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Archive for November, 2011

It’s Not Christmas Yet. I think.

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I had a great visit with my Florida sister, her husband and their three beautiful daughters. I love when the cousins get together. They had their share of spats, but they all enjoyed the stay too. The weather was fantastic — nice enough for the kids to play and picnic outside. We ate well and within reason (ahem, in my opinion).

One of the most striking aspects of the trip and the days leading up to it is that my kids and nieces seem confused about where Thanksgiving ends and Christmas begins. Or, should I say where Christmas pauses for Thanksgiving and then begins again?

About a week before Thanksgiving, Jay asked if we could “set up” for Christmas. I told him that we would decorate after Thanksgiving because I can handle only one holiday at a time. Last Saturday, he and Mae started writing out their wish lists, and chica is up to 50 items.

On the eve of our trip to Florida, Jay and I stopped at the pharmacy. Of course, there were Christmas decorations galore and all kinds of things associated with the holiday were on display. Jay started whining, saying that it’s Christmas and we need decorations. I told him that it’s too soon. He told me that he had seen other houses with decorations. I had to think about that for a minute. There are houses in our neighborhood where it seems the residents leave Christmas lights up year round. It’s also possible that there are some households where zealous adults have followed the retailers’ lead on getting an early start or anxious children have brow beat their parents into decorating. I didn’t bother to argue with him. I told him that we’d decorate after we returned from Florida, end of discussion.

My sister and I took the kids to a children’s museum on Wednesday, and there were lights, green garland and “‘Tis the Season” signs outside of the entrance. The kids were skipping and singing “Christmas, Christmas!”. The next morning, on Thanksgiving day, my four-year old niece came to me with a sad face. She said, “Is Christmas gone?” I told her no, that Christmas will come later. I reminded her that it was Thanksgiving. L’s mind was elsewhere. She asked, “Why didn’t I get any presents?” I told her that she may get presents for Christmas, but not Thanksgiving.

We went to see the Muppet movie on Friday. Fortunately, it’s a sleepy mall and we weren’t overrun by shoppers. Looking at the decorations as we entered the mall, L said, “It’s Christmas!” Jay told her that it wasn’t. They went back and forth a few times. Finally, I told them they were both right: it’s the Christmas season but not Christmas day.

I know Jay will be on my back about “setting up” shortly after we pull into the driveway this afternoon. We have actually two other celebrations before we can get to that. Today is Hubby’s birthday, and our 12th wedding anniversary. Two grand occasions. Hubby is even more awesome than he was 12 years ago. I’m grateful for him and everything he’s been to me. So, we have to honor him first.

We’re in Atlanta, awaiting our last flight, which I’m sure will go as smoothly as the others went. Then, it’s celebration time for the rest of the day, and tomorrow begins the race to the “C” word. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe . . . .

Up and Away

The kids and I will be leaving in about an hour to spend Thanksgiving with one of my sisters and her family in Florida.

What was I thinking? Flying with them and leaving Hubby here? I don’t remember my exact rationale for planning this way. I think it had to do with saving leave hours to ensure that we have enough to cover winter break, spring break, etc. Oh, well. It’s too late now. I hope and pray that the kids will be their best selves on the flights down. We have their game systems, books, and snacks. Hopefully, we’re traveling with kid-friendly passengers and crews.

Of course, Mae and Jay have been super excited for weeks. Mae has been saving her money for the trip and she has a whopping $29.21 for souvenirs. We’ll see how many times she pulls out her purse or makes me reach for mine. ūüôā

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“I Feel Left Out”

20111117-215455.jpgYuck. Mae told me this evening that she hasn’t been getting invitations to birthday parties, sleepovers, and play dates. She said the girls especially don’t invite her and she feels left out. There is no point in telling her not to worry about it. It’s a big¬†deal and it will continue to be a big deal for her. So, we talked about it for a while before I offered her a possible solution.

I told her that I felt bad that she hadn’t received more invitations and that I hope she will be invited to something soon. I promised her that I’ll do my best to see that she can attend. “About that,” she said. “We haven’t talked about sleepovers in a while. Why did you say only teenagers can have sleepovers?” I said that a whole ago because I really did believe that her age group is too young to spend the night away from home unless it’s with family. I told Mae that I just want her to be safe. She responded, shoulders up, hands out to the side and open to the ceiling, “Adults will be there to watch the kids. You can volunteer to stay too.” She has an answer for everything.

