Prep School

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Categories Celebrations, Childcare, Development, Family, Mommy Issues, Preschoolers, ToddlersTags , , , , 5 Comments

My boys start school in a week.

I found out that two spots had opened up for them last August, but it just didn’t feel like the right time. We had upcoming travel to California. Their nana was moving to town a few weeks later. There was a lot of change in their lives and I didn’t want to push it. After much deliberation, talking to the school administrators, conferring with other moms, we decided they would start with the new year. I marked the calendar. January 5th was the day.

Way back in October, I began my plan to gradually prepare them for this day. We casually talked about school. We regularly looked at a fantastic book called “Wow! School!” that I found at in the dollar bin at the grocery store. We drove past school and waved and marveled at the playground. In November, I scheduled a visit for the boys to meet their teacher and play outside with their classmates. It was a huge success. In December, we had two visits where the the boys and I spent the first hour in the classroom for their day opening activities. We’ve talked about school almost every day.

And now that we are a week away, I’m talking with them specifically about what to expect. That they will stay at school without mommy. That I will drop them off and they will spend time at school without me, like big boys, and they will play and learn and laugh and eat, and then I will be back to pick them up. When we talk about it they are happy and say things like, “school!” and “teetee! (teacher)” and “play!” We started our day today by driving by school and waving and then going to Starbucks across the street for a blueberry muffin. We’ll do this a few more times this week. I feel like they are exhaustively prepared and I’m exhausted just from reiterating all of it!

And yet, I feel completely and utterly unprepared!

How did this sneak up on me like this? I’ve spent almost every single hour of every single day of the past two years with them, and now what? How am I supposed to say goodbye to them? At almost two, are they too young for this? Will they be sick every day for the next six months from all the germs? Where do I get a freaking nap mat and can I get the 1 inch kind or should I spring twenty bucks for the 2 inch thick deluxe version? What the heck do I pack them for lunch? You mean I have to PACK them a lunch every night?!

Emotionally I feel completely ambivalent. On one hand, I feel we are all ready for this. They will strive in a structured Montessori environment. They will learn so much from people who are trained to teach toddlers. They will learn even more from being around their peers. And I know the social interaction is worth its weight in gold. The boys are great around other kids, but I’ve noticed more and more lately how they tend to cling to each other. And define what they are doing by what their brother is doing. I know this is all natural, but I want to give them the tools early on for being socially independent. Or at least giving them an environment where they can choose to be socially independent from one another.

Selfishly, I also crave some social independence. My existence has been crucially tied to them since they were born. I feel such gratitude to my husband, to the universe, for making this possible. But I’ve become increasingly antsy and want to start doing more things for myself. Professional undertakings, health-and-diet improvements, a kitchen remodel – I have goals and lists that make me dizzy. But most important, I want to regain a sense of “me” again. Lastly, the boys are quickly approaching numero dos, which has brought utter joy and hilarity, as well as incredibly intense challenges. Not that I want to cop out, but I’m pretty excited about getting a daily break from this.

But all these very healthy and logical reasons doesn’t stop the ache, the hesitation and the sense of impending loss that has invaded my heart the past few days. More than anything, it’s manifesting me to second guess our choice of school. Our last visit left me wanting. The teacher was running late so the aids were running the class. Things seemed chaotic. An aid grabbed a toy out of a child’s hand without warning. They read the kids an appalling book about a child who does everything wrong at school. I heard a lot of nos and negatives, which isn’t my style of parenting. Kids were coughing all over each other and one girl had green snot spewing out of her nose. I’m freaking out just recalling it. But I also know this is just my brain’s way of trying to flee.

I can’t help but feel a sense of loss in all this. Like this is the last week I’ll spend with my boys. Our last hurrah. Silly, I know. I’ll still see them every morning, every afternoon and every evening. But I think the loss I feel goes deeper. It means I need to let go. Lighten my grip. Allow someone, other than myself, my husband or nana, to care for my boys. I think our last visit freaked me out so much because I had to accept, in some way, an environment that was out of my control. This is a big deal for me. Not because I’m some neurotic control freak. It’s just because I’m a mom. And as a mom I realize that at some point I will have to let go. A little bit at first, a little more later, and a hell-of-a-lot more when they grab the keys to the car and say, “see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya!” This is my first time letting them out of my protective wingspread, and truth be told, I’m scared. So much so I actually had a dream a few months back that they died at school. The worst dream I ever had. Maybe I need therapy?

I know I will get through this and in a month or so I will be singing the praises of school. It’s just weighing so heavy, as I’m sure it does for millions of other parents dropping off their babies (no matter how old they are) at school/day care/etc. for the first time. It’s just going to be a tough few first weeks. Or maybe it won’t. But regardless, things will be very different around here.

Amidst the whirlwind of emotions, I am very excited. Thrilled even. To realize that I’ve gotten the boys this far and now they are ready for the next step. To witness what they soak in and learn in this new environment. To realize that I’m going to have a bit of freedom again in my life, an opportunity to re-imagine and re-identify myself. To seize this time I will have for myself, and cherish, perhaps even more deeply, the time I have with my boys.

Completely scary and completely thrilling. Just like parenting always is.

