Summer is not my favorite season. It’s merely the awkward pause between my two favorites, fall and spring. With
pasty white alabaster skin, a propensity to sweating even when it snows, and a general aversion to all things hot, sticky, humid and frizzy, summer is just not on my side.
But with a kid who’s about to turn five, I couldn’t hide from summer like I used to. This year I had to face it head on. She knew it was upon us and I couldn’t avoid it.
With the bulk of summer behind us, I accept that I am still looking ghostly and have had a bird’s nest atop my head since about mid-July, but we’ve managed to eek out some fun times. And I learned a few things too, some profound, some shallow.
1. I am a master of all games and activities that involve me laying down. Languid. That’s the first (and only) word that comes to my mind when I think of summer. I am not one to want to “get out there” and hike, bike, hit the beach, sail and go clamming all before lunchtime, at least not while it’s above 70 degrees. No, I prefer the more laid back activities such as reading and daydreaming under a tree, saving the more rigorous stuff for when it’s cooler outside. Napping is nice too, but I’ve somehow been unable accomplish this since September 2007. Too bad this all clashes with the tendencies of an energetic little girl.
So instead, I’ve mastered the ability to come up with games and activities that seem like we’re doing something, but we’re (I’m) really not. Cloud watching, playing patient, being a baby taking a nap while she’s a mommy (discovering she’s a much nicer mommy than I am), coloring, painting super small piggy toes… I’ve got it covered! (Don’t think she’s being shortchanged. In all honesty, most days, M seems to be on the less energetic end of kids her age and doesn’t love a bunch of running around, preferring instead to sit and play with dolls for hours on end.)
2. Clouds do not come in any shape other than elephant and ballerina. At least not above our house.
3. If you think Barbie shoes are a cruel joke because of their teeny tiny size, then Polly Pocket shoes are down right sinister. Here’s a recent revelation I had about toys and child development: just as your child masters doing something with her toys on her own, there is always a smaller version of that toy which once again requires your participation in playing. Exhibit A: dolls and doll shoes. When M was about 3 she had received an American Girl doll and couldn’t put the shoes on herself. So for about a year we helped her until she finally could do it. Then, when she turned 4, she received a Barbie and couldn’t put the shoes on herself. So for about a year we helped her until she finally could do it. In the last few weeks, Polly Pockets entered our realm. I already know what I’m doing until she turns 6. Seriously…have you seen these things?
Do they play similar dirty tricks with “boys'” toys (I use that gender-limiting description term very loosely)??? I better get an electron microscope and tweezers for the dolls and shoes that I am sure are waiting for us next year.
4. Polly Pockets are conducive to me accomplishing #1, thus I like Polly Pockets! We created this little scene in our driveway the other afternoon. I don’t think I even had to get up once.
5.Making something from nothing is so much fun. This I already knew, but it’s been remarkable to see the shift in M in her creative ability during imaginative play and in manipulating objects for different purposes. I mean, we’ve all see toddlers who will pick up a block and use it as a cell phone, so certainly all kids do this kind of thing and she’s no genius. What I mean is there’s something about this age where there is a marked shift. A nuanced ability to create more complex and visual things that go beyond paper and crayon. That campfire up above? I had suggested using some small sticks to make it, but otherwise the rest of it–the yellow chalk and red leaves–was her idea to make it a more realistic fire. I love watching kids’ brains work like that. Same with this portrait that she made of me–what started out as a silly time throwing pom-poms around the living room while I made dinner in the kitchen, ended up with her calling me in a few minutes to come look at what she “drew”:
From the red smile, pink tongue and crazy hair, it really made me stop for a minute and take in that she did this in about 5 minutes from a mess of pom-poms thrown on the floor. It’s moments like that when you realize that they are light years ahead of where they were even just a year ago.
6. A bag of googly eyes makes anything funny. Seriously, can anyone even argue with that statement?
7. Sometimes you do need a little princess time in your life. My stomach is so full right now…with all of the words that I must now eat. For a few reasons that I will not get into here, we decided to enroll M in a week of “party like a princess” camp at her dance school. She needed a break from a few things, people and places and once she caught wind of the fact that her dance school had such a thing, well, it was a no-brainer. Best investment we made all summer. Bar none.
8. I am ready for dragon slaying. My two major phobias, particularly before I had M: driving on the highway in the blind spot of semi tractor trailer trucks and other people vomiting. With kids, you have to get over that second one pretty much the second the cord is cut so that one has eased up a bit over the last five years, but I am still not totally cool with it. But when you are in lockstep with a semi tractor trailer on the interstate and your kid is getting carsick in the back….well. Needless to say, I surprised myself with my cool, calm demeanor and am pretty sure I am able to now fight some dragons because nothing’s stopping me now!
9. It’s getting harder to write on this blog the things that I want to write about. A few months ago, blogger/writer Lisa Belkin wrote a post on Huffington Post about when is it appropriate to share stories about your kids online. Since I read that post, which you can read here, I have sincerely struggled with what to put on this blog now that M is days short of turning 5, much less a year away from the realm of public school and a circle of friends, teachers and acquaintances that I will never know as intimately as those I do through her preschool and the few people whom read these posts now (most of them being people I know) and who will not have the complete context of her or our lives. You may have noticed that I did not post much this summer, and that is largely because the issue that she was going through for many months–which was related to her health and our collective quality of life in this house–doesn’t feel like something I should be sharing given her age. It was/is nothing life threatening or very serious, but it has impaired our ability to function on some day-to-day kind of stuff for almost 10 months, but particularly in these last few months. While it might have been something I would have freely written about when she was two or three, it just doesn’t feel right to do it when she’s at the ripe old age of five, as much as I wanted to for my own catharsis. Fortunately, things are getting better for her and we are all rounding the corner, finally. But going through it and feeling restrained about writing after reading Lisa Belkin’s piece has made me take a step back and rethink what, or if, I want to write on here going forward. I’m sure there’s a way to do it that does not require full disclosure into things that will place M in any kind of skewed light among her peers and others now and in the future, but that doesn’t mean I should do it. Nor does it feel fully authentic if I have to hold back on a blog that is supposed to be about parenting. And some things just seem to have a natural shelf life. All in all, I’m just not sure where this will all lead me yet. Hence the sporadic posts.
10. I’m glad she was late. M was born on September 6. She was “supposed” to arrive by August 31. August 31 is also the cut-off date for Kindergarten in our community, so she’s not going this fall. When I was pregnant with her, and so huge that the couch felt like an armchair, I was desperate to have her arrive. For the first few years of her life, I told myself that I would see about getting her into Kindergarten early because she seemed “ready” and I didn’t want her to be bored being one of or the oldest one in her class if we followed the cut-off schedule. Would she do OK this year if she were actually going? Probably (though it turns out it isn’t even an option to have the cut-off date waived in our city, so I wouldn’t even be able to find out, even if I wanted to). And that’s just it…I wouldn’t actually do that now. I know this now that I am standing here among friends who are sending their kids, some of them mere days older than M, to Kindergarten. I’ve gotten to this sense of “what’s the rush?”. For thirteen years (and longer if she decides to go to college) she will be in school, tethered to schedules, people, tests and other things that she generally has no control over. I’m in no hurry to put her there. I like watching her grow and learn through the bits of unrestricted time and play we have together at home, and I am glad I have one more year for that to happen. While I am constantly reminding her to “move it along” or “keep things going” when we’re trying to get out the door or clean up her room–she’s one to get lost in thought and distracted easily–coming into this world is the one time I am truly happy that she was running a little behind.
Happy Birthday, M! Five is going to be great!
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