Graduation Lessons

IMG_1211
This child and his silly faces

“We want to be a part of it! First Grade! First Grade!”

IMG_1109
Slide Show Picture

As I listened to my son and his classmates sing their graduation song, having just finished the adorable slideshow the school had put together to celebrate, I was surprised to find tears in my eyes. I’m not usually the kind of person that cries over happy things. Besides, it’s just a Kindergarten Graduation, right? His diploma has crayons on it!

But it’s about thinking back to where we were when we started Kindergarten.

Our entire lives have changed since September 2014. Seeing those pictures, taken on the first day of school, I could remember who we were when we dropped him off. I can remember still crossing my fingers, waiting to hear back regarding my manuscript. I can remember Ismael struggling to complete his. Our novels hadn’t been picked up for publication, then. We were just people chasing a dream. And Logan was a big part of that dream.

IMG_1070
This little heartbreaker.

Logan, himself, was different. He couldn’t read more than a few words. The other day, he casually picked up a book and read it to himself. It was a breeze. At his birthday party, just before school started, Logan cried about losing a game that cost him a trophy at his own birthday party (I never would have given it to him anyway! That was for the other kids!). CRIED. Hysterically. But I watched him lose a few rounds into the class spelling bee, last week, with little more than a short sniffle. He cried on the third day of school, after seemingly tricking us into believing he was going to be okay with going. By the last day, he was racing in without me, intent on hanging with his friends. He had a hard time leaving his stuffed bear behind on the first day, and though I snuck said bear into the graduation in my purse to make him laugh, it doesn’t take much work at all to convince him to leave the bear home when we’re heading out for the day.

We speak more. I’ve always spoken to Logan, but I can think of dozens of real, somewhat deep conversations we’ve had over the last school year. Perhaps, the most touching of those conversations was the one we had with him the day my Grandmother passed away. But there were others, about friendship, about family. About the bad things we don’t want to think about. About his favorite things and how to handle a bully. About siblings, and planning and all of the things he wants to be. About history, and how to be a good citizen. About keeping the Earth clean, and about guppies and earthworms and snails. About trees and flowers and how they grow. About what it’s like to start to see your dreams come true and how much hard work something like that takes. All on the walk to school.

Getting his crayon diploma.
Getting his crayon diploma.

Watching the slideshow, I stared at the pictures of him from his orientation, and remembered when he was clinging to me, eyeing the application paperwork over my shoulder and asking me what every word meant. But then, I saw my big boy getting his crayon diploma. My first grader, who had come out of his first year older and wiser. And I teared up a bit.

The next day, when Logan asked me how much school he had left, and I told him about college, and an advanced education, he sighed. “I’m going to be in school forever!”

So, I asked, “Logan, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I want to be a scientist. And a writer. And a doctor. And an engineer. And a fixer. And a superhero,” he said, with all of the trademark excitement I expect from him.

“And you know, the best way to be any of those things?” I asked, mostly ignoring the superhero part, although there is more than one way to be a superhero. “Learn. Learn everything you can. Never stop learning.”

And as I said it, and he agreed, I realized how much more I have to learn, how much more I have to teach him.

I can’t wait to see where we go.

FullSizeRender

Advertisements

Planner

When I was trying to get pregnant, I spent all day on the internet searching out daycares, researching the school district.  As I agonized over childcare for my future daughter (or so I thought), I was tense and frustrated.  One day, my friend asked me, right in the middle of a bout of panic, if I was pregnant yet.  I wasn’t.  “So why are you driving yourself crazy now?!” He asked, in a tone that seriously implied I was taking him with me.

The answer?  Because I always live ten steps ahead of now.  That probably wasn’t a reasonable response, though.

My husband, Ismael, isn’t a planner.  I once asked him where he saw himself in five years and he shrugged.  SHRUGGED!  Who does that?!  That’s ridiculous!  Except, in some ways, I envy him, because it has often made him the smarter of the two of us.

There are some things you just can’t plan.

When my son, Logan, was born, it was after thirty-six hours of labor and an emergency C-section – that I never planned.  I never planned on Logan having colic.  I never planned on not being able to breastfeed.  I never planned on postpartum depression.

I planned on the opposite of all of those things and so, when it came time to face facts, my world was completely shaken up.  If there was anything Logan did when he arrived it was crash through every preconceived notion I had.  Motherhood, for me, came with more pain than my complicated labor. I didn’t take well to it at first and my life constantly felt like a car speeding along on the freeway with faulty brakes.

Ismael, the non-planner, took to fatherhood with grace and dignity.  He was able to handle every curveball with a tired shrug, after which he plowed forward and went about the business of being the best, most active and involved father I’ve ever met.  No surprise was too great and though he was very stressed, he didn’t fall apart the way I did.  Because he didn’t plan.  He knew that having a baby was going to be a crazy time for us.  He knew there was no road map.  So he didn’t try to pave his own path through the wilderness.  He just waited to see what the road would look like and walked it once he’d gotten there.

That isn’t to say you shouldn’t plan at all.  It wasn’t like Ismael would have left the child without a crib or a nursery.  We were ready for Logan’s arrival and not all of that preparation was me. It’s one thing to draw a map in pencil and it’s another to draw it in permanent marker.

