Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Kindergarten Drop Out

Shabbat #24

Guests: Us. At Granny and Grandaddy's in sunny San Diego.

Menu: Grilled flank steaks, salad and challah a la Granny.

I was off the hook again this week thanks to our annual summer trip with the kids to visit my mother and father-in-law, affectionately known as Granny and Granddaddy.

My mother in law is one-in-a-million. Beautiful and stylish to boot, she introduced me (for better or worse) to my first real hairdresser and my first (and former) personal shopper. She taught me to love a fine five-course dinner ... and a greasy bag of Crunchers potato chips. Just not at the same time. And she taught me that being strong not only means knowing how to grin and bare it in public, but also knowing how to fall apart behind closed doors and accept the support of family.

All lessons I have tested repeatedly.

Granny and Granddaddy's house in San Diego is designed for, well, Granny and Granddaddy. Not Ben and Sarah. And arguably not even Steve and Rebecca. Which gave me plenty of opportunity to break out all of my "Love and Logic" dialogue to the point where I sounded like a broken record. Praising "good decisions," diffusing melt downs and trying to curtail massive property damage. I even worked in a lesson on respecting the body that G-d gave you right after Granddaddy suggested Ben get a tattoo. Really? What's next? A belly ring for Sarah? He was joking. I think. (And incidentally, as I quickly approach 40 I plan to adamantly argue that Botox does not, in fact, qualify as defacing one's body.)

But when all of my Parents As Teachers tricks fall flat, I reach for my trump card. The threat that always works.

Keep doing that and you won't get into kindergarten!

I'll be the first to admit that this phrase is enormously self-serving. Not just because it (usually) stops the behavior. But because I am secretly hoping, no praying, that somehow, someway the first day of kindergarten never comes.

Of course it's coming anyway. August 17th. Mrs. Follstrom just sent Ben a postcard letting him know.

Dear Ben, Looking forward to seeing you. You can bring your supplies on August 17th. See you soon! Mrs. Fallstrom

And just like that Ben went from being my precious baby boy to a school kid who gets his own mail and schleps his own supplies. Next week I suspect he'll be sneaking out the car and begging for a later curfew.

I remember my first day of kindergarten. We have a picture. Me dressed in my green jeans shorts and patchwork blouse. (How could you not love the 70's?) Pigtails. Lunch box in hand. I was stepping onto the school bus at the top of Cool Meadows. But from the photo you can't even tell if I was upset, scared or the least bit nervous about the milestone because I DIDN'T EVEN LOOK BACK.

Thankfully Ben will not be taking the bus. I'll walk him. And cling to his leg sobbing like a mad woman as he crosses the threshold into independence. Which will likely make it nearly impossible for him to move on without looking back since he'll need to shake me from his leg. Small blessings.

But inside I know that regardless of whether he looks back on August 17th, he will be moving on. And that's scary. A little bit for Ben who has told me he's "nervous," but excited to meet new friends. Particularly big kids. And really scary for me. Not to be too melodramatic ... okay, I'm sobbing like, well, a mother of an almost kindergartner ... but it seems a little bit like the beginning of the end. Each time I think about it I wonder ...

Did I hug him enough? Hold his hand enough? Should I have called in sick more for "Mommy/Ben dates?" Did I teach him everything he needs to know?

Is he ready?

Am I ready?

On August 17th I fully expect to institute, yet again, the lesson of Granny: grin and bare it in public and then come home and fall apart with family. And from experience, I know that each day will get a little bit easier. And I trust I'll find away to support Ben as he grows, so that we grow together instead of apart. But just in case, I'll be sending Ben with his own letter ... to Mrs. Follstrum:

Dear Mrs. Fallstrom:

Please take care of the best thing that has ever happened to me. The person who changed my life. Who gives me strength everyday simply by existing.

And who I promise you in no uncertain terms is cute for a reason! Good luck.

Your friend, Rebecca

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