Saturday, May 21, 2011

Weekend Update

I have received a lot of emails from people inquiring about the status of my daughter's transition to Nursery School, but I've put off responding due to my superstitious nature.  In my experience, whenever something is going well the surest way to end the hot streak is to talk about it.  The more smug  I am, the quicker it disappears.  I think my kids are trying to keep me humble and appreciative of the simple pleasures they provide me, such as 6 consecutive hours of sleep, a 10 minute break during the day, or a 3 minute shower.

Getting back to the nursery school issue, I can apprehensively say that things are going well.  I  decided to increase the number of times she attends during the week, which has provided more consistency for her and she has now been three times without tears.  We also have allowed her to take her blanket with her for comfort.  She has four blankets that we used to swaddle her with that she continues rotate through to sleep with every night.  She loves these blankets and I am happy knowing she has a piece of home with her at school.  I was reluctant to let her take a blanket as I worried that it was a crutch and that I was encouraging baby-like behaviour.  After careful consideration, I decided that many kids her age have or need a security blanket in these types of unfamiliar situations and Jane's just happens to be an actual blanket.  There are other children who are there with the support of a close friend or sibling, something familiar to remind them that they are safe.  When Jane holds her blanket, she is not walking into her classroom alone.  It allows her to leave me without crying and once she is inside, I hear that she may actually be having fun.

It is a strange transition to independence.  You want it for your kids and for yourself, but for me, there is a little bit of sadness about my baby girl out in the world without me.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hush Little Baby

I love bedtime.  I love my kids and I cherish the time I get to spend with them, but I LOVE bedtime.  There is nothing better than a quiet house with children nestled safely in their beds.  As a mom, down time is a precious commodity.  Since my daughter stopped napping in December, it has become even more sacred to me.  That being said, there is nothing more irritating than kids who are not cooperating at bedtime.  My daughter is about to be three and her negotiating skills are quite impressive.  She doesn't take no for an answer and has a long list of tactics to extend her bedtime routine.  There are nights when I find this cute and enjoy reading "just one more story".  There are others when all I want to do is pour myself a glass of wine and see what the Kardashians are up to.  My cousin recently sent me a link to some bedtime reading material that may come in handy on such an occasion.  Pre-order yours on Amazon today;)

A sense of humor is an important tool for motherhood.  I hope that this appeals to yours.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I just wanted to say thank you to all the moms who have reached out to me in response to my last post.  Being a mom can become very isolating and it can be hard to keep perspective when the majority of your conversations are with a 2 year old.  It is wonderful to feel the support and encouragement of others like me, who sometimes struggle with the decisions we are faced with as parents.  I have enough trouble trying to put together the perfect outfit for my daughter each morning, never mind the decisions that have real impact (although, the polka dot leggings she wore today made quite an impression).  It is so reassuring to hear about similar situations and to be reminded that I am not alone in this.  I love it when a woman, especially a mom, can admit her struggles and is willing to share them.  It is like a weight lifted off my shoulders when I hear someone talk about her child keeping her up all night, or throwing a fit in the grocery store.  This is the news we need to share.  It frees us from the pressure to be perfect.  Good moms are not perfect.  They make mistakes.  Good moms need and accept help.  I am so thankful for the help I have received from all of you good moms and good friends.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Just Keep Swimming?

I spent most of my career as a Kindergarten teacher without children of my own.  A big part of my job, especially when dealing with a child's first time at school, is communicating with parents.  Looking back, I am appalled at how judgmental I was and how easily I gave advice that, I now know, I was not fully equipped to give.  When you are not a mother, there is no way to understand the life of one.  There were many days in September and beyond, where a had to tear a crying child from their mother or ask that a parent leave because it was what was best for the child.  What was I basing this on?  I am not really sure.  Eventually the child would stop crying.  Some in minutes, for others it would take months.  But eventually they all adjust.   

Now I am a mom.  I have been taking my daughter Jane to different programs since she was 3 months old, and continue to enroll her in everything from gymnastics to art.  She recently completed a gradual separation program where she had no problems and loved going to "school" for an hour, once a week.  When I take stock of all of this, I feel like I have done things as best I could.  So when she was ready to start nursery school last month, I thought the transition would be fine.  Not so much.

