Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Support

Today was the third day of school for my kids and my heart sank and then melted today.

The first day of school was a half day for everyone.  Drop off and pick up was in the front.  All the kids met their teachers outside of the school to go in as a group.  It was a little chaotic but I got to see my kids join their teachers before saying goodbye to them.  I'm sure they were nervous but they put on a good face and did well separating from me and from each other.

Friday I dropped the kids off in the front and there were a lot of teachers around helping the kids find their classrooms.  There was a little bit of clinging but we made it through.  Again, I knew that my kids were taken care of and the walk from the front door to the classroom was a short one.  I picked the kids up after a half day (some of the kids stayed for a whole day on Friday) and it was calm and peaceful because it was only about half of the class.

Today was different.  I was running a little behind so I dropped the kids off in back because that was the closest door to where I had parked.  I had been told there would be plenty of staff around to make sure kids got to where they were supposed to go but, when I got to the entrance by the cafeteria, there was only one lady with a clipboard (not sure what that was for) surrounded by a bunch of kids sitting at tables.  Mobs of older kids were whizzing by her trying to get to their classrooms on time.  I wanted to walk my kids into the classroom but parents aren't allowed into the school.  (Yes, I get why but I'm sure some childless and heartless bureaucrat came up with that rule!)  I told the kids to ask the lady where to go and she just said, "Oh, you're in kindergarten?  You can go straight to class."

"WHAT?!?!?!" I screamed inside my head.  "How can you let them walk through the cafeteria and down the hall all by themselves?  They've never gone into the school this way before?  They'll be stepped on by older kids?  Or get lost in the bowels of the school?  Or eaten by bears because Besty DeVos' plan to let every school have a gun hasn't taken effect yet."

As I stood, helpless, at the threshold I watched my two kids walk through the cafeteria towards the hallway where their classrooms are.  I couldn't leave until I knew they made the turn down the correct hallway.  After a few steps I saw their hands touch.  They held hands as they walked.  They were there for each other.  My heart broke and melted at the same time.  They might have been scared to go but they had each other and they were there to support each other.  Raising twins has certainly been tough for so many reasons but there are moments when it's emotionally overwhelming in a good way (like the first day of dance class).

After a few more steps one of the kids sitting at a table yelled out "Hi, Aaron!" and I felt calmer. Someone shouting his name means he is making connections with the other kids and I know things will turn out OK.  In a few more weeks I'm sure my kids will start to run out of the car to get to school and not look back.  My big goodbye hugs in the morning will turn into just seeing their backs as they rush through the door.  When it happens I'll remind myself of the article I read a long time ago.  The writer told parents that as kids separate from you it's important to remember that has been a parent's goal all along.  When you hold you child in your arms you dream of what your child can accomplish in his or her life.  I'll miss the hugs and kisses and knowing I provide the best safety net for them, but I'll be OK.  And if I'm still a little sad, like I always say, I'll go eat some chocolate.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Separation Anxiety

I was keeping it a secret from the boys.  I didn't want to tell them because I didn't know how they would react.  I was going to wait for the letters to come and then make a big deal out of the excitement of meeting a new teacher.  I held on to this secret for months.  When the news broker, however, I wasn't even home.

Let me explain...

A little while before the kids were born a friend of mine who is a twin sent me a really heartfelt email.  She told me how she and her brother were always "the twins" and were together all the time growing up.  Finally, after 18 years of being together, she went to college and he joined the military.  For the first time they were separated and she said she had an identity crisis.  She didn't know how to function without her brother at first.  So she encouraged me to really allow my twins to have their own lives and be individuals.

During this last year of school we started to notice so many differences between the kids.  Skills like reading, music, sports, math, socializing, etc. are developing and I saw my kids comparing themselves to each other.  I knew it was time to separate them.  They, like every other child in the universe, have strengths and weaknesses but being a twin they have built in competition at school and at home.  I didn't want them comparing themselves with each other so Derek and I decided it was time to put them in separate classrooms.

