Running with the Herd

My neighbor, Felicia, has been watching our kids during the 3 hour gap between me leaving for work and Jason getting home.  It’s been the perfect set-up.  Felicia lives 2 houses up and has a son 7 months older than Amelia and a daughter 7 months younger (there was a lot of fertility going on in our neighborhood for a while).  She was laid off a few months ago, so she’s generally available and can always use the cash.  Best of all, she’s my friend and I know that she takes good care of my kids.  It’s almost as perfect as when we have family in town watching the kids (usually Jason’s dad).  Of course, this way nobody is sleeping in our guest room and watching their own shows on our TV.

When I drop the kids off in the afternoon, the usual routine goes like this:

1.  Ring the doorbell

2.  Kids inside squeal and Felicia opens the door

3.  Kid’s scream “Amelia!” and all three kids run away toward the playroom

4.  Chat for a few minutes

5.  Handover of the baby and diaper-bag

6.  Slip out the door as quickly as possible before Z notices

For a long time, Z would panic when I left.  On most days I’d be stepping out the door as he started screaming.  As any working mom knows, it’s not fun.  It tears you up and makes you feel guilty for leaving.  I knew that the tears would stop as soon as I was out of earshot, but it still knocked me down a notch…every…single…day.

Lately Felicia & I had noticed that Z wasn’t crying when I dropped him off anymore.  Call it adjustment.  Call it familiarity.  Still, I was still gingerly stepping out the door every day praying that Z wouldn’t cry. 

Last week, we arrived at Felicia’s house and Z started wriggling in my arms.  I put him down so I could talk and Z was swept up with the other kids.  He didn’t walk, he RAN.  He ran back to the playroom with 3 kids much older than he.  No longer the baby.  Finally able to play with “the kids”.

Arms up, screetching with glee, running with the herd.

Mama Drama

I was recounting a story about some drama/gossip going on in one of the local mom groups I used to be involved with.  The drama wasn’t actually the story.  The drama was back-story which made the story I was telling even funnier/more ironic.

I was finishing the dramatic back-story when my friend Claire, who is single and child-free, looked at me and said “It never ends does it?  The cliques.  The drama. The gossip.  It doesn’t even end once you have kids?”

*sigh*

No Claire, it doesn’t.

Actually, a lot of times, it gets worse.

 

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All in a Name

I didn’t change my name when I got married.  It wasn’t a bold feminist statement, it wasn’t a commentary on gender identity in America, it wasn’t even a conscious choice.  I just didn’t do it. 

Like many of the life choices I make, after careful thought and consideration, the ultimate decision stemmed from laziness.  That’s why I breastfed (I didn’t want to have to wash bottles), that’s why I started using cloth diapers (I didn’t want to have to deal with buying diapers all the time).  Sure, these things may SEEM more labor-intensive, but to me they aren’t.  I know what I’ll put off:  washing bottles, buying formula & diapers and standing in line to change my name.

For a while, I though I would hyphenate.  Unfortunately, that would have required just as much time standing in line.  Then I thought that I’d probably change it when I had kids.  You know, so our family unit all had the same name.  Nope.  Then I thought that maybe it would be better to change it for when the kids were in school.  That makes for less drama at pick-up, right?  Not so far.

But, long story short, I never actually made the change.  And you know….it’s okay. 

I like my name.  It’s who I am.  It’s a Quebecois name to go with my dad’s family’s Quebecois heritage which ties me to all the Quebecois people in my native Vermont.  It sounds really nice with my first name.  Plus, I can write it with my eyes closed.

My mom changed her name, but many of her friends didn’t.  Many women I’ve known and looked up to have kept their names after marriage.  I just didn’t think it was a big deal.

I briefly considered changing because people constantly mispronounce my name and my husband’s last name is (I thought) fool-proof.  Jason told me not to bother because he’s spent his entire life correcting  people.  No matter how simple, people will ALWAYS find a way to screw your name up.

I hold absolutely no judgement against women who DO change their name.  Who am I to tell somebody what to do?  I don’t care what your name is….I’m not going to argue your FIRST name.  I just ask that nobody try to argue with me.  You wouldn’t believe the reaction I get from some people.  I’m not sure if they feel threatened or if they’re insecure of their own decision.  Maybe they think I’m some sort of feminazi terrorist hell-bent on destroying the world (I’m not quite sure how or why I would even do that).  

