Monday, August 22, 2016

Back to School Brain Dump

Well, last week happened. Faculty meetings for me started on Monday. School for the girls (4 year old preschool for Zuzers, Toddler House for Coco) started on Wednesday.

You may notice there is a problematic two-day gap between Monday and Wednesday in regard to child supervision, especially as David's school started a week earlier. Fortunately, my parents saved us by having my dad come to St. Louis with us on Sunday and then my mom drove up on Monday to meet him. This meant that my dad was Home Alone with both girls all day Monday, which was a long day for everyone (except Coco, who took a two and a half hour nap).

When I walked in the door and greeted Zuzu and asked if she'd been a good listener for Bops, she said, "A little. Not really."

SO. There you have it. My dad was really glad to see my mom when she arrived Monday afternoon, and relieved to have some back-up on Tuesday, I'm sure.

Coco's first day of school was hard on my heart.

It started when there was another set of parents tearing themselves away from a little boy who was crying. I'm kind of a contagious crier, so seeing him cry made me want to cry. And then Coco started crying and calling "Mommy! Mommy!" and I started crying as I walked out the door. And then I couldn't stop.

I cried walking to my car, I cried the entire way to work, I cried on the phone with David. I texted me coworker to warn her that I was a mess and I tried to pull myself together as I walked into the building, but she gave me a hug when she saw me and I cried again. I'd go to a meeting and keep it together, but then I would get a picture from Coco's teachers of her playing happily), though the first one I could see her wet eyelashes and pouty lip, which made me sob hysterically in my office) or of her napping peacefully, and I'd lose it and cry again. It was brutal. I was ready to quit my job and home school them forever except that actually I was really excited to be back at work. So conflicted.

Anyway, I think a lot of it was complicated by that quiet nagging grief of starting preschool and toddler house and nobody starting kindergarten. This has been a slow, creeping feeling. There was no major trigger. I didn't love seeing back to school kindergarten pics on Instagram, but they didn't feel like a knife to the heart, either. There wasn't One Day when everything felt terrible. Except, I guess, for last Wednesday, when I cried all morning. It felt like I was crying about Coco, but I think it was more than that. By lunch time I had managed to stop sniffling, but I had to take ibuprofen for my crying-hangover headache in the afternoon because my essential oils were not cutting it.

Coco is still not thrilled to be dropped off at school, but she likes her teachers and they promise me that her tears dry very quickly. In pictures, she's always looking happy or focused, raking the yard or coloring or playing in the sandbox or washing her hands. When I ask her at home if she had fun at school, she always responds very enthusiastically, "Uh-huh!" so it's just that initial moment of separation that SHREDS MY HEART on a daily basis.

Zuzu, on the other hand, has had a seamless transition in terms of drop-off. A hug, a kiss, a see-ya-later, got-stuff-to-do. When we went to an ice cream social for parents at the school on Friday afternoon, Zuzu didn't even hang out with us. She was super excited to see us, but then went off to hang out with her friends who were also too cool for their parents. But it warmed my heart on Friday morning to see her run over to the toddler house playground (with her bestie) to comfort Coco when I was leaving. Coco quit crying when she saw Zuzu, so I'm really happy they are at the same place.

Both girls have been pretty worn out and tired from the new transition (David and me, too!) so Coco goes to bed easily and Zuzu gets tantrumy in the evenings (charming). The other night she demanded something and said, "If you don't do this, I'm going to BREAK ALL YOUR THINGS!"

(She talks to her dolls A LOT about "consequences," which is pretty reflective of how often we're having those conversations at home.)

We also have hit the wall on what Zuzu wears.

Now, here's the thing. I LOVE dressing my kids. I love picking out their clothes. I love seeing them in cute outfits. I think that part of it is just that I happen to enjoy clothes, but part of it also is that since I'm not with my kids all day, I want the people who are with them to see that they are loved and well cared for and the only way I know how to do that is by dressing them in matching outfits and brushing their hair. They may be stained and ratty and tangled by the end of the day, but they at least they start the day looking like someone cares about them.

(Sidenote: I totally realize that no one is actually judging me if my kids are dressed like ragamuffins because people understand stubborn toddlers and preschoolers, and I certainly am not judging people whose kids clearly are picking out their own clothes, but it still makes me feel better when they are wearing cute outfits.)

