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Happy Birthday to my Son

To My Big Six Year Old,

Today you are six. Six is big. Last year, when you turned five, I thought five was big, but I was wrong. Five was the end of an era. Five was the end of being able to tell people your age while using just one hand. Five was graduation from preschool. Five was starting Kindergarten. Five was learning to write your address and phone number. Five was big, but six is bigger.

Six will probably be the year when you master tying your shoes. (I know you think you know how to do this already, but it doesn’t count if it comes untied two minutes after you tie it. Don’t worry, you’ll get there.) Six will be the year when you learn to ride a bike with no training wheels. You’ll probably lose your first tooth when you are six. There is a lot to look forward to when you are six. But I don’t have to tell you that, you’ve known that for months. You’ve anticipated this birthday since your friend turned six in May.

It has been a fun year to be your mom. You are at an age when every new thing excites you. May you always embrace new things with the same level of excitement as you do today. You are a friend to everyone. May you never lose your ability to find something good in everyone you meet. You want to play every sport you learn about. May you continue such a lifestyle into your adulthood; you’ll never regret staying active.

Thank you for our conversations. Thank you for sharing your hopes and dreams for your life. Thank you for telling me about walking on the balance beam in gym class. Thank you for telling me who sits at what table in your class. Thank you for telling me how you got in trouble for talking even though there was no way I’d ever find out that it happened. I am very aware that the day will come when I can no longer take you out to Panera and expect a full report of everything going on in your world. I hope the radio silence between us won’t last for long. I pray that you’ll always be able to come to me to unload your thoughts. I promise to try to just listen and only give my opinion if you ask for it.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves, aren’t we? Today you are six. You are officially closer to age ten than you are to being a newborn. Anyone who has had a conversation with you lately would not be surprised by such a statement. You are wise beyond your years. At least according to your mother.

Because in my eyes you are still the little infant I held in my arms six years ago while watching the Super Bowl in the maternity ward. You are still the little baby who could sit and stack cups for hours, laughing every time you knocked them down. You are still the toddler so eager to help his mommy care for two little babies just home from the hospital. You are still the preschooler who can barely write his name. You are the brave kindergartener walking into school on the first day with two skinned knees but no tears. You will always be those memories to me.

Thank you for making it so awesome to be your mom. I love you.

Love Always,

Mom

He Wore My Gloves

A few mornings ago, my son wore my gloves. It’s not that he doesn’t have his own gloves. He does. It’s just that he only has one pair and he needed them for school, which we were leaving for in less than an hour and I didn’t want him playing in the snow with his school gloves because then his school gloves would be wet. He only has one pair of gloves and even those are his third pair this winter. I didn’t realize that it’s nothing short of a miracle for kindergarten boys to hold onto a pair of gloves for more than a week. Apparently, gloves are very difficult to keep track of when you are busy learning how to read and write and such things. This is why he had to wear my gloves that morning when he played in the snow.

They were big on him, of course, but not that big. It wasn’t like putting my gloves on the hand of a newborn baby. My gloves were not completely useless on him. Sure, the fingers were about an inch and half too long but the gloves were functional. He was able to move the fingers and was no more disadvantaged in my adult gloves than he would have been in his kid-sized gloves.

I watched his face light up as he realized he was able to wear his mother’s gloves. I was all too aware of the other reality I was facing: as he continues to get bigger I will become smaller to him. The shadow that I cast will not always be so long. My footprints will not always be so far apart.

As he grows, my larger-than-life status will fade. He will discover that the monsters I scared from his closet never actually existed. He will discover that the person behind the curtain is actually just a semi-clueless woman trying her best to raise three kids.

I imagine it must be a weird feeling: when your child grows larger than you. When it’s his shoes that can’t be filled, his head that surpasses your own. Even more odd must be when your child’s dreams move beyond your dreams. How odd to watch your child, the same child who used to eat sand and lick dirt, graduate with a degree in biochemistry. It must seem like he’s only pretending, like he’s got your gloves on again.

Only this time, the gloves are his. And they aren’t too big. They fit him just right.

