Archives for August 2015

Transitions

My dear ones, today was your last day at SMR Montessori. You have been going there since you were just infants. For your first two years, starting at 6-months, you went one day a week to give Mom some time-off while I worked. Then when you were about 2, you were old enough to go to daycare and Mom returned to work. So easily for the past 4 of your 6 years, you’ve been learning and growing there. Today, that came to an end.

There was a ceremony of sort (Pizza & a send-off). Mom picked you up from school, and when you both came home, you were quite sad and showing it in different ways. Lucas, you came up to me and gave such a slow, soft hug. Your face hung low, and you said you were sad, but that was about it. Anna, you were far more distraught, going back and forth between wanting hugs, screaming your sorrow, lying down, and going into your room. You kept saying you wanted to see Ms. Lavenya just one more week.

Endings are hard, my dears. They always are. But you see, the joy hidden in the sorrow of our partings is that we cared enough to matter to each other. Our sadness is a reminder that we lost (or perceive a loss) of something that was important to us. It’s a way to reconnect to our memories of joy, and to tag them as significant to who we have become through our time and growth together.

JoyInSorrow

Tomorrow morning, you have your first official start to your new school at St. Luke. Mom and I are both going with you to see you off, and I only hope that I don’t fall to pieces the way you did this evening.

You don’t recognize it yet, but endings and beginnings are a huge part of life. They are often where most of the learning occurs – where we solidify our experiences coming to an end, and set our intentions for what will follow. They are where we have an opportunity to course-correct, and at least for youth, to re-decide who it is that we want to be for the next leg of our journey through life.

There is one decision in particular that will slowly dawn upon you, though perhaps not for many years to come. That is the decision of whether and how open to be with those you will encounter on your new journey, even while you grieve for those you just left behind. I assert that one of they keys to a life of joy is your ability to continue through life with an open heart, despite the hurts and sorrows one endures. Endings are often painful, and the fearful parts within us can try in vain to prevent that pain by refusing to open up to others we encounter next. But be open, my loves. Be open to new experiences; to new friends; to new ideas and learning; to new people and to trust; to failures and to joy. Be open to all of these and more, despite the stumbling blocks you will encounter.

As the youngsters that you are today, I don’t think it has even occurred to you to close off in an attempt to avoid pain. But at some point, I have no doubt, you will come to that decision point of whether to open just once more or to seek self-protection. My dear ones, stay open. Always. Ultimately, that is the path to your greatest joy – yours and those around you.

New friends

School starts one week from today. Of course, you have both been going to a Montessori preschool for years, so it’s really only your NEW school that starts. But today, we took you out of preschool to go to St. Luke’s to meet your new teacher and some of your classmates. Even though you had been in the classrooms before, such as when we were trying to decide between Kindergarten and 1st grade, you were both quite nervous.

Lucas, Mom stayed with you in Ms. Yarno’s class, and I went with you, Anna, to Ms. Nelson’s room. All the kids brought in various supplies that would be pooled and used over the year, and your first job was to put them in the relevant piles. You had a seat with your name on it already, and a little boy whose seat was across from you came and sat down. The two of you were quite shy, not willing to make eye-contact, let alone say hello, even on prompting. You grabbed a book and asked me to read to you on the side of the room, which I did, after a couple failed attempts to coax you into being social.

Then we all went outside to have our picnic lunches near the playground. In the playground, you were both fine, running and jumping and playing with new kids, but come time to sit down, and you both sort of froze again. I’m not sure what or where the distinction came in for you, but clearly it was there in your mind.

The whole event was really just to help reduce nervous jitters and say hello, so it only lasted about an hour and a half. But before leaving, Anna, you wanted to go say goodbye to your teacher. As we were in there, there was another girl, slightly taller than you. You just stared at her, and her eyes went to her feet. I whispered into your ear, say “Hi. My name is Anna. What’s yours?”

I know it to be a simple task, but your whole body was in contraction when finally you said “My name is Anna.” Again I whispered the rest, and you asked for her name, which was Alley.

Focused on how you were feeling in the moment, I looked at the two of you, then whispered to you “Are you nervous too?” You looked me right in the eye, and I said it was OK to ask because I think you are both feeling the same thing. You asked, and Alley ever so slowly nodded her head, so now you had a shared feeling between you.

You looked at me again, almost as if waiting for me to whisper your next line, which was “Would you like to be friends?” You said it, she nodded, and then the two of you took it from there without further help. You walked up to her, you both smiled and re-confirmed that last part again. YES! You did both want to be friends!

Later, when we came home again, you even drew a picture of the two of you – Anna and Alley – as friends, and could hardly wait for next week to give it to her.

