Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Toy Story 3, the end of preschool and holding on and letting go June 24, 2010

Laden with teachers’ gifts and a sense of anticipation for what the summer might offer, my little boys joyfully ran to their preschool classrooms for their final day before summer break.

Much like the first day I left them at preschool, I cried the whole drive home. I’ve planned a rather complex web of summer activities for us, so they have much to look forward to. My sadness comes from how quickly it is all passing by.

In September, my oldest will enter kindergarten. I can’t help but recall the countless hours I spent researching and visiting preschools, understanding what a significant impact his first five years will have on the rest of his life, his approach to education, his ability to socialize, his future success…

I know it seems cliche, but it really does seem like such a short time ago that I gave birth to my oldest son Joseph, and now his younger brother is three and leaving little bits of his baby life behind him every day as he leaps toward little boyhood. In fact, I’m beginning to cry again as I write this. My babies are growing up!

Last night, we went to see Toy Story 3, and if you are going through anything similar with your children, it might be tough to watch. I remember the first time I saw the original Toy Story movie. It was 1995, and I was 24 years old. I was babysitting the niece and nephew of my boyfriend at the time, and we watched it on VHS. I sat there for the length of show with my jaw hanging. I couldn’t believe how much children’s movies had changed since I was a kid! I loved it.

At the beginning of my career, I was old enough (more or less) to be Andy’s mother, but at the same time, I could perceive the story with warm memories of being a child. Seeing Andy last night as a 17-year-old boy preparing to leave for college was an emotional blow I had not in any way expected. Enough time had elapsed for that character to grow up, and I had gotten older along with him. Yes, I’m aware it’s just a movie with a fictional character, thank you.

However, with my youngest perched in my lap, and my oldest at my side I was suddenly aware that my first experience of Toy Story hadn’t seemed so far in the distance, yet when the exact amount of time elapses again, my children will be 17 and 20 years old!

TS3 is about change: the agony of watching the toys long for the carefree joy of children’s imaginative play (with the understanding that their playmate would and should continue to his next milestone) and the support of Andy’s mother who is proud of her son’s succession toward college, while also wishing she “could be with him all the time.”

Don’t we all want that? To hold our children in our arms forever, while at the same time teaching them independence, encouraging them to make  and achieve personal goals, to be courageous, forgiving, and to grow in maturity?

As the poet Kahlil Gibran said about raising children, “For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”

With the summer ahead, I intend to savor each precious day. Before long I’ll be helping them pack for college.

On a side note, I do agree with Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald; this movie was more for adults than children. My husband and I were in disbelief about how it could ever have received a G rating. There is a prolonged near-death scene with the threat of violent, hopeless demise, the toys are imprisoned and in some cases tortured. Yes, I remember Sid Philips tortured and imprisoned toys in TS2, but among the toys themselves (who have always been peers) there was a cruelty and meanness we haven’t seen before in the TS trilogy. Lotso’s turn toward the dark side as a result of a singular incident was so complete and utterly terrifying when you consider that he is a child’s plaything. In the other movies, tough times happened and the toys always found a way to learn from it and grow from the experience.  From our perspective, Toys Story 3 should be rated PG.

 

Noah’s our Allstar: “I do my by self!” June 14, 2010

Filed under: Lacko Family Chronicles,motherhood — rjlacko @ 10:43 am

When I woke up yesterday morning, Noah was singing Smash Mouth‘s Allstar so clearly, I thought it was his older brother. I quickly grabbed our new Kodak zi8 (a family gift to celebrate our wedding anniversary!) Here he is, singing a much quieter, shyer version, but I like his intuitive finale—raising his shirt. An authenthic rock star move, wouldn’t you say?

He is becoming increasingly independent. While his big brother runs directly to the action (hi! Can I play?) Noah always marches to his own drum, all the while observing the other children. Inevitably, they are observing him too, and often try to come join his game or project. (He’ll gladly welcome them, as long as they don’t try to touch his toys!) At school, if Noah is dancing, he soon has a crowded dancefloor around him; but, before long he’ll duck out and run off to find his next solo adventure.

His new mantra is:  “I do my by self!

He doesn’t want anyone to help him, but he hasn’t quite got the grammar down to express it. I haven’t been correcting him because it always cracks me up, and besides, I know he’ll soon get it right. I still miss “I can’t want it!”, his older brother’s past retort from younger days.

