Posts Tagged ‘growing up’

Under Cover

25 June 2011

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Dear J-

Calcifer continues his growth at a fairly normal rate. The kid would rather try to stand than crawl and prefers rolling as a means of getting around which is how I suspect he ended up underneath the crib earlier today. It jives with what I remember of figgy’s development — not a lot of crawling but eventually up and standing without too much trouble around twelve months. What he’s actually doing under the crib is anyone’s guess but I’d say he’s not too worried about where as he is over being abandoned. Being the younger relatively immobile member of the pair means that we can take a little shortcut and leave him to his own devices for at least a little while.

All that is poised to change before long. Given our relatively advanced ages and prior issues this is likely it for us and two really is plenty to handle. The number of seats in the car is no reason to keep going, right? I may be fooled by how easy it seems this second time around: weekends have definitely been more hectic trying to fit around two kids’ schedules and I’m generally not privy to the secret world of the weekdays so that’s something I can’t say would be any different with more. I selfishly like the idea of a little mob of kids running around when if figgy’s any indication, we’ll already have two full-time hooligans on our hands before long.

Don’t let the innocent expression fool you. He’s already looking for ways to get away.

Mike

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Ebb and Flow

2 June 2011

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Dear J-

The next trip is in a few days and I’m finding it hard to muster up any serious enthusiasm for it as it’s to a part of the country that still frightens me irrationally and the timing seems all off: we have a couple of birthday parties to attend on Saturday before I head out on Sunday, and I also particularly hate giving up a weekend day in favor of travel without any makeup. Truth is that I’ve treated the trip as a good excuse to get some toys that I suspect will be put away until the next time we end up on the road (which this year is actually turning out to be fairly often, so we’re good for now).

I sometimes feel like we’ve adopted an over-distant approach with figgy. A couple of nights ago our neighbor came over about some vet business and spent maybe half a minute of focused attention on her, introducing himself and talking about his animals. She was entranced. All night last night she only spoke in reverent whispers as he promised he’d be back again to talk with theVet. It reinforces. The notion that attention is a kind of currency and that I get to go away for a week both frightens and encourages me when it comes to how figgy is developing. On the one hand you have the tyranny of the familiar: she expects the attention and knows it, often taking your presence for granted.

On the other by going away I break that for-granted chain but I also lose sight of her as she keeps changing so fast. One of our regional wetlands has been restored in the past few years — it’s a project that I’ve followed from my passenger-seat window — and now in the mornings if the conditions are right you’ll get a low-hanging bank of fog glowing in the sunrise where before it was just another dried-out field. The transformation was fast but if you consider that we only really have figgy for eighteen years — and probably less, in fact — for us to mold and that a quarter of that time is nearly gone it feels like a sprint sometimes: you have to fool yourself into believing that you can keep up.

Mike

Happy Birthday

6 May 2011

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Dear J-

I have my doubts about my utility at home watching Calcifer today — he took naps for 90% of the time theVet was at work and thus my main contribution was stuffing the unholy concoction of rice cereal, formula, and strained prunes down his maw. That’s actually not too hard if you’re not too concerned with keeping the kid clean: I let him follow up a bite with a finger chaser, and as he sucked on the fingers the food would go down easier. Downside, of course, was having to clean up hands, face, bib, neck, collar, feet (hey, they get around when he’s eating), and my glasses afterwards. No doubt if he had a choice in the matter something tastier would be on the menu but it’s the regular dose of humility I need — today my most important contribution was getting those few ounces of mush from bowl to mouth (and lip to mouth, bib to mouth, chair to mouth …) and that helps put things in perspective.

It is figgy’s birthday today and one of my favorite pastimes has been checking out where he is and mentally ticking it off against where she was and using her as a measuring stick for where he will be. I could not have imagined the past four years with kid — now kids — at the time, only a vague sense of wonder that life was going to change now and how after nine months of watching the growing inside we now got to watch her growing outside. And none of the past four years could have been predicted at all. The strange things she does, the rituals and games with rules that make sense to her four-year-old mind all couldn’t have come from thin air. I hear so many echoes lately that I can’t be sure if it’s in my head or not: did I say that out loud or was it my little doppleganger?

We have had a fun ride over the past four years and I’m looking forward to the next four, the next fourteen, the next forty. I suppose that in 2007 my mind flashed to 2025 — the year she turns eighteen and is theoretically an adult — but only briefly, as the long day that followed and the first week of sleep deprivation stretched time into taffy and before I knew it she was two and we were buying sandwiches and cupcakes for family at the Zoo, little shirtdress and hugs for everyone. Its two years on from that already and time keeps galloping forward. Calcifer is nearly six months already and I can feel time dilating again in a curious trot, how did we get this far already, how fun has this ride been, and where are we going next? I can’t wait to find out.