I’ve had people tell me that they did it for practical purposes, to avoid confusion.  They say that there have been MANY times (in the 1-2 years they’ve been married) that a different name would have caused trouble.  I’ve been married for 9 years and the biggest problem I’ve had was the old woman at Babies R Us being rude because she didn’t think we were married when we were starting Amelia’s baby registry.  The bank doesn’t even care when I bring in a check with a different name on it.  I’ve had people stress the importance of a couple “being a unit”.  At the end of the day, I’d much rather be “Jess & Jason” rather than “The Sumners” or “The Demers’ “.  We’ve been together for a hundred years, there’s no making us a tighter unit.   Some people have brought up the fact that I don’t have the same last name as my kids.  They’re my kids & I’m their mom, we all know that.  And, perhaps this is radical, Amelia doesn’t actually use my last name when addressing me.

Why am I going on and on (and on) about something I just said isn’t a big deal?  Apparently I’ve had some stuff knocking around in my head.  I started thinking about this yesterday when a friend posted an article about some bizarre study that says that a majority of people believe that a woman should be legally required to change her name after marriage.  I’m not going to post the link or even comment because, to be perfectly honest, I don’t believe that it’s accurate, reasonable or even real.  

Chris Martin famously commented, while defending the “weird” names of his children and others, “a name is just a noise, and if you like it, then f–k what everyone else says.”  It’s true.  A last name is a way to distinguish Jessica Demers from Jessica Tandy or Jessica Smith.  If Amelia wants to keep her name, fine.  If she wants to take her husband’s name, fine.  If she wants to take the surname “Bedelia” just for fun, um, okay. 

Like many arguments/issues/dramas we watch unfold every day, it’s all much ado about nothing….

First Day of School

Yesterday was Amelia’s first day of Pre-K.  I don’t think it’s quite registered with me yet.

Growing up, I don’t remember anyone going to Pre-K.  I figured Pre-K was the same as Pre-school, which wasn’t actually school at all.  Hell, it’s always been my understanding that Kindergarten was sort of optional.  When Amelia was born and I joined my local mom group, I listened to the mothers of older kids talk about pre-school and pre-k and “programs” and I likened it to those high pressure parents who buy their infants flashcards and stress stimulating the brain.  It was SO not my thing, so I just shrugged my shoulders and didn’t give it much thought.  Then, a couple years ago when Amelia was around two, her friends started going to “school” a couple days a weeks.  Their moms were all Stay at Home Moms, so I figured that the moms needed a break to do errands or clean or day-drink (who am I to judge).  Again, I didn’t worry about it.  I go to work at 4pm, why would I want to send my daughter away during the only time-frame I got with her?

And then, last year, the subject of PRE-K came up.  The more I heard, the more I felt like it was EXPECTED.  I don’t typically do things just because they’re expected, but I didn’t want to somehow short my daughter and compromise her education.  Georgia has a state-funded program, so I figured I’d look into it.  Besides, Amelia had never been in daycare before so I thought that maybe she should learn what to do in a class before she started “real” school. 

In March, after a bit of panic and confusion (I’ve never done this before and it seems like every county has their own weird system), I successfully got Amelia enrolled in a Pre-K program at a daycare near our house.  Like I said, she’s never been in daycare before, and of all my “mom friends” very few live in my town, so I had absolutely no idea what the quality of the school was like.  I hate to think that I just blindly jumped into something concerning my daughter’s education.  But, well, I did.  When I enrolled her, Jason had a million questions.  My response to most of them was “damned if I know”.  All I knew is that it looked fairly clean & okay (I saw some nasty front lobbies during my search), the program seemed official and the director seemed nice and pretty together.  *OF COURSE I researched the place.  I looked up their state inspection results.  Everything was legit.  I just did it after I’d filled out the paperwork.*   And besides, it’s not REAL school, right?

Last Thursday I went to the Parents’ Orientation for the program.  I was pretty excited, and a bit anxious, because this is completely new for all of us.  I needed to meet the other parents and see that they were as laid back about this as I was.  I needed some reassurance that everything was okay and that it really wasn’t that big a deal. I sat with all the other parents in the tiny little chairs and listened to the teacher, Miss Sabrina, say “This is not daycare.  THIS IS SCHOOL.”  So, apparently I was mistaken.  This IS a big deal.  She went on to talk about the schedule and the curriculum while all the parents nodded thoughtfully….and I sat in the back and hyperventilated.  *This is a bit of an exaggeration.  I wasn’t panicking that much.  I was just rattled by the official feeling of it all.   I’m pretty sure it was directed at the parents that see this as free childcare though…not the slacker parents that thought that Pre-K wasn’t real school.*

Over the weekend the family went out for our first official “Back to School” shopping trip to buy Amelia a backpack and some sneakers.  We talked her out of the Hannah Montana & Jonas Brothers backpacks (Jason cited the shoddy construction….seriously), but we did finally agree to the pink sparkly “Princess” bag.  You’ve got to pick your battles.

The Monday before she started, Amelia started going to bed early and we started getting up at 7am.  I’ve worked 4p-midnight since she was born, so Amelia’s never been well-acquainted with the pre-9am hours.  She did fine…I wanted to hurt myself.