My darling little girl, as I’m writing, I reflect on the process of what it takes to make a new friend as an adult, and it seems so much more involved, time-consuming, and difficult than it was for you today, though I don’t for a moment diminish that for you, even what you did was a challenge. As adults, we all have our own lives. As parents in particular, our lives are largely centered around each other as a couple, and you as our children. The friends I do have are quite small in number, and it’s only with deliberate effort that even those relationships are maintained. And making new friends? With the requirement of commonality, shared interests, and ongoing communication? That almost never happens now, save perhaps for some learning communities that I participate in.

Hmm… learning communities. Just like you in Kindergarten, and that book that All I Ever Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten. Indeed.

At bedtime, I typically ask you both what your best part of the day was, and likewise I tell you something from my perspective. Tonight, dear Anna, I told you of your interaction with Alley. In particular, that the simple conversation you had today is the key to making friends. Most people you meet are going to be just as nervous and scared as you were today. And your ability to start a conversation with “Hi! My name is Anna, what’s yours?” is the key you need to making all the friends you want.

I’ll also often ask you what you are grateful for at bedtime. As I write, I am grateful for my wife and your mother. I am grateful for the two of you beyond measure. I am grateful for my family – near and far. And I am grateful for those I still consider my dearest and longest friends: Jerry Fagen, Stephanie Hicks, Johanna Klouda, Kobe Boegart (chronological order). And I am grateful for my teachers, especially Bob Dunham, for without my teachers, and the communities I join through learning, I would never have met and formed many of the friendships I have today.

Out of Order

No, there’s nothing broken here, which, with the two of you, is actually an accomplishment. Rather, I’m writing to the two of you from a concern about learning things in the wrong order. You see, when I was your age, I was exposed to coconut-scented sunblock before I even knew what a coconut was. And when finally I saw the real thing, I hated eating it because I forever thought I was eating sunscreen. Likewise with lemon scented dish soap. When finally I saw a lemon, I had no idea how or why anybody would want to put slices of dish-soap into their drinking water. To this day, the first thing I do with the lemon is get it the heck out of my glass.

And now, my beloveds, we come back to you. About a month or so back, we read The Magician’s Nephew together, which is the first in the Narnia Chronicles. Now we’re reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. You’re only 6, so much of the deeper and religious aspect of the story is lost on you. At least I think it might be, but I do try to highlight the Christian parts so that you get them. What I wonder about, however, is whether when you finally learn and really understand the story of Christ, if you will end up thinking “Oh… he’s just like Aslan in that story about Narnia” in the same way I have coconuts and lemons stored out of order in my brain.

Lego my eggooo

Back in the 1970’s, there was this ad campaign for “Lego my eggo.”  While we skip the name-brand, you both love your frozen waffles.  Apparently, the toaster was unplugged this morning, and you were unable to defrost/cook them on your own.  So you got the step-stool, turned on the hot water in the sink, filled a bowl, and started dunking your waffles in order to heat them up.  Then, you got upset that your waffle was all gooey, and nothing short of a blast-furnace would ever make them crunchy again.  I have to give you credit for creative problem solving, but neither one of you wanted to eat them after that.

Last week, you both got up before me.  This is not uncommon, and you both know to leave me alone until 7:00AM.  On one particular morning, Lucas, you were snuggling with me in bed while I could hear Anna out in the kitchen doing who-knows-what.  I knew I needed t check, and soon, but I was also groggy and snuggling.  But what I discovered, Anna, was that you had made chocolate milk for all of us and were proud that you had not spilled any.  I did not question your assessment of pride, despite the milk over part of the counter.  What I did ask, my dear, is where you got the chocolate?

You see, I had used the very last of it the night before, and put milk into the bottle to shake out the last bits before drinking it, and left it on the counter.  So there had likely been at least some spoiled milk in the bottle by the time you used it.  Reluctantly, I had to take away the milk you had so thoughtfully prepared for each of us.  My dear, you were devastated, and thought that you had done something terribly wrong.  I told you what happened, and you cried all the more “I did not know!”

Yes, my love, you did not know, and I was grateful for your effort, but for a good half hour you were beyond consoling and said you were never going to make breakfast for us again.  For a while, that may be a good thing – at least not by surprise.  But I do hope the memory does not stick with you for the rest of your life.

You see, I remember being maybe your age when I got milk just before bed, and also had an incident with chocolate.  This was nothing so serious as Death-By-Chocolate, but it stuck with me nonetheless.  On this particular occasion, my mom poured the chocolate syrup into my glass and was stirring with a spoon, perhaps a bit too aggressively.  The glass broke, pouring its contents all over my lap and the floor, after which she screamed at me and sent me to bed with nothing.

So just for the record, dear Anna, you did nothing wrong… you were being kind and thoughtful, and it just didn’t work out right.  I should have put the empty bottle into the recycle bin and none of it would have happened.