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Pre K

Dear Loch,

You started pre K this week. It’s your last year of preschool and the last year before you’re in school full time. Last week, your Dad and I went to a parent’s night at the school to meet your teachers and hear what to expect from the coming year. I was looking forward to the meeting. We’d had a wonderful summer between Canada, the cottage, camp and house guests, but I’d run out of things to keep you occupied and you’re ready to get back to your routine. Excited for it all to begin, I sat on the tiny chairs in room 4 while the teachers explained the main thing the parents should be focusing on this year is remaining calm. They went on to say they understood it was a particularly stressful year as we try to decide on what the next step is for all of you. Kinder/Not kinder. Private/Public. Private Acceptance/Rejection. It’s a lot to deal with, and your teachers wanted us to see the school as a stress free zone. If you were sent home to find things that began with the letter R and you came back with something that began with the letter W, don’t worry about it, they’ll make it work. If we forget to bring something in for you, no problem, they’ll figure it out. Your teachers were adamant we really try to enjoy the year, and I sincerely appreciate their concern. Then one of them said something that brought tears to my eyes. She said, “Right now you have a child who’s just out of toddlerhood, but by June of next year, you’ll have a school aged child. You’ll never get these baby years back, so enjoy them while you can because this is it.” I clearly wasn’t the only parent who looked crestfallen because she started to laugh and said, “I wasn’t trying to make you guys cry!”  

What she said really affected me. I no longer felt as thrilled to have you back in school. I didn’t feel as enthusiastic to have our summer over, and I suddenly felt incredibly sentimental about the time we have left together – the time before you morph into a big kid and I lose my darling chicken to his room, and his friends, and his life. I understand it’s all part of growing up – for you and for me – but when your teacher said it out loud, I realized how close all of this is to being over and how very much I’m going to miss it. You are the love of my life Lochlan. We’re the best of pals and in some ways I think I’ve taken this time with just the two of us (and Daddy) for granted. I know I’m not the best at “playing”. I like to build and act and sing and dance but I’m weak when it comes to cars and trains and just getting down on the floor and engaging with them. God help me, I found that part mind numbing, and I’d often busied myself with laundry, dinner and other things that needed attention instead, and now I’m worried I could have done better. I’ve also struggled though your childhood trying to relaunch a career while still being a full time mother and, for the most part, I often feel I’m half assing both rather than mastering either. You’ve been plunked down in front of the television more than you probably should to give me a moment to “get things done” and though I would qualify myself as a very hands on mother, now that your starter years are coming to an end, I wonder if I couldn’t have given just a little more.

Looking back on your first four years however, perhaps I shouldn’t beat myself up. I did the best I could, and as long as I don’t compare myself to other mothers – the ones who don’t use TV as a baby sitter or who can make firetrucks talk to one another for more than five minutes without losing their minds – I can rest assured I’ve done right by you. We’ve had a wonderful time together. We’ve spent endless hours exploring the world. I had the opportunity to go to school with you for two whole years. I taught you the difference between right and wrong and the importance of manners. You’re self sufficient and confident and you talk a lot because I talk a lot. Overall, I believe your personality and enthusiasm were given a real chance to grow in the years we’ve had together, and at the very heart of it all we’ve had a marvelous time. I’m grateful for every year, so I thought it might be nice – at this, the beginning of the end, so to speak – to get a little reminiscent about what those years were like.

Year of the Baby – I’m not going to lie. It was a rough start. You had everything a baby could have to make him miserable – reflux, colic, constant barfing – and miserable you were. If you weren’t eating or sleeping, you were screaming. Screaming. I honestly didn’t know what to do. I was beside myself. I still look at babies with a slight tinge of anxiety. Holding them it’s like a flashback that gives me the shakes. If I could do it all over again, I know I’d enjoy it more because I’d know that everything would eventually pass. I’d be able to appreciate how wonderful it is to have a tiny baby rather than just thinking, “Dear God, I don’t know if I can do this”. Some friends of ours just had a new baby and for the first time since you out grew the screaming, I thought, yeah, I could do this again. For the record, everything after five months was so much better. Once you got on the solid foods you did a 180 on the crying. The baby I hoped was in there was able to emerge. Sadly, that time coinsided with my diagnosis, so I didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy it as much as I would have liked.

