Friday, September 15, 2006

What Mommy doesn't know won't hurt her

I arrived at J's preschool a little earlier than usual today and was excited to see the kids on the playground - a chance to surreptitiously observe her in her new element! I was all smiles and parental adoration as I watched her run with true toddler abandon, the late morning sun glinting off her silky highlights, and a song in her heart so joyous it was almost audible from the carpool lane. The girl is obsessed with being outside and "playground" is her newest constant refrain - I try to indulge her passion for slides, swings and jungle gyms whenever I can in hopes that she'll always be a mover and a shaker - but since she started school most days have been too hot or too wet - or the playground too infested with red ants - to allow for much free outdoor play.

ANYway... I watch her gambol over to what I would soon learn was a highly coveted piece of playground equipment, currently in use by one of the boys in her class. I saw a discussion ensue, one which I can only assume was a very measured, diplomatic negotiation of when it might be J's turn to take a climb. (I should interject here that, knowing her sassafras nature as I do, I have no doubt my sweet little ambassador was using her words to facilitate the negotiation - words like "mine!" "no!" and "get down!") Interjection notwithstanding, I'm quite sure she didn't do anything to warrant the large foot planted firmly in her chest that sent her stumbling backwards. I'm also sure she was crying, as evidenced by the lightning quick speed with which our villian abandoned his perch and took off in the opposite direction.

I did manage to suppress my initial mama lion urge to throw my car in park and rush over to regulate, mainly because I realized this would be a good oppportunity to see how a) J handles things like this when Mommy isn't around, and b) how her teacher would address the situation. J seemed to bounce back nicely (and didn't run to tattle, but is she even old enough to do that yet?); I was a little put out by the fact that Mrs. B wasn't aware of what happened and didn't appear to try to comfort J when the other teacher brought it to her attention. (I take that back, she did spend a few seconds picking mulch out of J's hair and could have been simultaneously doling out some comforting wisdom to which I wasn't privy.) But I also realize she is responsible for six kids and coddling isn't in her job description. The offender was made to apologize to J, although when Mrs. B put her in the car a few minutes later it was clear she had no real idea what he was apologizing for... so I told her. Is that wrong? I feel a little like I tattled, though I tried to take the middle ground when telling her what I witnessed and conceded that J probably wasn't offering him chocolate chip cookies right before he kicked her. But we have been having trouble lately with J swatting at us when things don't go her way and I'm working very hard to teach her that hitting is never okay - "I don't hit you, you don't hit me," - but if there are no consequences when other people hit/kick her how can she be made to understand that?

I know, I know. This is the first in a long line of less than pleasant peer interactions, and this is how she learns to deal with people, good and bad, but she's my BABY. I really think I did a good job of not losing my shit over it, but it was not easy to watch.

To her credit, though, J has mentioned nary a word about it since we've been home. But we're off to my parents' house for dinner tonight, so I'm sure she'll string together something along the lines of "Luke kick Jane, Mrs. B no care," to let them know what a bang-up job Mommy does at choosing preschools.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

My mother and I took J to the ATL today for a relative's first birthday party, and let Daddy spend a much needed day lounging on the couch and inundating himself with as much college football as he could take, to which I've learned there is no limit. {I'm working on being more of a giver, and trying not to focus on the fact that I haven't been on the receiving end of such a day in the two years since giving birth to the true love of his life... how'm I doing so far?}

Anyway, J was a dream. It was a long day with a lot of time spent restrained in the car, but punctuated by a fun visit with Mommy's oldest friend and her family, which includes two darling little boys sandwiching J chronologically, and later by a birthday party complete with an ample supply of fellow toddlers, adoring elders, and CAKE.

We've been a wee bit fixated on cake since J's birthday a few weeks ago, and I was worried that the exhaustion/hunger/sick and tired of being in the car combo might not work in Mommy's favor once she caught sight of the frosted nirvana - who am I kidding, she doesn't need to come face to face with it to know that party, in her world, equals CAKE, people. There was one brief hurl onto the floor with an anguished cry of "caaaaaaaaake," but it was easily diffused - Nana to the rescue - with a trip outside to what J referred to as the "playground" in the back yard. And much to my shock and pride she ate every bite of her lunch without benefit of prodding from me and with no mention of cake until, of course, her plate was clean and she knew what was coming. But even then, alas, there was still more waiting for all those slow big people to shut up and eat already so we can get to the good stuff!

