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T’was the Night Before Fifth Grade

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This “Back to School Eve”, my 10 year old son, “Munchkin”, made my heart smile. My children, more times than not, do things that impress me. They oftentimes make me proud with the decisions they make and how they navigate themselves in certain circumstances.

However, on the night before the first day of school, I was especially impressed by and proud of my Munchkin.

Normally, the night before the first day of school, I am doing last minute preparations. I am labeling notebooks with names and subjects. I am color coordinating folders to match subjects areas, if that even makes sense: The science folder has to be green because green equals earth and the study of the earth is geology, which is a type of science, right?? Right??
Don’t judge me.
I am usually popping tags off of new shirts that were purchased, and peeling sizing labels off of new pants. You get the picture.
My need to organize all of their things takes me to my happy place and usually leaves my children staring at me, wondering if I sniffed the new bottle of glue or the sharpie marker that I am using to label said bottle of glue.
But this year was totally different. This year I was not in my happy place. This year there was no new glue, no new folders, and definitely not as many tags to pop and labels to peel. This year my household took a financial hit and an unexpected household repair that did not allow for my husband and I to make the purchases that we are normally able to make each year. So that night as I placed my 10 year olds freshly washed backpack from the previous year on the living room sofa, I felt like I had let my children down. All children want to feel prepared for their first day of school and I had failed in helping to make this possible. I was disappointed, my 13 year old Papi was disappointed, and my Munchkin actually said out loud, “we are so unprepared!”
But then something amazing happened….
My Munchkin remembered all of the many notebooks and folders and pencils and erasers that we have stashed down in the basement stationery drawer. Yes, I have a stationery drawer. It’s filled with the overage of notebooks, folders and things that are purchased each school year. I hadn’t thought of that drawer in my “no school supplies funk” because I always expect to buy new things for the new school year. But my Munchkin remembered. He went downstairs and came up with five folders, four notebooks, and a marker. He began labeling his own notebooks and pairing them with folders that he designated for each subject. He did not color coordinate them, but I had to let that go. He was in his own happy place. He smiled from ear to ear as he pieced together his own supplies. “This is for my math class, and oooh, this is my folder for science, and look mom, I found this pencil case so I’m putting all of these erasers and new pencils in here!!” He was so excited. He was in a zone, people!
And slowly but surely, I realized a few things. I realized that I had been demonstrating a lack of faith in believing that everything would work out. I had almost allowed a lack of material items to put a damper on a special milestone day in my life and the lives of my children. And I also realized that my children don’t need me to organize their materials for school anymore. They got this! They no longer need to be spectators as their mom goes “label crazy”. I realized something else that evening, which was probably the biggest epiphany of all: I probably should have stopped being “label crazy” mom a while ago. My boys should have been a part of the folder and notebook designating process from the time they were able to write. Getting ready for school should have never been about my happy place to begin with. It should have always been about their happy place. It should have always been about their growing independence and maturity. My Munchkin made me so proud with his silver lining response to what I saw as a dark cloud. It’s amazing how on the day before school, I was taught a great lesson by my own child.

Talk to you soon,
Serene

Share with me: How do your children partake in the preparations for the first day of school?

My Mom: The Village Fashionista

My mother is all about appearances: your house must look good, your clothes must look clean, your teeth must look white, your hair must look groomed, your bed must look neat. Until recently, I thought she was incredibly superficial, only concerned about the surface of things. “Where’s the depth?” I wondered “And what if under the surface of these good looking things, everything is in shambles. I mean, really, what if your teeth looked white but the bleaching agents you were using were wreaking havoc in your body? What if your hair looked groomed, but the relaxer used was eating away at your scalp? What if your bed looked neat and made, but you had bed bugs? I know, that’s drastic, but you get my point.

I could never understand that aspect of my mother.I couldn’t understand her point of view. Our difference of opinions with this topic was usually the basis of all of our arguments.

And moreover, I became very frustrated by her need to throw these superficial ideals on my children. One of my biggest fears is having children who are so obsessed with superficial images that they become shallow individuals who can’t see past the look of a person to their heart, so instead they become judgmental about everything that doesn’t look a certain way and so they begin turning their nose up to anything that doesn’t fit their standard. Not saying that my mother is one of those individuals because she truly is not; but when I have a fear of something it usually is way more dramatic than the average person could imagine (hence the bed bug reference earlier). But this was my thought every time my mother gave my children an instruction that called for them to tend to something that would only impact the look of themselves or something else. And many times, I’d voice my opposition to what I thought was so shallow.

However…..

It’s funny how a point of view could change after a little self reflection.

In thinking about the function of the village in the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”, I really had to reflect upon my small village and all of its inhabitants. My mother is definitely a part of my village. This I have known since the day I had my first child and she carried him back to his crib after I cried myself to sleep while nursing him. Sleep deprivation and postpartum blues had me a total wreck. But my mom literally detached him from my breast and placed him in his bed, then came back two hours later and latched him on again for his next feeding. But until recently I didn’t realize what an integral part of my village my mom plays in ALL of her roles. During a moment of reflection, I realized that I can’t acknowledge the value of my village and at the same time, discredit the value of the individual villagers. Amongst many other roles she plays, my mother is THE VILLAGE FASHIONISTA, which makes total sense when I put many things that I know about her together: she was a model in her younger days, she majored in photography back in high school, she used to like to perform at every block party when she was a child (she would STILL like to perform at every block party as an adult, if she could find a block party going down somewhere).

She has always been about the lights, camera, show of everything.

Its been embedded in her since she could walk, or so I’ve heard from her siblings. It’s woven into the fibers of her DNA to always be camera-ready. And now that I’ve connected the dots, I understand that my super, image conscience mama has an important role in my life and in my village.

Appearance IS a very important thing to consider. There are people out there who will judge a book by its cover and won’t even pick that book up if the cover is raggedy. They won’t walk in your home, or sit comfortably in it, if it looks messy. They won’t want to be in public with you if your hair is not brushed. From my mother, my children will learn to have a crisp book cover (even if the pages are tattered and torn). From my mother, they will learn the art of faking it until you make it, to not look like what you are going through, to look like a million bucks even if you only have fifteen cents. After all, wasn’t that what Vaseline on patent leather shoes all about? (Some of you wont catch that reference, sorry).

Until now, I never saw the value in these lessons. My theory was if you are going to judge me based on the surface, then I am better off without you. If you are going to judge the home of two full-time working parents, then perhaps you shouldn’t visit; I don’t like company too much anyhow. But I realize, sometimes the overall appearance of a person can be the difference between getting the job and not getting the job. Yes, this is a fact that I still find to be a little shallow, but at times, it is the way of the world and so, these are in fact great values for my children to possess. I am not sure if I can make a total 180 about an ideal that I am not 100% in agreement with, but that’s the great thing about a village: Everyone in the village does not have to focus on the same things. They just have to focus on the same children. If all the villagers focused on the clean roads in the village, who’d focus on the houses in the village, or the markets in the village? The most important thing is that all the villagers know and understand their role and do their best not to judge or criticize the neighbor whose carrying out the duties that they have been charged with doing. And if you see that neighbor not quite doing their job as effectively as you think they should be either lend them a hand, shut up and keep doing your job, or abandon post and exit the village.

Once we learn to accept one another’s differences, we can work cohesively towards the same common goal: To raise a child.

Talk to you soon,

Serene

Are you a part of someone’s village? What role do you play?