One Year Old – You learned to walk at 16 months, but more so, your personality really kicked in, and your personality strongly hinged on communication. You talked from the very beginning and were interested in everything, with a special focus on anything that moved (cars, trucks, trains, etc.) and girls with long hair. I even started to make an effort every day with my hair because it annoyed you so much if I didn’t. If I had the audacity to wear it in a bun or ponytail, you’d look at me sideways and say, “Mommy, no!  Brush, brush!” . This was also the year that you showed yourself to be a real lover of affection, always asking for cuddles and hugs and kisses. I could never refuse you, even when I was supposed to be leaving your room.

Two Years Old – You became a little boy this year. Your personality only continued to bloom and we realized how very lucky we were to have such a funny, empathetic, polite and loving child. You developed a sense of right and wrong and continued your obsession with girls (and by girls I mean women age 19-35 as spending so much time with me, made you believe that mom’s and their ilk were your peer group). You creativity grew leaps and bounds (though not your skills in art – you just had zero interest) and you started instigating imagination games on your own. Although you developed a will of your own, and preferred to do everything yourself, I never felt the two’s were in the least bit terrible. In fact, as far as I was concerned, it just kept getting better. You also started school this year and you took to it like gang busters. Organized, structured activities at a table – eh. Free range social play with peers – couldn’t get enough. 

Three Years Old – Oh man, I loved three. I’ll never be able to look back on three and four without getting weepy. We really became best pals this year. You’re such good company and we had such nice times together. You also started developing friends of your own this year as well as definite opinions of your likes (favorite game: family – always wants to be the “Daddy”) and dislikes (loud noises, watermelon, bed time). Despite all the new found independence you were still tightly connected to your mommy and I loved it. “When I get older I’ll marry a pretty girl?” “I’m sure you will Lochie.” “I think I’ll marry you Mommy.” “You think you’ll marry me?” “Yes.” “Well that would be lovely, but I think you’ll fall in love with someone else and want to marry them.” “No. I think I’ll just marry you.” Sigh.

Four Years Old – Are you kidding me with four?! I literally adore four. Yes, you’ve become far more willful and less malleable, exerting your “expertise” and opinions liberally, but you are a real companion now. You’re fun to hang out with. You make me laugh all the time. Sometimes deliberately. You also developed into a real BOY this year. Gone are the days of dressing in princess dresses and tutus, you’re now into superheros and legos and Star Wars. Despite the increased maturity in some ways you’ve also become more nervous. You’re constantly concerned about where I am, or where I’m going to be. It’s almost as if you understand the impermanance of the world and don’t feel secure unless you can visualize where I am and what I’m doing. We’re able to be quite flexible with your schedule now – though we try and get you to bed around the same time every night – and it’s opened our lives up a lot. It’s this age that I’m going to miss the most. I look at your adorable face in your baby pictures and I feel nostalgic, but it’s hanging out with you now that really makes me realize how fleeting this time is. You’re so enthusiastic, so positive, so happy. You delight in small things and want to be with us all the time. When you’re proud or excited your face just lights up. I do things all the time just to elicite that reaction and the beauty of this age is, I don’t have to do big things to make it happen. You’re not jaded yet. You’re not cool. You just want to be happy and loved and I’m devouring it. Every morning when you pad into my room and climb into bed for our cuddle, I’m aware it’s one less day you’ll be this sweet and adoring. 

Lochie, I love your energy and your idealism. I love your manners and your sense of humor. I love how kind and loving you’ve grown up to be, and for so many reasons, I hope you are able to stay this way for a long time. I pray your grown up self never loses all these wonderful qualities you have as a child.

So, we press forward and await the changes that, inevitably, will come. I know you’ll always love me but I also know you’ll never love me as unconditionally as you do right now. At this moment we’re the center of each other’s universe and soon enough other things will take my place in yours. If I’m lucky, time will eventually give you back to me, but I’ll never have you as completely as I did when you were my baby. I will live on these memories and you will build your future on them.

