Category: Jaybird

Mama Date

Jaybird and I need a date. Much of our time together lately is with the baby, which means I’m often distracted or having to nurse or needing J to stop pulling on his brother’s face. Other times he’s mainly attended to by others: my wife or my brother- and mother-in-law, both of whom live with us, as you may recall. End result, he and I don’t get much quality time. We used to go on adventures together, taking city buses to the downtown library or just goofing off in the grocery store, and I miss it. Also, I want to put some good stuff in the bank with him. He’s been testing and I can get snippy, especially in the evening. He blithely chooses both Uno and – a bit more painful for me – my brother in law over me. I get it. BIL is way more fun, and Uno is Mommy, his lifelong love. Both of them have more energy for him lately, but they’re also just on Jaybird-duty more. Anyway. I try to get in on bedtime stories, which is cozy and sweet even though he initially doesn’t want me to do it over Uno.

I guess I’m a lot more matter-of-fact about his preferences now, especially since I know that love and favoritism aren’t the same. We love each other madly. But he does have a favorite parent. It’s okay. He’s little, and it’s not uncommon even in hetero families (Google confirms). Still, it can sting. I know the best antidote is time together. We need play time, special time. If I let myself get hurt about his preferences, then I’m putting the burden of affirmation on him, a four year old… So I’m thinking a lot about being proactive. I’m going to fend off the ouch I feel when he says he wants someone else.

Typing on my phone, and must go now to pick him up. Perhaps we’ll go for burgers even though I do have Starling, who needs a nap. Or hmmm…ice cream later? A little bribe is ok, right? Er, not to be all Disneyland Dad about it.

Oh this parenting thing. Heart on the line, much of the time.

In The Thick of It

I’ve been missing in action around these parts, and want to remedy that, but here it is already time to pick up Jaybird from preschool. Oy vey. I will indulge in five minutes and be a little late. In no particular order:

-I’ve started teaching a few days a week. I’m at the helm of two sections of English 101. It’s familiar territory for me, and the students are the usual mix of delightful and frustrating. Already, I feel the rewards of the work, the connections made. So different than the corporate blah of the last year and a half. So that is wonderful. Not so wonderful is the 45 minute drive each way. I am trying to be on campus as little as possible, so I rush there, teach, rush home. A bit frantic. It’s mostly about nursing. I teach in the same classroom but only have ten minutes between courses, and by the time class #1 is done I need to pump. I shoo out the students, put a sign on the door, hide in a corner of the classroom and plug in. Totally awkward doesn’t even begin to cover it. Every time I pull up my shirt in that room, I’m convinced someone is going to come barging through the door. It doesn’t lock! That is, I can’t lock it manually. I have a student guard it, plus the sign…but still…

-Starling is home with my mother-in-law during those afternoons, and also with Uno for two of them. It’s working pretty well. I’m so grateful to not have to pay for childcare. That said my MIL is still learning his cues. He doesn’t sleep enough with her, she gives him a bottle just before I get home with a burning need to nurse. We just have to work out some kinks, I suppose.

-Starling is a chunk-a-monk of a happy guy. He’s so long! He’s outgrown many a onesie. He prefers to sleep while being held, just like his brother. He also nurses a lot in the night. I’m not sure about whether to “train” him (even a bit) or not. I’m jealous of friends with babies who sleep through the night already, but I don’t want to make him cry. He is twelve weeks, by the way. Twelve!

-We are still in divide-and-conquer mode with the kiddos, but Uno is getting more time with the baby now that I’m teaching, and I’m glad for that. Also, I have Jaybird two afternoons a week, and we have fun adventures to the park and such. It’s vital for us. We both need it, especially as I have to spend so much time nursing and baby-tending.

-Jaybird is so sassy! He loves to say things like “I know that,” or “You’re not the boss of me,” or “I already did that,” or what have you. He’s also snuggly and funny as ever. He’s super-short (6th percentile), not the greatest eater (some power struggles around food, sigh), and so curious and adventurous and bright-eyed. His farm / outdoor preschool remains awesome.

-My mom is still pretty sick and in-patient. It’s overwhelming, emotionally, so I avoid thinking about it most days. Heart breaker.

-We’ve had lots of visitors and our house is lively. It’s something I love for my kids. (Hello, Adela, we miss you…) I don’t love trying to keep the darn place clean and presentable.

-File under thingsĀ I want to write about: the weird space between gestational and non-gestational parenthood. I have so much to say but my thoughts are scattered.

And now I had better run to scoop up my wiggly four year-old, who will no doubt be encrusted with mud.

School Blues

Jaybird has been at a half-day Montessori preschool since September. Initially, we really liked it. It’s close to us, sweet and small, one classroom of mixed 3-5 year olds. The other parents and kids seem very happy there. When we went to the open house and did an observation, we were both impressed: the atmosphere seems peaceful and nurturing, the kids engaged in their “works,” content. There are a variety of materials and the teacher supplements traditional Montessori with a world cultures curriculum.

