Tag Archives: learning

He can do it himself

Once, when he was two or three, he asked me in earnest, “can I drive?”

Now he watches my right knee as we travel through town.

“Why does it move when you drive? What is your leg doing?”

I love the way he constantly looks under the hood of the world to find out how it runs. How his school has encouraged that.

At one point, keeping him from falling off the ledge (or driving there, apparently) was so important.

Every year since, it’s been more important to drop that habit and just let him do.

I’m not allowed to see what clothes he picks in the morning until he’s fully dressed. His style is better than anything the celebrities can afford.

He loves to have a job to do.

He loves to get things done.

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On Children
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Kahlil Gibran

I’ve neglected to finish at least seven blog posts in the last few weeks. Posts about BlogHer. About New York City adventures and feeling at home, or not feeling at home. About recovery meetings and Refuge Vows.  About work and changes and possibilities. But it was all leading to this week. The week that I haven’t stopped thinking about for months. It sneaked right up on me while I was looking at staircases and feeling subway steam and kissing friends I hadn’t seen in decades on the cheek.

I’ve said the words “he’s going to start Kindergarten” quietly, firmly, loudly, confidently and weakly. I’ve heard “he will be great, and I promise that you will be okay, too,” kindly, from many people who know. I’ve cried almost every time I’ve heard it. I do know this, I know.

I knew it when we arrived on the playground yesterday for orientation. He held my hand, reluctant for a few moments, but he made a friend quickly. When I returned two hours later, it took me several minutes to find him, he was so immersed in his play.  His dad and I dragged him from the playground as he told us about fraction puzzles and designated quiet spaces and blocks — more about those two hours than I ever heard about a day at preschool. This morning, in his first half-day of school, he returned to his new buddy’s side immediately in the circle as one of his teachers pulled out a thick magnifying glass and said “it looks like almost everyone is here. Let’s talk about magnification.”

I walked over and kissed him goodbye. He kissed me back happily, whispered “bye,” and fixed his eyes right back on the teacher.

I have a lot of confidence that he is in a good and caring place, but that doesn’t make this any easier.

I am going to miss him so. During every crappy thing that has happened within the past five years, his large-heartedness, his curiosity and his light have been my refuge. He’s changed my perception of the whole universe, literally. He’s helped me see the better parts of people, including myself. It stuns me when I think about the things I was overlooking, or not appreciating, before he arrived. It would be greedy for me not to share him. Like every crying mommy I saw in the hallways and classrooms today, I’m just prayerful that the world will be gentle with his precious, precious heart.

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Baby’s first punch in the head

We spent some time on the playground today after camp – a common ritual for us. Declan spent much of the time playing spirited games with a group of kids, during which a crater in the dirt became a massive, sucking black hole they had to escape from (Dec’s idea) which became a giant’s hand that they had to escape from (another boy’s idea) because the giant would throw them into the black hole.

After most of the kids were out of mortal peril, Declan approached an older, bigger boy who was mid-play and started talking to him, putting his hands on the toy he was using. The boy seemed to have a problem with this. After a few words of protest, he reached over and popped Dec on the forehead with a downward fist.

Declan took a step backward.

“Why did you do that?” he said, and retreated to another part of the playground as I started to swoop in, as did the other boy’s mommy. I saw Dec’s lip quiver as he walked away, blinking back tears. I asked if he was okay and he fell silent, running his fingers over the chain-link fence. After a moment or two of not responding to me, or to the other mom’s questions about whether or not he was okay, he turned to me, and asked, quietly:

“Mommy, was _____ trying to hit someone that was behind me?”

“No, I… I think he meant to hit you,” I said, honestly.

“Why? Why would he do that?” he asked, clearly hurt by my answer.

“I don’t know, honey… I think he was having a hard time finding his words. But I think it’s good you walked away. No one should ever hurt you. You can say ‘don’t do that’ or ‘stop.’ Or get a grown-up to help you. You have the right to keep your body safe.”

He didn’t want to talk to the other boy about how he felt, or say anything much at all to anyone after that. The other boy and his mother left. Dec walked alone in swervy lines and ignored a littler boy who came up to him and asked “do you need someone to play with?” the kind of invitation that Dec is usually receptive to. Finally, he dragged me by my hand, with a “let’s go mom.” And so we did.

We went down the street to get some lunch, coincidentally, at the restaurant where the other boy and his mom had also retreated. Declan pointed this out to me without any hint of fear or animosity, just another one of those “wow, that person likes something I like/does something I do” discoveries, which seem to be such an endless source of fascination for him lately.

