What I Learned in Junior K

Other than deep respect for carpool done well, I owe Junior K a hard-won lesson: don’t ask the teacher about your kid.

My kid is an obviously hyper, rebellious, willfully foul-mouthed five-year-old boy. I have no business asking his teacher how the day went, particularly when I barely made the after-care cut-off. Seriously: what do I expect? I should expect no different than my husband can when he walks in the door, glowing after a mid-week trip: how were the kids? Um, how? He should never again ever in his life ask that fu*king question.

Twenty kids in a room for eight hours will be, on average, horrible. Why ask the teacher for confirmation?

And confirmation will indeed be given, along with, if you really, really want to know, a daily progress report. The grading system will consist of sad or happy faces. There is no flat-mouthed emoji face in Junior K. Notes will be minimal, but, if provided, will say things like: “jumping off tables,””bathroom words,” “throwing dirt.” It will sound really, really serious. And, after weeks of no iPad, no Pokemon, no American Ninja Warrior, even no Paul Newman Oreos, the JrK daily news will not change.

Then you begin wondering about the teachers. Maybe it’s not their vocation. Do they love, love kids? Annoyance is, after all, so unprofessional. What does a kindergarten teacher expect?

Finally, just in time for summer break, I realized: what else could teachers possibly say? How were the kids? Um, how? The answer is simple: your son jumped off tables, threw mulch, said –

diepoopkillfartstupiddeaddiarrheafacepipibuttpants.

And he did this every single day, every chance he got.

Now, to my diarrhea-face surprise, my son is getting glowing marks in summer camp. Disruptive and disobedient transformed into funny and energetic in the setting of sunscreen and soccer balls. The lesson though, works both ways — in sickness or in health. Now that the reviews are happy face exclamations, I don’t get to ask the teacher about the day. Good reviews, in the end, are just as bas as, well, bad ones.

Because, I shouldn’t care. My job as a mom, other than keeping my kid fed, clean, rested and on a sidewalk, is to think he is cool, just the way he is. Banning ice cream will not change his behavior. His essence loves to jump and say poop. I have no business punishing him out of him. I will fail. He will say poop. And we won’t be friends.

I want to be his friend. You see, he is really cool.

 

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Sunblock

If I ever were to bake a cake

it would be for you,

and I’d color in the icing

like spreading sunblock on your face.

 

I like to get you while you sleep—

the best is in a car—

so I can butter every toe

and beneath your pillow feet.

 

Underneath your feet because

at the beach you will crawl

then turn back up and hook a foot

in the elbow of your jaw.

 

Sometimes you fart, snore or sigh—

show me you approve

of the cold sunscreen I rub

onto your miniature thigh.

 

I get the grace to growing old

each time a rim of white

forms a stencil from your ear

and records your neck’s fat rolls.

 

Daddy speaks from the front seat,

bids to leave you still.

Oh, but your fresh bread hands,

and you sleep and I don’t hear.

 


 

This poem is from my forthcoming book mid-life, which I offer today to all the incredible moms out there. Happy Mother’s Day!

Baby

You are
A long time
Coming

Now
All time is
Your time

My time is
Yours since
Before

But your
Time is
Not mine

It is yours
I get to
Watch it

Feel how
You are not
In me

But you were
There you
Grew

Into a paw
Of blood
And time

It felt good
To share
To receive

Now I live
To give
You time

 


“Baby,” from my chapbook Reverse Commute, published this week on the front-page of the awesome VerseWrights poetry site.

An Idle Parent Is

parenting books

An alert friend and reader recently sent me this terrific excerpt from British author Tom Hodgkinson’s book “The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids.” It summarizes the author’s life-approach, which applies the “less is more” philosophy to parenting and everything else.

It also proposes a very practical rule to determine whether or not you are an effective parent: if you’re having fun, then you’re doing things right.

Un-adult-ered

   

I recently began reading my first parenting book and it’s blowing my mind. Granted this one is more of a spiritual guide, and what sold me is that its introduction is by the Dalai Lama. 

The book is called “The Conscious Parent,” written by Dr. Shefali Tsabary. Its basic philosophy is summarized above and in the passages below. 

We are not here to carve our children into superior molds of ourselves, much less to elbow out a place for them in society. Rather, they arrive to teach us how to be better at life, at listening, at accepting. 

For me it’s been a great relief to find this book because something felt wrong about consistently fighting with my energetic two-year-old. Now that I’ve relaxed, so has he. Sure he misbehaves but, as long as he’s not hurting anyone or himself, I watch him be. And he is nothing if not pure, as yet unADULTered, joy.