 5 year old son’s last week at his daycare/preschool. He has been counting down to his next adventure to kindergarten with excitement. Each morning he says,” how many more days, Mom? Sarcastically followed by “are you going to cry on my last day because you are sad I am growing up?” I told him I would not cry even though I knew I probably would (And…I did!). My how time flies. It really is bittersweet. The bitterness of life’s fleeting moments and the sweetness of new experiences for him in “big boy” school.

I remember visiting his daycare while I was pregnant with him. The owner showed me around the entire daycare from the bed baby to the preschool rooms. I have this memory in my mind’s eye of glancing into the preschool room where I saw children playing with friends, back packs hung on the wall, and kidos doing an activity using kid scissors. As I peered into the classroom I remember thinking to myself “wow those kids are so big and that it would be forever before we are in this room.” Forever turned out to be a very very short five years.

My son started attending his daycare at 8 weeks old. I am pretty sure the first day I dropped him off I had a typed listed featuring everything you need to know about my son. I am also sure the teacher thought I was nuts. I remember sitting in the parking lot and shedding a tear the day I dropped him off at daycare for the first time. I cried because it was my first time leaving him. Truth be told, I may have shed a tear or two of relief because it was the first day in 8 weeks he wasn’t screaming at me (see previous post about colic). He didn’t scream at daycare-he waited until I picked him up. True love.

This is a picture of my son on his first day at daycare.

First Day at Daycare September 13, 2010

First Day at Daycare
September 13, 2010

And…here is his picture on the last day of daycare. He looks a little different in this big old chair now.

Last Day at Daycare August 7, 2015

Last Day at Daycare
August 7, 2015

This blog post serves as a special thank you to his teachers and the owner over the last five years. You each hold a special place in this chapter of our lives. This is why you all are so great:

  • You helped teach him some of the most important life lessons-sharing, caring, taking your turn, manners, and the list goes on and on.
  • You always communicated with me about my son’s day with you.
  • You developed, within my son, a love for learning and exploration with classroom visits from community helpers, like policeman and firemen, and daily hands on activities.
  • You make learning your ABCs, 123s, animals, songs, and rhythms so much more fun than I could have ever made it. As a matter of fact I have relearned a few things myself. For example, I can’t get “bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?” out of my head this week. Last week it was “boom chicka boom.”
  • You have helped him create arts and crafts that I will always treasure.
  • You provided assurance about the stages in the life of a small child. We survived colic, a year stint of my son biting like a vampire, multiple dislocated elbows (to no fault of the daycare) and potty training together.
  • You have high expectations for my child.
  • You provided encouragement, comfort, love to my child.
  • You helped teach him how to be a good friend, student, and helper.
  • You helped him understand right and wrong and good and bad choices.
  • You were made by a greater power to love and teach children.
  • You are a beautiful example of women lifting up other women.

It takes a village to raise a child and our daycare is a part of my family’s village. As important as this place has been to my child, they have been equally important to me. They have greeted me with a smile and open arms EVERY day. Days when I am on time. Days when I run late. Days when life is perfect. Days when I am tired, don’t feel well, or want to quit. They have provided me the confidence I need each day to know my son is safe, happy, and learning. That confidence allows to go to work and spend my days empowering others in my profession.

This week my son and I were talking about the new building, teachers, and friends that come with kindergarten. During the discussion he said “sometimes when you try something new, it’s scary but you just be brave and it turns out good, right?” Sometimes I think he is wise beyond his years. With a positive attitude like that, I assured him that great things are in store for him. As we transition to the next phase of my son’s educational journey. These years at daycare/preschool will always have a special place in my family’s hearts. For this experience I am grateful.

As we drove out of the daycare parking lot on our last day, I wiped a tear from my eye and then I heard my son say “this air conditoning in the car is making my eyes cry a little (such a tough guy). When do I get to go back and visit?” I knew then he understand the great experience he had there.

Today my spoon is full of many great memories of our special daycare experience and the friends we have made along the way.

My Sonshine is FIVE!

I Am 5

I Am 5

To my Sonshine:

Did you really turn five yesterday? Yes, it is true. I tell you daily that I get a phone call from Jesus and he tells me that you have to stop growing at four years old and just stay my four-year old forever. You laugh every time, like it’s the first time that you have heard me say that and you always say “I’m turning five and getting big, Mooooommmmm” followed by “Jesus doesn’t know your phone number, does he?” There are lots of fun memories from this year that I will always cherish.

You still rely on macaroni and cheese, fettuccine Alfredo, strawberries, apples, watermelon, yogurt, and honeybuns (Honey Bunnies as you call them) to survive. You have added deli turkey, steak, and root beer (thanks Mimzi) to your diet. You like carrot cake cakepops…so that is one “vegetable” in the mix, right?