I’m kind of glad that his reaction after his initial hurt feelings was in the spectrum of “maybe this didn’t have to do with me.” It’s not that I want him to be naive or easy to blindside, but I do think that when we believe that the world – or particular people – are out to get us, and we behave as though we believe that, we invite discord and bring unhappiness upon ourselves. We turn another person’s bad day or their poor communication skills or their lack of confidence or their aversion to orange shirts into something that’s entirely about us when none, or very little of it, actually is. On the whole, I think I’ve seen more damage done in reaction to perceived harms than I have in premeditated ones, at least in my personal experience.

The first year of preschool has taught me a lot. I know and care about and have tried to understand the behavior of a lot of young children. Six months ago, I think I would have had a hard time seeing another kid hit mine without wanting to throw that boy or girl over the fence. Today, I honestly felt hurt for both boys immediately, and for the other mom, who had been in the middle of sharing a bagel with me and telling me about some truly hard things that had been happening in their family when it happened. With so many people around, I hated that she might feel judged. (Moms judging other moms harshly or second-guessing their parenting abilities – I know it’s common fodder for the blogosphere, but I may have to take a crack at it sometime. It makes me so uncomfortable.)

Tonight, Declan amazed me just before he went to sleep, when he suddenly cracked open about his whole day. While the incident left him confused, he was more upset over an argument he had with a friend at camp that he’s known for some time.

“He doesn’t know how to use words, he just yells at me when he doesn’t like something. Today we were just arguing and arguing,” he told me. “Why do people get mad when they have different ideas? Why do people just want to be left alone sometimes?”

I reminded him about the little boy who asked him to play when he was feeling bad today, and how he didn’t really respond. I told him that sometimes people need time to figure out what they are feeling. Or that maybe they are feeling bad because of something we have no idea about – like they pinched their finger on the tool bench or had a nightmare the night before or are coming down with a bad case of diarrhea and aren’t feeling so good.

To which he responded: “why do people get diarrhea if they eat snow?”

Ah, life’s biggest questions, percolating daily.

We also watched this today and laughed a whole lot.

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The possibilities of a painting

My brother and I grew up looking at this painting. I remember laying on the shag carpet in the family room when I was a kid, staring up at it. It informed the ways that we each made our first pieces of art. I remember sculpting and drawing people that looked like these for as long as I could draw. My brother has, at different points, asked if we could share it, if it could live with him for a while. His wife has told me she’d rather we didn’t. She’s very content to see at my house and not hers. My husband wouldn’t mind if we saw it at theirs. I guess having an affinity for it must be genetic.

Declan was looking at it this morning. He decided the pink circle must be the moon. I asked him what else he saw in the painting.

“I don’t know, what is it?” he asked.

“Well, this a painting. A painting can have whatever you see in it,” I said. “There’s no right or wrong.”

My son, who has a touch of perfectionism that makes him want the right answer most of the time, seemed freed by this. He started pointing at different things, explaining what they could be. (I put several of his comments in notes of the image on flickr. If you click through, you can see how he describes it.)

In fact, this painting was made by a nun. It depicts her survival of sexual abuse. I never saw this in it. It never felt that menacing or sad to me. I was much older when I learned its origin, and still, I find a sense of strength and joy in it.

I’ve got to make sure I get my son to look at art more often. It’s liberating.

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Declan, hearts, preschool

Mountains of pink Play-Doh and heart-shaped cookie cutters filled an entire table in the classroom. It was Valentine’s Day.

Eyes bright, Declan went straight to the mound, tore off a small clump and rolled it into a ballish shape. He took his creation to a neighboring table, which was strewn with blocks. After carefully placing five or six of them on end like a miniature skyline, he gingerly set the pink tadpole on the tallest one. Then he went back to the other table, grabbed another clump, rolled it in his palm and set it on top of the next block. He did the same thing to another, then the next one, until his city was adequately crowned with squashy spheres of pink goop.

One of the teachers, who had been helping a student rinse purple paint off of her forearms and hands, did a slight double take when she saw what Declan was doing. She smiled.

“What are you making?” She asked him.

“Planets!” He told her. She smiled again and leaned in to examine his creation more carefully.

Where I half-expected admonishment that Play-Doh and blocks had to be kept separate, instead I found curiosity about, and respect for, Declan’s mind.

The operative word in the classroom seemed to be “yes.” And when it wasn’t, there were conversations about choices and consequences, not lectures. Kids simultaneously experimented in a sandbox, rode an indoor swing, sprinkled glitter onto heart-shaped construction paper. One girl toured the room in a princess costume. Moments later, she paraded through as a fuzzy brown bear. Declan made his way through the classroom and joined in as many things as he could find to do.

“That was a nice day for Declan,” he told me after we left.

A couple of people with older children told us that they had yet to match the consistently positive educational experience they found in this place. It’s not convenient to our home, but the simple lovingness toward children that I witnessed there told me that it will be worth the drive.

I was so relieved to find out today that there will be room for him in the fall.

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