Today was her fifth time there and it is not getting any easier.  She cries and clings to me and asks me not to leave her.  The mother in me is holding back tears while my heart is breaking, but the teacher in me pries her little hands off of me and walks out the door.  The whole time she is there I feel sick and anxious.  When I pick her up she cries when she sees me, but seems otherwise okay.  The teachers tell me that she is crying less throughout the morning and seems to be having some fun.  Back at home she has become increasingly worried about me leaving her and we have been having trouble getting her to go to bed.  She is so afraid that I am going to leave.

After I dropped her off this morning, I went to see my mom at work and just broke down crying.  This is killing me.   Who am I doing this for?  She is upset, I am upset, but everyone tells me that it is "good for her" and "she'll be fine".  These are things that I once said as a teacher, but now I am on the other side of it - now it is MY child crying.  It is so much harder to follow the advice than to give it.  Of course I want Jane to be independent but I am confused about whether her independence needs to be forced upon her in such a way.

As we were driving home from school today, Jane was watching her favourite movie, Finding Nemo.  In the opening scene, Marlin is holding Nemo's injured fish egg and claims that he will never let anything happen to him.  Later  in the movie, Marlin recounts this to Dory who tells him "Well, you can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.".  Am I Marlin?  Have I worried too much or kept her too close to me?  And if I am Marlin, is that such a bad thing?  

I am so conflicted about sending her to school and feel like no matter what I decide, it'll be wrong.  If I listen to the teacher in me, I will persevere through the pain and hope that in the end she is happy at school.  But in the process I feel like I am losing her faith in me.  She doesn't understand that I am trying to do right by her.  All she knows is that I am leaving her scared and alone in a place she doesn't want to be.  If I listen to the Marlin in me, I will stop taking her and try again in September when she may be more ready to handle it.  But even if I do this she may still cry and I'll know that I should have just gotten it all over with now.  And then there is the added pressure of what the other moms will think - that  I'm a bad mom dragging my poor child to school when she isn't ready, or that I'm a bad mom for indulging my child's fears and sheltering her home.

My mind is racing, my heart is in pieces and I am trying to figure out what is right.  When it comes to parenting, I have learned that the word "right" is not an absolute.  What is right for our family may not be right for another.  What is right for my first child may not be for my second.  I have to try not to worry about how my decisions are being perceived but rather how they are affecting the people who matter most to me.  Once again, advice that is much easier to give than take.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

False Start

It was track and field day in the seventh grade and I was standing at the starting line for the 100m dash.  I was never an athletic superstar and had no inclination that I might actually win - I was more of a "middle-of-the-pack" girl.  The gun went off and I started to run.  As I was running I noticed that I couldn't see anyone in front of me.  I ran faster.  I looked to the crowd of my peers jumping up and down and cheering.  I ran faster.  I was winning.  I couldn't believe that I was actually winning.  I felt amazing;  so happy and proud. When I crossed the finish line and turned around to accept my accolades, I died a little inside.  I was alone. The rest of the heat was still at the starting line.  It had been a false start. The cheers of encouragement from the crowd had actually been pleas for me to stop.  I had run my heart out, in front of EVERYONE, alone.  The walk back to the start line was probably one of the longest in my life.  Oh, the shame.  To make it worse, I had run the race again, placing fifth.  To this day, this moment is burned in my soul as the most humiliating of my life.  I think about it from time to time and am able to laugh about it now.

I liken this experience to that of being a mother.  There have been days when I feel like I have it all figured out.  My kids are happy and healthy, the laundry is put away, and I may have squeezed in a couple of stomach crunches.  Life is rolling right along.  Then I have the days where I feel like I'm going back to the beginning and all of the things I'm hoping and working for (a good night's sleep, a toddler who isn't crying, a clean house, and eating a salad instead of an entire bag of Doritos) seem 100 miles away.  There are days when I can hear the roar of the crowd and feel so connected to and supported by my friends and family. And then come the days when people are busy with their own lives or nobody seems to understand what I am feeling and I am once again alone on the track. As mothers, some days we win and some days we lose.  I have an idea of the mother that I want to be, for myself and for my family, and some days I am that mom - I'm out in front.  Other days, I lay awake with my thoughts and think of all the mistakes I made that day, and it's like I'm on the track walking back to the start line.

As I am writing this, my husband asks me if I think that I am losing as a mother. The answer I give him is no.  When I take some time to look at things I can see that I am doing just fine, but I also know there will continue to be moments of doubt and regret.  But everyday is another race and a chance to start again.