And, at last... it was well worth the wait. I'm not usually a fan of kid party birthday cake, but this was one of the best cakes I've had in a long time. The yumminess of said confection only slightly bittered by the knowledge that it was procured - fully decorated - from Costco for a mere $15. This after I dropped almost $60 for the very popular - but now not so sure worth the money - Eeyore cake for J's second birthday.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Oh, how the mighty have fallen

another blogging mommy

It seems I have been laboring under what has turned out to be a misguided impression of my daughter's personality. Based on my observations of her past interactions with her toddler peers I assumed she would be the quiet one in her class, preferring to hang back a little and watch the others rather than diving in to the action. And I absolutely would never have pegged her for a ringleader. At least not right out of the gate.

But she has proven once again that I don't know quite as much about this whole parenting thing as I like to think I do. Which brings me, sheepishly, back to the conversation we had with her very first teacher at our very first meet-the-teacher conference two weeks ago.

Mrs. B: As you know, they are always better for someone else than they are for you.

Me (aka: Misguided Mommy): Oh yes, and she seems to be very well behaved, as toddlers go, so I'm sure she won't cause you any trouble.

{Egad. What in the world was I thinking? How obnoxious must I have sounded?!!}

It seems J was listening. After her first day Mrs. B called to solicit our impressions of the program and to ask whether J was saying anything we had questions about, etc. The message also included the obligatory, "I enjoyed having J in class today and am looking forward to a great year," with an extra bit of praise over how well J handled herself despite the fact she is the youngest and one of only two girls in the group. So I called her back to ask if J had, in fact, done her "doo-doo" (this is what she picks up on day one... it's going to be a long year) on the potty as she reported. Um... no. But Mrs. B did recount the very charming anecdote in which J sassed her beloved teacher on the very first day:

Mrs. B: She's so funny. I asked her to do something and - I probably shouldn't be laughing at this, but - she looked right up at me and said, "No."

Me: {oh, mon dieu}

Mrs. B: You just don't expect that to come out of that little face!

Me: {Well, I have come to expect it, but not towards anyone other than me!}

I was a little concerned that J may be wrapping Mrs. B around her sweet little finger if she thought that was funny - adding to that the fact that on meet-the-teacher day she had to take J around to all the other teachers so they could gush over how much she reminded them of some adorable little girl from two years ago. And she is exceptional in her adorability :-) but I'm not so sure I want her learning to use those powers for evil at the tender age of two.

So today when J was being re-deposited into my car at the noon hour Mrs B informed me that J had been banished to time out for THROWING TOYS. What happened to my meek, mild people pleaser? I know, I know... she turned two. But I wasn't quite ready to let go of the fantasy that she would be the one, shining exception to the terrible rule. How many play dates have I left smug in her seemingly preordained gift for sharing, her patented look of confusion followed by dignified resignation when some cretin playmate snatched a toy from her hand. Rise above, J, rise above.

I guess I always knew she would succumb. I used to worry about how I would teach her to stand up for herself without turning her into the snatcher. I don't worry about that anymore. She has a firm grasp of that familiar toddler concept: what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine.

Still, it seems the time out her hurling dervish act earned her has made a - hopefully - lasting impression. All day today, when any reminder of school cropped up, like the sweetly scribbled red apple (the first artwork I pulled from her elephant backpack and proudly posted on the fridge(!)), she would state, in a low, serious tone, "throw toys, time out." So hopefully it's been J's turn to learn a lesson and she won't be the bad kid after all. I've only had to put her in time out a couple of times at home and now the threat of it is usually enough to put a stop to the ill behavior du jour, but I think the realization that someone other than Mommy has that kind of power has given her sufficient pause. And I'm hoping the 400 times we talked about it this afternoon will serve as adequate reinforcement.

About Me

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Southeastern, United States
34-year-old freelance writer/mommy of one, married to S who loves his work but is gone too much