Friday, October 23, 2009

The long and winding road

One hour.  That's how long it took for me, Henry, Leo to walk a loop around our neighborhood today.  It's a walk that would normally take us 15 minutes, with both kids in the stroller and me in "exercise mode".  However, today Henry wanted to walk himself, and not ride in the stroller.  I had grand plans of pushing them around the neighborhood quickly, getting the workout I desperately needed in enough time to get back for the bus while Leo slept in the stroller. But it was a beautiful day, and we left the house with time to spare, so I let him walk.

We started out slowly and then moved to a crawl.  Henry stopped to pick up every purple leaf, and literally smell every dying flower along the way.  He stomped on an acorn, and then plopped himself on the sidewalk to examine what was inside it.  He peered through the neighbor's bushes to see what was behind them, and touched the ReMax balloon on a "for sale" sign at the bottom of the street.  I found myself checking my watch every five minutes, constantly saying "Henry, hurry up, we don't want to be late to get Griffin at the bus."  But there was no hurrying him.  He meandered up and down the street, asking questions about what the street signs said and stopping to listen to the birds "singing to each other".

As I was about to tell him for the 40th time to hurry up,. I stopped myself and just watched as he chased after "the biggest leaf I have EVER seen, Mommy!".  What was I hurrying him up to do?  We had plenty of time and Leo was quietly sleeping in the stroller like I planned.  What was the rush?  Tim and I had just spent that morning meeting with a child development psychologist, talking about working together to help Henry with his behavior issues.  The psychologist wanted to hold off on any testing until Henry was four, because he felt that Henry was getting help already in school and that four was a good age to do the kind of testing that he felt Henry needed.  I wanted the testing done now, so I could find out what was wrong and get the help he and I needed at home as soon as possible.  I was looking for some sort of magic - someone to tell me you need to do this, this and this and everything will be ok.  What the psychologist told me was that there was no immediate solution.  There was a lot of hard work that we needed to put in every day to be able to see the results we wanted, and that it was work that would be ongoing for a long time.

As Henry and I continued on our way, I realized that this walk was an example of what we needed to do as a family to help him and us all.  I needed to put aside the constant need to keep moving - whether it was on a walk around the neighborhood, or always running errands to keep him out of trouble in the house - and just put in the effort and time to sit with him and find out what makes him tick.  For that hour that we walked, things were perfect.  He listened.  He held onto the stroller when we crossed the street without having to be told.  He laughed and sang and left Leo alone so he could sleep.

We finished our loop of the neighborhood and stopped back at the bus stop.  He turned to me and said "Mommy! Can we do that again?"   I promised him we could.  If he was willing to put in the time, so was I.

Monday, October 19, 2009

You say it's your birthday

Dear Leo-

Happy first birthday to you! It's become a tradition of mine that I write a letter to my kids the day before their first birthday, so here is my letter to you. Well, I say it's a tradition, but I can't really remember if I wrote one to Henry. I think I did. I know I wrote one to Griffin, but I'm not sure where it is. (my confusion will unfortunately sound all too familiar to you as you get older, I'm afraid...) Anyway, I wanted to make sure I wrote one to you.

To say this has been an eventful year would be an understatement. You were certainly eager to join our family - you even tried to come three weeks early, but those doctors at the hospital made you wait a little longer. But even they couldn't keep you from coming when you wanted to - two days before your scheduled arrival you came into our life. You made an immediate impact on me, your dad and your two brothers. We were all drawn to you instantly and as you've grown this year you've brought us all closer together. I think your dad and I would agree that although we've had to play "zone defense" instead of "man-to-man" with the three of you, it has made us work better as a family and as a team (you will find as you get older that I LOVE the sports analogies!)

This has been quite a year of firsts for you. In addition to the usual firsts that happen in a baby's life, you've had a lot of new things happen to you. You were born with your first two teeth. You had your first airplane ride to California to meet your great-grandmother. You went to Storyland for the first time (this is our family place, so your first time is significant!) You were our first kid to be able to eat, well, anything, and consequently, you were our first kid to be on (and remain on) the growth percentile chart. We also made our first trip to the emergency room with you - thanks to a bump on the head after you fell out of your crib. I think your dad was hoping you'd be the first one to sleep in your crib all night long before the age of one, but unless you do that tonight, that one will have to remain just a dream.

