Friday, January 15, 2016

Partner Up!

My fine motor skills are incredible.  They would blow your mind if you were to witness them in action.  I can attach a tiny nosepad into an eyeglass frame using a screw the size of a poppy seed.  I can expertly scoop a booger out of a sleeping baby's nose with nary a disturbance.  I can peel an entire sheet of Minion stickers in under two seconds.  Of course, my gross motor skills are simply awful.  I do not run, jump, and I frequently find myself alarmingly close to tumbling down the stairs.  The worst time was when I was doing some angry cleaning, lugging the vacuum cleaner down from the bedroom to the living room with the cord haphazardly hanging loose.  I stuck my foot in a loop formed by the cord and stumbled down a step, somehow catching myself before going all the way down, with vacuum cleaner, to certain death and drywall damage.  Only Alex, Emily, and I were home that day.  I would have had to use my last few breaths to tell Alex what to do.  "Alex.  Mommy fell down the stairs with the vacuum cleaner and cracked her skull on the tile.  As I lay here dying, I want you to know... where the spackle is for the wall.  In the basement.  Go get it so I can try to fix it before I go."

My fine motor skills get a work out daily, and once a month, I get to demonstrate my mad talent to Andy's teacher.  I volunteer in his classroom, where I cut, glue, collate, print, separate, et cetera. When I first volunteered, I wasn't sure what tasks would await me.  "Perhaps I'll get to teach a lesson!  I think I remember a little about geometry.  Side, angle, side.  Angle, side, angle.  Those are things, right?"  Of course, I did not get to teach geometry that day, which is for the best since I forgot my protractor.  I ripped out and separated Chapter Three and Chapter Four in the math books.  Full disclosure, some of the pages got a little mangled.  If your child is in Andy's class and they have a tenuous grasp on patterns due to some missing information, that's totally my bad.

Of course, I don't care what I do when I volunteer.  I could be cleaning out the ventilation system. I'm really there to observe, to be the proverbial fly on the wall or mom in the tiny chair.  I love volunteering at school and watching Andy's class in action.  I love getting to see Andy In School- such a kinder, more obedient version than Andy At Home or Andy At A Party Getting Cake.

By now, I've volunteered a handful of times.  For the most part, the feelings that I get watching Andy and his class are warm and fuzzy, like a teddy bear fresh from the dryer.  See how this child is learning!  How he correctly chooses a word that begins with the letter "P!"  He's a genius.  I'm just so proud.

But there have been two instances during my periods of observation, I mean volunteering, that have made my heart clench.  Under the instruction to partner up, I watched in horror as Andy scrambled each time to find a friend.  From my vantage point, the other kids all seemed to already have unspoken agreements as to whom their partner would be.  They had best friends, standing arrangements, legal obligations of some kind.  But I watched, each time, as Andy ran around trying to find someone who didn't have a partner, getting pushed off and rebuffed, albeit politely and innocently, until he finally found someone to be with.

Oh my God, I thought each time.  Andy doesn't have any friends.  No one likes him.  This is just awful.  So close I was each time to throwing aside my ripped out workbook pages and shouting, "Andy!  I'LL BE YOUR PARTNER!"  Or, "You damn fools!  Andy would make a perfect partner, generous and thoughtful. You are all missing out!"  Or simply snatching him up, swaddling him in a makeshift blanket fashioned from the tiny coats and snowpants of those insensitive dolts, and bringing him home to attempt to rock and bottle feed him.

Does anybody else notice the ODD number
of children in this group?   One kid is on his own.
This is my fear for my children in school.  That they will not make ample or quality friends.  That they will be bullied or disliked.  That there will be no one to team up with when the teacher calls out that one sentence that can slice right through the heart of the common geek or loner:  Pick a partner. Or see if you get picked to be a partner.  Clearly, these fears are rooted right down to my own childhood where I always had a partner UNLESS SAMANTHA WAS SICK THAT DAY in which case I was on my own and basically screwed.  There was never a time in my childhood where I didn't have a friend or a couple friends.  But I was certainly never overflowing or busting at the seams with friends, and as I watched Andy bounce around the group scrambling to find a friend to read with, I felt anxious and panicky and sad for him.

Of course, he's just five, he's totally fine, and he did get a partner each time.  But, still.

At parent teacher conferences, I brought that up as my concern.  Does Andy have friends?  Does he have other children willing to be his partner?  DO YOU THINK MY SON IS LIKABLE?  And the teacher gave this look of disbelief and confusion, a reassuring head shake that is likely well-rehearsed in her twenty years of pacifying crazy, overprotective parents.  "The other kids love Andy. Sometimes they FIGHT over who gets to be his partner!"  And I almost replied, "Well, you don't have to lay it on so thick, lady."