Mike

Free Time

31 October 2010

Dear J-

It’s the tail end of the day — the weekend — again and there’s a lot to look back over; today was a full day and I wouldn’t have traded the way this weekend went for any other non-test, non-holiday weekend.  From skiving off work on Friday (I kept telling people what a nice break it would be, and I wasn’t kidding — sleep in, take a test instead of trying to smother sixteen different fires at once) to a bit of sanity time on Saturday to the relentless mall crowds today (last year I thought the UTC trick-or-treating crowd was crazy, but it was nothing compared to this year) it seems the only time we get to sit down is in the lee of the day.

I suppose that’s the way of it with kids; your time is not free time and I don’t think I appreciated that growing up, how generously we received everything we didn’t ask for, how wisely apportioned what we got.  There’s lots of things you want when you’re little — toys, cereal, books, other random things that cost money — and I never realized how valuable the time we got instead was even though we never requested it.  There will be hours to fill later on in life, once the kids are grown and out of the house, lives of their own to take care of.  I’m not looking that far forward, though.  It’s today that’s going to echo in October 31sts to come.

Mike

Sam I Was

25 July 2010

Dear J-

I feel a little like the unnamed participant with Sam-I-am:  I do like hanging out with kids, I do like birthday parties.  I do so like them.  All those years of trauma over missing out on the rabbits and balloons at other kids parties growing up?  The unnamed dread of hanging out with strangers?  You do as much as you care to, and show off a little of yourself in the process.

It helps, of course, that three-year-olds are the least self-conscious people on the planet.  They connect straight from thought to action without filtering (this is what parents are for, after all:  pulling aside and admonishing with shocked whispers when all you hear is the echo of your words, sadly).  The small tragedies of growing up include donning that final mask that lets your lips lie to your heart.

We’ll have opportunities to host our own and mix family with friends and peers; we’ll probably throw awkward moments in too, but I really enjoyed watching the social structure of kids united.  The baby stuff is fun, and we’ll have our chance to wallow in that later this year, but for now it’s still fascinating (educating!) to watch that process of growing up again.

Mike

Birthday Party

23 July 2010

Dear J-

figgy got her first invitation to a birthday party today — stuck on the bottom of the envelope was a little apologetic note saying sorry for the late notice, as the party’s this Sunday.  Price of admission is a gift, I presume, and a phone call to save a spot.  Of course, there’s the bit in my head screaming what a slippery slope it may be:  if they do this this year, what will we want next year?

It’s way too soon to worry about that, and even sooner to be projecting all my agoraphobic/antagonistic fears and repressed memories of birthday parties in my past.  Funny that, when I’ve gone, I’ve always enjoyed them, but it was the lead-in built-up anxieties that kept me out of most.  Perhaps I suspected that the invitations were courtesies not to be taken seriously:  well, we had to invite the whole class, but we didn’t mean for you to show up.

It’s the paranoia:  suspect the worst motives, not the best intentions.  It whispers and gibbers in my ear at night.  And then I listen to what figgy keeps singing late into the night; every night the same routine of calling us back into the room until we’re all tired of it — but it’s not malicious on her part, and it’s not exasperated on ours; every day brings new frontiers of independence, and every night the borders shrink slightly — but only just, never more than they’ve been pushed under the sun.

Mike

Balanced Life

18 July 2010

Dear J-

I’m feeling a little better about the homework situation — I’m sure it’s a temporary delusion — but at the expense of any kind of home life; the television shouldn’t be a babysitter, and I can’t expect that that brand of inattention isn’t going to have consequences. It’s a little strange to contemplate going back to work tomorrow, as I’ve worked exactly one day (hair on fire the whole way; I’m sure you’ve had those days too) in the past ten, but having homework is one way of reminding myself where my priorities are.

Today we spent the day in air conditioned splendor courtesy of various retailers in the area: thanks, IKEA and Target. The heat broke a little today (we actually had a marine layer in the morning keeping things cool), but if it wasn’t for retailers with furniture, we’d never get out of the house. I can live with that. It reminds me that companies keep trying to convince me that I need more than what I have, never mind that we’re already overlowing the house: those rules are true: your life will expand to fill your space and then some.

figgy made a giant pile of mess (she is remarkably good at that) at some point this afternoon as I was struggling with economics (I can whip through cost comparisons with the greatest of ease now; it’s interpreting the words, as always, that trips me up). There’s a ton of stuff around for her to get into, and with all the distractions, far more opportunities. At times I’m starting to glance around and life catches me off-guard; there’s a thousand moments that I keep seeing in slow-motion regret and hindsight. How long can I put my thumb on the scales without her noticing?

