Milestones

Hello old friends. So here we are. The schools have reopened incrementally and that means that this week the girls ventured out for their first day of pre-school after 115 days at home.

The protocol at their school has changed considerably as a result of the Corona Virus, but the changes, for the most part, make everything easier on the parents. We take them to the door and the teacher takes it from there. At pick-up time we stand outside and they bring them out to us. Their groups have changed and siblings are in the same class for now. This probably isn’t ideal from a scholastic point of view but it made going back easy because the girls could be together. Except for siblings, kids are required to sit further away from each other when they eat and they have to wash hands all day long. They don’t have as much freedom in the building and they have to stay with their assigned group at all times.

The night before going back, Big Sister ruminated over which group she would might be assigned to, hoping that she wouldn’t be assigned to the Feuerdrachen (Fire dragons) because she remembered a girl in that group who wasn’t very nice. I contemplated requesting a specific group so that she could be with her best friend but decided to leave it to fate.

On the morning of the first day, Daddy drove them to school and they were so excited to go in that they didn’t even turn around to say goodbye to him.

When I picked them up I asked about their group assignment and sure enough-it was Feuerdrachen. I braced for disappointment from Big Sister. But it never came. Luckily, she explained, the girl I was talking about isn’t in that group anymore so it’s fine. It was interesting to listen to their descriptions of the day. The changes either didn’t bother them or they were presented so organically that they just went along. Their new group is led by a teacher they don’t really know and the best friend is not in there, yet in the car on the way home, Big Sister still said, Mom, I’m just so happy to be back at pre-school I don’t even care what group I’m in.

Meanwhile at home I’ve been trying to see this next phase as a brand new challenge. Something like quarantine turned inside out. The girls are out of the house 6 hours a day for the next four weeks. (After that the regularly scheduled summer break begins.) Now we have four weeks to really accomplish something. I thought.

So far though, the wide open feeling of the 6 hours has done nothing to motivate me to do anything specific. I’m still committed to my morning magic routine. (Meditation, writing, pilates, hiking) But meditating when it’s actually silent is a whole other ball game compared to the practice that included tuning the girls out for 10 minutes. And since they aren’t here I don’t have to rush back from my hike. So far I end up just stretching all the activities out a little longer– hiking a little further, taking longer withmy coffee, scrolling Instagram, reading a book even.

In my defense I spent the first day cleaning the house top to bottom. And I have done endless loads of laundry and changed all the beds. But today maybe was more like my very own summer break. I finished my morning routine and then I finished Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, disturbing but superb writing, the likes of which are unmatched so far in all my reading. No wonder she won the Nobel Prize. I made mint chocolate chip ice cream from the mint in our backyard and then ate a good amount of it for Second Breakfast. I walked around the garden, getting rid of some slugs and obsessing about where I want to divide and move plants. Around 11am I finally showered.

I know this doesn’t sound bad or like an actual waste of time– I mean what big thing did I think I was going to accomplish in this four weeks anyway?

Well, to be honest, I have this fantasy that in the next four weeks I’m going to write a novel or at least a bunch of short stories. I planned to go nose to the grindstone, not to waste a minute and really churn out some of the stories that are bouncing around inside my head. To sit down and write the way I did each evening during quarantine. Except this time to do it during the day–like a job. To put the prose down on paper, explore the characters, get to know them and see if I can tie it altogether with some of the poetry that ends up in my Instagram captions. Maybe it will be stories of inspiration from my little maniacs. Maybe I’ll rework the blog posts. At the very least I’ll make some photo albums commemorating all that has happened in the last few years, I’ve thought.

But so far–it’s really nothing. I sat down at the desk today and you know what I accomplished? I checked my bank balance, then I chatted for a while with a gentleman named Chris about my credit score. I obsessed for a while about whether I wanted to order skin care products and decided against it. Then I went and made lunch. I mean a girls got to eat and this stuff needs to be done too, right? Maybe I shouldn’t be beating myself up over the fact that I haven’t written one solitary word of anything this entire week.

Outside chaos of my professional goals, some things are progressing naturally.

Yesterday while bike riding Big sister got her first side stitch. A cramp from drinking water too quickly and then running around at the playground. We took a break and all of the sudden it was gone. Thrilled she jumped on her bike and pedaled away. I was encouraged to see how she noticed that the sensation had ended, mentioned it and moved on. Even better it dawned on me that she is big enough to explain herself now and describe her experiences. This makes life infinitely easier because the endless guessing games about what could be bothering her have come to an end.

In recent days the girls have (dare I say…) started sleeping better. Last week they both slept a full night, with the door closed, from bed time til 7am. Not a peep. In the 2.5 years that I’ve had two kids, I don’t think they have ever slept so soundly at the same time.

So for now a small bit of security has fallen over us. It feels like once they are asleep, they are asleep. I can go in to close or open their windows, fix their blankets and they stay asleep.

Then this afternoon as I was packing my bag, I was relieved to realize that while I still need to pack a diaper and some wipes, I generally don’t need to lug around the huge diaper bag anymore.

These small changes signify the end of an era. The baby era. This one is so life altering to start and then without any fanfare it just ends. It makes such a quiet exit that we might not even notice the shift if it wasn’t for the lightening we experience as a result. This lightening is something to celebrate. While I’m always looking back at babyhood with jealous eyes and loving remembrances, I don’t want to forget how challenging it was. Every challenge’s end deserves a little pause, a punctuation mark or some applause. I’m not in a rush to get through these sequences but I can breath deeper, lightened by the fact that for now there are fewer burdens to manage.

So in spite of a year that continues to top itself day after day in the weirdness department, we’re all progressing, moving forward. The little things seem to matter more than ever, the present ever more valuable. It never seemed more clear to me than now that there are no guarantees, just absolutely none. This breath, this ray of sunshine, this step, this snuggle, this laugh–they are all we’ve got. Soak it all up. Breath it in deep and let it flow back out of you with more color and flavor for whoever and whatever comes next.

Until next time,

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