The Sky is [Not] Falling

There is a phrase that moms pass around when talking to new moms that goes something like “the days are long but the years are short.” Other moms hear this and nod their heads in agreement. We know this. I know this.

And yet, here I am in the middle of it, living the long days, and I forget the phrase that I know so well.

 

These were my kids almost four years ago. Four years. My twins were two weeks old. Every memory of them, every single memory of them (except for their first two weeks spent in the hospital) has happened between now and when that picture was taken. All of those memories with them and it has only been four short years.

I can’t help but think of the many different phases we’ve been through as a family. The ‘three kids in diapers’ stage. The ‘one walker, one crawler and one sitter’ stage. The ‘there is no way I’m taking all three of them to the grocery store again’ stage. As hard as each of those stages were, they were just that: stages. They came and they went. The exit of one stage made room for another stage. The ‘three kids sleeping through the night’ stage. The ‘buckle themselves into their car seat’ stage. The ‘shoes and coats on by themselves’ stage.

My weakness in parenting is forgetting about the stages. I constantly forget that one hard day or even a series of hard days will not last forever. My son with not always yell “Hey old lady!” to the women over 60 that pass us. My daughter and I will eventually find a happy medium that allows me to brush her hair without her screaming bloody murder.

Last month I wrote about my son and his favoritism toward my husband. It was something that I had struggled with for a while. And yet, almost immediately after I wrote the post, my son’s attitude toward me seemed to soften. [I think it's obvious what this means; my three-year old is secretly reading my blog while I'm not looking.]

I cannot stress how important it is for me to remember that parenting is a timeline of stages. When I find myself in a rough stage, it is important to remember that it will pass. Likewise, when I’m in a stage when things seem to be running smoothly, it is vital to cherish each moment for it, too, will pass.

So take heart, mothers of the world, the sky is not falling. These hard times you’re experiencing are merely some rain showers that will pass. The weather will eventually turn. I can’t promise that it won’t rain harder, because some days it will. But make sure to keep that chin up. Because eventually the rain will stop. And after the rain comes the rainbow.

And you won’t want to miss that.

Presents of Joy – My Reflections on the Sandy Hook Shooting

Friday morning I took the morning off to wrap presents for Christmas. I had just finished wrapping for the morning when I heard the news about Sandy Hook Elementary. So maybe it was due to my morning activity or maybe it was my mind shielding me from considering the real weight of this tragedy but I kept thinking about the presents that will go unopened this Christmas. The presents that will sit under the tree and remain untouched throughout the day. It sounds so superficial I know, but my mind kept coming back to those presents.

This year, my three-year old son is getting a new bike for Christmas. His current bike is a hand-me-down from his older brother. He has ridden it faithfully since last summer and never complains but the truth is he’s too big for it. I can’t wait to see him on Christmas morning when he sees his brand new big bike. There is a little pouch in the front, perfect for collecting odds and ends that he’ll discover along his travels. Best of all, it will be new and it will be his. I can already imagine the joy it will bring in the months to come as he transitions out of training wheels and begs to ride farther and farther down the street.

As parents, we anticipate these moments of joy in our children. They are not limited to birthdays and Christmas and gift-giving. We hold these presents in our hearts and cannot wait for when our child will unwrap these moments of joy. They are the moments in parenting when we understand that all the nagging and whining and fighting is worth it. Those moments seem so insignificant and far away when our children are unwrapping these presents of joy: reading his first book, scoring the winning goal, showing off her prize-winning art project, opening the college acceptance letter he was waiting to receive. We then imagine them as adults unwrapping more adult-like presents: getting their first job, getting married and having kids of their own. Each moment of joy is like a present being unwrapped in our hearts.

Last week our family went to a winter carnival. At one point the five of us found ourselves riding a ferris wheel together. My husband and I sat on one side, the three kids were on the other. We got to the top of the ride and the kids were so excited. Pure joy is the only way to describe it. I will never forget my husband’s words,

“Remember this. Remember this moment. Look how happy they are.”

They had just unwrapped a moment of joy. It was kind of unplanned, the carnival was an afterthought to another activity we had just concluded. I hadn’t anticipated this little present that they would unwrap. But here we were, experiencing a moment of joy and it was wonderful. I quickly snapped a picture so that the memory of their faces would never fade in my head.

