Rainbow.

Oh, friends. This was not the best day. On the surface, there wasn’t a single thing wrong. It was one of those days that, when detailed on Facebook, makes it looks like our life is all rainbows and cotton candy. It started with a family breakfast of homemade gluten-free waffles and applewood smoked bacon. “This is the most delicious brunch you ever made, Mama!” Practically cherubic. Then I did the dishes and The Who and I headed out for a couple of errands, including a car wash and a trip to the farmer’s market in the homey little college town nearby, but not before spending some time in our little garden, weeding and watering and sampling the sweet snap peas that we harvested. Then we hit the Lego Store after grabbing a quick lunch in the food court. We played for a while, stopped into the tea store to get an infusing carafe, and then zipped back home. I dropped The Who off with m*, did a solo grocery-shop, and came back to an already-fed boy, quietly watching a show. No camp = no bath, so it was a quick brush and floss and then off to bed. On paper, it sounds so perfect, it should almost have been in black and white.

Yeah. Well. Here’s the non-Facebook version:

That breakfast? It was made well before 9am, which is not at all what I intend for my weekends. In the summer, I am up at 5:30 on weekdays and I look forward to sleeping in as late as I want on Saturdays (and nearly as late on Sundays.) I am lucky enough to have a gracious wife who, without complaint, spends hours on weekend mornings playing with The Who and never gives me any crap about sleeping in, no matter how late it is. But this morning, when I rolled over at 7ish, intending to go right back to sleep, I caught a few snippets of the morning play conversation from downstairs and I could sense that something was off. (I later learned that m* had had a terrible night’s sleep and wasn’t feeling well, which explained the exhaustion and frustrations I had heard in her voice.) I realized that instead of the leisurely, snoozey Saturday that we had last weekend, today I’d be on-duty, so I started planning some activities. When I ran my suggestions by The Who for his consideration, he approved them all and added homemade waffles on top. So, yeah. Waffles.

Making the waffles went as well as could be expected with a new-to-me waffle iron and a gluten-free recipe that called for egg whites beaten into stiff peaks and yielded a runny batter that spilled out onto the countertop with each batch. They were the thinnest, flimsiest waffles I’d ever seen, but they tasted good. So, at least there was that.

The garden part? Well, that actually was as idyllic as it sounded.  Sunny and harvesty and it made me feel like a good mom to have my kid in the yard watering the vegetables we had grown from seedling. Plus, and also: hose-drinks.

"What do you think, Mama? Should I drink from the 'jet' or the 'mist'?"

“What do you think, Mama? ‘Jet’ or ‘mist’?”

The car wash. Well. You know, the car wash was fine at first look. But the whole day was peppered with so much whining and short-fused reaction (on both of our parts) that even an activity that is usually simple and fun for both of us yielded complaints, injuries, and threats. I apparently nearly “sucked up his sneakers” with the vacuum. He refused to move out of the way. I moved the front seat forward too quickly and he bumped his knee. I didn’t let him help enough. He didn’t want to have to do it all.  He was thirsty, he informed me, “but not for something that has no taste.” It occurred to then that maybe he was hungry, even though we had just finished breakfast not long before and he had an interim snack. I asked him if anything hurt, flashing back to last July 4th when he spent a week whining and then busted out a few days of an inexplicable fever. He said nothing hurt, though he did cop to the hunger, which is why we drove across town to the farmer’s market in search of lunch.

But, the farmer’s market was a complete waste of time. Four or five little stalls with nothing terribly exciting, save some beautiful-looking beets that I contemplated bringing home, but didn’t. It seemed to me that the last time I was at this market, it was huge. Full of vendors and people and activity. This is not late-season. This is prime. Where was everyone? It was practically deserted. So, with Sir Whinesalot in tow, we walked hand-in-hand up the street for a coffee and a juice. This is when the “why” questions hit fever pitch. M* reminded me tonight, as I recounted the day, how he defaults to “why” when he is tired. And how my tolerance for them disappears when I am tired. It was a bad mix and we should have stayed at home in our jammies — except I’m not sure that would have been any better.

