I was driving to work this morning, when my phone rang. It was the school nurse at the middle school, calling to tell me that the Bee was having a nose bleed, and was freaking out all out of proportion to the situation. The nurse said, “she’s screaming and crying, I’ve never seen anything like it. There’s clearly something else going on, but she won’t tell me what it is.”
When a middle school nurse says she’s never seen anything like it, I pay attention.
I explained that the Bee lives with her dad during the week, and that I hadn’t seen her that morning–but that one of us would come get her. I frantically called landisdad while I changed directions to head for what I still sometimes think of as home, but he was getting ready for work himself and didn’t hear the phone.
When I got to school, the Bee was sitting on a chair sobbing with a mass of tissues in her lap, and the nurse said, “I found out what’s wrong–she’ll tell you…”
We walked to the car, and she burst into hysterical sobbing again–and told me, through her tears, that the cast list for the school musical had been posted that morning. And that not only hadn’t she gotten the part she wanted–but she hadn’t gotten any part at all, just a role as a featured dancer.
In addition to that, the teacher who is directing the musical told the kids yesterday, “Now you can’t get upset when I post the cast list. It’s not professional.”
This morning, when the Bee went to look at the cast list with her friends, she cried. And the crying made her have a nosebleed (which happens to her from time to time), and it made her cry harder, because she was afraid that she was looking unprofessional.
When the Bee told me that, my heart broke a little, because I knew that a lot of what was going on with her at that moment was the fact that she was filled with shame about the fact that she was upset, and was therefore letting a teacher down by doing something she had been expressly told not to do.
I took a deep breath, and I said to her, “Bee, I never ever thought I would say this about a teacher, but fuck her. It is not okay for anyone to tell you that you are not allowed to have the feelings that you have. It is okay for you to be upset, and disappointed.”
We drove home, and she sobbed some more. I told her she didn’t have to go back to school today, if she didn’t want to, and she said, “please don’t make me go back.”
We had a long talk about why the “being professional” metaphor sucks when you are talking about middle or high school theater–the first part of which being, of course, that you are not getting paid, and therefore not a professional. How professional actors get to audition for something more than once a year, and therefore can afford to feel disappointment less keenly. How professional actors get to find out they didn’t get a part in the privacy of their own living rooms, not in front of the friends who got the parts they wanted.
And that professional actors get angry, and sad, and they cry when they don’t get roles. But they don’t have to spend the rest of the year working with the director who didn’t cast them, because that person is their teacher.
We walked to the coffee shop in town, and I bought her a chocolate chip muffin, and talked about how this meant that she wouldn’t have to quit field hockey. And she cried. We got home, and I sat down to do some work and she sat on the floor and leaned against my leg, as I stroked her hair.
We’ll see what happens, how her thinking evolves–I am guessing she will stay in the play, because she does love being on stage. But with a director like that, I wouldn’t blame her for quitting.
The Potato has been having some difficulty with his best friend, the Turnip, of late. Last week, he came home and said that the Turnip’s mom told him that he shouldn’t play with the Potato anymore. Landisdad & I talked it over, and decided to leave it alone for a few days—to see if it just blew over. But when he came home for the fourth day in a row, and said they still weren’t playing together, I decided to text the Turnip’s mom, to see what was going on.
There’s a part of me that never wants to be that mother. I don’t want to be that kind of helicopter parent that swoops in whenever there is any tiny problem.
On the other hand, the Potato only has one really close friend. And that friend is the Turnip.
In addition, if the Potato had done something—although he swore up and down that he couldn’t think of anything—I kinda wanted to know about it. And as landisdad and I talked it over, we decided that we’d be justifiably upset with the Turnip’s mom if something HAD happened, and she hadn’t mentioned it to either of us.
So I called her, and left her a message. She called me back when I was at work and couldn’t take the call, and then texted me right after—we had a lengthy text exchange, the upshot of which was that the Turnip had been complaining to her about the fact that the Potato wants to play with him to the exclusion of everyone else in their class—and he occasionally wants to play with other kids. So she had suggested to her son that he play with the Potato every other day.
This of course was misinterpreted by the 8 year-old set. I’m not surprised by the misinterpretation, because it was only like a month ago that I got the Potato to understand that the phrase “every other day” means “alternating days” (it came up in a conversation with his orthodontist, who wanted us to start twisting his expander every other night, instead of every night).
In the end, it’s probably going to be okay. But as of the beginning of spring break, they hadn’t started playing with each other again, even on alternate days. If they end up with that ending their friendship, I’ll be sad for the Potato. It’s hard to lose friends. It’s especially hard if the hardship seems one-sided.
The Bee made dinner tonight.
On Friday, right after we walked into my apartment, she made a snide comment about my apartment not being clean, and I kinda snapped. Those who are my Facebook friends will know that I had no water for a couple of days at my apartment this week—the frustration of dealing with that, coupled with the fact that I had spent several days in the past week nagging the kids to clean up landisdad’s house while we were all there together—made me say to her, “when do I ever have time to clean my place? I’m at your dad’s house or I’m at work. I come home and I go to sleep, and I wake up and I go to work.”