When I heard the news about Sandy Hook Elementary, I kept thinking about the parents of those students and the presents of joy they will never see their kids unwrap. My soul aches as I think of the many presents of joy belonging to those children that will remain unopened. Trophies that will never be won, trips that will never be taken, memories that will never be made. The bright futures that were lost in that tragedy. I cannot imagine that loss as a parent. My prayers are with the victims’ families, the surviving children at the school and the entire community. I’m sure the weeks and months to come will be unimaginable. No one should have to go through what those parents and kids have had to go through Friday.

Hug your children every day. Thank God for them every day. Tell them you love them every day. Every day.

And one last word of advice about those presents of joy. Don’t store all of them up waiting for the perfect moment. Give joy and give it freely.

The post I didn’t want to write.

I didn’t want to write this post. For weeks, I told myself that I didn’t need to write it. But I’ve been blogging for over a year now and what I’ve found is when I blog about something, I can make sense of things and find the silver-lining in a situation. So it’s time. It’s time to write about something I haven’t wanted to write about for quite sometime. I’m going to warn you, it’s not about committing to a hairdresser or catching worms. Today’s post has a bit of a different tone. I hope that you’ll hang on until the end. The purpose of this post is not to bum you out. It’s not to throw a pity party for Susan. It’s a way for me to sort my thoughts and heal.

My son loves my husband more than he loves me. I know this because he lacks the developmental skills to know that he’s not supposed to have a favorite parent. Instead he tells me that he loves Daddy more than me on a regular basis. I realize that he’s three and three year-olds say things they don’t mean all the time. Except that they are also brutally honest. They don’t sugar-coat things to spare someone’s feelings. That’s why I try to be strong when I enter my son’s room to read him his bedtime story and he exclaims “No, I want Daddy to read to me.”

In some ways his words are the easiest expressions to deal with. Of course he’s going to say he likes my husband better than me. My husband is the fun parent. He has all the patience. He sneaks them candy when I’m not looking. I’d like him better than me too.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s one thing to say he loves his dad more, but deep down he doesn’t mean it. There are other ways to express love. He loves him more in those ways too. When my son falls and skins his knees, it’s my husband’s kiss that will make it all better. When he wakes in the middle of the night with a bad dream, he cries out for his daddy. When he had his tonsils out, awoke from anesthesia, was groggy and needed a parent to hold him for two hours before he could be released, it was my husband who got to hold and comfort him in the comfy chair. Meanwhile, I sat in the uncomfortable chair usually reserved for dads and watched as child after child came out of surgery crying for his mom. How does it feel to be the second place parent? Sit in the cold, hard “dad chair” for two hours and you’ve got a pretty good idea what I go through on a daily basis.

It’s not that he doesn’t like me. It’s not that he doesn’t hug me. It’s just that I’m not his preference. And being the open and honest kid that he is, he’s very upfront about this. If you’ve ever spent time with a three year old, you know that they are particular. Good luck trying to get one to eat a graham cracker that has the tiniest broken corner. My son is the same way when it comes to my zipping his coat. When he’s in one of his “my way or no way” moods, daddy is the only approved helper.

Quite possibly the only thing worse than being turned down for my husband when he’s around is being turned down for my husband when he’s NOT around. There are nights when my son will sit in his bed crying for his dad and there is no act of comfort I can give him that will calm him down. A hug from me will not do. A kiss from me will not do. No cuddles. No tickles. I am simply not his dad.

Second place sucks.

It shouldn’t suck. I should be happy for my husband. I should be happy that a little boy can love his dad so much. Many children aren’t close with their dads, how fortunate that my son has such a close bond with his. How lucky am I that I have such an amazing husband that built such a bond with my son. I could got on. There are many reasons why I should be happy about this situation.

But the truth is, it sucks.

It sucks because when my son falls off his bike and starts to cry I want to hug him. I want to hold him in my arms and tell him he’ll be okay. I don’t want him to scream and say “Don’t touch me, I want Daddy!” It sucks because when I plan a fun outing with just my son and me I want him to be excited and jump for joy instead of saying “No, I want to do that with Daddy!”