I wish you great and marvelous things Lochlan. I wish you happiness and love. I wish you success and security. I wish you health and joy, and I only hope that I can give you everything the child you are deserves, and the man you deserve to be, needs.

I love you Loch. Thank you for filling my life with such purpose. No matter where you go, remember this is where you started and you can always come back.

xo Mommy

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Stress

Dear Loch,

I do not handle stress well. Never really have. It’s a terrible trait that, ironically, I’m better at handling a situation if the stakes are really high, like an accident/life or death, than I am with basic, everyday stresses where I become a basket case of epic proportions. The other day we were driving in Shatzy (our car) to your friend’s birthday party – which like all other parties at cool and expensive destination locations, was ridiculously far away – and I was using the navigation system in the car. When the coolly polite voice informed us we’d arrived at our destination, you were the first to say what we were both thinking…that we definitely had not. That this, wherever the hell this was – random residential street with no desirable kids play factory anywhere in sight – was clearly not our journey’s end. Our technology had lead us astray. I checked the system and, for some unbeknownst reason, the address was totally wrong. Now, I hadn’t put it in wrong, but somewhere between my dashboard and my drive shaft the computer had decided to change De Soto Avenue to the unknown Arcola Avenue on which we were now sitting. I tried retyping in the address but without a zip code the system wouldn’t let me proceed, and every time I typed in the street number, the street name would disappear. I did this 5 times before I flipped out and decided to put the address into my phone instead. My iPhone however was hell bent on giving me directions to a place in De Soto, Arkansas that would take me 1 day, 2 hours or 1 day, 4 hours depending on the route I chose. I went back to the nav system and tried to use voice control, but De Soto apparently sounds like everything and anything other than De Soto. I tried spelling it letter by letter, but by now I was basically screaming at my steering wheel.

Me: D-E-space S-O-T…

Car: You are clearly having trouble. Here is a list of possible commands to give you a idea of what to say…

Me: Navigation. Street Address. 2333 De Soto Avenue, Woodland Hills…

Car: (showing 3 possible address all starting with the word La) Pick a line or say None of these.

Me: None of these!!!

Car: Spell the name of the street. You can say things like 1234 Smith Avenue…

Me. 2-3-3-3 D-E-S-O-T-O

Car: (showing 3 lines that, aside from starting with D, have nothing whatsoever in common with De Soto) Pick a line or say none of these.

Me: F*^# you you f*^#ing stupid piece of s#^*….none of those, none of those, none of those.

Car: (not even slightly ruffled by my torrid of profanity) You can say a command by looking at the screen for options.

Me: Cancel! (hitting the steering wheel) @#$%^&**&^%! Stupid, @#$^&*’…..

Little sob from the back seat.

Me: (Immediately getting a hold of myself and feeling like the worst parent on earth) Oh Lochie, I’m sorry. It’s not you. I’m not mad at you. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m behaving so badly.

You: (Sniffy little voice) I want to go to the party.

Me: I know baby. Me too. But this stupid system won’t listen to me.

You: (sticking up for the car whom you often have conversations with where I do the car’s voice) It’s not stupid, It’s part of Shatzy.

gardian.co.uk

Now if I’m not the worst person ever at this moment, I sure feel like it. Turns out we were 4 blocks away. 4 blocks! And I had a fit. A true temper tantrum that you had to witness. Before we ended up driving (I finally got directions off my phone) I turned around and told you again how sorry I was. I let you know I handled the situation extremely poorly and admitted my way of dealing with stress was awful and that you should look to your Daddy on how to handle this kind of situation (ones that don’t go your way) and not to me.

Your Dad is like Zen Master calm and I’m like just add water anxiety.

