Six Years Old

Oh my, how ready you were to be six! More ready than I, I’m afraid.

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So much has happened for you this year, kiddo. You graduated 4K in May and preschool a few months later. Which then, of course, thrust us full speed into Kindergarten. Again… you were totally ready. I – as usual – had reservations about the transition. You basically held my hand through it.

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As with most changes, it hasn’t been without its bumps. I’m now on a first-name basis with the school principal, and I exchange regular emails with your Kindergarten teacher. We even gave your school bus driver a little Christmas gift this year because of the – uh – hiccups we’ve had as you’ve learned how to conduct yourself on the school bus.

But this is the magic of you – are you ready?

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Whatever ill-advised decisions you make and whatever frustrations you inspire in the grown-ups around you, we are all still 110% Team Graham. And we can’t help ourselves.

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We’ve talked at length about this with you, so I feel confident that as I write it here – even if you read this as a grown-up – you’ll nod your head in agreement at this being included in your story.

There are things that are not as easy for you as they are for everyone else. It has felt like a very long road to getting a grasp on what these things are – and you, your father and I are all still in the process of figuring all this out. Things that most people take for granted are very real, everyday challenges for you. Interactions with peers. Structured activities. Changes you weren’t expecting.

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Stuff that is so unconsciously secondhand nature for most of us that – when I take stock of how much of your day you either have to a) consciously navigate or b) be met with negative consequences by peers and grown-ups – I am utterly awed at how it is you wake up with such pure energy and joy to face your day each morning. Most of us would just throw our covers back over our heads until someone dragged us out of bed by force.

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Graham, honey – you are my hero. And it’s not just me either. Your dad, your teachers and your principal all see you. And we root for you every day – much in the way that one might root for an underdog sports team. The deck may be stacked against you in certain situations, but when you succeed – we are ALL going crazy in the stands.

I hope you feel the love and support around you, dear boy, because oh you are so very, very loved.

This year hasn’t all been about the challenges though. There has been some downright incredible stuff going on around here!

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This summer, we peaked. (Apparently.) We went to the Wilderness indoor waterpark resort in the Wisconsin Dells, and you have theretofore dubbed that the greatest day of your life. You do add that it’s a record you’re hoping to beat with, say, your wedding day or something like that. But point taken: we had a blast.

You and I also took a teacher in-service day and traveled down to Chicago so you could see the big city. You *loved* it. Every part of it: pigeons to skyscrapers.

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We’re also having fun while I’m between jobs hanging out after school together. You’ve gone so far as to say that, “Mom, when you do get a job, it’ll be a happy day for you, but a sad day for me.” Because ultimately, you’d be going back to after school care. That one stings a little, but I totally and completely get it. So we’re just enjoying every day that we do get to spend together while we can.

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Graham Andrew, you are a joy – plain and simple. As you get older, your dad and I are having so much fun rediscovering and considering the world through your eyes. I couldn’t ask for a better firstborn.

I love you like flowers love sunshine.

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Forever and always,

Your mom

Listening

Graham struggles at preschool. It’s maybe one of the biggest pangs of mom-guilt I get – that, because his father and I have two full-time working parent schedules, these kids have been pulling 10-hour days since they were 3 months old. Daycare was fine for G when he was little and all they did was sing songs and play trucks, but ever since he progressed into a class that started having expectations about his ability to follow directions in a series and allow the other kids in his class to participate in an uninterrupted group activity, we have been getting sporadic reports about his ability to cope.

I’ll stop a minute to be clear: Graham’s teachers are his advocates. They root for him, and take extraordinary measures at times to help him coexist in a classroom of his peers. He has flexibility to do his own thing when the class is doing another and he just doesn’t want to join. I read about the crazy expectations we crazy American parents have for our kids. This doesn’t feel like that. The expectations that Graham’s teachers have for him are not that he be an automaton and have a 9-to-5 desk schedule. It’s that he acknowledge that there is a story time going on for other kids and that he not scream out loud and bang toys around while a teacher is trying to tell a story.

Lately there have been increased reports from school that Graham is struggling again. It tends to go in waves. My latest crazy theory is that bad days happen on the full moon. That one’s not holding water. Obviously. We’ve had pep talks with him. Stern talks with him. Consequences. Brief conferences trading tactics with the teacher.

But today? Today as I was fixing dinner, Graham walked into the kitchen after arriving home from school and looked grief stricken. No drama, just… upset.