It sucks.

It sucks because I’ve convinced myself that I’m the only mother who has ever had this happen to her. I question where I went wrong in my parenting. I wonder if I held his twin sister too much and him not enough. Did something go wrong during his “imprinting” stage? We should have been more intentional about switching babies. Did we play favorites and now they have favorites?

It sucks.

I’m learning to look for opportunities to sieze the good moments. For a lifetime planner, this is a challenge for me. Because the opportunities come without warning and often without any pattern. On Wednesday, he wanted to hold my hand while walking to pick up my older son from school. Last week, he asked if I wanted to play with him in the basement. On Saturday, he asked if the two of us could decorate the Christmas tree together.

Each day I continue to hope for progress. I’ve learned to not take a single act of kindness for granted. I celebrate each hug, each kiss and each bedtime story. I know these moments aren’t forced. I know they are real and honest. I cherish them all and hold them all in my heart.

The Great Dress Making Project

When I was in 7th or 8th grade my mom helped me sew a dress from scratch. We went to the fabric store, picked out a pattern, found some fabric and began the process of sewing a dress.

As a teen, my mom had been in 4-H and regularly sewed her own clothes not only for 4-H competitions but to wear to school as well. I’ve seen the newspaper clippings of her wearing her prizing winning fashions–the outfits were pretty good.

When I was a little girl, my mom bought the patterns for American Girl dolls and sewed me multiple outfits for my two dolls. My dolls were very well dressed and never lacked something to wear.

So I think my mom’s challenge to me in middle school to sew my own dress was her way of passing on her love of sewing to her only daughter. Only I really had no interest in learning how to sew.  I especially didn’t want to have to wear a dress I had sewn myself. While I’m sure my mother was hoping it would foster a sense of pride and satisfaction in my work, I worried my friends would think I made my own dress because we were poor.

But, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and set aside time each weekend to work on the dress. There was some big event on the calendar that served as our deadline to finish the dress. The plan was to wear the dress to that event. Each weekend we worked a little bit more on the dress. My mom taught me different sewing tricks about how to finish a seam and work with a pattern.

When it was all said and done, I had a pretty cute jumper dress. I don’t really remember what my attitude was during this time, but I can take a guess. I was a young adolescent girl participating in mandated mother daughter bonding time. I’m sure I wasn’t always a complete pain, but I’m pretty confident I didn’t enter into each sewing lesson with the same excitement I expressed when hanging out with my friends. I’m sure I gave my mom some attitude more than once during this project.

It kind of sucks to grow up and become a mother only to look back on all the crummy things you did to your own mother doesn’t it? I’m sure she imagined this project differently in her head. She might have even hoped I would have asked to sew another dress with her once we finished the first dress. But I never did. In fact, after finishing that dress, I only used the sewing machine a handful of other times. Any hopes of passing along her love of sewing ended with we finished the final seam on my dress.

But the other day, while sewing a button on some pants, my kids found some scrap fabric and asked me to sew them something. After some thought, I realized I had enough fabric to sew each of them a pouch. Using some hand stitching tricks that I’m sure my mom taught me during the great dress making project, I made three little pouches. These were even less fancy than my jumper dress, but in the eyes of two three year-olds and a five year-old I was a sewing genius.

To this day, when I find myself mending a hole or replacing a button, I’m thankful for the ease with which I am able to grab my sewing kit to repair the problem.

I have my mom to thank for that.

Happy Birthday Mom.

Texting Grandma

A few months ago, my grandma got a smart phone. Actually I’m not entirely sure what type of phone she got. But I do know that she can text and receive pictures with it. She got this phone so that her kids and grandkids could send her pictures. Sending her pictures is my new favorite thing to do. Several times a week, I try to capture everyday moments of my kids’ lives and send them the pictures to my Grandma.

My grandma is also active on Facebook. Not in the posting pictures of kittens dressed up as people kind of way, she logs on and is able to look through her news feed to see how her children and grandchildren are doing in the world. I know this because she comments on my posts. There is no Facebook notification I enjoy reading more than ones informing me that my grandma has posted on my wall.

