Archives for the month of: August, 2015

Miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were sailboats on brownie cupcake seas. Nearby, small polar-bear bags enveloped chocolate chip cookies – two, the number of cubs to which a mother polar bear usually gives birth. Above, Sriracha cheddar angels flew near gluten-free cheddar bats, blurring the line between visions of darkness and light. Heavy and earth-bound, pound cakes, crusty and golden, kept company with a moist yellow cake four layers high frosted with deep chocolate, covered in swirls pulled down from Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Sailing the seas of brownies

Sailing the seas of brownies

The combination bake sale and lemonade stand to raise money for our local park was a delicious scene, crafted with care by all sorts of local parents. Children, including mine, crowded nearby, helping to attract customers with their sheer exuberant presence – or their sign waving and instrument banging/shaking/clacking. WIth faces painted, they helped the crowd attract a crowd. They meandered down to the as-of-yet-unimproved playground, swinging and running and playing. They were semi-autonomous children in a small town, fulfilling their right to loose supervision. They were happy.

The fiercest tiger grins

The fiercest tiger grins

We were happy, too, but it wasn’t the best part of yesterday – even when we found out that we’d raised over $1500.

The first shift

The first shift

After the sale was over, we headed down the mountain for a birthday party at a local gym – and in this case, I mean a gymnastics gym, one filled with joy-inducing equipment like a long trampoline, like a runway for kangaroos, and bars, which, yes, might be good for a monkey, and a ball pit, which would get any self-respecting dog drooling. There was bouncing and climbing and crawling and pizza eating, all with friends, and present opening (we gave the gift of Press Here by Herve Tullet, a favorite at our house), and when it was all done, we were sent on our way with goodie bags.

This, too, was a good part of our day, but it wasn’t the best part, either.

The best part waited until we were home, our little family of four, with goodie bags opened and scattered: long balloons, good for making animals (the house specialty: a snake, no twisting required), with a hand-held pump, and two glow bracelets apiece.

The balloons were a little bit of magic, like children, growing quickly before our eyes.

But the bracelets held even more magic.

I pulled up Girlpool’s album Before the World Was Big, and we turned off the lights, the better to enjoy the glow of the bracelets. Boy put a bracelet on an uninflated balloon, and they took it from there. He twirled the bracelet, and it glowed, a shining light in the darkness. Girl tried it with two, and with Girlpool’s spare guitar playing and singing, sometimes in harmony and sometimes in a single line, the web was spun. It was magic, and I was caught. The lights spun and twirled, and, with only their imaginations to limit them, Boy and Girl continued to spin their ephemeral web of light. Small circles, large circles, pairs of bracelets or one, just alone, attached to a balloon, rope-like – I could have watched until my eyes grew heavy or until Boy and Girl fell into a heap, joyful and spent.

DSC_0489

As it was, the album ended, the spell was broken, and Daddy turned on a light in the kitchen, the better for eating snacks. Regular life always hovers at the edges of the perfect moments, waiting to intrude, often with great impatience.

But it was there. Rather, they were there: the perfect moments, the perfect children, the perfect light, the perfect darkness, the perfect family. Maybe it doesn’t matter if they’re ever perfect again; maybe it’s enough that it could happen, and that it did.

The rules:

1. Be a good listener.

2. Follow directions quickly and quietly.

3. Raise your hand to speak or to get help.

4. Make smart choices.

5. Keep your teacher and your friends happy.

There are five. Those are they. I want to see the day when the rules also say something like this:

  1. Try something new (and positive) each day.
  2. Compliment someone else on something he or she has done well.
  3. Do something that will make you feel proud of yourself.
  4. Create something each day.

What else would you add?

It’s 10:11 a.m.

Girl started school at 8:00.

This has been a very, very long morning.

Girl is, according to the schedule, learning phonics. Every day. From 10:00 – 10:30. That should be easy since she already knows how to read.

What IS the point of education, really? Socialization? The ability to think creatively? Learning skills? Becoming a good citizen? Putting up with “learning” things you already know and learning patience? As a teacher, I didn’t spend much time thinking this matter through in the same way – of course, I wanted to be supportive, to get my students to think for themselves, to get them to be better and more critical readers and writers. I never saw it through the eyes of what someone else might hope for them, though. Being a parent changes a lot of things.

Here’s the school’s mission statement:

“The mission of ___, a caring and supportive center of learning excellence, is to assure that each student acquires the knowledge and life skills necessary for being an accountable, productive member of a democratic society.”

I’m not sure that that really sums up the whole of my goals for my child’s elementary education. I’d never suggest it’s a school’s job to do a parent’s job, but this seems to be leaving out whole areas of importance, like joy and creativity, cultural understanding and openness to new people and ideas, among other things, and the ability to think independently.

When Girl woke up this morning, she said, “I’m excited for my first day of school!” She paused, then added, “I’m nervous, too.”

After breakfast, and after peeing three times (she only ever pees once in the morning), she said, “My belly hurts.” I told her that sometimes, when we’re excited and nervous about something, we feel it in our bellies.

I hope that, as the day progresses, what she feels in her belly is more akin to excitement, some joy and creativity, and the thrill of new friendship.

It’s 10:21. Ten more minutes done.

Daddy guest post (thanks!):

Bedtime snuck up on Girl again tonight, and she needed to pee before she could settle down and sleep. Her trademark sing-song drifted out of the bathroom as she sat on the potty, mulling things over. When I went in to extract her from the bathroom and send her off to bed, she looked up earnestly and said, “I’m not so sure about going for the whole day tomorrow. Maybe I should just stay until lunch and then come home before nap time. I’m not a good napper. Yeah, maybe I’ll just ask my teacher if I can come home after lunch.”

She and her Mama share a mind sometimes. Mama isn’t exactly eager to let others watch over her girl for seven hours a day, five days a week, and Girl isn’t so sure about it, either. We’ll have to wait to see where these tentative steps into unfamiliar territory lead, but Girl summed things up perfectly as she snuggled Mama in bed: “I’ll miss you tomorrow.” We’ll miss you, too, love.

DSC_0337

Before

Before

After

After

Girl doesn’t look so different from one to the other, does she? She smiles, she has sparkly eyes, her hair’s a little messy. They’re only taken about fourteen hours apart.

There’s a big difference, though, that’s not so clear to the naked eye: in the first, she’s still my preschooler, the home-with-me-93-to-100%-of-the-time-most-weeks girl. In the second, she’s the home-with-me-only-79%-of-the-time-most-weeks girl. She’s a kindergartener who just completed her first day of elementary school (wearing the dress of her choice).

Yesterday, Girl began kindergarten.

It was only for thirty minutes at most, but it was her first day nonetheless, and I got to be nearby in the hallway the entire time.

I don’t think I’ll get to spend all of her school days in such close proximity. After August, we’re not even supposed to walk her to her classroom.

She’s excited, but I feel less certain, walking on this precipice dividing her previous life at home and her soon-to-be life at school. I can see the appeal of homeschooling: you set the sorts of freedoms and controls that fit your needs and beliefs. You shield, you expose. You work to maintain the joy that “10:00 – 10:30: Phonics” every day may not be able to.

My heart is so full that there’s not much more to say – and yet look at what she says in each photo without any words. Hello, I see you, I greet you; hello, I see you, this heart is for you.

I love you, schoolgirl.