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October 6, 2010
Last week, when I went to pick my son up from his after school program, one of the employees of the program asked to speak to me in person. She took me to the back of the room and showed me a picture that my son had drawn which showed a male person with genitalia. Knowing as much as I do about child psychology of a seven-year-old boy, my gut reaction was to giggle. But the seriousness of the matter on this employee’s face quickly made me stifle my laugh. She told me that because it was early in the year she was going to let it go…for now…but that if it continued, my son would be expelled from the program. I looked at her and thought, “You run a program for grade school children…do you know nothing about seven year old boys??” She obviously could use a refresher course.
Then I noticed that my son was sitting with a “friend,” whom I know from past experience, is an awful influence on my son. We even went so far as to have a meeting with the principal, requesting that my son and this other child not be placed in the same class for Second Grade. She honored our request. Every time my son spends even a small amount of time with this other boy, my son will begin to use inappropriate language or demonstrate what I term “toilet behavior.” We know it is the influence of this other child. Because when time goes by like a Winter Recess, the language and foul behavior diminish and then stops altogether. We have tried to talk to this child’s mother regarding this issue, but she never bothered to discuss it with her son and said that all of her son’s older male cousins speak and act like that, so there is nothing she could do. It was at that moment that we decided to limit the amount of time our son would spend with this boy. There is nothing we can do about lunch, recess, and the after school program, but other than those activities, our son does not see this other boy at all.
When I tried to explain to the employee that this other child has a history of instigating our son to do and say things he normally wouldn’t, the after school emplyoyee wouldn’t listen. Her response was, “This is his (the other boy) first day here and he has been playing very nicely today.” When I told her it was on school record that this other child has a history of bullying my son on the playground. The employee blew it off. All she cared about was the picture and the fact that if we didn’t get our son under control, he would be expelled from the program.
I next went to my therapist, who has extensive experience with grade school children, and showed her the picture. Her response was the same as mine. She wondered if any of these employees were trained, in any way, regarding child psychology of grade school children. She said what my son drew, albeit not very appropriate, was absolutely “normal” for a child his age. She then asked how my husband and I handled the situation with our son.
I told her that we all sat down together (which was a first in I can’t tell you how many months!) and asked our son why he drew the picture with male genitalia. Our son said, “It was an accident!” I calmly explained that spilling a cup of water because you forgot it was next to you is an accident. Or sometimes when I call my son my dog’s name or my dog my son’s name, it is an accident (yes, my dog is one of my children!). But when you draw anything, you have to think…even for a moment, what you want to put down on paper. I told him that what he did was not an accident. We also told him that we loved him no matter what he did, and nothing would ever change that. And we encouraged him to please be honest with us. When we point blank asked him if this other child asked him to draw the genitalia on the picture, he sheepishly said yes. Both my husband and I kissed and hugged him for being honest with us. We then tried to impart a little of a lifelong lesson in our son: We told him that there would be many times that other children, good friends or not, who would ask him to do things that were either inappropriate or wrong, especially if he felt it was wrong deep down inside of him. We implored that he think for a moment, if possible, (kids with Auditory Processing Disorder and ADD are neurologically wired to be impulsive), about what he was being asked to do and whether it was the right thing to do or not. Truthfully, my son has never drawn pictures of genitalia on anything he has ever created. In fact he usually draws scenery. In fact one of his paintings won an award! My therapist said we handled it beautifully and to just let the issue go from then on.
The following week, my husband went to pick up my son from the after school program and noticed that this same employee was having a serious conversation with the mother of the boy who made my son draw the inappropriate picture. My husband lingered because he wanted to see if this other boy’s mother would provide any further information about the incident that had occurred the week before. All this mother said was, “My son is in big, big trouble!!” That’s all we needed to hear. We now knew that the program employees knew that it wasn’t completely our son who was at fault. They now knew that this other boy does and says things that are just plain inappropriate in and of themselves.
My son was not punished for drawing what he did. We knew he was coerced. He would never have drawn anything like that on his own accord. But we do have consequences laid out for any future infractions that occur where we know he should have known better. And he is fully aware of this. But for goodness sake…would programs that work with a certain child population at least get a crash course on child psychology??? Sheesh!!
October 5, 2010
I have discovered the importance of recharging my batteries. This is not a new concept, but it is an unfamiliar one to me. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to trust someone else with the kids. It’s hard to put on makeup, heels and a pushup bra and venture out of the apartment. My energy is tapped by 2:00 in the afternoon. I wish I could have a date at 10:00am. And not a play date. But a real date.