I had my first sleepover — or slumber party, as we said in the olden days — when I was a high school junior or senior. It just wasn’t something we did.

I relented and told Mae that if she gets invited to a sleepover, I won’t say “no” automatically. I’ll give it some thought and see if there is a way to make it work.

Mae said that she wants to go to K’s birthday party next Tuesday, but she wasn’t invited. I reminded her that we leave for Florida on Tuesday¬†morning. Then, Mae said that she saw K’s mom at early care drop-off this morning. ¬†“I told her about my issue. I told her that I feel left out. She said that [K]’s going to have a big¬†party soon and I’ll get an invitation to that.” Mae sounded hopeful when she said the last sentence. The good part of this is that I’m reassured once again that this is a girl who is capable of addressing an issue head on. In some ways, I don’t worry about her ability to take care of herself when she goes out into the world later in life. It’s the here and now that I worry about. Was she being mouthy, disrespectful, confrontational? The moment had to be awkward at best for K’s mom.

I told Mae that invitations are nice to get, and sometimes they’ll come and sometimes they won’t. I reminded her that she has gone to a couple of birthday parties this year that were fun. (It turns out that all three were for male classmates, though I didn’t draw attention to that).

I told Mae that the best thing she can do to increase the chances she’ll be invited to an event is to show her friends how nice and polite she can be. I reminded her that she threw a toy at a little girl last week, and I told her that that girl’s mom may never invite her to a party. I hated to go there because I knew it would bring her down, and her face did indeed change. I told her that if another kid did something hurtful to her, I might not want that kid to come to our home. I asked if that made sense and she yes. I also told Mae that her classmates will notice how she treats others even if she is kind to them. ¬†They may then go home and tell their parents what they saw, just as she has told me about instances where some of her classmates have made poor choices. ¬†It’s a tough lesson, and she’s a tough kid.

I knew this time was coming. Mae’s preK-4 teacher warned me that girls would become less forgiving around 7 or 8 years old and that they would begin to form cliques. ¬†Mae has confirmed this several times when she’s told me that the girls in her class won’t play with her, and that there is a clique among them. ¬†Mae is a fun-loving, energetic, creative, and smart kid. ¬†She loves¬†play, and I think she’s gotten better at it over the past year. ¬†Until recently, I tried to keep her out of social situations until she could develop better self-control. ¬†Now, it feels too late, as if she’s been branded and there is no going back or getting over the stigma.

When I picked up Jay today, a fellow preschool mom gave me an update on last night’s meeting with the principal and school nurse about children’s sexual awareness. ¬†She said that at one point the conversation turned to how the school handles children who have shown a pattern of inappropriate behavior, including a little boy who has become known as a “hitter.” ¬†There are two “offending” children in the class right now, neither of whose parents were at the meeting, which meant that those present could speak freely. ¬†It’s interesting and scary to hear about the perspectives of parents whose children are on the receiving end of bad behavior. ¬†Mae wasn’t the subject of conversation but I kept thinking of her and how others might talk about her. ¬†Has anyone asked the principal to consider expelling Mae? ¬†What if one day there is a school meeting about something she has said or done? ¬†Would I go and listen to defend or explain her? ¬†How much is too much to ask of other parents in terms of patience, understanding, tolerance, empathy?

I know.  One day at a time.  And, everyday look for ways to help her be more successful at every possible thing.

When and How Should Schools Teach about Sex?

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As if the Penn State sex abuse allegations are not spooky enough, Jay’s preschool class has a scandal of its own. Yesterday, allegedly, one little girl touched another’s vagina while she was using the bathroom. Word spread among the parents and there are at least some parents who are disappointed with the school’s response. Supposedly, there was also an earlier incident where the accused toucher wanted to play girlfriend-boyfriend with the same little girl.

The principal visited the preschool class today and talked to the children about their “private parts.” I learned of the principal’s class visit from two moms in the parking lot this evening, one of whom was there.

Also, the school principal sent home a letter today informing preschool parents that a meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow to talk about children’s sexual awareness. The school nurse will lead the meeting. The letter states that she will discuss when and how to talk to your children about sex and sexuality.