I am willing to work with what Zuzu wants (mostly dresses, the softer and twirlier the better). But I like to give her two options and have her choose. This worked pretty well last year. This year, though, she'll say, "No, I'll show you what I am going to wear." And she'll go to the closet and pull out something else. This results in me hiding a lot of clothes, but I can only do so much. She has adorable shorts outfits that I'm begging/bribing/manipulating her to wear, but she's not having it. Today she insisted on wearing a ratty pair of leggings with her new favorite t-shirt (a rainbow shirt from Target) even though it's going to be 85 degrees today and I tried to convince her to wear shorts. So I guess she dresses herself now and I just learn how to roll with it and be flexible. Insert gritted-teeth emoji.

Also? Yesterday I asked if she wanted an orange with lunch. "I'm not really into oranges anymore, Mommy."

Transitions are always rough, so I'm reminding myself that we'll find our footing next week. Or at least by midsemester. In the meantime, lots of after-school snuggles and early bedtimes for everyone.


  1. It's funny how different parents prioritize different things! We started instituting a "don't wake up mommy until you're dressed AND your bed is made" policy about a year ago (so when Gwen was about Zuzu's age), because then I get to sleep longer and also because I love love love love seeing what outfits Gwen comes up with. The way she dresses reflects her personality so much, and it makes me so happy that she is happy wearing such riotous clothing. I'm sure the fashion judgement will set in soon enough, but I'm hoping to keep it at bay as long as possible. Today, I deposited her at nursery wearing a frilly white dress with blue and green flowers over white stretch leggings with blue, purple, and silver rectangles all over them, accompanied by turquoise socks with green pawprints on them, her Elsa & Anna shoes with glittery purple velcro, and her dragon hoodie.

    It was awesome. :)

    I do hear you about the combed hair every morning.

    1. And that outfit DOES sound adorable.

      I've started braiding Zuzu's hair while she eats breakfast. I'm a little grossed out by brushing hair in the kitchen, but it makes our mornings so much easier.

  2. Eleanor was also one of those who insisted on dressing herself. I was frustrated at first, but I ended up enjoying it after I gave in. She loved to mix patterns, so a flowered skirt and striped shirt, and it sometimes looked very intentional. She got a lot of compliments. She's starting to lose the crazy now, and it makes me sad.

    That said, I totally hid clothes from her on the top shelf of her closet. Her absolute favorite thing to wear is the T-shirts that she gets from school and camp that are three sizes too big. With shorts. Except you can't see the shorts beneath the huge T-shirt, so it looks like that is all she is wearing. Classy.

    1. Shirt with no pants IS a great look, really. And mismatched can be super cute. I always think it's adorable to see kids who obviously dressed themselves. I just don't want to relinquish control, and she has so many clothes, I'd like her to rotate them and wear them all. I don't think I'll win this battle, though. Ain't no determination like a four-year-old's determination.

  3. I have routinely, for ten-ish years now, informed my children that they can't go out "like that" because "people will think no one loves you!"

    In my defense, that's usually bc they've put something that looks dirty or is horribly stained on (you can buy a color-blind child a closet full of complimenting clothes, but you can't rein in his devil-may-care enthusiasm about life - nor do I want to - or make him see the resulting stains on his clothes! Complicates the real joy of him doing his own laundry when he can't tell there are stains to spray. I just started having him spray every shirt...) or bc they look like they haven't brushed their hair, but still! Sending them into the world looking like someone loves them is something I can relate to! I was actually "better" about letting my oldest daughter dress herself creatively, but it's harder with my younger one - no idea why.

    At least my teenagers laugh when I tell them that? To their credit, they usually ask me what I would change, and do that. But as it's also starting to impact questions of modesty with my teenage daughter, something that I'm still trying to decide how much I should or shouldn't say stuff about, for so many reasons. Add that we homeschool and live in the South... Let's just say I'm ready to live somewhere more liberal. And possibly rather cold - that would literally solve my teen daughter's wardrobe problems... She'd be covered from head to toe, happily, and other moms wouldn't act like my daughter's clothing choices had anything to do with their sons.... (Insert eye roll here.)