Still I feel awful. I wish I wasn’t that way. I recognize how foolish it is and how I could be making a better choice and yet I find it almost impossible to stop myself. I hate that you witness it and I hate more that you might someday emulate it.

willsandestates.co.za

Your Granddad is an epic stresser. The daily loss of his keys is a crisis of Herculean proportions. The swallowing of a bug leads people to believe he’s having a heart attack. But like myself, my Dad handles vast amounts of stress quite well. It’s the little things that get to him. Perhaps it’s like that expression when you’re married and fighting and people say “its not about the dishes”. It basically means the fight you’re having may have started over something small (like the dishes) but it’s the underlying feelings that are feeding the argument. People like Granddad and myself may be handling our major crises silently but our internal stress levels are so elevated that if one insignificant thing goes awry we just lose it. It’s the proverbial straw. Perhaps if we both looked into handling our major stresses more appropriately we wouldn’t be so exercised sweating the small stuff. I’ve witnessed my Dad’s mini meltdowns and it’s simultaneously not pretty and like looking in a mirror.

This spring your Dad and I went to a parenting conference where one of the lectures I attended was “Nurturing your Child’s Brilliance” and the speaker said something that really affected me. His theory was that we work within two vastly different states of intelligence. A conscious intelligence which he referred to as our “brilliance” where we think freely and see problems laid out clearly, and a responsive pattern of reactions that we downshift to in periods of tension or stress that cloud or active brain forcing us to fall back on old habits. The speaker believed that in periods of stress our brilliance and problem solving skills were overtaken by these repetitive patterns that made it impossible for us to access our natural intelligence. He claimed that most adults live primarily in that repetitive response zone, repeating patterned behaviors, unable to get back to our higher levels of cognizant behavior.

msnbc.msn.com

Children on the other hand, work almost solely using their natural brilliance because in times of stress or anxiety they use a tool that we, as adults, are socialized not to use, which is our emotions. When a child is stressed they show it. They cry, they scream, they have tantrums, and in that release they are able to clear their minds and upshift back to their conscious, intelligent, natural brilliance. As we age we’re taught to see that kind of behavior as inappropriate. We curb and stifle it so as to better fit in to society’s expectations. According to this speaker we are ultimately teaching ourselves to turn off the one thing that could free us up. His theory was that if, in times of stress, it was socially acceptable to show our emotions, we would be able to get out of our heads, move away from our fallback behaviors, and re-access our highest cerebral functions. I thought the whole thing made a lot of sense and it also made me feel a bit better about my personal freak outs. I’d hazzard to say it’s a version of this theory at work in traditional talk therapy. When people are allowed a safe environment in which to express their emotions they unburden and unblock themselves often making it possible for them to access their intelligent mind and solve their own problems. It’s probably why therapists are so quiet. Allowing people their feelings creates space for the clarity that allows them to answer their own questions.

The doctor used the example of a real moment of grief in an adult’s life (such as the death of a parent) where society loosens their rules on public displays of emotion. After openly grieving and crying for days people have been known to say that they feel better than they have in a years. The release of emotions actually cleared their brains. I think people often do this kind of emotional purge with TV, movies and sometimes commercials. The medium itself is a catalyst to express our feelings in an appropriate environment. It’s a sad movie so we cry. Only part of that is for the movie. The rest might be for something else but the emotions appear in context so it seems less messy.

ahealth4U.blogspot.com

I’m messy a lot. People can almost always tell how I’m feeling as I’ve never been particularly gifted, or inclined, at hiding how I feel. I’ve been known to freak out my stiff upper lip WASP parents and peers with my gregarious displays of emotion, and it’s been everything from embarrassing (crying when you don’t want to) to unnecessary (the situation with my Nav system) but for the most part I think it’s for the best. I don’t carry a lot of emotional baggage and I’m not weighed down by hidden feelings. I feel what I feel when I feel it, and then it’s over.

Ultimately there’s no weakness in feeling what you feel, and in many ways there’s a strong argument for expressing it. Though my open displays have yet to unlock my inner Hawking, I am happier not being all bottled up. What I can learn is how to better handle the small stresses so I don’t give them power they don’t deserve. If you can stay calm at all times like Daddy, then all the power to you. If you find your self hot like me, just know that there are times and places to better express yourself so you can pop off and still fit in socially.

At the very least you can watch Hallmark Christmas commercials or join a football team or something.

xo Mom