An educational talk with the school nurse seems like a sound approach to me. I didn’t hear first-hand the principal’s talk, so I’ll reserve opinion on whether it was appropriate. The moms in the parking lot seemed to have expected more of the principal, the teachers, and the mother of the accused toucher.

Beyond counseling the parents and their daughter, what are the school’s obligations to other parents and students? I know I can be naive sometimes, and I hope I’m not under-reacting. I would like to think that Jay and his classmates are not at risk because the accused knows better now due to her parent’s intervention or the school’s or both. Of course, as the parent of a second-grader who struggles with understanding and respecting boundaries, I also know that there is a chance that the behavior will recur. However, I like to give the benefit of the doubt. I don’t plan to attend tomorrow’s meeting. I have a feeling that it will be a heated or tense environment, and I’m trying to have a drama-free week. I hope there is a positive outcome and that I don’t later regret skipping out.

No!

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TGIF! I’m so grateful this week is over and ending with a holiday on top. And, I’m grateful to all veterans of the U.S. Armed Services not only for this day off, but also for their service and sacrifices.

Even with only four days of work and school, the week was long and trying. Mae started Monday morning with a meltdown in early care followed by episodes of arguing with her teacher and classmates during the day. Her teacher emailed me in the afternoon to tell me about the arguing, which ultimately resulted in a shortened recess for Mae. She’s been arguing a lot more at home in the past few weeks too. I’d noticed it and had been trying to figure out how to address it. It’s beyond her trying to be persuasive or pressing her point. It’s a quick response of “no” as soon as she hears an instruction or anything that she finds objectionable, which is a lot of stuff. It’s “no” in an automatic, toddler way. This is frustrating and annoying beyond measure. I didn’t realize until Monday’s email that it had been happening at school too. Poor teacher. As I talked to Mae about it during the week in a moment of calm — when she is oh so rational — she said with a smile that sometimes she says “no” as a joke or a test. That’s good to know. Did it make me feel better? No!

I emailed Mae’s therapist to schedule a phone call early next week and put this high on our list of things to talk about at the next visit.

Tuesday was a mixed day at school for Mae, though better than Monday. Wednesday started poorly with Mae throwing a toy at a classmate after a disagreement. Later in the day, she knocked a ball from another classmate’s hands because she didn’t like that he wanted her to stop squeezing a toy that she knows makes an annoying sound. I also learned on Wednesday that Mae had been issued an after-school suspension for an incident the previous Friday where she had attempted to pull a friend from a seat that she felt belonged to her. As we discussed all of this Wednesday evening, Mae told me that she “had to” pull K from the chair because she had been sitting there first. I was stunned. I asked Mae if she tried anything else, and she said that she had asked K to move and that didn’t work. I asked if there was anything else she could have done, and she said very quietly, “Tell the teacher.”

So, her emotions have been getting the best of her lately and she’s been more strong-willed than we’ve seen her in a while. I think this is a hump that she’ll get over and then get back to some of the growth and maturity that we had been seeing until recently. She had drop-in aftercare at the school on Monday, and the aftercare teacher, who had not seen Mae in a while, said to me at pick-up, with eyes stretched, “She’s growing up. She’s more mature.” So, I know she’s capable. I need to dust off some of my parenting books and give myself some refresher lessons to help her get back on track.

Jay has been doing well. His reading has been coming along nicely. The best part is his enthusiasm about learning to read. You can see the pride on his face and hear the excitement in his voice when he figures out how to say what he sees on the paper. Mae learned how to read without much help and gained fluency so fast that we didn’t get to experience the learning process in this way. It’s amazing how they are each giving us gifts in their own way.

My highlight of the week was my very first real mediation as a mediator, not the person in the room trying to keep management from doing or saying something crazy. I was nervous beforehand and it helped to have a cool co-mediator and non-hostile parties. So, it went better than I expected and I’m relieved.

I’m on my way now to visit a dear friend in Brooklyn, reclaiming the mini-momcation that I postponed in July. Our weekend itinerary includes only restaurant visits and one one-mile run, to which I reluctantly agreed. The run may well turn into a walk for me. If I can’t talk my way out of it, I might just go Mae on my friend and say “no!”

And, on a final note, I cannot end without commending the Penn State Board of Trustees for saying no to their school president and head football coach. May the affected children and their families soon find peace and may their suffering quickly end.

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