Thursday, June 18, 2015

2 year old goes to camp

2 yo is going to a backyard camp. This camp is run by a woman who has a playgroup in her house during the year for 2 year olds. I don't know how many years of experience she has, but she is a seasoned teacher, highly recommended in our neighborhood.

The first day of camp I did not do a good drop off. I scheduled to drop off 2 yo last, after his siblings, but, by that point, the baby was screaming hysterically, wanting to nurse, and I was running late. So I marched my little boy into a noisy room full of kids, dragging his bag of diapers and his backpack with lunch. The Morah (teacher) asked me the usual questions: what do you call him? And does he know any kids in the room? I quickly glanced around, did not see any familiar faces, told her that I have a crying baby waiting, and ran. Not a very good introduction to the new place, I am afraid, especially since we have not been to the house before.

When it was time to pick him up, I came on time, hoping to smooth out whatever did not go right in the morning. The Morah told me that he napped, and he did great. Then she asked me: does he go to school anywhere? I said: no. (She knows I homeschool). She expressed surprise and started telling me how he listened, was very comfortable, and played with the other kids. I said that he is with his older siblings all day long, playing and interacting, so he is used to it.

I did not make much of this, except for thanking G-d for an easy transition. I also chalked up some of this to flattery.

Yesterday, again, the Morah asked me whether I am sure he is not in any program. "He is such a sweet kid, so happy, so easy, just lies down for his nap without crying, talks, plays." I chuckled: does she think that I am hiding some great socialization program from her? Then I assured her that he is home with me, but we do get together with other homeschoolers and he does go to babysitting in shul on Shabbos.

I thought about it. This woman has seen many 2 year olds, and my child is not the easiest toddler on the block. I guess, when she gets 2 year olds who have not been to "school", they have hard time separating from their mothers or interacting with children who are not part of their family, so she expected a similar situation with my son. Also, there is this image of homeschool kids being isolated in their home, unhappy and unsocialized. I wonder whether we broke another stereotype here.

How did we get here? How is this child able to go into this intense situation, which could be anxiety-provoking, yet he is fine and happy?

Part of it is the personality. He is an outgoing boy, who is not shy or reserved, but he is not an exuberant extrovert. Part of it is the birth order: when you are the fourth, you are used to having many loud people around you. You have to speak up your mind to get things. You are used to running with the pack. Part of it is homeschooling, and hanging for many hours with kids of all different ages. We go to different places and I am not always on his tail, closely supervising every single step. Other mothers have watched my kid, brought him to me, gave him snacks, so he is used to having different people take care of his needs.

And part of it is parenting. Being the fourth child, 2 yo gets a good mix of parents who are too tired to micromanage, yet who know that an extra hug, or pick up, or snuggle will not spoil a child. He is secure asking for comfort, so he can go into the world and explore.

To be honest, I have a huge moral conflict with sending out a 2 year old to camp (or to school) for such a long day and for so many weeks. There is a part of me which strongly feels that the reason I have a happy, secure child is due to him being at home, close to his mommy, and that is where he belongs. Now I am upsetting this delicate balance. Now I will have to adjust to the reality that I cannot provide him with what he enjoys, like water play or messy projects, without turning into a disaster manager, losing my cool, and yelling. Yes, I have to accept the reality that I am THAT parent, that mom who is sending out her 2 year old because it is just too hard for me.

On the plus side, it is only for a year. I keep telling myself that we are taking life on year at a time, and we can always stop, assess, and change our circumstances as necessary.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

camp leading to great expectations

Yesterday was the first day of camp.

All four older kids are going, the boys to one camp, 5 yo to girls' camp and 2 yo to a backyard camp.

I had great plans for this day. I had great plans for what to do while I only have one child at home instead of five.

I dropped everyone off, with baby crying hysterically during the drop off of 2 yo. I got home and nursed her, then put her to nap in 2 yo's room. I organized some things in my closet: moved my husband's clothes to the spot where he can get them without moving the pack-n-play, and finally switched out maternity tops.

Then the baby woke up.
Nursed her again, changed her diaper.

Made lasagna for dinner, had lunch.

Then the baby woke up.
Nursed her, changed her.

Loaded her into the stroller, went to the local Judaica store for a bar mitzvah gift and to Whole Foods for three items which are cheaper there than anywhere else. Spoke to my sister on the way back.

Opened up my laptop to blog.