In the car after the market, we tried to hammer out a deal. I would strive to be more patient and kind and he would try to do less pushing of my buttons. We always work to come up with solutions like this when our day is falling off track and usually it works. Not talking about it is like ignoring the elephant in the room. He knows I’m not fun to be with and I know that I don’t want to hear one more single word out of his mouth ever. Generally doing a record-scratch stop-and-reboot can turn the whole day around.

Not so today. (Despite a valiant effort on both of our parts.)

At the Lego store, I discovered that they had taken the little chairs away from the build table because they were a “tripping hazard.” It’s very hard to be a tall person building at a short table, which meant that I couldn’t do much playing there, despite his pleas for me to join him. I leaned down a few times, tried to chit-chat about the pieces, and helped him search for some, but it was uncomfortable at best and I just counted the minutes until it was reasonable to leave. Also: the lights in that store blazed overhead in low-hung chandeliers and it was hot. Who ever heard of a mall-store being hot in the summer? Aren’t mall-stores kind of known for their practically offensive overuse of air conditioning in the summer?

I rewarded myself with this key chain because that's kind of who I felt like. Except for the part where she's an Amazon who can hold back speeding trains with her hand. I didn't have that much energy.

I rewarded myself with this key chain because that’s kind of who I felt like. Except for the part where she’s an Amazon who can hold back speeding trains with her hand. I don”t have that much energy. Or strength. Nor do I have any blue-starred panties. Or magic Truth Lassos, for that matter.

This is the scene The Who put together in our 30 minutes in the store.

This is the scene The Who put together in our 30 minutes in the store. Not as elaborate as is usual for him, but he was compromised today.

The rest of the day’s events went pretty much the same as the first part’s. Although I dropped The Who at home and grocery shopped solo, I was still not on my game. I had to call m* from Aisle 4 because I couldn’t remember if she liked hot or mild peppers after ten years of buying the same thing. I visited and left and visited the same aisle three different times for three different things because I kept forgetting all that I needed. I looked at a bag of “Fried Pork Skin” and read it quickly as something much more graphic and disgusting by swapping the beginning letters in my delirium.

And then when it was finally time for bed, even the tooth-brushing and pajama-donning was fraught. There was more whining. There was the threat and then follow-through of the removal of a bedtime story.

And then there was talking after we said our goodnights and our I-love-yous. “Mama, I am tired but I can’t sleep.” Try counting to 100. “Mama, why am I wearing underwear to bed instead of jammies?” You’re not. “But it looks like –” You’re NOT. I started to have my years-old Personal Parental Violence Fantasytm (snapping his arms off and stuffing them in his mouth) but lucky for him: a) I would never do that (duh) and b) m* fielded the rest of his questions while I just sat there and seethed at life.

I am a big believer in tomorrow being a better day. I am an optimist and I always believe in turning things around. And although I  had a moment of dread as m* got ready to go to bed, thinking about doing it all over tomorrow, then I remembered that tomorrow I will be with three friends and their kids. And sunshine. And a swimming pool. And  I flashed on these tiny moments from earlier this morning. Even in the rain, there can be a rainbow.

Photo Jun 28, 11 25 58 AMPhoto Jun 28, 11 26 34 AM

Here’s to a better tomorrow.

 

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Home.

The Who turned down an opportunity to go grocery shopping with me today — something he hasn’t done in…ever? He’s always been a kid who relishes a whole day at home, but when push comes to shove, he has never turned down a short outing, especially when it includes cookies from the Trader Joe’s sampling station. I think it’s fair to say that camp is kicking his ass.