And while I am trying to teach him the difference between wildflowers and manicured landscaping, I adore his habit of always wanting to give me a “fwower.” He picks it “wif my stwong muscles” and expects me to put it behind my ear—always delivering it with a kiss. Ahh, he steals my heart every day.

 

Catching up with the kidlets: Spring 2010 June 7, 2010

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted pictures for Gramma and Grampa in Canada to see. These little gems are from Spring 2010.

Just last week, my 5-year-old Joseph surprised us all by suddenly passing Level One after only FOUR swimming lessons! He has always been a big fan of his bath, and he loves to go in pools and to the beach, but he has always been very nervous to try to leave the edge and try to learn to swim. When he was a baby, I took him to parent-and-me classes at our local rec center, but it was mostly water-bonding and blowing motorboat. And fun, of course!

This summer, I made the commitment to put the boys in “real” swim lessons and signed them up to work together in semi-private lessons at Waterworks Aquatics, thanks to a referral from my friend Kristianne Koch. Waterworks is amazing, but costs a pretty penny. Kristianne’s son Merrik went there as an infant and with his parents’ help and encouragement, was boogie-boarding and beginning to surf last summer at age four… for hours!

Anyway, Joseph was very excited and curious about swim lessons–but I could tell he was nervous. His little brother Noah was beyond excited. When I put Noah in the water, I need to stay right next to him because he will simply leap forward into the deep water, fully expecting to be able to swim. He is confidence personified. In order to get the boys prepared for swimming (and to bring Joseph’s courage up to his little brother’s level) I began listing all the things they’ll be able to do once they can swim:

  • Pretend you are dolphins!
  • Pretend you are sharks!
  • Pretend you are mermaids! (hey, who isn’t curious about mermaids at some point?)
  • Have swim races for prizes!
  • Dive for treasure!

OK, for the first four items, they were cheering! With each new idea the cheers grew louder and louder until I said, “dive for treasure.” Noah’s joy came to a crashing halt. Joseph continued to bubble with enthusiasm: “I know! We can put treasure into a treasure box, and put it at the bottom of the pool, then DIVE for it!!”

All the color drained from Noah’s face.  He did not share these dreams. He did not want to go to the bottom of the pool, not for any treasure of any kind. I’d overshot the mark, and toppled the confidence meter. Now Joseph was desperate to get in the water and Noah was clinging to the edge in fear. What was I thinking?

Over the first two lessons, Joseph worked very hard, and while I could see that he has reservations, he set aside his fear and powered through. Noah cried and cried, so I’ve let him sit out until he tells me he wants to try again, and transferred our pre-paid lesson package to Joseph. If there’s one thing about Noah, he has an uncanny ability to figure things out. At age three, he is almost as good at riding his bicycle as his older brother.

I’ve never seen Joseph so focused. I sit where I can see him and give the “thumb’s up” when he looks my way, but I am otherwise removed from his lesson. From the beginning, he was equally cautious and determined. I am so pleased to see him resolve his own inner conflict of fear, choosing to try instead. His teacher is very matter-of-fact. She doesn’t overflow with positive reinforcement, but she doesn’t appear disappointed either when he doesn’t get it right the first time. She simply offers more and more chances to try, in different ways. When I saw him swim down almost four feet to get a toy, I just knew how thrilled he must have been.

I’m so proud of him–It is incredibly rewarding to watch your child decide to meet a goal, and to make his own efforts to achieve that goal. I always reward the spirit of “never giving up” because if we persevere, we can do the things we want to do. I have seen him be frustrated when building with his Legos, and the huge sense of accomplishment that arrives when he figures out to create what he sees in his mind. But learning to swim requires trusting the capabilities of your whole body, entering an unfamiliar world and letting go. When success comes, it is sweet indeed.
 

RIE Conference Unites Parents, Caregivers and Educators! June 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — rjlacko @ 1:41 pm

Will you be in the Los Angeles area Sunday, June 6, 2010?

Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) is hosting its 21st Annual Infant/Toddler Conference, “RIE and Attachment Theory: Why Earliest Relationships Matter” at The Skirball Cultural Center.