The night before, Jason helped Amelia pick out the perfect ‘first day of school’ outfit (her awesome peace sign jeans and a new Nike shirt) and set her backpack out.  He reminded her to brush her teeth and put on PJ’s.  Then he suggested that she go up to bed and look at books until she fell asleep.  And my daughter, who has never had a set bedtime, was asleep at a time appropriate for a four year old.

The next morning (first day of school!), Amelia jumped out of bed and told us “I’m so excited to go to school!”  She ate breakfast, got dressed & put on her backpack.  She was READY!  When we got to the school, it was a flurry of children and parents and inappropriately large backpacks.  Our family checked the new student in & walked her down the hall to her class.  Miss Leah (the teaching asst.) met us at the door and brightly said “Hi Amelia!  Come look at your cubby!  Do you want to pick out a book to look at?”   And then she was gone.  Jason, Z and I stood awkwardly wondering what to do.  Finally we said “Okay…bye Amelia”.  She ran over to me with her lips puckered.  As I bent down, our lips barely missed each other.  Amelia looked at me, giggled, told me I was silly & ran back to the bookshelf.  Jason, Z & I walked down the hall and out of the building and that was it….

…..Amelia was in school.

People asked me all day if I’d cried.  I didn’t.  It surprises me a little…it DOES seem like something I’d do.  I think a part of me still isn’t sure if Pre-K is officially school.  I never went.  Kindergarten is still the big day for me-  it’ll be at the elementary school, there are real yellow busses involved.  I don’t know, maybe I should accept it, I’m the parent of a school-kid.  Amelia has a class and a teacher.  I have to drop Amelia off and pick Amelia up at school.

Amelia is really in school.

 

By the way, I have a very clear memory of having my picture taken on the first day of Kindergarten.  I was wearing a blue dress with a white collar (this actually could be inaccurate) and I was standing up straight, smiling, against a brick wall.  This is what I could get from Amelia:

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Oh yeah.

Golden Tooth

The kids & I took an impromptu trip to the Zoo today.  Amelia starts Pre-K tomorrow, and we were up early this morning (we’ve been trying to get up early so Amelia gets used to the routine), so when Amelia asked if we could go, I said Yes.  I think it surprised her that I agreed so quickly.  My only conditions were that we wouldn’t buy anything & we could only spend a couple hours there.  You wouldn’t believe how it cut down on begging, whining & dawdling…I may do this every time we go.

Because we were there pretty early, there were very few people there (SO NICE).  The only area that was a bit crowded was the Panda exhibit.  Three of the Pandas were inside, so everyone was packed into the 3-sided glass enclosure.

As we were walking out, Amelia asked “Mommy, do some people have golden teeth?”.  We live in Atlanta….it happens.  I tried to be subtle and look back to see if we’d passed anyone with a grill.  I didn’t see anyone obvious, but it seems like she must have seen it somewhere.  My daughter comes out with a lot of random stuff, but I feel like gold teeth are something that she’d have to see right then in order to comment. 

When I told her that, yes, some people do have gold teeth, she opened her mouth wide and said “Do I have any golden teeth?”.  Um, no sweetie, you don’t have any golden teeth.  And yes, she did ask about  golden teeth…not gold teeth.  Then she asked “Mommy, when will I grow a golden tooth?”  I had to break it to her that people don’t actually grow golden teeth.  She was bummed.  It was a little like the time she asked when she was going to turn brown and I told her that she wouldn’t.  Oh, the heartbreak of a 4 year old…..

I thought the conversation was finished….until she asked “Mommy…when can I GET a golden tooth?”

I said what any good mother would say.

“Right after you buy your mama a Cadillac.”

Thirsty Girl

I knew it was coming…The harsh words from my 4 year old.  I expected “I HATE YOU!” in the middle of a tantrum, not stone-cold composure.  Luckily it passed as quickly as it came.

This is the conversation I had with Amelia as we were pulling out of a Walmart parking lot….

Amelia: Mommy, I’m thirsty.  Let’s stop and get a drink.

Me:  No, we’ll be home in a few minutes.

Amelia:  But I’m thirsty.

Me:  We’ll be home in a  few minutes.  You can have something then.

Amelia:  It’s too late.  I’m already thirsty.  Let’s just stop.

Me:  When we get home.

Amelia:  (sigh) You’re not a very good mother.

Me:  Excuse me?

Amelia:  I’m sorry.  You are a good mother.

Me:  Why did you say that?  That kind of hurt my feelings.

Amelia:  I’m sorry Mommy.  You ARE a good mother.  I don’t know why I said that.  I’m just…thirsty.

 

By the way, when we got home she walked in and started playing….and never even asked for a beverage.  Go figure…..