Sunday, October 10, 2010

Deep Into the Fall

The leaves are changing in New England, and my dragon and bumble bee are ready for Halloween. Long gone are the lazy days of summer where the girls could shout out ideas of what they wanted to do each day. Miranda and Phoebe are now full-fledge school girls, five days per week.

Phoebe officially "phased in" after about 7 days of having Sonja in the toddler room at school. A few days later, I had the brilliant idea of bringing the kids to school on my post-call day off. I wanted to be a "good mom"-- you know, the type who actually gets to hold her kids' hands as they walk into school together, greet their teachers, say hi to the other parents, and kiss their kids goodbye. Miranda-- no problem. Phoebe-- wrapped her little arms around my neck and said "I want to go home. With you." Reasonable, for a child who hasn't seen her mother in 24 hours. I think my sleep deprivation had clouded my judgement. The teacher pulled a chair into the Toddler House, and Phoebe cowered in my arms for an hour until she suddenly decided she was ready to engage in the activity of class. I spent the rest of the morning trying to keep my eye open in the school lobby. I learned my lesson. Children-- especially Phoebe-- love routine. Don't rock the boat. I'm not sure how long it will take before I'll be able to drop Phoebe off at school, but certainly not now.

I do, however, pick the girls up from school occasionally. Some day I'll have to get Miranda on video tape. I stand on the sidewalk with the other moms, and when she comes out the door of school in the single file line she calmly scans the crowd. When she spots me (and I hear Sonja gets the same reception), she waves with two arms, smiles, and jumps as high as she can. "You're a rock star!" one of the other parents said to me.

For the first time, my children really seem to have a life of their own beyond me. True, I've been a working mother all along, but I always have had a nanny who gives me the full run-down at the end of the day. When I got stuck on the details of a Miranda story, Keri always filled me. Now, there are many mysteries. Somehow the girls got the idea that "I'll tell you later" is a good way to answer the question of "What did you do in school today?" Sometimes I get a report like "We played the Silence Game" or "I used the Love Light," but Miranda can't quite explain these experiences that are still new to her. Or maybe it's that she wants to guard the information, to keep it as her own, in this new and independent life of hers. And Phoebe-- well, her storytelling skills are still evolving. She always answers our questions, but the answers aren't always so reliable. So, the girls go off to school without us and have become their own people, learning and growing and changing where we can't even see them.

You learn a lot about your children when they go to school. I'm learning that Miranda is a bit shy and self-conscious about making friends. During the first week I asked if there was a playhouse on the playground, and she told me, "Yes, but there were kids inside, and they didn't let me in." Oh, the lessons of the playground. I just wanted to rewind that day and mediate the moment for her, telling her little classmates, "We share, friends"-- but I wasn't there, and it is Miranda's playground to navigate. I can just take a breath as she learns to guard her heart and stand up for herself on her own. Early on, when I asked if she had any new friends in her classroom, she told me she didn't know their names. But on Day #4, she told me "Evie was playing and I walked up to her and she smiled at me!" Now she tells me daily about her which friends she played with, and I know she has settled into comfort. That initial transition, though. . .I could feel her discomfort as she felt the pressure to make friends but wasn't quite sure how to do it without someone walking her through the process.

Phoebe's teacher (Pam, the baby-whisperer, you remember from the previous post) sent us a wonderful e-mail full of Phoebe stories. What a gift for these parents who hardly ever get to see the teacher in person! It is great fun to hear her analyze Phoebe's personality. It seems that Phoebe is very eager to help. When Pam says she's going to turn off the light, Phoebe says "I'll do it," jumps up, fetches the stool, carries it across the room, puts it down, climbs up, turns off the light, brings the stool back to its place, returns to the group, and sits down. When someone is hurt or crying, Phoebe is very concerned, getting the comforting "blue towel" or a favorite toy. Once when Pam mentioned to some children that they might slow down their rushed pace, Phoebe jumped up and said "Like this" and demonstrated an exaggerated slow walk. As Pam said, "Phoebe brings joy to the classroom."

Our challenges right now? Well, it pretty much resolves around two issues-- sleep, and working too much. We had a blissful month or two when we had actually settled into a bedtime routine where we could put both girls down for bed in their shared bedroom, kiss them goodnight, and walk out. So wonderful! But starting a week or two ago, Phoebe has started to cry again, and now she is verbal enough to insist with a sharp finger "I want you to sit right here" while she wails. She is inconsolable if we leave the room, and takes, oh, up to 2 hours to really fall asleep. Maybe worse, she has started waking up in the middle of the night again, too. More often than not one of us ends up in her twin bed with her at some point in the night. Not going in the right direction.

I think much of it has to do with issue #2-- that Phoebe doesn't see me enough. Lately, call seems impossibly frequent. Last weekend I left town for a wonderful reunion with two of my closest friends (my 2/3 of my life friends-- since age 12). While the time of renewing my spirit was fabulous, my Sunday night return meant starting a new crazy week without having replenished the mommy-time-pool over the weekend. Mark is being very kind when he gently says "Phoebe is missing her mom." I think the bedtimes have been dreadful when I'm not there. Phoebe has started to ask with a sad voice, "Do you have to go to work today?" There have been many times when I've thought that my schedule allows enough time for my kids and my work but just nothing else. Lately I don't feel that. It's not enough for my kids. Especially Phoebe. And so, we are working on solutions. I think I am getting close to one, and I am dreaming about balance.

More to say-- ballet class, Phoebe withdrawals, Halloween parades, my attempts at celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, ponderings on adoption. . .but I'll stop here for the night. I think I should blog more often (in my spare time).