My grandma is awesome. I’ve always thought this but it’s just been in recent years that I’ve realized how truly awesome she is. My grandma raised 4 kids. As a child, this seemed like no big deal to me. Now as a mom of three, I see her for the saint that she is. I cannot get enough of her stories about raising kids. I marvel at how she managed to cook dinner (and even dessert!) each night with four kids around to interrupt her. She reminds me that her kids were born over a period of 11 years, unlike the two years it too me to have my three.

I love to listen as she tells me about life with only one car and having to wait until my grandpa came home from work to go grocery shopping. I ask her which child gave her the most attitude, which one was the easiest and which two played the best together. We swap stories about first steps, first words and potty training. She tells me about the time my dad choked on a lollipop and the time my uncle fell off his bike and a neighbor carried him home. She remembers it all.

When I can’t think of any more questions about her raising kids, I ask her about her childhood. She grew up on a small South Dakota farm which is far from the suburban childhood I experienced. I listen as she tells me about her parents and siblings. She tells me about life on a farm and living with her sister after graduating high school. She tells me how she met my grandfather and what it was like moving out of South Dakota for the first time when he was transfered to the east coast. Every story she tells I find fascinating.

I’m sure my grandmother has faults, but I’m not aware of any. She makes incredible chocolate chip cookies, she remembers every one of her kids’ and grandkids’ birthdays and she has something nice to say about every person she meets.I ask her how it felt when the last child finally moved out on his own. She reminds me that my uncle was barely out of high school before she began babysitting my brother during the day while my parents worked. Almost immediately after my family moved, my cousin was born and began babysitting her. Perhaps that’s why my grandma is so close to her family. She’s had a hand in raising each and every one of us for at least some portion of our life, even if only for a few weeks.

I feel blessed to still have my grandmother. After every conversation with her, I feel enriched. Nourished. Fed. Talking to her will do that to you. I don’t get to see her that much, once a year if I’m lucky. That’s why I love her new phone so much. There is something comforting knowing that Grandma is only a text message away.

It’s Just Like Riding A Bike

When riding a bike, it’s important to be able to do three things: balance, steer and pedal. Balance is important because if you lean too far in either direction, you will fall. When you are not balanced, you begin to feel the pull of gravity and you will quickly fall to the ground. But when you are balanced that pull disappears and you can easily remain upright. Steering is important because when you do not steer you are bound to ride off the road. You cannot get on a bike and hope that it knows where to take you. If that is your plan, you will soon find that your bike would like to take you to a nearby bush. But when you learn to steer you can avoid tough terrain like grass and gravel and dodge obstacles like sticks and rocks that are along your route. Finally pedaling is important because you will never move on your bike if you do not pedal. You can start on top of a hill and hope that momentum will carry you a while, but eventually the hill will subside and you will find yourself on flat ground, or worse, pedaling uphill.

When you are a parent teaching a child how to ride a bike, you must teach your child how to do all three of these things at once. The tricky part about teaching your children these things is that in order to really learn how to balance, steer and pedal, you must allow them to feel unbalanced, to drift off course and to slow down. You can hold their seat behind them, keeping them balanced, but they will never learn how to self-correct their balance if you are always there to hold them steady. You can hold on to the handle bars and guide them along the sidewalk, but they will never learn to guide themselves if you make all the adjustments for them. Finally, you can run behind them and push them, but if they do not learn to pedal for themselves, they will stop shortly after you let go.

As parents, we must learn to let go. We must do our very best to teach them while we are holding on to them, but eventually, if we really want them to learn, we must let go. We must give them a chance to do the things we have taught them. We must allow them to lean too far to the right and begin to fall. Hopefully, they will feel themselves falling and slightly adjust their weight to the left. Maybe they won’t and maybe they will put their right foot down on the ground and catch themselves. Or maybe they will realize too late that they are leaning and the only thing left for them to do is fall. As parents we will watch this and it will be painful. And in that moment, the moment when our child is lying on the ground, with his bike on top of him, we can only hope for one thing. We can only hope that he will get up, wipe off the dirt, get on his bike and try again.