Well, fast forward some months. Jaybird has been crying and saying he doesn’t want to go to school. We’re frustrated with the teacher. I’m feeling bad, like this is the wrong fit. From the beginning, it’s been hard on him socially. He’s the youngest by about 6 months and the other boys can be mean to him or get annoyed with him; I’ve seen it after school a number of times. There’s one boy I just can’t stand. Isn’t that awful? He’s four! We like his parents, too, but he’s kind of a bully and he tattles and lies and just ugh. He often accuses Jaybird of doing things that he hasn’t done. Jaybird is fascinated by the other boys and follows them around, and sometimes they seem to get along, but I think he’s often left out. It breaks my heart. We have talked to the teacher about it before, but I don’t know that it made a big impact. We have also tried play dates outside of school, wherein they get along better. I do think that his speech can hold him back; he’s reluctant, it seems, to talk to his friends – he’s more physical in his interactions. He talks so much at home that this is a little confusing for us. He does talk a lot about his friends at school, lists their names, loves the older girls, asks for play dates with everyone. So he doesn’t seem as bothered by the dynamics as we do. Again, confusing for us. How much do we intervene? I just feel so Mama Bear about this whole thing.

The lead teacher is also very focused on academics, on letters and numbers, learning the three-finger pencil grip, etc. At his first conference, she shocked us with her negativity: he can’t do this, he can’t do that. He only scribbles instead of writing his name. And so on. I’m thinking: he’s three! Three. She said he didn’t speak in three-word sentences, which he absolutely does at home (ten words or longer, easy). His articulation is behind the other kids, and she was worried about his speech to the point that she wanted us to get him tested. We went through the process with the school district for early services. They declined to test him based on the information we provided, stating that while he’s in a “late bloomer” category, his errors are all within normal developmental range. Which, frankly, we knew. He has the hardest time with blends like “tr” and “dr,” and often pronounces “g” or “k” as “d,” but he’s chatty and improving all the time and we’re just not worried.

Then the teacher called us to say that she thought he wasn’t “internalizing concepts.” It was such an upsetting phone call that poor Uno had to field. She was shaking when she got off. We have never heard such a thing from anyone who spends time with him, including his grandma, who is an early childhood education specialist. In fact, she was stunned when we told her about what the teacher said. Basically, the teacher thinks he doesn’t understand these concepts like which one is bigger / longer (he does! I’ve seen him do it at home) and she says he gives her a “blank stare” regarding activities. The child is a lot of things: impulsive, strong-willed, yes, but also bright and curious and playful. He loves to read, to draw, to pretend, to help me cook, to ask questions, to do things himself, to cuddle, to run and climb and pedal his bike. I just can’t understand why the teacher doesn’t see these things. Also, he IS learning letters, counting well, recognizes written numbers up to 5, remembers song lyrics and the names of the continents and what have you. Uno and I aren’t worried about him academically, and certainly not now. He’s three and a half. We want him to feel free to explore. We want him to have successful social experiences, to feel safe and to feel encouraged. I don’t give a flying fuck if he can hold the pencil with the appropriate grip at this point in time, or write the letter “J” to the teacher’s satisfaction. Of course, after someone says your son isn’t “internalizing concepts” you feel awful, scared, like the ground has moved under your feet. So even though we’re confident about him, our confidence has wavered and I am frankly furious with the teacher about that.

I don’t want to be the kind of parent who hides her head in the sand and blames the teacher. I don’t want to shelter my son from valuable lessons and experiences. It’s okay to experience failure and to try again. But I want to help him and stand up for him, and this teacher has all of my protective hackles raised.

Yesterday at pickup, she gave me the “I’m concerned” face and said he’d had a pee accident. Furthermore, she said, he had one almost every day last week. “How’s he doing at home?” She asked. She has this way of asking…it’s so alarmist. Anyway, I felt defensive of him. He does have potty accidents. Not every day. And hey, never a poop one. He’s getting so much better at telling us when he has to go. He’d been doing really well at school. So I said, “he’s great.” I explained that we’ve been doing a star chart and that seems to have helped, as has backing off on reminders, though I remind him more lately. She just kept frowning, told me she reminds him frequently, that he goes to sit on the potty, but then he pees at circle time. Ok, I get it, that is totally frustrating. But I didn’t know what else to say! Then she said, “it’s like it doesn’t even register.” Again with the implication that he’s actually incapable of comprehending her.

I was not at my finest. Jaybird started to run up the sidewalk. I burst out, “I’m stressed!” Turned to follow him. She was apologetic and said we could talk later and that was that.

Last night Jaybird was crying about going to school. He said, “sometimes [the teacher] is loud.” Uno emailed the teacher to tell her this and to express our concerns. Said we should meet or at least connect via phone. Now I’m kind of nervous about seeing her today at pickup, but something’s gotta give.

I should end it by saying that this place is popular with parents. It’s known for being a special, magical little school. He does seem to like going there, most days, and the second teacher, who he has every other day, seems to really enjoy Jaybird. I’m not under any illusion that any school experience will be perfect. Then again: he’s three and a half! I want school to be wonderful right now. Not stressful.