Then the baby woke up.
Nursed her, got covered in spit-up, changed her and my clothes.

Got in the car for the afternoon carpool.

When we got home, she fell asleep. I stuck lasagna in the oven, read to 2 yo, directed everyone to hang up their bathing suits and towels. I almost told kids to go watch something, but they asked first.

Then the baby woke up.
I nursed her, got kids to set the table, served dinner.

Opened up my laptop for the second time, but did not get around to blogging before the baby was ready to nurse yet again.

By the end of the day, I was utterly exhausted. I also felt deflated: I had all these ideas and plans for the day, with kids being out of the house, and, in the end, it did not feel like anything got done.

This morning, I realized that I will have to adjust my expectations yet again. The baby requires just as much work as my other kids combined at this point. I still have a child at home who needs to be tended, and tended in a more hands-on manner. Each day I hope to do one thing for the house, one thing for the family and one thing for me (hey, this is my "staycation"!) Anything that gets done in addition to these is a bonus. Besides, my great plans often seem great before I get started on them, but when I am done, I feel like I did not accomplish much.

It is amazing how really nothing have changed, yet changing the perspective and approach made a huge difference. I feel much calmer today than I did yesterday. I did not find a cure for cancer or trained for a marathon. My house is not cleaner or more organized. But I have come up with a concrete way to measure accomplishments and to say: enough! I am doing enough.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

How do I do all this?

Five kids.


Running a household.

Getting out of the house.

How do I do this?

The truth is, I don't do it all. I don't do it all well. I do not have the magic bullet for making it all work out. I am not super-organized. I am not calm and all happy. I am not getting a lot of schoolwork done. My house is a mess. The meals are haphazard. The kids are marginally dressed. They are not all happy, either.

I hate the whole supermom cliche. I have these kids, so I have to take care of them. I have to feed them, so I have to plan meals, shop and cook. Sure, they help out, and sometimes go above and beyond. But sometimes they want to be left alone, engrossed in a book or a game, and not surface till the food is ready on the table.

They need to be washed, so the older ones wash the 2 year old and cajole him to put a diaper on. 11 yo watches our baby so I can wash 5 yo's hair. But I much rather wait for my husband to come home and wash 5 yo and 2 yo properly. Often he gets held up at work, and then we scramble.

The kids need to get out of the house, which is more of a challenge now that we are on a break from taekwondo. The park does not hold the same appeal. The other day they preferred to sit in the shade and read their library books rather than play. Actually, it is more complicated than that. The boys chose to read, 5 yo ran around with friends, and 2 yo kept climbing to the highest point of the play structure and refusing to go down a long tube slide, so I had to keep on sending one of the kids to help him down. Oh, and the baby wanted to nurse. One mom remarked: these outings never go as planned. I thought, I did not expect it to go smoothly, this is what I expected it to be.

We are doing daily chumash and Rosetta Stone. We finished Vaera with 11 yo. Somehow, it went by very fast. He is not so into it, which is a shame, since this is exciting stuff: makkos. I'm using Chumash with English translation of Rashi, and I scramble every day. I feel unprepared, and he senses it. However, I'm sticking with it, hoping that it makes an impression. He was building Paro's palace in Minecraft the other day, and then he unleashed makkos. I'm not so sure how it all worked out, but he had fun.

I am doing Chumash with 9 yo, too. For most of the year, I left it up to my husband, but then we picked it up again. We are in the middle of Chayei Sorah. He is able to do Rashi at this point. I have a strong suspicion that he is dyslexic, but it will be hard to prove, since his English reading and comprehension are excellent. He has easier time reading Rashi than regular Hebrew. He keeps reading the words backwards, reading wrong nekudot, switching nekudot and letters around, etc. I wonder what would have happened if I waited to introduce Hebrew letters till he showed interest instead of pushing them when he was 5. I was nervous, and he was the only child of homeschool age and aren't all kindergarten children supposed to at least recognize aleph-beit? Strangely, I am not concerned about these things for my daughter. She is 5, and she might or might not know all her Hebrew letters. She is definitely not reading in English, despite knowing all her letters and even writing quite a bit. But I am not pushing, and I am not worrying. 

I often joke that I will get homeschooling (and parenting) down to a science by the fourth and fifth kid. In a way, it's a blessing that there are so many of them, and I get to learn from my mistakes and get it right down the road. 

No, I do not do it all. I have no desire to do it all, either. Right now, we just need to survive.