We must trust them to steer on their own. They must take control of the handlebars and guide themselves. We hope that they will choose the paved sidewalk because we know that path will be the easiest for them. When they find themselves headed toward the grass, or worse a bush or a tree, we pray that they will steer the other way. We hope they will remember our words of guidance; to look straight ahead and keep the tire pointed in the direction they want to go. But for some children, it will take a few times of trying to ride through the grass before they realize you were right–that staying on the sidewalk is a better way to go. As parents, our hope is that our children will spend most of their time on the paved path rather than getting stuck in the bushes along the way.

Finally, we must allow them to pedal. We can only run alongside them for so long. We usually teach them how to ride on a flat stretch of land. It’s along these paths that they learn the thrill of pedaling; when excitement and energy are flowing freely in their legs and they can ride for miles. But eventually we must bring them to a hill. We must teach them that there will be times on their bike when the hill before them is great. When it will take every drop of energy in their body to keep going. They will want to give up and stop. They will want us to push them or carry their bikes for them until they reach the top. But we must teach them to pedal. Because if they never learn to pedal up the steep hills, they will never know the great feeling of accomplishment when they reach the top of a hill and look down. They will never be able to look behind them and say: “I did that. It was hard and I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it, but I did it anyway.”

Teaching a child how to balance, steer and pedal is hard work. There are times when your patience will run out. Your child will steer into the grass for the tenth time in ten minutes and you will wonder if she is even listening to you. There are times when your energy will be gone. You will have run behind the bike, holding his seat for an hour and he still cannot keep his balance. You will want to quit. You will want to tag out and let someone else teach for awhile. You will wonder what you are doing wrong. You might even doubt that you will ever succeed.

But then the moment will come. The moment you’ve been working toward for weeks. You will let go for the last time and your child will ride away in front of you. You might stop and catch your breath, but your eyes will not look away. You will watch to see if your child remembers everything you told him. You will see him shift his balance as he starts to lean, you will see him steer away from the grass and you will watch him pedal.

And in that moment you will realize that it was all worth it.

What NOT to Sing to Your Child Before Leaving for a Trip.

When I was little, my mom travelled a lot for her job.  Before each trip, she would sing a song to me. I always loved when she would sing me the song, but I’m not going to lie, the song was very confusing. It’s okay, I turned out fine but I almost forgot how confusing the song was until I was recently leaving for a trip away from my kids and went to sing this song. I stopped myself before I finished it, remembering all too well the mixed messages in the song.

So in case any of you travel frequently and are looking for a song to sing to your kids to comfort them, I’m going to suggest you pick something other than Leaving on a Jet Plane. Let’s have a look at the lyrics from the perspective of a four-year-old, shall we?

All my bags are packed, 
I’m ready to go
I’m standing here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye

So far so good.  As a kid, this verse is completely relatable.  My mom often left early in the morning and would tell me the night before that she would already be gone by the time I woke up.

But the dawn is breakin’, 
It’s early morn
The taxi’s waitin’, 
He’s blowin’ his horn
Already I’m so lonesome 
I could die

Again, this part of the song is safe. Of course my mom is lonesome, she’s leaving her baby girl behind. These two  days apart from her perfect little angel will probably be devastating to her.

So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you’ll wait for me
Hold me like you’ll never let me go.

Okay, I’m little confused because I thought I was supposed to be sleeping, you just said you didn’t want to wake me, so how am I supposed to give you a kiss? I guess you decided to go ahead and wake me up?  I’m okay with that. I’ll give you one more hug.

I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
I don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh, babe, I hate to go.

What? Excuse me? Don’t know when you’ll be back? Last night before bed you said you would be home by dinner time tomorrow. That’s one night. Now you’re telling me you don’t know? Did plans change? How can you not know when you are coming home?

There’s so many times I’ve let you down
So many times I’ve played around
I tell you now, they don’t mean a thing
Every place I go, I’ll think of you

Every song I sing, I’ll sing for you
When I come back, I’ll wear your wedding ring.