Allow me to put my permanent marker into my pocket so we can talk about this some more.  Guess which I do?

This concept applies to anything and I’m still trying to figure out how to apply it to the other aspects of my life.  But I guess when I boil it down to the simplest form it would have to be, don’t expect much.  Make a plan, but don’t expect that plan to be perfect and true at all times.  Expect it to mess up.  Expect to have to make a contingency plan.  You may not get that first book published.  You may not get that job you want.  You may not graduate when you want to.  You may have to change up your road map a bit along the way.

So, try to put away the permanent marker.  Try to learn the lesson that I learned from raising Logan: pencil, even washable marker, but never, NEVER a Sharpie.  You may need to change something and you’ll never get those Sharpie marks out of his clothes.  I promise you that.

Surprise! You’re One and Done!

10599613_10152369288983412_2106773918228127628_nWarning: This is not a writing related post – instead, this post is about some of the other pieces of my puzzle. I hope you enjoy it all the same!

The plan was simple. Wait until Baby #1 got out of daycare and into public school, and then consider it time for Baby #2! Funds would be freed up and we would be at different points in our career. Life would be different.

Well, that was certainly true.

The thing is, the plan is always simple. It was simple when Ismael and I got married and declared our intentions to have a baby in two years. We didn’t end up actually being in a financially and emotionally responsible place to have a baby until eight years after that self-imposed deadline.

About a year ago, as we began to poke around and ask questions about school registration, we had a quick discussion about the prospect for baby #2. Ismael was on the fence. Money was tight. Money was always tight. And that was just with the three of us. Would a fourth be pushing us over into negative income territory? I tried to maintain hope. You see, I had always had it in my head that I would have two to three kids, minimum. And when I have something in my head, I go for it. Relentlessly. So, I was sure we could find a way to make sense of things. I nodded and smiled through Ismael’s worries, sure that I would find the key to make this thing happen. The planner in me had already decided how this would go. I just had to figure out the particulars.

When Logan started school, Ismael and I started to reevaluate our finances. We started to reevaluate our schedules. We started to reevaluate our priorities. And we made a pretty heavy discovery.

There wasn’t anything more to go around. No money, no time, no attention. We had a full plate. Ismael and I both work full-time jobs and are full-time writers. We also have Logan, who is a regular powder keg of energy and our third musketeer. We do not have readily available babysitters in our family members and friends because they all work hard at full-time jobs themselves or live so far away, it isn’t feasible. Siblings live in another borough or another state. Parents have health issues. One of our best friends has three jobs. The other works double-shifts at times. But that isn’t even really an issue. It isn’t that we can’t get people to watch Logan while we take care of our other stuff. It’s that we don’t WANT to.

Logan is fun. Logan is our buddy. Logan is the light that makes our bad busy days happier. So we want to sit down and read with him, or watch a movie, or play a video game, or act out imaginary scenarios in which rolling across the bed is rolling down a hill to get away from the bad guys or Luke Skywalker comes to help Ariel with Ursula (we’ll make a writer out of him, yet – and probably a writer of fanfic).

As we journeyed through the first year of school, we realized that his school is a very good school and it is VERY parent inclusive. They have marches against bullying. They have fundraisers for Breast Cancer Research. They have bake sales and Mommy, Daddy, and Me reading nights, and movie nights, and school trips and art shows and a bunch of things that we wanted to be involved in. But we are already spread so thin. And managing three busy event calendars is a very different thing from managing two. So as we balanced this time off with that time off, as Ismael switched this work day and I took this half day, Ismael and I encountered a blinding moment of clarity.

We could have another child right now in these circumstances. But Logan would suffer for it. We wouldn’t have the money to take him places. We wouldn’t have the money to adhere to our “One Cool Adventure a Month” policy (we’re talking things like bowling or a movie, but we always try to do one cool thing). We wouldn’t have the time to go to his art shows or have dedicated time for silliness. I can barely make it to Logan’s events now, and I usually have to do some pretty efficient time gambling to make it pan out. But to do that for another kid? I’d cut my appearances in half.

Losing one of those things might be okay, but losing all of them? I could either make sure I was the kind of parent I wanted to be for Logan, or I could be a middling parent to two kids. And I’d much rather have the first.

As I said earlier, Ismael had probably already come to this conclusion, but didn’t know how to say it to me in such hard and fast terms. He’s always more of a realist than my dreamer self. So I know he was surprised when I told him I didn’t think we should have a second baby. “But that’s how things are right now,” he said, for me more than himself. “You never know where we’ll be in a few years.”

But the planner in me couldn’t take that. The planner in me would have kept trying to find a ‘how’. “I need to decide no. If a path to a yes shows up along the way, we’ll go ahead. But I need to decide no so I can get over it.” Because it was something I needed to get over. Because the idea of two children was so real in my head that it felt like something was missing and I needed to rethink my view of what my family should look like.

So that’s it. It looks like I’m a “One and Done” kind of parent. Because life happens. Because we are in constant states of flux. Because I once wrote a blog about writing dreams vs. reality and I know that applies to real life as well.

I think I have finally reached a point where I am okay with this decision. I may not be able to have all of the things I want. But sacrificing that to see the absolute perfection of all that I already HAVE may be the most important lesson I’ll ever learn.