Back to School? OOPS!

Magnificent Strawberry Shortcake from “Cook-a-doodle-doo”! (a great twist on “The Little Red Hen” tale)

{Readers: Stay tuned for a “Back to School” series with suggestions for special songs and rituals to help you connect with your kiddos before and after school/ day care.}

So, on Friday afternoon, August 19th, I was pulling into the driveway, having finished up our busy “Good Deeds Week”, and looking forward to having both kids back to school on Monday, August 22nd, along with all the other kids in the Dallas area. Ellie actually started back to her Mother’s Day Out Program (3 days a week) at the beginning of August,  and MJ had been doing lots of play dates while Mommy was teaching and working.  But I had a LONG list of things to accomplish for work, for house, for blog, in the next couple of weeks before I started back to teaching after Labor Day, and I needed MJ out of the house for a few hours every day. His teacher had done a nice home visit, his backpack was waiting by the back door, he was all pumped up to start Pre-K at Ridgewood Park Preschool, mostly because of the Krispy Kreme field trip that the 4-year-olds get to go on. I called to double-check something with the school secretary before exiting my car, and, brace yourself…she informed me that school doesn’t start until after Labor Day! What? That’s 2 more weeks…MAJOR MOMMY MENTAL SHIFT! “Breathe“, I told myself as I do with the children, “You’re safe, you can handle this...” No, this was not a sudden admin change, this was due to a slight Mommy error in my old-fashioned day-planner. OOPS! That is really so like me…

I love my son, but we’d been having some rough power struggles, and we were both ready for a break. We were ready for our new routine, “we” were ready for a place to run around and play and expend energy every morning so this energy doesn’t all explode on Mommy every day! I had recently asked an acquaintance with 3 older kids if she was ready for them to return to school (smiling with anticipation of her “Yes!” answer), but she looked at me with defensiveness, and with a slight tone of judgement in her voice, said very seriously, “No, I like being with my kids.” Touche. “That’s great”, I said. But I was thinking, I guess your kids are a little different from mine. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen anything but peaceful smiles on their cherubic faces or heard anything but pleasant, kind words from their little mouths. They must be drunk on Mommy’s love. Yes, I have a different kind of kids, and my kids seem to know that Mommy needs a break. I’m okay with that. the break will do us good. It’s just not going to come when I expected it, when I had scheduled it, when I had written it onto my calendar and onto my heart and soul. AAAAAAAGH! Oh yeah, “Breathe“…

So I did. First, I called to see if I could get signed up for any morning “camps” at the last minute – art or gymnastics – no such luck. They had all ended because everybody was going back to school! “Breathe…” I only had to try hard not to be disappointed for a few hours. But as you would have guessed, “good things” happened in these 2 weeks with MJ.

Model Ship project: teaching great skills including fine motor, patience, and teamwork!

He got to spend some great time with GareBear (who is off work right now) – they ran around together in the church gym, saw 2 IMAX movies, and went swimming. He got to spend some great time with Daddy (who works nights now, but always has several days off at a time). They worked on a model ship project, ran errands, and cooked the strawberry shortcake recipe from a favorite book “Cook-a-doodle-doo”. And – HALLELUJAH! – I actually did get to clean out some closets (well, one, and not mine). Who would have thought that could bring a mommy such joy?  But most importantly, he and I got to spend some quality time together, and it turns out, that’s what we really needed to help heal our wounded relationship. (I’ll look back on the “week of wounds” coming up in a series on handling “defiant” children.) I admit, there was more “PBS kids”, “How It’s Made”, and a couple of new movies, but there was also more QT. We walked Ellie to school together, then walked through the neighborhood, stopping to play in morning sprinklers, and to explore “our island” (a garden in a cul-de-sac). We finally discovered Launa’s Little Library, read lots of books, did

“sculpture” MJ by the mall fountain

some crafting, cooking, and eating together, and went to the mall and the zoo. I got to discover what it must be life must be like with a single child. And while I often say that this blog is a judgement-free zone,

riding the zoo carousel

I WILL judge you parents who choose this life: You are SMART!  (Listen to an expert who agrees in this great interview on “The Case for the Only Child”.) We got to have in-depth conversations, focus on his interests and requests, have peaceful car-rides and meals out – it made everything SO much easier with only one child’s needs and whims and messes and moods to tend to, but sweet Michael James would often say, “I miss Ellie” or “I wish Ellie was here.”  And Mommy, feeling guilty about this temporary imbalance, now looks forward to scheduling some special time for Ellie on the days coming up when brother will be in school and she won’t!

So, in retrospect, I’m giving thanks for this extra time together, time to “Play, Laugh, Sing, Read, Listen, Hug”, time to renew and reconnect. And if someone asked me today if I am ready for MJ to go back to school, I would still unashamedly say “yes” with a smile and sigh of relief, but now tempered with a note of nostalgia. For even as I write this, it is with a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat that I think about saying goodbye to my summer with my sunshine boy.

During his week of “hanging out”, Michael James also discovered his gift of photography, using Mommy’s phone – yet another creative passion! See for yourself…