    1. This cracks me up! And the laundry spray on every shirt is an excellent strategy. I need to teach my husband.

  4. F has strong opinions about what she wears, and mostly I don't really care. But she does have lovely clothes that others purchase for her, and I hate to see nice clothes hanging in her closet, never worn. So I let her choose her own clothes on school days and weekends, but I get to choose what she wears to church or to dressy events / out to dinner. Sometimes she gripes about this, but I think it's okay to say that sometimes you do have to dress to a certain standard for certain events. I don't want her to feel like her clothes are more important than she is, but if an activity requires a step up in the dress code, then that's a great way to get some wear out of those Nana-purchased dresses and skirts.

    It actually drew very little complaints this summer. I told her she had to dress up for the Muny shows, and I put out two sundresses for her to choose from. She just accepted it and moved on.

    I do remember our neighbor coming home one day and chiding her grandsons on their appearance. They had been out playing and were (barely) dirty. She scolded them and told them to clean their faces and hands and that they "looked like nobody loved them". I've never thought about it that way outside of her comment, and now yours in this post. Interesting.

    1. Yes--part of my impetus is that there are so many darling clothes in her closet, I'd like to have them all see the light of day! She would wear the same things over and over and over again.

      It actually makes me uncomfortable to say that messy/dirty/mismatched kids look unloved because of course I don't really believe that at all, but I can't shake the feeling that I want them to look a certain way when we leave the house in the morning. Although mismatched can certainly be adorable. (F has very good fashion sense.)

    2. My neighbor's comment stuck with me for other reasons, I think. Since my neighbors are black, I always feel like their grandmother's comments on their looks, their behavior, etc. come from a place of fear, and rightly so. My kids can be as messy and obnoxious as they want in the front yard, but the police only slow down and watch our neighbor's boys as they pass. My kids get a nod and a wave.

      Unrelated to that, but I remember maybe talking about this before. I actually get uncomfortable when my kids look too well dressed. Growing up in the church-going south, I think there's an incredible emphasis put on dressing a certain way, with matching hair bows and shoes, etc. My mom taught at a rural elementary school where I attended, and there was such a stark difference between the haves and the have-nots. My mom would even call some girls in her class "bow heads" - not to them directly, and not in a derogatory way (but weird still?). She'd just comment if a particular year's class had a lot of "bow heads" that she'd have an easy time getting parent (mom) volunteers for class parties and field trips. I find it interesting now that I'm in my forties to realize that I absorbed that comment when I was closer to ten. It must have triggered something then - that assumed correlation between fashion and wealth (middle class/secure)/care and devotion. And it was the early eighties, so many of those moms likely had the flexibility to be Room Mother Superstars. The farm kids were clean and tidy and punctual, but there was a difference.

      I still notice these things today, so obviously it's something I think about. Again, interesting.

    3. That is interesting--the visibility of status and what that (supposedly) implies about parenting. In my case I feel like since I CAN'T volunteer to be that parent in class or on field trips, it's important to me that my kid still have a bow on her head (not necessarily literally, but you know what I mean).

      And of course your neighbor is justifiably concerned about the appearance of her sons when the consequences of how they look can be so severe. It's terrible to contemplate, but I have a friend who has expressed a similar sentiment to me about dressing her boys in matching clothes (as in outfits and matching each other) because they "need" to look a certain way in public.

  5. I gave up the clothing fight a long time ago. It's just so not worth it. But yes - hiding certain items is a must. Good luck!

  6. I'm sorry the transition for you and Coco has been rough! I'm mostly holding it together with major distractions, missing my should be kindergartener, but ugh! Bode is super opinionated about his clothes and it can be irritating but I'm trying to roll with it (and literally consult my 3 year old about any clothes purchase!)

  7. I cried every day for the first week of G's kinder and first grade year. I blame Aubrey. An adorable girl in her class that ugly cried and of course that meant I had to join. 2nd grade I did not cry because I work at her school now.

    G doesn't eat food, so I have that battle to fight every day so clothes are safety/weather appropriate and it ends there. I felt the same way when I nannied, I've been grocery shopping with so many princesses I can't even count them. I get you want your adorable kids to dress as such, but you've seen my Instagram, what they come up with is entertaining anyway.