A few days ago, while I was working, the letters came with classroom assignments.  By the time I came home the boys had learned their teachers' names and room numbers.  They seemed unfazed.  The next day they were telling someone in the library about how they would be in different classrooms in the morning but the same classroom (if all goes as planned) in the afternoon.  In a few weeks we get to visit the classrooms and meet the teachers.  Maybe reality will sink in that they will be separated when we see where each of them will be, but for now they seem to have accepted that this is just the next thing that happens.  It seems like, for now, I am the one with separation anxiety!  I predict the first week of school might be a little rough for all of us.  But that's OK.  That's why someone invented chocolate.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I Don't Know How To Tweet But I Like 'Em

I've never been great with technology but between Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat and lord knows what else is out there that the kids are using these days I feel pretty old.  I don't know how to use most of those things.  But I recently saw hilarious tweets and felt like they're pretty appropriate to describing life with two five-year-olds.  Here are some of my favorites.


  • I'm glad we own 10,000 stuffed animals so my toddler can fall asleep cuddling a jar of peanuts. 
  • What I thought I would say as a parent: "You are going to change the world."                       What I say as a parent: "Stop licking the window."
  • I turned off the TV today and made my kids play board games like it was 1955 and now I know why all of our grandparents were alcoholics. 
  • In case you were on the fence about having kids my 3 year old threw a temper tantrum because her tongue is pink.
  • Right now I'm a dad playing hide and seek with my kid so I can actually get shit done while she thinks she has the "perfect" hiding spot.  
  • Sometimes I wonder how such beautiful kids can really be mine.  Then my four year old opens a door and runs into the door frame.  Then I know.
  • There is no greater love than the love a mother has for her children when they're sleeping.
  • The same kid who claimed she needs a fidget spinner because she "can't focus" just spent 8 minutes picking every sesame seed off her bagel.
  • My toddler wanted to have an argument about who pooped in the diaper she was wearing.  And it was the least crazy thing she did all day.
  • Bucket list 2003: Visit Rome, go skydiving, run marathon.                                                            Bucket list 2017: Eat sitting down, wake up naturally, finish painting foyer.
  • It's like the kids can just smell us relaxing.
  • Me: Time for bed.                                                                                                                     Kid: I'm not tired.                                                                                                                       Me: Brush your teeth first.                                                                                                          Kid: I'm too tired.
  • Kidless friend: What do you do all day?                                                                                   Me: (Looks around at mess) Honestly, I'm not sure.  But it makes me really, really tired.
  • Little does the bus driver know that "I love you" I shout after my kids every morning is for him too.
  • Oh, you ran a 5K today?  Cool.  I buckled a toddler into a car seat twice today so we burned the same amount of calories.
  • I highly suggest you tell your kids to help clean up.  They won't do it, but they will disappear and leave you the hell alone for a few minutes.
  • Tonight's child meltdown brought to you by a restaurant that used real cheese in their mac-n-cheese instead of the powdered stuff.
  • Making breakfast for a child:  Step one: take order.  Step two: make whatever you want because they're going to hate it and you'll end up eating it.
  • When your son pours himself a cup of milk from the gallon jug and your life flashes before your eyes.
  • Husband: You should try going to bed earlier.                                                                           Me: You should take the 3 year old to work with you.                                                       Husband: I'd get nothing done.                                                                                                   Me: EXACTLY!
There are so many more I want to read.  There are literally 37 more pages of tweets and if I had the time to read them all I would but, y'know, just look above and pick one of the tweets because something like that is probably happening in my life right now.  

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Shark Tank

The boys have been taking swimming lessons for almost a year now.  Aaron has turned into a little fish.  He is so excited to get in the pool and swim (which basically means trying not to sink).  He likes to use a kick board and float on his back and he recently started to jump off a small diving board.  He loves to go under water now and we have talked about going down a water slide now that he is comfortable going below the surface.

Jeff, on the other hand, is not a fan of getting his head wet.  He enjoys swimming at least.  His excellent teacher has managed to get Jeff to put his ears in the water while floating on his back as well as blow bubbles once, but aside from that Jeff comes out of the thirty minute swim lesson mostly dry from the neck up.  The teacher has encouraged Jeff to jump in from a sitting position on the wall instead of the diving board but that hasn't worked.  The teacher has tried to get Jeff to bob under the water and that has never happened.  Even jumping in from the side while holding the teacher's hands has stopped.  Jeff has hit a plateau.