But I promised myself I would get gussied up and go out. No matter how tired. No matter how fat I feel. So every Friday night my husband and I leave the boys with Lili and go out and play tourist in the Big Apple. I find I am happier for it. And here are a few of my favorite things we have done that make me feel young again:
Drinks on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Right now and only for a very short time they have the Big Bambu exhibit on the roof. It changes every time I see it, and it fills me with amazement watching the rock climbers continue to expand their art form. The drinks are good. The views are legendary.
Catching a Broadway show. There are two that really make me rock in my seat. The first one is Million Dollar Quartet. It’s the story of the night Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins got together for a famed recording session. The music is familiar, but so much more fun performed live. The Jerry Lee Lewis character is the most compelling and at the time the least known. I could have watched him all night.
The other Broadway show that rocks my world is Green Day’s American Idiot. I’ve seen it twice, and it fills me with that long lost teenage angst and reminds me of what it like to feel like I could ride the music anywhere.
A Culinary Picnic: The best picnic I have ever had consisted of a lobster roll from Luke’s Lobster. While standing in line, you’ll rub shoulders with some of the Upper East Side’s famous residents, so the wait is fun. And worth it. These lobster rolls are not drowning in mayo and sauce. No. They are pure, succulent, tender lobster with just a touch of celery salt. Go ahead. Get two. You’ll eat both of them. Pair the lobster rolls with a glass of Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay. Park yourself close to Strawberry Fields or Sheep’s Meadow for great people watching. Finish off your meal with some champagne and a pastry from Soutine Bakery. It’s one of those hidden gems on the Upper West Side. The cheese pastry is my favorite. Get one for breakfast tomorrow. Oh. And their pies make Alabama Grandmothers jealous. Might as well get one of those, too.
Progressive Dinners. There are way too many wonderful restaurants in New York, so why not do a progressive dinner? The Village is our favorite place right now. We go to three different restaurants and have appetizers and drinks. If you have the kids with you and the day is nice, hit kid-friendly TriBeCa. You can hop from sidewalk café to sidewalk café, and no one cares if you spill on the sidewalks.
I don’t enjoy shopping, so I found SoHo to be underwhelming. I have yet to find one of those wonderful boutiques in Manhattan that has nice, beautiful, well made clothing for a reasonable price. And it has to be reasonable. I’m a mom. Anything I wear is going to get ruined by milk, applesauce or spit up. If any readers have any suggestions, I would love to hear them.
I like to think of blogs as a dialog, so if any moms out there have suggestions, I would love to hear them.
And for the record, my very favorite way to relax and unwind is at 5am when Lyle and Wyatt are stirring for the day. I bring them to bed with us, and we listen to their sleepy breaths and their little cries as they brace themselves for the day. It’s an hour of sleepy, dreamy bliss, and it’s one of the magic moments of motherhood.
October 4, 2010
After spending almost three years at the same daycare center, Jayda started attending a new nursery school in September, and she’s clearly thriving there. Every weekday morning, Jayda paces around in front of the door, anxious for her school bus to arrive, and her bus driver (who teaches in the classroom next door to Jayda’s) tells me that Jayda always has a smile on her face. The folder Jayda brings home in her backpack every evening is packed with artwork and reports of the fun activities she enjoyed, and my daughter always bounds off of the bus with a happy face, and tells me she had a “great” day.
All of this thrills me, of course—and validates the fact that I made the right decision in regards to Jayda’s schooling. But ever since Jayda started her new school, she’s been tight-lipped about what goes on during her days there. In the past, when I picked Jayda up at her old daycare center, and asked her about her day, she usually mentioned a few girls whom she’d played with, arguments they may have had, and specifics about some of her activities there. Now, when I ask about her day, Jayda constantly puts me off and says she’ll tell me “later.” When I press her, she’ll grudgingly tell me that she “played” and “had a fun day.” When I ask her whom she played with, she always mentions her best friend (whom she knew before school started) and insists, “that’s it!” If I ask her whom she likes at school, she’ll mention her best friend again, and name a few of her teachers—but never any other kids. And I know my normally very social child must be playing with other children every day…but no matter how much I dig, she won’t reveal their names with me.
Sometimes I try to trick Jayda into sharing information with me; I tell her about my day, and when I describe my lunch, for instance, I casually ask about hers. She’ll tell me about the food she ate, but when I ask her whom she sat with at lunch, Jayda always insists it was only her best friend—and changes the subject.