If we do take him out, well. We can’t really do it, childcare-wise, for the rest of the school year. He’ll be home this summer. For the fall, it’s hard. All the other preschools have waiting lists. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.

I’m Not a Big Boy

Jaybird usually revels in being a self-proclaimed “big boy” but these past few days he seems like he needs space from it. It’s mostly about potty. He’s become more resistant and weepy about it, between accidents and successes alike. He tugs on my heart strings with his in-betweenness, his desire to be like a baby and his desire to be grown up. He said to me the other day: “I’m not a big boy!”

I’m waiting outside his school as I type this. It’s a wonderful place but I wonder if the pressure of being the youngest in a group that includes 5 year-olds is getting to him. Sometimes I think his lead teacher expects more independence of him than is developmentally appropriate. She was pretty frustrated the other day about a poop accident — verbally, to me, in front of all other kids and parents. We’re torn between frustration when it seems like he just doesn’t care, and wanting to protect him and give him space.

We tried to implement a star chart and he had an accident on day one. Burst into tears. Oh, man.

Anyway, sweet bub. I’m going to give him extra cuddles today.

Update: Our Little Model, Donor Sibs, Etc.

My mind a jumble this morning. In no particular order:

-Ultrasound this Thursday. I am nervous, excited and impatient. Uno has taken to calling our newest member “Bean,” just as she did with Jaybird. It’s sweet. I think I might use Starling for a blog name. Get it? The bird theme? I’m feeling a little superstitious, though, and don’t want to commit until after the u/s. I still feel – mostly – normal, but the little one must be in there, cells multiplying away, because I have to pee all.the.time. And I am easily nauseated. It’s all so strange, precious and new, this reality. I wonder when it will settle in? We did go to a kids’ consignment store this weekend and buy a few tiny newborn things. Such a marvel, how very small they are.

-We’ve moved to a new building on the waterfront (my office, that is). The view is lovely, but the drive takes about 15 more minutes and there is no free parking anywhere. I’m worried that I won’t be able to keep picking up Jaybird after school. I cherish that ritual, but the train is so much cheaper than driving. Can’t believe the company isn’t willing to offset any parking costs. Sigh.

-We had two play dates and a long family visit and a shopping excursion this weekend, and Jaybird is such a trooper. The mall did make him a bit manic. To be fair, his moms were similarly dazed and confused in there. He continues to amaze me with his incredible social confidence. He roughhoused happily with my cousin’s husband, followed his buddies into some wild imaginative play and was mellow in the car. As an infant he was so hard to travel with. How far we’ve come!

-Disappointment is hard for the Jay right now (for me too, really). If he doesn’t get to have a treat he wanted, for example, or if, say, his friend jumps on the potty just as he was going for it, he erupts into fierce wailing. Then he buries his head against one of us and just howls. Poor guy. We’re working with him. Uno has a good trick in telling him to pretend to blow out the candles on a birthday cake. There’s a lot of this: “I only understand your words,” or, “When you calm down, we can talk about it.”

-Potty training waxes and wanes. He’s about 80% there. Sometimes, it seems that he just doesn’t CARE, you know? That part is hard. I know he’ll learn. I’m really tired of the accidents. Trying to stay patient and calm.

-Jaybird has been doing some (unpaid) modeling for my company, which he loves. He’s such a ham. He’s been in three times already, and they want to come back yet again this week! He gets to play with new toys, is fed snacks and gets plenty of attention, so he’s down. I find it so funny that we’re even doing it, but it is novel. He’s on the homepage today, in fact. I work for a company that sells children’s clothing (among many other kid- and mom-related items). Starts with a zu. You may know it? If so, check him out today. He’s the face of the boy’s apparel icon.

-One of his donor siblings, a little girl in LA, is a child actress and model. Her family just sort of fell into it because their daughter also loves it. Interesting, right? They do seem to share a certain temperament, those two (this based on photos and anecdotes; we’ve never met). Speaking of that, I showed Jaybird her photo the other day and said, “this is So-and-So. She has the same donor as you.” I don’t really know what language to use. I worry that “sister” is confusing. I do sometimes casually mention that he has a donor, that we had help to make him, because I’ve read it’s the best practice and I want to be transparent and honest. I want it to be a part of his narrative, something that seems natural and familiar to him. With donor siblings, it’s a little harder to know what to say. Yet I don’t want to remain silent and have it be a surprise at some future point.

-Three of our donor sib families are particularly active on Face.book and I have developed such immense affection for those kiddos. However we define or name the relationship, they are related to my son, and I love to see their photos and those smiles that remind me of him. I suppose that partly, it helps that we have things in common with the families – we’re all queer, liberal, somewhat irreverent and arts-oriented. I wonder what the future holds?

-Well, now I’m off to get some lunch in this new neighborhood of office buildings. It seems that I have to eat small amounts constantly. Also, I want to eat nothing but hamburgers.