Whoa, now. You’re gonna wear my wedding ring? I’m four. Do you realize how long it’s going to be before I have a wedding ring? You really weren’t kidding about that ‘don’t know when I’ll be back again’ part, were you? And why in the world do you want to wear my wedding ring. It’s mine. You have your own. That’s kind of creepy. Plus, do you really think after you just up and left me at age 4, that I’m going to want to share my most prized piece of jewelry with you? What if I don’t want you to wear my ring? Are you saying you just want to borrow it to get a better look at it or are you thinking you’ll wear it forever?

I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
I don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh, babe, I hate to go.

Now the time has come to leave you
One more time 
Let me kiss you
Then close your eyes, 
I’ll be on my way.

I’m no longer feeling good about this little ‘trip’ of yours mom. You’re getting a little too sappy for a 48-hour business trip. At this point, I’ve pretty much tuned you out. I’m still stuck on the whole wedding ring part. Are we switching rings? If you are wearing mine, do I wear yours? How does this work, exactly?

At age 4, I thought this song was about a mom singing to her little girl. I mean, who else could the ‘babe’ be referring too? And to be fair, Peter, Paul, and Mary was the same group that sang Puff the Magic Dragon, not to mention The Marvolous Toy or any other songs from their Peter, Paul and Mommy album. Their Live Holiday Special was a staple VHS in our house. I had probably watched it 20 times. They were a children’s group as far as my little mind was concerned.  You don’t see the Wiggles recording love songs do you? Stick to a genre folks.

So there you have it. While it’s tempting to start to sing a few lines of Leaving on a Jet Plane while saying goodbye to your kids, don’t do it. Trust me when I say they will be far more confused when they hear that song than they would if you had just stuck to the basic details of your trip and the time you will be back.

You’re welcome.

The First Day of Kindergarten

The morning started like most other mornings. Last night, we picked out his clothes so there would be no stressing over what he wore. After he was dressed, we went downstairs and ate breakfast. If he was nervous, he didn’t show it. While I struggled to have the stomach to finish an English Muffin, I watched as he finished an entire bowl of cereal. This was the kid who could barely finish a mini muffin all summer. The biggest day of his 5 year-old life and he’s eating cereal like it’s no big deal.

My husband and I were, in so many ways, the typical first time kindergarten parents. We had packed his lunch the night before. We showed him all his paperwork in his backpack and told him to remember where it was when his teacher asked for it. We took the classic picture on the front step. We were all set and ready to go at 7:30. The school’s drop-off time wasn’t until 8:15. So we sat and waited.

The drive to the school was filled with anticipation. I kept sneaking glances back to him to gauge his facial expressions. Was he nervous? Excited? Confused as to why his parents have been mushy idiots all morning? Still, his expression was cool and calm. This kid was going to be just fine in Kindergarten.

If you’ve ever been near an elementary school on the first day of school, you’ll know that it’s a mad house. In an effort to stay out of the chaos, my husband dropped my son and I off about a block away and the two of us made the final journey to kindergarten walking hand-in-hand toward the school.

And that’s when it happened.

He tripped.

He fell to his knees still clinging to my hand.

I watched as he tried to keep himself together with all of this 5-year-old strength. His knees hurt. The broken skin and blood was evidence of that. He winced in pain as I rubbed the dirt off his legs.

The brave boy I had watched all morning was suddenly my little baby again. I wanted to pick him up and carry him the rest of the way but I knew I could not. He was in kindergarten now and kindergartners aren’t carried into school by their mothers. He was going to need to walk. And so he did.

As we walked the rest of the way, I was reminded that there are going to be more bumps and scrapes that I won’t be around for. There will be mean words said to him that I won’t be able to keep him from hearing. I cannot protect him from pain for the rest of his life. He will feel much more pain than just a few skinned knees. There will be times when I will want to pull him into my arms and hold him forever. But there will be times when he will need to just keep walking. I will be there to walk with him and hold his hand, but I won’t be able to take the pain away.

On the bright side, my son has the distinction of being the first patient at his school’s clinic for the 2012-2013 school year. He now knows where to go if he’s feeling sick. How many other kindergartners can say that?

Once bandaged up, we walked into the cafeteria to meet his teacher. I found him a seat next to his preschool friend and said good-bye.

Having already survived the skinned knees, I knew he was going to be okay.