You are so smart. You say SO many funny things, I cannot possibly write them all down. Your Cooperisms keep me laughing…actually your words keep anyone who knows you laughing. Here are a few of my favorites from this year:

  • In the wintertime, you put your “hook” on each morning…aka your jacket “hood.”
  • You say funny, endearing things to me like “yes dearest mother” “my sweet love” and “my precious baby girl”…these usually come out of your mouth when you are headed to timeout.
  • You have a combined the word mustache and beard to create the term “mushbeard.”
  • The first joke you told (which I am not sure where you heard it) was “What does a butt crack say when it wakes up? Crack a doodle doo.”
  • You have asked me if there is a Mother’s and Father’s Day, when will it be Kid’s Day. As if every day isn’t about you at our house.
  • You spent most of the month of February talking about “Beaver Day” which was supposed to be Groundhogs Day.
  • Anything taking over 1 second is “forrrrrrever!”
  • During a conversation in an airport bathroom stall, you had the women in the stalls next to us laughing when we had an impromptu discussion about “pirate parts”…aka private parts. Needless to say, I did not want to exit the stall.
  • You have learned to look both ways when crossing a street, so you “don’t get flat.”
  • You tell me “You drive me crazy like a car” when I ask you too many questions about your day.
  • You told me you wanted to be a “Rine” (Marine) like your Dad and fight the bad guys. I told you that you couldn’t because I wouldn’t let you go far away to a war. You replied that you were “big enough” and a few minutes later came back and asked me “how do I get home from being a rine.” I think you are worried about missing your Mommy.
  • You like to talk out loud in public about people making “bad choices” to smoke or have their undergarments showing. These usually take place at Wal-Mart.

You love your family, your cousin “Tole” (Cole), and you love adventure. We have had lots of adventures this year. We have seen Disney on Ice, which you told me was boring; I agree. We have seen Marvel Superheroes Live which you loved. We have ridden on planes, trains, bicycles, ski lifts, escalators, elevators, amusement park rides, and horses. We had a blast on our Disney vacation. You loved the water rides at all the parks and thought it was so funny when I got soaked (like dripping wet) and you and your Daddy didn’t. When we got stuck on “It’s a Small World” we all started to go mad after a few minutes of hearing the famous It’s a Small World song over and over.

We have picked pumpkins, apples, and honeysuckles. We have swam, played soccer, and started our newest adventure “ninja school” (karate). We have camped (uggh), visited museums, watched movies, and went tubing. We have made snowmen and built sand castles. You love bounce houses and laser tag. You love being at Poppa’s farm. You love anything outdoors, especially if it involves water.

You love when Mom occasionally goes out-of-town for work and you and Dad have “boy time”. You love to play with your Dad-he’s your best bud. You like to pretend shave with Dad while he is shaving and spray (soak yourself) in his cologne to “smell good”. You have a cowlick that I spend each morning trying to tame…we usually concede and just turn it into a mohawk. You still love my snuggles and like me to sing you to sleep-occasionally.

You love Star Wars, Curious George, Horton Hears a Who, Happy Feet, and Ninja Warriors. You enjoy hanging out on our Hammock. You can make a stick into just about any kind of weapon. You play on my iPhone. You have more apps than I do on my iPhone. You have your own folder of “Cooper’s Jams” in my iTunes. We have listened to and sang at the tops of our lungs, Uptown Funk You Up, Boys Round Here, Little Red Wagon, Beyond Me, Who Let the Dogs Out, Roar, Stronger, and Gangam Style until I cringe every time it comes on…again. Some night we fall asleep watching YouTube videos of funny cats, Herman the Worm, or Boom Chicka Boom.

We had some tough conversations this year. Our cat of fifteen years passed away. It was our first talk about dying. You had lots of questions. You thought it was “so rude that Jesus would take your cat and not give it back.” When we visited family graves for Memorial Day, you had lots of questions for me about what do dead people do under the ground, is there a city under there where they eat and play, and wondered if they come out at night like zombies. Such a complicated subject for a little mind…heck it is complicated for an adult mind. You have learned that some kids don’t get to live with their mom and dads and other people get to love on them and be their parents.

You have shown me your kind heart by giving to others, you have brought me flowers, bugs, and all kinds of critters. Thanks to your Mimzi, we have a miniature Gnome garden in the landscaping at our house. I swore I would never have yard art! You love the Gnomes and rearrange them regularly.

You still have your hermit crab and haven’t noticed yet that one kicked the bucket while we were on vacation (he’s asleep in his shell, right?). You have stopped carrying and sleeping with your “blue” blanket and “Brown” the bear. You have become quite the photographer. I love when you grab my cell phone or camera and take pictures-everyone always smiles for you without hesitation. You have lots of questions and you pretty much talk ALL the time. Some days, I have to ask you to just rest your voice for a minute so my brain can catch up with you.

You have shared with me an amazing fourth year. I love seeing the person you are growing into. You bring me joy each day. I love being your “Mom” because you no longer call me “Mommy”. Dad and I love living life with you and making memories each day.

Today my spoon is full of lots of fond memories of year number four and ready for the spoonful of life year five will bring.