Even though you are only one, you have grown into your own already. Your dad and I watched you this year, wondering if you'd be more like Griffin or like Henry. Your two brothers are as different as night and day. I always describe them as one kid who likes to avoid the puddles, and one kid who goes out of his way to jump in them (I think you'll be able to figure out who is who). We wondered if you'd take after either one of them. Truth is, even at age one, you are...well, you. You are your own individual. You have a distinct personality that is neither Griffin nor Henry, and it's not just about the curly hair. We can't wait for these next years to see what kind of boy and man you become.

Right now we will try to enjoy every moment. I love how you say "dada" every time your dad enters the room. I love watching you try to wake Griffin up when he's grumbling on the couch before school, and I love watching Griffin read stories to you on the floor. I love listening to you laugh with Henry as you both crawl around with cars on the floor singing the "Hot Wheels" theme from the Wii, and I love listening to Henry pretend to read you stories in his room. And I love how you grab me on the shoulders with your little fingers, giving me tiny squeezes for hugs and smashing your face into me for kisses.

I know these moments won't last forever. I know there will be a time, all too soon, when you'll be too big for all these things. But I will remember this year forever. Happy First Birthday Leo. Thanks for completing our family.

Love, Mom.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Uncharted Territory

First of let me start by saying, I realize that Sarah is only 4 and has only been in school for a little over a month. I also realize that she is very headstrong and has trouble listening at home from time to time. She is very chatty and very easily distracted. I think she could be called a trouble maker at home.
Having said that, she is a beautiful girl who is very smart and can be incredibly focused. She can write very well, she can do a 100 piece puzzle, she can color and stay in the lines, she is becoming quite the artist. She has an incredible imagination, creating games to play with Emma. She is incredibly active and loves to run, jump, dance and gymnastics. Her enthusiasm for things is bottomless, she can get as excited about a receipt as she can about a beautiful new doll. It's quite contagious. It can be pure joy to be around her. I love her with all my heart. All of these words and descriptions are mine and I'm not afraid to say that she can be quite a handful and sometimes I don't know what to do with her.
Her preschool teachers give out awards for good behavior every day. She was so proud of them! But then last week she didn't get one and she was very sad and cried in the car telling me about it. Then it happened again, to much talk during circle time. I just said "Try harder tomorrow and hopefully you will get one. It's up to you, it's in your control."
On Wednesday, not only didn't she get an award, she got a note sent home about her behavior, she was talking during circle, argumentative with her friends and she growled at another teacher on the playground. I tried talking about to her about it but couldn't quite get a straight answer from her about what had happened. I was upset, but figured she was having a bad day. Everyone is allowed to have one, I wasn't happy but thought it was an isolated incident and she would have a better day on Thursday.
On Thursday, I thought about her all day and sent all my good thoughts and wishes to her. I just didn't want her to get another note. When I picked her up she came running out with an award that said "Better day" I was so relieved. Although while Sarah was telling me about her day, I found out that she still had to sit in time out during circle. My heart sank a little. But she seemed so proud. So I let it go.
So this morning when we driving to school, I told her that if she had a good day and didn't have to sit in time out, when she got home she could have a treat. Not sure if this was the right thing to do, but I so desperately wanted her to not get in trouble today. She thought that was a good idea. So I left her feeling positive that she was going to have a good day.
When I picked her up, she came running out of her classroom and she said "Mommy it's a pattern, note, reward and note." (which I thought was very clever, but still my heart sunk). Today her note said "Talking to much during circle and not listening to Miss Lynne." I tried to talk to her about it, but strangely she didn't want to talk anymore.
I'm just not sure what to do about it. Do I do anything? Is she just becoming so comfortable there that she is acting like she does at home? It just hurts my heart that someone else is cross with her or thinks bad thoughts about her. I know this is a lesson that I need to work on for myself. She clearly loves school so these notes and time outs are not affecting her outlook on school. I'm so glad about that. Am I just projecting my own insecurities on to her? Am I worried that her behavior will reflect badly on our parenting? The answer is probably to both these questions. This is another thing that I need to work on for myself. Conversely, since she started at school, she has done so much better at home. She is listening better, her temper tantrums are way down and things are good around here.
So I'm going to continue talking to her about it, but are there consequences for her at home if she behaves badly at school? Or is to early, it is only preschool. I would like to give her positive reinforcements when she has a good day. I feel badly that already at age 4 she doesn't want to talk to me about it. I want her to be able to talk to me about anything, I guess this is yet another thing I really need to work on now so it doesn't get worse as she gets older. I just feel like I'm in uncharted territory, I don't know quite how to proceed. I don't want her to get labeled as a troublemaker and have that affect her great attitude toward school. She will always be my baby girl and I want the world for her. She is becoming her own wonderful self though and I think she will always be on the chatty side, that she did get from me.