Somewhere Out There

You know those posts about how social media can be very misleading, because people only portray the best versions of their lives? Well, I hope it's true. I hope that somewhere, there is some parent having the same crisis as we do. Because if not, that is really demoralizing.

Our main problem is this: homework. It is a weekly, if not nightly struggle. For E, everything is a battle: remembering assignments, gathering supplies, starting an assignment, organizing his work, completing the assignment in a timely fashion, and finally, turning it in. If at any point in the sequence, he comes across a bump in the road, the whole thing has the immediate, explosive potential of a toddler in a candy store at 9pm on a Sunday night.

And this is where I feel alone.

I've almost always felt rather like a trailblazer in my peer group as far as parenting my beloved, precious, firstborn child. That's what teen pregnancy will do, kids. No one else has kids the same age as you. But I have never felt the lack quite as poignantly. I guess it's just never been this...hard.

Funny thing to say after surviving a breakup, college, medical school, marriage, residency, and the birth of a second child, I know. But I feel more emotionally and physically drained by my 12-year-old's English project than by my 3-year-old's hour-long tantrums.

This is exacerbated by that all-encompassing morass of rainbow-flavored minutiae: Facebook. I am Facebook friends with several parents of children the same age as E, including some whose kids go to the same school. We aren't close friends, not the sort who bemoan our work problems or sisters' boyfriends over brunch on the weekends. So all I see of their lives is what seems to be an unending stream of positives in their preteen parenting journeys: volunteering, marathons, first dates, daddy-daughter dances, standardized test scores, sports trophys...the unending ways in which a child's life is marked as a success, and by which the parent, as a result, is successful. My feed is jam-packed with parents of infants and toddlers seeking parenting support and advice. But once your kid hits a certain age, you're supposed to have this all figured out, and the parenting community clams up.

I'm not looking for parenting tips. The Internet exists for a reason, and any number of resources are mine at the flick of a finger ("OK Google, how can I help my son remember to turn in his d*** homework?"). I've looked at this from so many angles ("Homework didn't used to be like this!" "It's a learning disability" "He'll grow out of it" "We're helping him too much, he needs to learn how to fail"). I am perfectly capable of figuring out a plan and following through. No, I'm looking for support. For people to say:

Man, homework is tough, and my kid has trouble sometimes, too.

My kid is such a smart alec; we keep having to take away phone privileges.

That project last night was really hard on our family, and I'm not looking forward to the next one.

My child is terrible at sports, I dread going to his games.

(The above examples are not all accurate representations of my own situation, so don't judge...)

The living, breathing supporters are out there, but it feels like a freaking unicorn search: my one actual friend who bears the whole burden of my agonized complaints; my mom, who I'm not even convinced ever did have these particular problems...yeah, that's it.

Most nights, like tonight, we are fine, as we discuss genetics calmly, and review algebraic equations with no tears (child or parental) involved.

But, once in a while, it'd be nice if people said what was the truth about life: that it can be hard, but that's OK. Because we're all in this together. Somewhere.


Older than her years

Just sitting here reading a book while A plays with her toys in the living room, when she announced: "let me go wake up those children." I'm now watching, bemused, while she awakens her father and older brother...


When the Terrible Twos are Over

Now you are three.

This year, you've learned so much that you're practically unrecognizable. It's easy to forget how much a toddler changes until you look back at the year before. Your dad runs a full-time classroom of one around this place, and what with colors and letters and numbers and such, it's making it seem like he really misses homeschooling your brother. You can finally ride AND steer your tricycle. You had the pedaling down pretty much instantly, but you could never get the idea that those handlebars were there for more than just comfort. You can run like the wind, and you know how to put your "running shoes" on all by yourself. There was great rejoicing when you finally consented to be potty trained, and you are out of diapers (nighttime doesn't count, it's hard to hold your bladder in your sleep, I totally get it). You are stubbornly independent, and voracious for knowledge, which keeps us on our toes with your barrage of "why" questions. Not going to fudge, here, I've totally replied "because I said so." It's not a cop-out, it's exhaustion. You are more logical than your developmental charts say you should be, and easier to reason with than your older brother (ahem!). You notice when we take a wrong turn on the way home...from anywhere! I couldn't do that until I was...well, still can't...

You have converted back to being a dress-wearer. You love wearing your gigantic pink tutu over everything (including nothing...), and are so proud of the fact that you can put it on and take if off by yourself.  I had to convince you yesterday that your pirate dress wasn't acceptable church attire. You dressed as Alice in Wonderland, Princess Anna, a fairy princess, Batgirl, and aforementioned pirate (complete with frilly pirate tutu, lest you should be concerned...) all within the course of your birthday month. When people asked me what you were going to be for Halloween, I just said you'd decide on that day. How could it be otherwise, when it means your world is full of possibility and imagination?

