Tuesday, August 24, 2010

And so it begins...

The summer Josh was a year and a half, I would pack him into our enormous stroller and push him up the hill to watch the dump trucks and earth movers flattening the site of our future neighborhood elementary school. He would hold onto the stroller tray with both hands and bounce back and forth when he saw the huge wheels churning dirt or heard the loud engines roar. "Truck! Vroom!" he would shout as he pointed and squealed with glee. It was the best show in town for a toddler with a truck fetish.

As summer turned to fall, we started to see more hammers and wood than trucks. Then concrete mixers and metal frames. And eventually drywall and roofing materials. One day we arrived just in time to see the construction team raise the giant metal beams that would support the peaked roof of the biggest building with a giant crane. Josh sat at the edge of his stroller seat mesmerized as the crane carefully guided the girders into place.

Some days we'd arrive just ahead of the roach coach, who would glide over the sidewalk and into the dirt while playing the car horn version of "La Cucaracha." These were always disappointing days because everyone would stop what they were doing for a fifteen minute snack break. So I'd take Josh for a walk while we waited for the action to resume. And I'd tell him about how one day that would be his school. As we walked, I would often mentally calculate just how long it would be until he finally started school. Each time, I was sure I'd counted wrong. How could it be so many years away? As the tired mother of a very active toddler, kindergarten seemed like the perfect panacea for the days when I fell into bed aching and exhausted after a long day of outrunning, outwitting, and outlasting my clever moppet. And three whole hours of free time — in a row — every day — seemed too extravagant to even wish for.

But then something strange happened. One night, Josh went to bed a chubby-faced munchkin who seemed to endlessly scheme new ways to wear me out, and he woke up a thin, lanky kid who can't ask enough questions, do enough science projects, or play enough Wii. And this morning, he slipped on his new dinosaur backpack and went to kindergarten. Just like that.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pillow talk

Why is it that so many of my most poignant (and funny) conversations with Josh happen at bedtime?

One night last week, I read a Little Bear book before tucking him into bed. At the end of the book, two skunks got married. When I closed the book, I asked Josh if skunks really get married. “No,” he said and laughed.

“But some animals do partner for life,” I said. “Like Canadian geese. They find a mate and stay with that one goose for their whole life."

“I would be your partner,” Josh said smiling.

“That would be nice,” I said. “But I already have a partner. Who’s my partner?”

He thought for a moment. “Daddy,” he said. “Why did you pick Daddy as your partner?”

I told him a few of the millions of reasons I love his dad and decided to make him my partner.

Josh was quiet for a moment, clearly taking mental notes about how I made my choice. Then with all the innocence of a five year old, he asked, “Who else did you try out first?”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The politics of hockey

Josh races up the bleachers at Eric’s hockey game to the large open area at the top with nothing but concrete floors and white walls. It’s clearly just an unfinished space, but to a five-year-old boy, it looks like the best place on earth to chase a rubber orange ball around with a plastic hockey stick.

Josh moves from side to side and whacks the ball into the wall, trying to anticipate which direction it will come back. He races from one end to the other as friends and family of the local men’s league cheer on their loved ones and ooo and ah at near misses and acrobatic saves. I turn to watch the game for a moment, and when I look back, I see a small boy who can’t be more than eighteen months old running toward Josh’s ball, gesturing and grunting like the urgent toddler Josh was not so long ago. He is not choosing to go get the ball. He must get it. Nothing else in his world exists except that rolling orange object that seems to suddenly change direction every time he gets close enough to grab it.

“Show him your ball,” I suggest as the toddler’s desperate mother tries to distract him.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Bedtime for Josh involves a series of small but significant tasks we do every night in the same way and in the same order. When Josh was about six months old and I realized I was spending more than an hour trying to get him to sleep at night, I quickly adopted a bedtime routine to try to make the process much more efficient (and hopefully more fruitful). And being the kind of kid who always likes to know what to expect, Josh has really benefitted from the predictability of the routine.

Most of our bedtime routine is the usual stuff: going potty, brushing teeth, feeding his fish, reading a story, and hugging and kissing goodnight. But one of our traditions is perhaps a little unusual. After story time as Josh is getting comfortable in bed and I am tucking him in, I lean over him and let my hair tickle his face at various speeds. I usually start with “fast,” where I shake my head back and forth as quickly as I can without throwing up. Then I downshift to medium and eventually land on slow, which calms Josh and helps him get ready to sleep.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


We hop in the car after picking up playoff pizza, and Josh stops to take in that telltale cheesy smell.