Just like last summer, I wake him up as gently as I can. Usually, I quietly open his curtains, turn off the nightlight, and climb up next to him in his bed. By then, he’s opening his eyes and yawning into the daylight-filled room. He hasn’t yet complained about having to get up so early, which, frankly, is a testament to the camp. Waking at 5:30, getting slathered in sunscreen, leaving at 7, driving an hour, and then, after a full day, driving another hour home with just enough time for dinner, a bath, and a few stories before going to bed again. It’s grueling. I mean, it’s grueling for me; it has to be for him. (Not to mention the heat, the humidity, the blazing sun, and the onslaught of gnats like we’ve never before seen. Seems a high price to pay. Still, when we got into the car on Friday morning, he said sleepily and sort of dreamily, “I love camp.” So there you go.)

Happy Campers -- literally.

Happy Campers — literally.

Coloring on my paper-covered desk, waring the Wizard hat he made in Art, His ears are working harder than he is here, I think.

Coloring on my paper-covered desk, wearing the Wizard hat he made in Art. His ears are working harder than he is here, I think.

He didn’t get out of his pajamas today. He played lots of Legos, watched lots of TV, drew lots of pictures, sang LOTS of songs (seriously, this kid doesn’t ever stop singing and humming) and invented lots of stories. It was the perfect Saturday for him. Tomorrow he gets to play tour guide for our visiting cousin and then it’s back to the grind. At least we’re looking at some better weather this week.

Summer.

What I want to be doing is writing a blog post. Well, I’d like to have one written. I’d like to be posting one, but the actual writing feels a little like a chore. Actually, I want to write. But I’m fucking beat.

I forgot how exhausting the first week of camp is — and it hasn’t even really begun yet. Today was an 8-hour training day, which came on the heels of a four day visit with my in-from-out-of-town mom, and an emotionally fraught yesterday of graduating and ending things and moving on and missing people.

What I should be doing is writing for my Writing Workshop. My submission was due today. And I have…a few lines of weak prose. I sign myself up for every available submission slot because I know I won’t write otherwise, but I’m stretched thin. It’s gotta be done.

Meal-planning, grocery-shopping, hair-coloring, memoir-writing, backpack-packing, lunch-making, dinner-making, child-entertaining, final-grade-calculating. This is what my Sunday looks like. The only upside is that I also get to parent a kid who just left the only school he ever knew, whose grandma just got on an airplane to go home, and who begins a whole exhausting summer at camp in two days. Oh, wait. Nevermind. There is no upside.

Wax.

I’m not doing it. I’m not going to get all sentimental and sappy about Pre-K graduation. It’s Pre-K for chrissake. Next year, he’ll have kindergarten graduation. Five years later, there will be elementary school graduation. Then Middle school graduation. High School. College. Grad School. Law school. (Med school?) Y’know. Lots of graduations. This is Pre-K. I’m not going to get all sentimental about it.

Except I totally am.

When it’s your first (or only, in my case) every milestone is something. I would totally show a stranger the picture of his two missing teeth if that wouldn’t seem really creepy. And I would tell anyone that he is going to kindergarten next year — as if it’s some out of the ordinary news item. No! Really? A nearly 6-year-old is going to kindergarten? Stop the presses.

He’s been at his current school/daycare since he was 13 months old. He’s been in the same Pre-K classroom for two years. He’s grown up with these kids since they were all babies. They piss each other off and love each other to death like siblings. And in three days, they all part ways and go to different places. Not one of them is going to the same school as another one. We (the parents) all toyed with various private schools and keeping them together. The idea was so dreamy, but when it all shook out, the result was five best friends going to five different kindergartens.

The Who is as ready as I’ve ever seen a kid be for kindergarten. He is chomping at the bit to learn new things, to practice skills, to read and do math and color and try out new toys and games in a new space. The grounds of his new school is as familiar to him as all the other things in the neighborhood where he’s lived his whole life. The playground, just a block from our house, is “our” playground and he’s been going there since he was just a few months old. But, still, I suspect there will be some bumps as he transitions.  New kids. New teachers. New rules. It can’t be all puppies and rainbows. But maybe that’s my anxiety I’m expecting — not his.