The conference will feature for the first time in the U.S., internationally recognized attachment authoritySir Richard Bowlby, who will give the keynote address, “Becoming Attached,” providing parents, teachers, and caregivers with hands-on information that can be put into practice immediately to strengthen, nurture, and heal adult-child relationships.

“RIE and Attachment Theory: Why Earliest Relationships Matter” is open to parents and early childhood professionals, who will gain insight and knowledge about how to foster healthy attachment between baby and caregiver.

Children need to develop a trusting, reciprocal relationship with at least one primary caregiver in order to achieve healthy social and emotional growth. A child unable to establish a secure attachment may face difficulties that can follow him or her into adulthood. “RIE and Attachment Theory: Why Earliest Relationships Matter” explores the issue from the lenses of the scientific to the personal. Come, “see” and understand infants like never before.

Click here for more information about the RIE Conference and to register.

Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90049

Sunday, June 6, 2010, from 8:45 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

ABOUT RIE

Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) is a non-profit worldwide membership organization, dedicated to improving the quality of infant care and education through teaching, supporting, and mentoring parents and caregivers. Based on respect, the RIE Approach helps raise authentic infants who are competent, confident, curious, attentive, exploring, cooperative, secure, peaceful, focused, self-initiating, resourceful, involved, inner-directed, aware, and interested. The late educator and infant specialist Magda Gerber and pediatric neurologist Tom Forrest, M.D, founded RIE in 1978. For more information, please visit www.rie.org.

 

Author Anne Lamott’s tips for living the life we want for our children June 1, 2010

I offer you a guest-post of sorts today in the form of excerpts from Time Lost and Found by author Anne Lamott which I just found in the always pleasing Sunset magazine.

As a mother who is a freelance writer and editor working from home, I often place my own needs (especially creative diversions) at the very bottom of my priority list. This is not say that I am a self-sacrificing martyr. If I were more proactive with my time, I could be living a more creative and prolific life–one that (fingers crossed) my children and spouse would admire, would bring greater career success, while also demonstrating to my children how to live a balanced life: one that includes focused industry INSPIRED by immersing in and savoring joyful meanders into creative expression.

Author Anne Lamott’s wise advice:

“I tell my [writing] students…there is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder. But the good news is that creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.

Then I bring up the bad news: You have to make time to do this.

Needless to say, this is very distressing for my writing students. They start to explain that they have two kids at home, or five, a stable of horses or a hive of bees, and 40-hour workweeks. Or, on the other hand, sometimes they are climbing the walls with boredom, own nearly nothing, and are looking for work full-time, which is why they can’t make time now to pursue their hearts’ desires. They often add that as soon as they retire, or their last child moves out, or they move to the country, or to the city, or sell the horses, they will. They are absolutely sincere, and they are delusional.”

Lamott recommends we each take, “half an hour, a few days a week. You could commit to writing one page a night, which, over a year, is most of a book. No one else really cares if anyone else finally starts to write or volunteers with marine mammals. But how can [my students] not care and let life slip away? Can’t they give up the gym once a week and buy two hours’ worth of fresh, delectable moments?

They look at me bitterly now—they don’t think I understand. But I do—I know how addictive busyness and mania are. But I ask them whether, if their children grow up to become adults who spend this one precious life in a spin of multitasking, stress, and achievement, and then work out four times a week, will they be pleased that their kids also pursued this kind of whirlwind life?

If not, if they want much more for their kids, lives well spent in hard work and savoring all that is lovely, why are they living this manic way?

I ask them, is there a eucalyptus grove at the end of their street, or a new exhibit at the art museum? An upcoming minus tide at the beach where the agates and tidepools are, or a great poet coming to the library soon? A pond where you can see so many turtles? A journal to fill?”

Half-hour time-wasters to consider giving up:

  • the treadmill at the gym–take a walk in the park, a forest, on the beach, on an undiscovered (by you) path, to a different part of town, anywhere…
  • house cleaning–honestly, what’s with all the scrubbing? Are you competing for the shiniest floors? Does anybody really care?
  • TV–Lamott says “no one needs to watch the news every night, unless one is married to the anchor.”
  • electronic connectivity: Lamott remarks that “cell phone, email, text, Twitter—steal most chances of lasting connection or amazement. That multitasking can argue a wasted life.”

Lamott’s books include Operating Instructions and Traveling Mercies. Her new novel, Imperfect Birds (Riverhead Books; $26), will be published this month.