She was not doing homework.
There was no soccer practice.
No Saturday birthday parties to attend.
And no iPad, iPhone or electronic devices in the vicinity.
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Just the two of us buried beneath the weight of old, musty hardbacks squashing our laps and limbs, some scattered across the floor, books everywhere – creating a tapestry of equal parts love, language and literature.
During dinner I had mentioned the bookshelves needed an overhaul. Her ears perked up at the thought of revamping, reorganizing, redoing this upstairs quiet zone, a cozy loft where she and her siblings hang out and read. Requesting a sleepover, she insisted it would be a perfect Saturday project.
Grandmothers always say yes.
The inaugural week of school had come and gone with only one traumatic incident, according to her, and also reported via text by my daughter. With permission, here’s what transpired:
This is how my morning went.
1) Sosi is crying hysterically at home that she hates kindergarten and just wants to watch “Shimmer and Shine” all day in her pajamas.
2) I drag her into the car kicking and screaming and while I am driving she unbuckles and jumps into my lap in the front seat and tries opening the door to run home, again all while I’m driving.
3) Now that Sosi is hysterical and I am yelling, Dennis (her twin brother) panics and also starts crying hysterically until he vomits in the car. (Did I mention it’s a rental car and that I got stranded in the Target parking lot yesterday?)
4) Now I get to school, get both crying kids out of the car and Ani (who is 8) panics and starts hysterically crying, yelling at me that I can’t leave them at school like this.
5) Arden (who is 10), has long since left and is nowhere to be found to assist.
6) I get to the door of kindergarten, I am now also crying, and I see the school psychologist waiting at the door to greet my kids.
7) Praying tomorrow is better.
Real life. You can’t make this stuff up. Half laughing, half crying, my heart ached. Wanting to rescue her, I knew I couldn’t. She’s a mom. Moments like these come with the territory.
Bless today’s parents – especially mothers of the world. It’s a daunting task, holding the future in your hands. From pure joy and pleasure to the nuclear blasts and mini-explosions during growth spurts and raging hormones – raising kids is the toughest gig on the planet.
“The hardest job you’ll ever love.”
You want the world for them, hoping they discover passion for learning early on. You also want them to eat their greens, say please and thank you, brush teeth, floss and flush. But amidst all the rules and growing pains, you want them healthy and happy.
Times being what they are, it seems nearly impossible. I worry that girls are getting periods and bras too early, that boys are expected to make all the right moves while leg hairs and five o’clock shadows have barely sprouted. Call me old fashioned, but I want my grandkids playing outdoors, laughing out loud, perfecting the art of “make believe.” Learning to be comfortable in their own skin.
Earlier this week I read a Twitter post (@StanfordEd) stating, “A kid does not have to do four hours of homework a night in order to master the material (and) learn deeply.” Reading these findings was music to my ears.
I also read that schools are potential breeding grounds for anxiety, stress, burnout and depression. And not just for kids – but teachers and parents alike. My friends and colleagues working in the field promise me they’re making strides in seeking balance, but it’s a scary proposition just the same. The joy of learning, the joy of teaching – it’s all at stake.
As is the health and well-being of our children (and grandchildren). Just one more reason why a mother’s heart never sleeps. Children need family time and permission to dream, play and ponder the universe.
Learning of Gene Wilder’s passing this week got me thinking. If only we could hermetically seal our kids in Willy Wonka’s Magic Land a few extra years – prolong the age of innocence, cultivate and nurture their imaginations. Remember the chocolate factory, where you could pluck 2-foot-tall gummy bears right off of trees and jump rope with licorice?
Back on the home front, I showed my granddaughter one of her mom’s favorite childhood books, “The Way Mothers Are,” by Mariam Schlein.
“Why do you love me when sometimes I am naughty and run away when you are trying to dress me? How can you love me when I scream and SCREAM? How can you love me when I grab things away from sister, knock her down, and throw my clothes all over the floor?”
“I love you all the time, because you are mine.”