She apologized, and told me that she wanted to make dinner one night this weekend, so I wouldn’t have to. She spent a bunch of time looking at recipes on epicurious, and decided on a menu, including a dessert. She attempted to dragoon her little brother into helping—but he wasn’t interested, and I wouldn’t let her press him into service.
We went out for a while today, and when we came back, I helped her bake her gingerbread cake. (She said, “I told you I was going to cook dinner by myself, but I didn’t say anything about dessert.”) Then she took a break for a little while, and watched Spongebob with the Potato. And then she cooked.
The Bee has really gotten in to cooking over the last year. Landisdad and I set up a ritual, when I first moved out, that we would always have Sunday dinner together (barring work commitments), and she almost always helps to make it. She’s taking a cooking class right now, and she complains a fair amount that the teacher isn’t teaching them enough useful things, in the way a middle schooler can be outraged. (“She taught us how to measure flour! Seriously!”)
So tonight, she made a 4-cheese pasta with broccoli. And it was good. She also made (with the Potato’s help) a kind-of juice spritzer—with hand-squeezed oranges and lemons, tonic & water. I took pictures of all of it to send to her dad—we do that sometimes on the weekend—just send each other pictures of the kids, and what they’re doing when they’re apart from whichever of us isn’t with them.
After we had eaten, she went in to make the frosting for the cake, which was a semi-complicated affair with heavy cream, powdered sugar & lemon curd. Have you ever made anything with lemon curd? It’s like mixing whipped cream with jelly. Weird, but good.
She was frosting the cake, and I carried some plates in to the dining room. And then I heard it. The thud, and the “Oohhhhhhhhhhh noooooooooooooo!”
I went back into the kitchen, and saw it. The cake, on a chair, part of it on the floor. Frosting everywhere. The Bee, sobbing.
I picked it up and put it back on the plate. I put my arms around her and said, “it’s okay.” She sobbed, and said, “now dad’s gonna see the picture and it’s all messed up!” I told her that we didn’t have to take a picture, if she didn’t want me to. I hugged her, and told her that I was proud of her, and that I loved her, and that it could be rescued.
And then it happened. She stood up, and dried her tears, and said, “ok.” And she finished frosting the cake. She carried it into the dining room, and told me to take a picture. She cut it up, and gave it to us, and we ate it. It was delicious.
It wasn’t just the cake that was sweet. It was the maturity.
I started this blog almost seven years ago, when the Bee was in kindergarten. Throughout most of her elementary school career, she did not handle frustration very well. She got angry at herself, she got angry at other people, she got trapped in rage and couldn’t get out of it.
Tonight, none of that happened. And it was a beautiful, beautiful thing.
After dinner was over, I cleaned up the kitchen & washed the dishes. I have never been happier, cleaning up grease & whipped cream, in my life.
The Bee is officially promoted to middle school. Hold me.
…landisdad and I walked into a hospital as a couple of adults, and walked out as parents. (All right, that was actually 10 years from two days from now, but that’s somewhat less poetic.)
Happy Birthday, darling Bee.
I never thought that you would be almost as tall as I am, by the time you were 10 years old.
I didn’t know that you would be the kind of kid who eats her dessert as slowly as possible, in order to wring every bite of enjoyment out of it.
I knew that you would be a reader (how could you not be? you’re my daughter!), but I never knew how awesome it would be to see you reading at your safety post, every morning.
I never knew you would be such a good singer.
I didn’t know that you would love soccer, even this year when you have to be on a team with boys.
I never knew that I would worry about you every single day of the rest of my life.
I didn’t know that I would be proud of you every single day for the rest of my life.
Thank you for being the best 10-year-old girl in the Western Hemisphere. Have a wonderful birthday, Bee, and may it be followed by a wonderful year.
The Bee achieved a lifetime ambition this week, by being appointed to the school safety patrol. This is her, looking proud, but also irritated that I am publicly demonstrating that we are related, by taking her picture while she’s trying to be cool. Note the bright yellow belt, sign of maturity and imminent promotion into the fifth grade. Not every incoming fifth grader gets to be a safety–but most of them do. I wonder how it feels for the four or five kids who don’t get to do it. Probably, it sucks a lot, though I’m sure the pain is eased by the first bitterly cold, rainy morning in the fall.
When the Bee entered kindergarten, the safeties looked so huge to my eyes. Now that I’ve got an almost-fifth-grader on my hands, it’s a little overwhelming. She’s only got one more year of elementary school, and then she’ll be off to the middle school, where she’ll again be one of the younger kids.
She has to be on her post by 8:05, and for the last couple of days, she’s stood in the kitchen, fully dressed, with her book bag and her lunch box over her shoulder, waiting for the clock to hit 8. I’m not sure what would happen if she left the house at 7:59, but she’s clearly not willing to risk being early.
I’ve had a sort of laid-back week, so the Potato and I have been walking to school. He’s been chattier than usual, since he’s not competing for airspace with his big sister. I’ve heard all about the caterpillars that they have in kindergarten now—which will build cocoons, morph into butterflies, and be released by the kindergarteners—including the one that he named, “Mr. Thousand.”