I said, “What’s wrong, buddy?” He looked at me. His voice cracked, his eyes filled and he said, “Mom. I don’t know what’s wrong with me… I can’t listen…. I am trying so hard, but I can’t listen. Ms. Peggy is trying to tell me stuff, and I don’t understand what she wants me to do.” And then the tears flowed. He just let loose. All the frustration that had been building up in him all day came out of his tiny little body.

He *has* been trying hard. Andy and I – along with Ms. Peggy – have been creating a ton of different strategies and tactics over the past year. We all get frustrated at times, because G gets so wild. Because he starts telling a story and has trouble in the middle remembering where he was trying to go with it. Because he gets so distracted trying to do a simple task like go to the bathroom or wash his hands or put on his shoes. I half think he’s so skinny because he can’t sit still long enough to finish a meal.

I’m writing this out because I never want to forget today. Today, Graham wasn’t about excuses or drama. Today, Graham set out to do well in school and couldn’t. And that just breaks my heart.

4K Graduation

Oh my big boy. Graham had his 4K (school district preschool) and Preschool (daycare class) graduations this week. It’s a little  cliché to say it, but I really can’t believe how time has flown.

The picture below shows Graham on his first (L) and last (R) days of 4K. I see these pics on Facebook, and I’m always amazed at how the kids have grown. I almost didn’t snap a ‘last day’ shot because I didn’t think Graham had grown that much.

First Last Day 4K

Oh, you know, only like 6 INCHES.

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First up was Preschool graduation. These are the kids who go to daycare together. (Their futures are so bright, they have to wear shades!) At this ceremony we got to see them participate in their circle time routine. What day is it, what will tomorrow be and what was yesterday. How to spell their names in English and Spanish. Those sorts of things. They told a collaborative story about the three little pigs. Totally awesome.

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Next up was 4K graduation at a local park pavilion. The 4K program took place in the same daycare building that he’s normally in, but in a different classroom. Additional kids are bussed in from the district, and the teacher is employed through the district as well.

Our teacher was Mr. Joel.

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God bless, Mr. Joel. It was so awesome to have a male influence for Graham. He’s had 100% female teachers thus far, and I think it was so cool to have the male approach to corralling a room full of preschoolers. Graham would come home with baseball analogies (Mr. Joel is a coach) and told us one time that the reason we wear gloves in winter is because our fingers will get frostbite and fall off. So great.

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These are Graham’s buddies. He really has made great friends in the time that we’ve been in Wisconsin. One of these kids will be at the same school as Graham, and two of them will be joining him in the same after-school care program, so they won’t be saying goodbye just yet. :)

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School has been a journey for Graham – and will continue to be – but he deserves to wear that smile. This child has been in school since he was 12 weeks old, and since his first day he’s had to shift between a mom-and-dad-run house and a teacher-run classroom. There’s a lot of learning and acclimating to be done, and he has totally rocked it. Way to go, buddy. We are so proud of you!

An iPhone For Your Thoughts

“I wish my phone could record my thoughts.”

That was Graham’s final thought to Andy as Andy was saying ‘goodnight’ the other evening. G uses one of our old phones as an alarm in the morning. He has an alarm clock, but it’s a buzzer and lord knows no one wants to start the day that way. Andy had the idea earlier this year to wipe an old iPhone and let Graham have it for that purpose.

Andy grabbed the phone off the nightstand (what Graham calls his “desk”) and put the Apple Voice Memo app back on the phone. A quick tutorial and Graham was set up with the ability to record his every thought with the push of a button.

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Yesterday was the pilot day. He came down with his phone and asked if anyone wanted to hear the thoughts he had after lights out. Most of them were just short, muffled clips of him clearly figuring out the Start/Stop recording button. A few were of him making silly noises into the phone. There was one were Graham’s voice came on after a couple of seconds and said, “We’ll talk about the Pez tomorrow. Tell Daddy about the Pez tomorrow.”

At breakfast, Andy and I were chatting about something and Graham interrupted. I scolded him lightly and just as he was about to launch into a diatribe about how I never let him talk about anything, I offered that he could go record his thought on his phone if he needed help remembering what he wanted to ask. His eyes lit up and he darted down the hall to get his phone. 

Last night while Andy was making dinner, Graham was recording ideas on the living room couch and he came over and said, “Mommy, do you want to record something on my phone? It’s recording now.” I chirped something saccharine into the phone about how happy I was to leave a message and how much I looooved Graham.