Dropping them off at school for the first time can't be half as scary as watching them climb an eight foot rope ladder at the same time!
Dropping them off at school for the first time can't be half as scary as watching them climb an eight foot rope ladder at the same time!
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Food Fight

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Categories Behavior, Development, Family, Feeding, Mommy Issues, Solid Foods, ToddlersTags , , 10 Comments

Our kids were glorious eaters. They would try anything. Sag paneer? Loved it. BBQ brisket? Couldn’t get enough. Ozzy could hold his own, but it was Abel who was the real superstar. We even nicknamed him Mikey. The kid would try anything and moan for more. We would hear parents complaining about their finicky kids and we would just shake our heads and count our blessings.

And then our boys turned one.

It’s been a steady downhill spiral since that day. Actually, it was more like a face plant you didn’t see coming. One day they were chowing down and the next day they wouldn’t touch a thing. My husband and I stood there scratching our heads, trying to reason this out. Surely it’s because they’ve been sick with colds. Oh wait, their molars! Yes, it’s because those pesky molars are coming in. But when the phase lasted one month, then two months – now going on four months – I realized something more was at work here. Our wonderful eaters had gone picky. Or a more accurate way of putting it, our babies had become toddlers. It’s as simple as that.

Since my frustration at meal times had also taken a downward spiral, I decided I needed to educate myself on ways to get my boys to eat. They are clearly not malnourished, and still have voracious appetites for all fruit, cheese, frozen waffles, tortillas and veggie sausage. But I felt like their diets were clearly lacking protein and veggies and I was determined to add these things back into their repertoire. Taking the advice of LauraC right here on HDYDI, I set off for my local Barnes and Noble in search of the magic bullet.

I ended up buying Child of Mine and gobbling it up in one sitting. It’s always so affirming to read your experiences, your every day, in black in white. I learned that my kids were, indeed, typical toddlers and I was a typical parent doing the typical things to get my kids to eat. Or rather to not eat. I learned that my bullishness and obsession with getting them to digest meat and vegetables were, more than likely, contributing and/or enhancing the problem. We were locked in a power struggle and I was going to lose. Every. Single. Time. Oh, and to my dismay, there is no magic bullet. And there is absolutely no way of “getting” your child to eat anything. It’s more about letting go and trusting that your child will eat what she needs to eat. And exposing them to good food so they can trust and learn to eat the wonderful things the world has to offer.

So I immediately set out to change my ways. Here’s the jist. It’s my responsibility to provide the what (a healthy variety of foods that we all eat), the when (three structured meals and two planned snacks) and the where (at the table in the form of family meals). It’s their responsibility to decide how much they want to eat and whether they want to eat at all. That’s the formula, plain and simple. After that you just need to take a step back, enjoy your meal, and allow your kids to do what they will with their food. No catering to them. No short-order cooking. No applause for touching a vegetable. No begging or pleading or putting a fork full of tender pot roast in front of their mouths.

So it’s been a week and I’m proud to say that we’ve had family dinner every single night. It’s been no small feat getting a homemade, complete dinner on the table by 5:30 pm. The first two nights I have to admit I was scared. I cooked like a whirling dervish, the kitchen was a wreck, and the food tasted so-so. But then I started figuring out good 30 minute meals that were yummy, accessible to 16 month olds, and satisfying to us. But my biggest fear was leaving the boys to their own devices for this long. To my delight, they are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves, with limited supervision, for upwards of 45 minutes! I put on The Backyardigans (or Sesame Street), which usually holds their attention for about 3 minutes. And then they just run around the house, coming in and out of the kitchen, swiffering, mowing our hardwood floors with their lawnmower, playing with their pint-sized pots and pans, etc. I think they seriously dig doing their own thing while I do mine. They enjoy being just as busy and productive as I do.

To my surprise, dinner time is actually…fun! They get the same things on their plates that we do, plus we always have a fruit salad and some form of bread and butter (since, if worse comes to worse, they will almost always eat this). Some nights they won’t even look at the “new” food. Some days they venture a finger in the chicken stir fry. There have even been a few bites – not that we were paying attention! There have also been a few meals that Oskar hasn’t eaten a thing. And we just have to respect that decision (with gritted teeth!). It’s certainly been a transition, but one that I hope sticks. Because I see progress already, but more than that, we are starting a solid ritual of breaking bread together at least once a day. What better way for the boys to learn good manners, respect, delicious food, conversation, exercising their own judgement and quality family time? Solid things, indeed.

The most important thing in all of this is letting go of my own expectations. It’s an important lesson, especially for a parent of toddlers, or a parent of any aged child for that matter. To have confidence in what you have provided – the offerings, the lessons, the foundation. And then to let go and trust that your child/ren will make the best decision for themselves. Because when it comes down to it, isn’t that what parenting is all about?

Leaving you with my favorite, no hassle dinner from this past week:

Lamb Kafta

1 lb ground lamb

2 minced green onions

A handful of chopped fresh parsley (or a few good shakes of the dried kind)

1 Tbsp paprika

1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

1 Tbsp ground cumin

1-2 Tsp Salt/pepper (depending on how seasoned you like your meat)

1 Tbsp water (makes the meat juicy and moist)

Mix all ingredients together, form into patties or balls, and broil for 7 minutes on each side. You can even line a baking dish with foil for a no-mess clean up. Serve with warm pita, plain yogurt and a salad of tomatoes, cucumber, onion and feta. Yum!

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