Mike

Every New Day

7 January 2010

Dear J-

It’s her first week at the new day care and she’s been fitting in pretty well; they send home a little adjustment progress report and she’s been throwing herself into it with both hands (and feet, and head-first; you know just how crazy she can I will say that without the dirt playground she’s been coming home a lot cleaner, and the new place is filled with her peers again: one of the categories is “played with other kids” — if she gets less than the highest marks, it’s there. The first day the report had a little tattle about having to be reminded what sharing meant.

We are not necessarily the most shining examples of generosity and tact, but we do our best to help her be at least polite. Some times I wonder how such a crazy kid could belong to us; we’re on the quiet side, but perhaps we had that ironed out of us growing up when and how we did. Our lives inform our choices; we share the lessons we’ve learned and yet some things must be self-taught. It’s easier to be a friend than a parent, you know? Growing up I always looked forward to playing with kids but I didn’t realize how hard it is to put your foot down.

A two year old isn’t going to have the best sharing skills; she’s started to learn that she has a will, but she hasn’t discovered the uncharted lands in the hearts of her fellow humans. The further we voyage through her life — our lives — the deeper the jungle, the twisty paths leading uncertainly forward, perhaps backward, yet resolutely we string one step after another. Yes, maybe we have no choice, but we have every direction available to us too; it’s every day amazing.

Mike

Calibrated Eye

29 December 2009

Dear J-

Tonight has been fairly calm on the figgy front; she is a clever girl, after all, and knowing that getting out of bed brings on the closing of the door (here we are employing the Ferber method; it turns out the ways that work best for us are those that are ruthless and abrupt), which is just about the worst thing imaginable makes for a relatively easy night. Meanwhile you feel like the worst parents in the world as you hold the door fast against a crying screaming demon begging you to open the door, just open the door okay?

I suppose that if you break it down what we’re really doing could be construed as teaching her that we can be strict too; though you are being mean (MEAN!) in comparison, the relationship can’t just be friends quite yet — we’re still as parent-child even if she keeps pushing the boundaries of that particular definition. It’s easy to push too far into one extreme or the other; it’s finding the balance that’s the tricky part, that and getting her to understand we do these things not for the sake of being mean, for everyone’s sake.

It’s funny to think that she’s already earned a role in this family, one that involves being cute and amusing, but also stretching those limits. We’ll decide whether to reset those boundaries, depending on where we are; sooner or later we’ll end up eating dinners together and staying up late nights, but for now I’m glad that we’re back to where we were two weeks ago: a couple of hours at night to relearn being a pair after tag-teaming on care every other waking moment. There’s a conflict between needing time for yourself and feeling guilty for doing so; perhaps it’s inevitable if you can’t afford to put your life on hold, but that may be the very root of the issue. Why should spending time with children be perceived as not doing what you want? We always need to recalibrate our expectations.

Mike

College Town

23 December 2009

Dear J-

My brother was the first of our little band of friends to head off to college — the oldest of our particular little group — and I still remember how he was when he came back that first Winter break: new gelled hair (hey, it was 1990 and none of us knew any better), new cooler shortened name, new girlfriend, new borderline dirty mouth. Clearly, college was a magical place where all your dreams came true — or perhaps you were free to be who you were meant to be (Charlie and I were in the second batch of kids to go — he asked me if I noticed that my brother had become a “lot more frank” and frankly, I think I was way too dazzled to notice).

Of course, this question was coming from the same guy who would bring his new girlfriend back from Northwestern and proceed to maul her (in the “get a room” sense that fresh physical discoveries entail) when I thought I was being invited over for innocent movie night again — never before have I found my particular bowl of popcorn so visually riveting. We all find different ways of reacting once we don’t have parents hovering over every move we make, and no one’s saying what’s right or not — hopefully we get those phases out of our system; the novelty of being able to do everything we want pales after a while.

Right now, of course, we’re struggling with bedtimes (or lack thereof) — it consumes my life at home the same way that the crisis du jour eats up all my time at work. We’ve tried the all-you-can-eat approach of letting her stay up as long as she wants, but that just means that her bedtimes coincide with ours: not ideal. We’ve tried being strict, but that just leaves us exhausted; the popular curse that parents pass down is hoping that your kids are just as crazy as you were for your folks. It gives me perspective on watching her push boundaries and expanding her world; we are all only witnesses to how frank she’s become.

Mike