So, every month I happily and a little nervously head into my volunteering hoping to see my son thriving socially and academically and socially.  But mostly socially.  I have perhaps too much faith in my son's brain power.  But I want him to have friends and be happy and know how to handle bullies and always have a partner when needed.  This is an important part of schooling, too.  Sure, we can work on our fine motor skills until we're blue in the face, but these skills are meaningless unless you have a friend to scissor or video game or build legos with.  Meaningless.

Until you volunteer in your kids' kindergarten.  And then, your maternal glare as you fine motor your way through workbook pages and math crafts shall maybe, hopefully remind the class.  Be kind to my son, as I am the one holding these very, very sharp scissors.  Not that I would actually hurt a child.  But still.  The threat is there.

Once a month.

Thursday, January 7, 2016


New Year's Resolutions:


For God's sake, please be kind to your brother.  Please.  Please stop picking on him and teasing him and pinching him and pushing him down and taunting him and psychologically warping him.  Just leave him alone.  I can't stress how your actions towards Alex create 95% of the stress and unhappiness in this household.  I would yell so much less if you could just stop ... interacting with him altogether.  If you feel like you need to be mean to somebody, go outside and punch a tree.  And while you're out there, shovel the driveway.  It's an embarrassment.  The other 5% of the stress in this household, if you're wondering, comes mostly from two categories: Carpet Imperfections and Hiding From The Schwan's Delivery Man Every Two Weeks.  How DO I get off his sales list??

Also, please stop peeing the bed.  I know it's developmentally normal for you to still occasionally do this, but we have a real problem when you pee YOUR bed at 3 in the morning and then come into my room and proceed to pee MY bed at 6.  This is not okay.  I've gone through enough in my life, what with birthing three children and subsequently weaseling my way out of jury duty.  Sleeping in somebody else's pee is just adding insult to injury.

Please continue to do the following for the New Year:  Keep up with being a good student.  Keeping being a good big brother to Emily (although you can actually tone that one down a little).  Thank you for your undying devotion to me.  Thank you for being an honest, responsible kid that I am so tremendously proud of.  Thank you for growing into somebody I not only love but actually like. 


Somebody has to teach this kid to take no for an answer.  Perhaps you've been a tad bit spoiled, but for the New Year, we have to work on No Means No, not No Means Immediately Start Crying and Then Just Do What You Wanted To Do In The First Place.  Also, you're kind of a liar.  You have lied to my face on many an occasion, but the lies are always so dumb and ill thought out.  Save your lies for the big things, Alex.  Lie about not sneaking out with the car when you're a teenager, not whether or not you flushed the toilet.  Come on, man.  Let's think this through.

Also, stop bumbling so much.  You're such a little pinball on the loose; it's shocking to all of us that you've only been to the ER once.  Don't jump off high things or fling yourself down the stairs or run with feet you've freshly buttered for some reason.  Pay attention.  Or maybe just sit still.  At the neighbor's house.  I'll come pick you up when it's time for bed.

But I have to say- these past few months, something special has happened to our relationship.  I think that something special is, to put it bluntly, Andy going off to kindergarten for the day.  Just spending the day with you (and Emily) is downright delightful and has allowed me to give you the focus that maybe was lacking before.  You make me laugh, you're so much fun, and I'm just so thrilled with the unique and crazy and sweet little individual you are.  Thanks for hanging out with me.  I like you.


Oh, Emily.  I look forward to this next year with you, even as I lament how big of a girl you're becoming.  There are going to be so many firsts for you in 2016!  Crawling is soon on the horizon, and then walking, and then running.  You're eating so many solids already (I'm glad you liked my pork tenderloin the other night), and I swear I've heard you try to sound out the word "Mom."  Or maybe Mormon or Money or Montana, who can really tell. I have no resolutions for you; the resolutions for you are for me.  I will read to you more (I mean, I will start reading to you, sigh), we will work on your napping, we will continue to erode at all of your excema, I will keep you in gender specific clothing and items (Girl stuff.  Girl stuff.  Need more girl stuff.), and I will try to soak up every minute of your babyness, because it goes by so fast.

You are such a sweet, happy baby with a great giggle.  You give me huge smiles when you see me, and you like to cuddle.  Let's not change for the New Year.  In fact, let's never change.  You are perfect now. Of course, one day you will bumble, not listen, not hear the word no, pee your bed, and be mean to a sibling/ parent/ friend.  But even then you will be perfect.  

Just like Andy and Alex.