Graham finished that clip out, then he walked over to Andy and asked him the same thing. Andy turned from the stove, bent into the phone and shouted, “ROLLERBEES!!! CAPTAIN CRUNCH!!! …” and some other random ridiculous words. The clip of these phrases layered with the sound of two little boys’ belly laughs is audio proof that dads still understand little boys better than their mommies do. (Although I have made significant progress over the past 5 years, I must say.)

I personally can’t wait to hear what he feels is interesting enough to document. Definitely a mom thing to say – but Graham has such a beautiful mind. He doesn’t see his world the way a lot of other people do. I’m glad to have just a little record of it. Even if that means I’m sorting through clips of fart noises to get there.

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Five Years Old

You won’t understand this for a very long time but I dreamed about you, son. I didn’t know what you would look like, but I had a place set at my table for you. I knew that I wanted a family, and I knew that our introduction would change things forever.

I was so right. And I also had nooo idea.

I thought sleep deprivation would be hard, but I didn’t know that the only way your father or I would ever get shuteye again was to teach you how to sleep.

I thought I would be firm and make sure you knew your limits. I had no idea that you would also be tough and push me until I exceeded mine.

I thought I would show you things but you, in your brief five years of life, have made me look at the world in ways I never have before.

I never understood how a mother could yell at her children in public for just being healthy, normal kids. Until I did it.

I have said since Year 1 that Motherhood is everything and nothing that I thought it would be.

But you, kid? You are everything I dreamed you would be. And more.

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Your dad and I were talking about you the other night. This happens on almost a daily basis, just so you know. Once we’ve managed to feed, bathe and tuck you boys into bed at night, we flop on the couch and marvel at the past day (and how much energy it took to get through it!)

On this particular night, we were recounting something that you had said that day and realized three things:

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1. You have empathy beyond your years.

This past Monday, when our Great Uncle Mark died, I knew I had to tell you but I had no idea how I was going to get through it. I was worried that you would be shaken, but when I broke into tears after telling you, you grabbed my hand and said, “It’s going to be OK, mommy,” then you hugged me and said, “What can I do for you?” Even your 4K teacher, Mr. Joel, says there are times when you say things that are so sweet he darn near needs to take a minute in the hallway to collect himself.

You are constantly reading a room. I honestly think this is why you have a tendency to get so overwhelmed when you are around a lot of people for an extended period. You take on the emotions of those around you, and hell if that isn’t a lot for a 5-year-old. It’s a lot for anybody.

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2. You are eloquent, articulate and brave.

It sounds like three things, but I promise they’re related.

You have a way of using words to articulate a thought or feeling that is both transcendent and perfectly your age. Like when I took a blanket out of the dryer and covered you in it. You squeezed your eyes shut, curled your toes and said, “Ooooh that is soaking warm!” I secretly hope you’ll write someday – just because I don’t want to miss out on those thoughts after you’ve grown and left me.

And brave. Oh buddy. I admire how you use those words of yours to stand up to your father and I. Just like this morning, when I was shouting upstairs, impatiently asking you to get downstairs and into the car. You came down the stairs and said, “Mom, how would you feel if I yelled at you on your birthday? .. Bad, right? Well that’s how I’m feeling right now.” Just a reminder, you’re five

Yes, there are times (many, actually) I wish you’d just stand down, but when I find myself wishing you were a little more easygoing, I realize that if you’re brave to stand up to us, you’re brave enough to stand up to your friends. Or other adults who aren’t making sense. It’s why we try so hard to ingrain the importance of respect. But keep it up, dude.

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3. You love special things.

You call them “special deals,” and you live for them. There is nothing you enjoy more than getting a break in the routine – to have successfully negotiated a bonus. Whether it’s something small like two bowls of cereal on a schoolday or something bigger like a pizza party movie night.

You’re starting to see the merit in enjoying other people’s special deals too and getting excited for them. That is a big sign of growing up, buddy.

This year has brought so much more than just those three things though. This has really been a breakout year for you, kiddo.

You’ve started cooking in a big way.

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You joined a tee-ball team.

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You started putting your own outfits together and getting dressed in the morning. (I promise, it’s gotten way better since!)

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You started 4K.

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You, with some help from dad, have started using real tools in the workshop.

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You discovered your love for camping…

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… and for weddings. (No, really.)

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You ran in your first race!

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You started writing in a big way. Reading is close behind!

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And you’ve made real friendships.

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Graham, I am so, so proud of who you are and of this wonderful little boy you are becoming. We have so much ahead of us this year, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

Happy birthday, sweet boy.

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