It’s nice to have the time with the Potato, time that reminds me of when I walked the Bee to school every day, when he was still in daycare. Reminds me how she would tell me things, and make up games, and generally just have private time with mom. I’ve struggled, with both my kids as they’ve grown older, to find one-on-one time to be with them. It’s nice that the Bee’s new independence gives me a little time alone with the Potato in the morning.
This year, the Bee’s class has a real gender imbalance. There are 14 boys and only 4 girls in her fourth grade class. She’s been coming home and complaining about the fact that ‘the boys’ are constantly getting the class in trouble–and knowing the energy of the 10-year-old boy, I don’t find it that hard to believe. For the most part, I think it’s been good for the Bee to be in this kind of environment, although there are some difficulties about it, from her perspective.
She’s gotten a lot jock-ier this year. She played soccer all fall, and she’s quite a good defensive player, very aggressive in her attempts to take the ball away from the other girls. She’s also gotten involved in a bunch of extra-curricular activities, including writing for the elementary school newspaper, and playing the drums in the band. I think it has definitely helped her to have the ‘norm’ in her class be the boy norm, not the girl norm. At least two of the other girls in her class are athletes as well–the Peony plays three sports a year, and the other girl is the daughter of the guy who coached softball last spring.
We’ve also not had a recurrence of the your-socks-don’t-match-your-outfit moment from last year. I’m happy to report that that girl moved away over the summer. The Bee has been wearing sweatpants and t-shirts every day, with the same pair of sneakers, and yes, the same stained sweater, every.single.day. She’s also refused to get a haircut for weeks, and just tonight I had to practically hold her down to cut her bangs, because I couldn’t stand to look at them for another minute.
I know that it’s just a matter of time before she gets all pre-pubescent, and starts preening herself for a half-hour every morning before school. I know that she and the other girls in her class will start to worry more about getting sweaty, than about how far they can kick the ball in the endless game of kickball that her class plays every single day at recess.
I’m pretty comfortable hanging on to my grubby, stained, awesome daughter for right now, though. If it takes a world of boys to keep her from acting like a girl, that’s okay with me.
That was the outcome of the election at the kids’ school today. When I walked in the door tonight, both of the kids were wearing their “I Voted” stickers, and the Potato came running up to tell me that he had voted for Barack Obama.
Five kids in the Bee’s class (including the Bee), and one fifth grader administered the election and presented info on both of the candidates, so we had a pretty interesting dinner conversation about it. Two weeks ago, she and the Peony had to write up a couple of paragraphs about where the major-party candidates stood on health care–the other kids did education. Last week, she and the other kids in the gifted & talented program registered everyone to vote, and decorated the ballot boxes.
It should come as no surprise, to regular readers of this blog, that the Bee had strong opinions, not just about the candidates but about her classmates’ voting patterns. Apparently there was one kid who said he was voting for McCain because he’s white–which the Bee thought was ridiculous. We also talked about how it isn’t okay to base your vote on age, gender or whether the person is gay or straight.
Four years ago, when I was working to elect John Kerry and the Bee was a tiny kindergartener, she was devastated that her school voted to re-elect Bush. I’m happy that it worked out in her favor this time, since she was so much more involved in the actual process of the election this year.
Yesterday, on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the Bee turned 9. We didn’t let her stay up till midnight to see the ball drop, but it did have a kind of doubly-celebratory feeling.
It’s so hard now to remember back to what life was like 9 years ago, especially when I think that 9 years from now, our day-to-day grind of parenting the Bee will be basically over—because she’ll be a college freshman (god willing). It’s funny to think that parenting has a half-way point—of course, I don’t actually believe that I’ll ever stop worrying about her, or loving her, or being her mom.
I am hoping that 9 years from now I won’t be dragging her butt out of bed every morning to get her ready on time, though.
In some ways, that day 9 years ago was the happiest day of my life. Having gotten through 36 hours of labor, I foolishly thought the hard part was over. And while none of the parenting that’s occurred over the past 9 years has been QUITE that physically taxing, you couldn’t really say it has been easy, either. Certainly not emotionally.
I was happy when the Potato was born too, but it was a happiness that was mixed with more worry—worry about how the Bee would deal with becoming a big sister, worry that I would have a hard time adjusting to being a mom of two (and knowing somewhat better what becoming a mom entailed than I did the first time). When the Bee was born, I was awash in happy ignorance. By the time the Potato came around, I knew better.
We had a relatively quiet day yesterday. Picked the kids up right after school for once, went out to dinner, saw my brother. But the Bee’s now-annual sleepover is being held this weekend, and she’s saving up her real partying for that night.
I remember, from my own childhood, that the older one gets, the less attractive it is to spend one’s birthday celebrating with one’s family. I don’t think she’s quite at that point yet, she’s still interested in having us around (although will utterly ignore us, I’m sure, when the 9-year-old posse arrrives, except to ask for food). But the day when we’re quietly irrelevant to her birthday is a little bit closer than it was last year.
It will never just be her birthday to me, though. It’s the day I was born as a mom.