We took a walk around the neighborhood tonight, all 4 of us, stopping at the big grass field to run around and play with a wayward football found in the shadows. The kids ran back and forth and back and forth through overgrown late-summer grass that was damp from the earlier sprinklers, sprinting until their legs itched from being whipped by grass blades.
We practiced our 'Power Super Girl' (and Boy) walk, balancing on the curb that circles the grass, hands out and palms up toward the sky. Luca named herself Power Super Girl Sparkles, and then allowed me to choose the name Power Super Girl Glitter. We let the kids yell at top volume and giggle and tackle each other in the somewhat swampy grass. And instead of turning and going home when that was over, we walked a little further to another grassy area in the neighborhood.
Luca asked to ride on her Daddy's shoulders, which of course meant Rohan wanted to ride on mine. They are 22 months apart in age, but he outweighs her by at least 3 pounds. And 3 pounds? On your shoulders? Is a lot.
Still. "Sure buddy," I answered, and he raised his arms up in the air so I could lift him over my head to sit on my shoulders. We started to walk, and I could feel his little (big) hands rubbing one of my cheeks and then meeting below my chin to clasp together and hold him safely in place.
He gets heavy quickly and my shoulders start to burn a little, but I hold him there. It's such a literal moment that clearly illustrates the nature of motherhood: we are strong because we need to hold them up.
They ask us to hold them to remind us how much we are needed. And how much we need them. As much as I float him free of gravity's pull to earth, he grounds me and gives me roots.
The rest of the walk we hold hands, and I absorb every sweet second of feeling the weight of his tiny hand in mine. I am too painfully aware of just how soon this era of motherhood might be ending. I don't know when it will happen, but someday I won't be able to hold his hand anymore.
He stops once, asking to be held. I say, "On my shoulders?" and he shakes his head and points to my chest. "On there. It fits." he answers. So I lift his warm body, heavy like a bag of wet sand, and hold him in front of me like a koala holds her joey. It does fit there, just perfectly. I struggle a little under the weight of him clinging around my waist, but I carry on. I am painfully aware, as well, how soon this era of motherhood might be ending. There are times I hold them in my arms and am acutely aware of how their feet dangle almost to my knees and how it might not be much longer before I can't carry them on a hip anymore.
And so I sing him all the way home:
Sittin' in a railway station
Got a ticket for my destination
On a tour of one-night stands
My suitcase and guitar in hand
And every stop is neatly planned
For a Rohan and Mama band
When I picked up Luca from school today, she seemed a little withdrawn and quiet. I couldn't figure out why, but I didn't want to miss the window right after school to find out if something was bothering her. I sat on a large rock outside the preschool and pulled her close. "You ok, buddy?" I asked. She dipped her face down so I couldn't see her eyes, just the long curl of lashes dusting her apricot cheeks.
After a few seconds of silence, she turned those giant green jewels on me and told me something I never expected her to hear, "I don't like this school."
This year has been different for her. Last year she had a problem with a girl in her class, who I will call "M". M was one of the older kids and quite bossy and pushy, and Luca came home repeatedly telling us that M was mean to her. We asked, and she assured us it was just her who M was being mean to, so after hearing it several times, I started to really ask her some questions about M. Mostly, I wanted to know why she thought M was being so mean. She didn't know, couldn't understand, and I got that. Luca's got not a single mean bone in her body so being at the receiving end of meanness was so foreign to her. So I explained it to her like this: M is not very good at knowing how to be a nice friend. She really needs someone to show her how, so when she is mean you might want to try ignoring her mean attitude and just being nice to her.
It never worked. She just kept being mean, so I finally worked up the courage to talk to her teachers and they nodded in agreement about M's attitude. But then they assured me that M was like that to everyone. It was not just Luca, but Luca just so happened to be one of the few kids who was bothered by it because she has the intelligence to take someone else's behavior and internalize it.
It still broke my heart into 100 pieces to hear Luca tell us that M wasn't nice in school, but I felt confident that her teachers had it under control and it wasn't personal, so we just looked forward to the day when M would move on to kindergarten and Luca wouldn't have to worry about her anymore.
Because, really? These are 3 - 5 year olds we're talking about. Surely M is an anomoly.
I am so naive sometimes. Almost as soon as school started this year, we uncovered M version 2. After school one day I asked Luca about who her new friends are this year, and she said, "No one plays with me."
My heart stopped under the weight of my soul crushing down on it. A little more digging revealed that it wasn't that no one played with her, it was that there are 2 girls in her class who were there last year who only play with each other. I agonized again over what to do or say, settling on telling her that there are a lot of other kids in class and if those two aren't nice she could play with someone else. She half-heartedly accepted that answer, but when it came up again a week or so later, I knew I had to talk to the teachers again.
And once again, I was told it wasn't about Luca, it was about the girls themselves. Apparently M trained them well in the art of being exclusive and harboring all the toys for themselves. The teachers were splitting those two girls up during most of the day, having them do centers apart and sit by others at the lunch tables.
But the cycle seems to be continuing, with other girls creating little factions of twos and excluding Luca. And my heart is crushed for her. There are only 6 girls in the class, and I can tell she badly wants to make good friends with one of them, but for whatever reason it doesn't seem to be happening that way.
So when she told me she didn't like the school, I expected it to be a friend problem and I steeled myself to get all mama-bear on the situation and find a better resolution to the situation. Turns out, she's just not feeling challenged. The activities and general syllabus are the same this year as they were last, and she's frustrated by having to re-learn things she already learned. It's frustrating, but I think it's workable with some conversations about why repitition is important in learning and maybe a tete-a-tete with the teachers to see if there is a way to challenge her more.
Challenge in scholarly ways I can do. it's that other kind of challenge I'm still not prepared for, both in terms of mom-skills and in terms of raw emotion. I know this is Girl Crap 101, and from here it's going to get harder. I know there will be tears and jealousy and cliques and anger and meanness. And I am not prepared. I want to wrap her up in a blanket and snuggle with her on the couch for all of eternity instead of letting her out into the big, mean world.