During this week's swimm lesson I looked at Derek and told him that I was ready to bribe Jeff if he would jump off the diving board.  (My mom says bribery is just another word for positive reinforcement so we'll go with that term!)  Derek agreed.

On the car ride home I asked Jeff what it would take for him to dive off the diving board.

"Buy me ice cream every day!" he said.

Every day???  Crazy.  No way.

"Ummm...I don't think I can get you ice cream every day.  What else could I get you?" I asked trying to renegotiate the terms of this verbal contract.

"Ice cream every week!" was the response.

Ugh.  I guess I should figure out how long this ice cream buying is supposed to last.  Maybe his idea of ice cream every day is only for a week.  I thought he would say lunch at a restaurant or a movie rental from the library.  Somehow this top notch negotiator is thinking long term and trying to milk this for all it's worth.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Charity And Compassion

About three years ago I was at my cousin's bar mitzvah.  During the ceremony his parents got up to speak about what is was like raising him.  They told a story of when he was maybe 11 or 12 years old and the family was on vacation.  The parents had given the boy some money for souvenirs.  He decided, however, to use some of his souvenir money to buy lunch for a homeless man.  As I heard this story I was overwhelmed with emotions.  What an amazing boy -- and amazing parents -- to use money for himself on a total stranger.  You don't find too many tween boys who would do that.  I was filled with hope that my kids would one day show such selflessness and compassion.

Fast forward to today  I currently live in an area where there are a decent number of homeless people around.  We see them as we walk to the subway.  We see some beggars downtown asking for money.  We also encounter a lot of people begging as we drive.  Several people stand at intersections with signs saying things like "No job and two kids.  Trying to take care of my children."  Or we see "Displaced due to domestic violence.  Please help."  Or even "Have no home.  Sleeping on the street.  Anything helps."

My kids have obviously noticed this and we have talked about it over the last year or two.  Now that my boys can read they have started asking more specific questions about the signs and the people.  It's hard to explain to children an issue that our most educated folks in America cannot solve, but every time we talk about it I feel like I explain the issue as best I can to a child and each boy will process it on whatever level he can at that moment.

My boys started to tell me that we should give the beggars money.  I have given money once or twice before and my mother-in-law recently gave someone some money too.  I think that triggered something in my kids.  They encourage me to give money every time we see someone now.  One young girl had a sign saying that she had no home and that particularly interested Jeff.  A couple days ago we were stopped at a light and saw her again just as it started to rain.  I had some change and I asked Jeff if he wanted to give her some money.  I rolled down his window and he gave the woman some coins.  Jeff, in his typical Jeff style, needed to talk out everything that was in his head.  He told the young lady that he saw her sign and it said she had no home and he told her that maybe this money could help get her a home.  She was so grateful.

There is something so touching about the innocence and optimism of a child.  As an adult in his 40s I have become more jaded and more individualistic.  Seeing how Jeff connected with this woman, talked with her, hoped for the best for her and how touched she was talking to him for just those 30 seconds showed me the power in charity and compassion.  I'm not saying I'll change overnight, but I hope I'll be more willing to give a dollar to a person in need.  I already bought a newspaper that a homeless man was selling.  I'm not saying that should garner me any applause, I'm just saying it's a start.  Right?


Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Brutal, Brutal Playground

I had heard about bullying.  We've all heard about it.  We know it's a major problem among kids today.  There is bullying in person and, just as troubling or maybe even more so, is cyber bullying.  I knew that it was going to be something I'd have to deal with sooner or later but who knew that I would be so mad about it already.

I'm not sure that what is happening is technically bullying.  I get it that my kids are hanging out with 5 and 6 year old kids.  They are barely capable of putting on their socks let alone masterminding a plot to psychologically hurt another child so I'm not trying to blow this out of proportion.  I know this is just part of life and kids learning how to socialize.  But it does suck when your child feels hurt due to someone else's actions.