I am going to miss the ease with which I come and go at his current school. Lateness is not a problem ever. Pick-up time is whenever I want it to be. If I want to bring in cupcakes, I do. If I want to visit in the middle of the day, I do. If I miss him and just want to call the classroom to say hello, I could. (I never have, but I could. In fact today, I very seriously contemplated calling the classroom from the middle of the backpack aisle in Target to see if they would ask him if he’d prefer Spiderman or Minions. I fortunately realized how insane that was and stopped myself, but I totally would have been allowed to do it if I had wanted to.) Despite finding some things about the administration problematic, I love this school.  I love the parents in his classroom and I love his teacher. I feel genuinely certain that she loves my kid. I’m going to miss all of it.

Tomorrow, we pick up my mom at the airport and then bring The Who to school for his last official day. Thursday, we’re off to set up my art room at summer camp. Then Friday is graduation. I’ll pack up his cubby, take home the nap blankets that have been in that very same spot for over a year, peel his name-tag off, and say goodbye to what has been a long (but totally short) 4 and a half years.

Leaving this school and going to the one where he will eventually turn ten years old is like stepping into another dimension. I first had an infant, then a baby. A toddler. A preschooler. A Pre-k kid. Now: school age. It’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax. Here we go.

 

Gun-tastic.

Although we do not expressly forbid toy weapons, The Who doesn’t have any (outside of the teeny golden plastic swords that come with the Lego Ninjago sets.) His creative play always leans more toward fire emergencies than any kind of fighting. He has, however, been talking more about killing and shooting and guns as a means of retaliation when he is mad. Mostly, when he is mad at me.

I know many parents who would balk at this kind of fantasy talk (my own among them) but I am not one. I believe that when kids are given the space to play out their totally natural feelings of powerlessness and anger, they are less likely to actually act on them in any kind of physical way. Today, for example, The Who, angry that I had taken away one of his bedtime stories for an earlier zero-tolerance transgression, told me he was going to kill me. “I’m going to go to the store and buy a gun. The store is called ‘Gun-tastic’ and it is going to cost $1.” More than anything, I was proud of his marketing skills. Gun-tastic! Affordable weaponry for children. He just might have something.

Anyway. I didn’t reprimand him. The same way I don’t reprimand him when he tells me he hates me or calls something stupid. He has to have the freedom to use the tools in his very limited toolbox. That said, we do have some hard and fast rules. Some lines that can’t be crossed. He is allowed to call things stupid, but not people. We also have a no hitting/kicking/etc. rule. And that one is zero-tolerance. About most things, he gets one warning. “You are not allowed to call a person stupid. If I hear it again, there will be a consequence.” He is accustomed to warnings and generally responds pretty well. (It helps that he is incredibly attached to his bedtime routine, which includes read-aloud stories, so taking one of the nightly three away — or the mere threat of that — is usually enough to encourage cooperation.) But, hurting another person is another story entirely. There is no warning with an act of physical aggression. You hit, you’re one story down. End of discussion.

So, it was this — the punishment issued without a warning — that made him mad enough to give me a death threat tonight at bedtime. (In case you’re curious, having to go into the grocery store to pick up dinner ingredients after a long and tiring day at Crayola was what made him mad enough to give me s swift swat in the belly in the first place.)

He doesn’t actually want to kill me. Of course not. He kissed me goodnight and told me he loved me (genuinely) before I went downstairs. And although I actually feel fine about this, I am aware that he needs to understand that there are places where this won’t be tolerated. Camp, for example. And school. No one is going to let a kid threaten death in a public school in 2014 without consequence. I have to have a conversation with him about what is and what is not appropriate and where certain things are allowed and where they are not. Given some of the other conversations we’ve had in the past couple of months, I am frankly surprised this hasn’t yet come up. Knowing him, he will ask why. And knowing me, I will be tempted to launch into an explanation of 9/11 and bomb threats and Columbine and on and on. (I won’t, though. Unless it goes there, I guess. But I won’t bring it up myself.) Still, he’ll probably probe.

I’m ready for it, though. Armed and ready, even. With the .45 I bought at Gun-tastic for a buck.