You still talk ALL. THE. TIME. Most of the time I can understand you now, but sometimes you still say absolutely nonsensical things. You converse with me over the breakfast table, and when you sleep in of a morning, I miss hearing your constant chatter, which is about absolutely nothing, but perfectly captures your delight in the world around you. This morning, I was trying to multitask, and you took me sharply to task for not being available to "talk" to you. I think your father's hearing has gotten worse, just from the steady stream of sound directed towards his ears. You have an extremely loud stage whisper that you usually employ in church, to the giggling delight of your brother. You have a maniacal laugh where you throw your head back and burst out laughing. It makes everyone around you giggle, but also scares them a little bit... You'll say something crazy, and then roll your eyes while declaiming, "I'm just kidding!" You didn't get that sense of humor from anyone I know...

You have warmed up to strangers (somewhat). You now realize that when you wave at someone, or smile cheekily, they will respond in kind, and you take every chance to scan the crowd for takers. This must be done from a safe distance, however, for the instant that contact is made, you are done with the new relationship, and have moved on. I surmise that you were suspicious of the world at birth, and are planning on doing more research into the subject before fully committing yourself to an opinion. Maybe when you're ten, you'll be capable of shaking someone's hand. You make Stranger Danger into an art form.  The same wariness does not characterize your love for the Animal Kingdom. You adore animals of all kinds, but especially Tesla. It's not even really true to call her "the family cat", or "our cat." She's your cat, and has been from day one. You will "play" with her, "talk" to her, hug and squeeze her, and she will allow your affection without batting an eyelash or swishing a tail. Either you are part cat, or she's your familiar...

You sing constantly - one would suspect you get that from your mother, but your father has plumbed previously-unrecognized depths, and loves to teach you new songs, or make up words to old ones. You nickname all of your lullabies: the Sunshine song, the Ariel song, the Cheeky song, the River song, the Dancing song.  You can sing in tune, and you add a hefty dose of dynamics to your vocal offerings. You like to create impromptu drums out of everything (much like your brother, I will add), and you notice when everyday sounds have repetitive rhythm or variable pitch ("it's making music, Mom!"). Your dad will turn on "ballerina music" at your command, and classical strains will fill the house, as you spin and twirl with your eyes closed, swept up in the sound. One day, my heart almost broke for joy as you sat beside me at the piano, learning your first notes. I have always hoped that we could teach you to love music, but I don't think you have need of teaching when melodies run in your veins.

You still fit on my lap and in my arms, a warm, compact parcel of curls and wiggles that smells of sunshine and sugar. You have learned to say "I love you", and you make sure that we know it, we who share this life with you, with liberal hugs, and kisses, and words of appreciation all around. And if I have one wish for you, it would be that someday you glimpse how joyfully, how deeply, how fiercely we love you.

Happy birthday, beanie.


Playing Favorites

Right as I was sitting down with A in her rocking chair, after all the pomp and ritual of the bedtime routine was over, she announced that she wanted to kiss her brother. Since she was already exhibiting signs of extreme fatigue, and we were already past the point of exchanging kisses with family members, I deflected by saying she could kiss him tomorrow instead, but that it was too late for tonight, expecting her to forget as soon as she was tucked in.
Naturally, five minutes later, she was still asking to kiss her brother goodnight. She then proceeded to explain: "I want to give him five kisses, because he's my favorite boy."
I'll give you one guess as to whether she won that round.
I'm a pushover, yes, but gosh, that level of cuteness is difficult to combat.


She is Mighty

I talked with my sister last night about our respective careers.  Listening to her talk, as always, I am stunned by her intelligence, her compassion, her kindness, and above all, her passion.

No one in my family lacks strength in our convictions, nor do we feature low on the ferocity scale. But my little sister is the most passionate person I know. She's always had the family reputation for taking up the cudgels in an unlikely someone's defense, and she has made a life out of that same fierce drive. Don't ever get into an argument with her, for you will likely feel not only stupid,  but as if you're the greatest monster on earth.  She speaks so eloquently, and with such fire, that I envision her legal opponents crumbling before her. I definitely would/do (it's very humbling, since I'm older, and therefore should be correct by age alone!).

I'm so proud of her, not only for the career she's chosen, but for her belief in it. She makes the world a better place in the best way she can.