"MMMmmmmmm. I love pizza," he croons as he climbs into his booster seat. "Pizza is my second favorite, and macaroni and cheese is my third favorite."

As I back the car out its parking space, I realize I have missed something. "What's your first favorite?"

"Mommy." Josh replies.

"Wow! You love me more than pizza AND macaroni and cheese?"

"Yeah!" Josh says, with a hint of "duh!" in his voice. "Mommy is my first favorite. Pizza is my second favorite. Macaroni and cheese is my third favorite. Pancakes are my fourth favorite...and...after that, it gets complicated."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Birthday buddies

We arrive at Luke’s house about five minutes early. Luke is Josh’s best boy buddy at school, and Josh has been anticipating his birthday party for weeks. We park a few houses away. While Josh and Luke play together every day at school, this is the first time we have been to Luke’s house. Josh is eager to get there. As soon as I open the door, he hops out and starts jogging ahead of me. I hurry along behind, losing ground as I struggle to balance the gift and my purse.

As we round the court, I see Luke on his front porch. He spots Josh and comes bounding out to meet us.

“Josh!” Luke calls as he nears the sidewalk.

“Luke!” Josh calls as he breaks into a sprint.

The boys meet at the edge of the driveway and come to a complete standstill about two feet apart.

“Hi!” Luke exclaims, smiling at Josh and giving him a brief wave.

“Hi! Josh shouts back enthusiastically.

For a split second, neither boy knows what to do next. But their excitement is clearly mutual.

Then Luke suddenly throws his arms around Josh’s neck and pulls him in for a hug. Josh beams as he grabs Luke, and their cheeks meet — their two smiling faces smashed together in picture perfect harmony.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

School blues

“What day is it today?” Josh asks as he stands by my bed in his fuzzy pjs.

“Uh, Wednesday,” I say slowly, before I can even pry my eyes open.

“Oh man, I don’t want to go to school today.” He laments as he buries his face in the sheets.

Now I’m awake. Josh never complains about going to school. He did occasionally last year when he was a bit younger. But we changed preschools this year, and until now, he has always been happy to go.

As I pull him up into bed with me for our morning snuggles, my mind races with potential reasons for this sudden turnaround. Has he been afraid to tell me he doesn’t like the new school? Is another child bullying him? Did he get in trouble on Monday? Did I make the wrong choice last summer when I decided to move him?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Grit and bear it

We played too long today. It was my fault really. As most things are. I tried to fit in too much. My plans were evidently too ambitious. And I didn't realize they weren't working until they really weren't working — and I had to carry a kicking and screaming five year old out of a local family fun place.

The day started out happy enough (albeit a little too early, which is of course my fault, too). Josh met his best buddy at their Thursday morning ceramics class where they made the cutest jellyfish on the planet. Afterward, I thought a trip to a nearby kid's gym would help both kids burn off some energy.

And all was going well, until Josh crashed into Sami at the bottom of the bouncy slide and later somehow knocked her down "accidentally" and was warned that the next infraction would be his last. So when he demanded to trade fire hats with Sami a half-hour later, I should have known trouble was brewing. But Sami sweetly traded, and all was calm on the Western front...until Josh immediately changed his mind and demanded to trade back. That's when I intervened. And that's when Josh hurled the small train car I didn't know he'd been holding onto the train table, which sent it careening perilously close to a group of innocent toddlers playing nearby.

That's when our playdate abruptly ended. The only thing left to do was strong-arm a willful, screeching, plea-bargaining preschooler down an elevator, through the main lobby past what seemed like hundreds of other sane families, and across the parking lot — and avoid eye contact all the way.

I knew immediately that it was my fault. I tried to squeeze in too many things today. After I kept him up too late last night, which caused him to wake up too early this morning. After I kept him too busy with so many other activities all week so I could tackle too many freelance deadlines at home. All week, I built a precarious tower of tiny decisions, stacking one after another on top of each other, until they all came tumbling down — with Josh howling and gasping and wailing and yelling all the way home.

Or maybe it was just a tantrum. An unpredictable outburst of anger and frustration from a young child who wanted to stay and play and possibly annoy his BFF a little longer. Perhaps he was just having a bad day for no particular reason other than that he's five. I guess I'll never know.

Tonight as I think about it, I am thankful that I had already been through that several times before. I'm thankful that I know all those other families in the lobby have been, too. While overstimulation may breed meltdowns, experience breeds grit. And boy did I need all the grit I could get today.
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