Sometimes it's hard to know if there really was a problem.  One kid was "pushed" which turned out to just be a bunch of kids knocking into each other on the playground according to a teacher.  One kid was laughed at because of a face he made and the teacher said it was simply one kid laughing and others laughing at the laughing which then was misconstrued and blown out of proportion.  There are times when I believe you just have to learn to walk away, shake it off or ignore it.  

My boys are sensitive, though.  Some of it, I believe, is nature and some is nurture.  I think they happen to be sweet and Derek and I encourage that kind of behavior.  Neither Derek or I believe that they should "man up" or only play with guns and tanks because that's what boys do.  They like cartoons that are more about relationships than beating bad guys.  

I, personally, have been told that I needed to relax and stop worrying about other people when I was planning a party and I was so worried about making sure that no one would be friendless and everyone would know at least one other person at the party.  I do worry about things like that.  I have a bad temper and no patience at times but I also constantly wonder if others are OK.  I just googled empathetic people and found several memes that I identify with...
  1. If you see someone fall over you always wince rather than laugh.
  2. If someone wears inappropriate clothing you feel compelled to ask them if they're the right temperature.  
  3. You can tell when you're boring someone and it makes you feel awful.
  4. You expect other people to be as empathetic as you and you get angry when they can't tell that you're upset.  
So when my boys are excluded from playing a game or called a name it hurts and there's not much I can really do but be supportive and tell them I love them and will always be their friend.  There's one boy in particular who seems to be the leader of the "mean boys" (as my boys call them) and believe me I want to call his mother and tell her to teach her boy some manners.  My boys, with their big hearts, invited him to their birthday party anyway.  He's not coming and, to be honest, I'm a little bit grateful.  If he did come I'm not saying the cake might not "accidentally" wind up on his head.  


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Empathy

Last week I was so sick.  I caught some bug that was making its way through my kids' school.  After one of my boys got sick it hit me.  Aaron came up to me while I was laying on my "death bed" and showed me a picture he drew.  It had the names of colors and dots on it and he explained how it was a little game.  I could match the dots with the words.  (Honestly, the game didn't make much sense but I'm sure it was a thrilling game to a four year old.)  He also wrote

"Getwelson"

and

"Yuahhebestdadeevr"

For those of you who don't speak four year old handwriting (although I bet most of you got it) he told me "get well soon" and "you are the best daddy ever."

Of course that immediately made me feel better.  What touched me most was his empathy.  My little monstrous children who for years have only thought of themselves and their own interests (because that's what little children do) were getting the fact that I was hurting and needed help.  It's not the first time this has happened.  My kids have given me bites of their desserts when I didn't have one, sent stuffed animals to work with me so I won't be alone and given me kisses and hugs to cheer me up.  But I think this card/picture/creation hit me harder than before.

Why?

Because of what our world is facing.  Because of the Orange Demon and his vile team who have taken over the White House.

After Aaron gave me my present I really wondered what kind of childhood this man had to turn him into such an unfeeling, uncaring monster.  I have no idea how he -- along with hundreds if not thousands businessmen like Madoff and Diamond and Stumpf -- can do such hateful things to so many people.  I have no understanding of how someone can have such disregard for other people's lives.

I am grateful I live in my bubble in which my friends and family want to find ways to support the Syrian refugees, not ban them from entering the country.  I am happy my friends and family are willing to pay a little more in taxes to keep safety net programs like Medicare and Medicaid instead of cutting taxes so the rich keep an extra million that they don't need for a third or fourth or fifth house.  I love that my friends and family are humble enough to admit that they have good lives because often (not always) their parents gave them things like a good education, warm clothes in the winter, breakfast every morning and we know that those less fortunate can be in their position through systematic failings and not just personal ineptitude or laziness.

I am by no means perfect.  I am not someone who buys a homeless man a sandwich or protests inequality at marches or even is consistent with donating money.  But I'd like to think that at the very least I'm teaching my children not to hate, understand when others are hurting, and to feel grateful for the things they have.  Hopefully when my kids grow up and their generation takes over control of this country things will be different than they are now thanks to what Derek and I (and our friends and family) are teaching them.  I'll try to find some comfort in that idea for the next few years.  I believe the world can continue to become more empathetic and kind despite this temporary setback.