Even though it’s clear to me that Jayda is enjoying school, I have, on occasion tried to make sure by questioning her outright. Some nights I ask Jayda if she wants to go back to her “big girl school” (which is what we call her new nursery school) in the morning, and she always says “yes.” And a few times when we’ve driven by her old daycare center, and Jayda has commented on it—or waved to the building—I’ve casually asked her if she wants to go back there; she always responds with a resounding “no!”
The other day, I received a newsletter in the mail from Jayda’s nursery school that mentioned some events that would be happening there in October. I read out loud to Jayda that they’d be attending a Fall festival in a few weeks—and that she’d get to pick pumpkins, go on some rides, and eat special treats on her school’s campus; she was thrilled. The next day, I mentioned the fair we’d be going to with our friends over the weekend, and I stressed how much fun she and I were going to have together. Jayda got very upset. With tears welled up in her eyes, she cried, “You’re coming? I don’t want you to come!” Huh? Confused, I explained that she had to have an adult with her at a fair, and that I wasn’t going to just send her with her friend and her friend’s mommy. She insisted “I want to go with my teachers!” Suddenly everything made sense; Jayda had thought I was referring to her school festival. I assured her that I was not coming to that—it was just for her and her classmates, and her teachers—and Jayda smiled with relief. And then things became even clearer to me; nursery school is Jayda’s own private place. Her mornings, evenings, and weekends are spent with her mommy—and I’m intricately involved in every facet of her life—but school is just for Jayda. If I have any concerns or specific questions, I can always talk to Jayda’s teachers, who are lovely and very accessible. But from now on, I’m not going to press Jayda for information. If she wants to share details with me, that’s wonderful. And if she has any concerns, she knows I’m always here to help. But if she doesn’t want to talk about her days, she deserves her own space—and her own special place—and I’m so glad she’s found that at her school.
October 3, 2010
The first leg of (the three-year journey of) my new older mothers project is nearly completed. It is titled NURTURE: Stories of New Midlife Mothers and it features the words and photos of 25 (out of 50) new older mothers from across the country. In November, it will open as a traveling art gallery show. I hope it will close as a book.
These women subjects, ranging in age from 41 to 68, and coming from a variety of faiths, occupations, races, and circumstances represent nearly every conceivable family unit. Their determination, willpower and perseverance to get/have/obtain their children is the common denominator in the show, and reflects the amazing desire of many women to both mother and/or procreate. The convergence of these two aspects has birthed the very appropriate title: NURTURE.
Although my original intention was to gather a collection of iconoclastic (life) stories, it has become so much more: a project about gratitude, right intention, connection and giving back. The project reflects truths, honesty and the sheer grit of being a mother. It is a study into new older motherhood, compassion, nurturing and the overriding power of love.
In short, this entire experience has changed me. I expect it has changed the lives of some of these women who in voicing their “truths” have helped heal themselves, and will hopefully help countless others. I started this project filled with many questions for others; it turns out that all along I was just looking for me.
My project was intended to delve into the following questions: Why did you do this now? Would you do it again? How do you feel about new older motherhood? Why do you think this group is rapidly increasing in numbers? How do you think society views you?
I learned that most new older mothers never expect their lives to turn out this way. Many of us are just grappling with the reality of daily existence – whether it involves struggling with menopause while raising young children; parenting two generations; experiencing midlife in a differing way than our own parents did; or readjusting our own expectations of what we expect middle age to be. To add to the mix is society’s view of all of this…………………….
While we’re just plain living, to others we’re pioneering spirits forging a new path and creating a new road for future generations of women. While all mothers often say, “Huh?” in response to their rapidly and unexpectedly changing lives, many of us as older moms say the same thing, only we really mean: How did this get this way, what do we do now, where do we find comfort and nurturing and solace? The most important question, which is a constant reminder in our daily lives, is: How will we cram what used to be 40 or 50 years of living (with our children) into 20 or 30? For us, there really is a goalpost, a discernible ending to our great journey – much greater now than in our early adult years. For us, living can only be in the moment, right here and right now.
For us, too, the lessons we impart to our children have that much more importance for us, and maybe more intensity to them. For us, life isn’t to be wasted, but to be savored. Not that other people don’t think this way. But for many of us who pursued this aspect of our accelerating lives with a vengeance, defying age, circumstances and in some cases, gravity, this is our very foundation. This, too, is what defines us and sometimes separates us in relation to the entire spectrum of mothers. So, to all of the midlife mothers around the world, I celebrate you, embrace you and welcome you into this new existence. I’ve welcomed me, too.