Kindness

I’m sitting here writing a lengthy paper about genocide on the anniversary of the murder of a bunch of kids not much older than my own, and it’s weighing heavily on me. I’ve been at this genocide research for 6 weeks, and while the work is important and I’m learning so much from it, I wish I’d chosen pretty much ANYTHING else to write about.

I’m just popping in here right now to remind everyone to be kind. The world needs more kindness.

Oblivious

I wanted to tell you a story about Charlotte that will make you laugh your eyeballs out of your head, but after I typed it out I decided it’s really not the sort of thing that needs to be on the internet. Let’s just say that 3 year olds have some interesting ideas about how things work, and mine can be particularly creative with her interpretations of menstrual happenings.

Instead, I’ll tell you a story about me.

When we chose the preschool  Charlotte attends, there were two huge factors that influenced our decision: 1) the place is a mile from our house, and 2) their outdoor space is huge and it’s full of different types of play areas for the kids to explore. I checked a few reviews online, but I didn’t go very far into the web. We based a lot of our decision on our gut, and our gut said THIS IS THE PLACE SIGN US UP. We filled out the application and put down the deposit immediately after we finished the tour.

Mind you, this is Los Angeles, and the preschool scene can be a bit competitive–not to mention crazy expensive. We didn’t have any trouble getting into this school and the tuition was just barely on the high end of what we’d budgeted, so it never occurred to us that this preschool was anything other than your average LA Suburb preschool.

Color us WRONG.

Forget Yelp. Apparently, I should have checked the celebrity gossip sites prior to enrolling our kid in this school.

Last year was reasonably normal. We definitely got the message that we were not the average clientele of this school, but we managed. I just tried really hard to avoid the sea of 6-figure cars in the parking lot, and we opted not to go to the school’s spring gala where I later learned that a PARKING SPOT in the school’s lot was auctioned for $5,000. Cool.

Cut to this year. C is in a small class this year. 12 kids and one teacher, versus 20-ish kids and 2 teachers last year. (They have aides who float around throughout the day, too.) I am the room parent for our class, so I’ve had a lot of interaction with the parents in the class and I’ve spent quite a bit more time at school this year.

So here’s the thing. I’m not the most observant person. Truly. I tend to be very much in my own head, and I don’t really pay a lot of attention to other people unless I am directly interacting with them. Also, celebrities don’t tend to use their real names on lists that are published with their personal phone numbers and email addresses.

So you can imagine my surprise when I came face to face with one of the moms who volunteered to help with our holiday party this week and realized AFTER I introduced myself and clarified which mom she was that I am a fucking idiot and of course I know who the hell she is. It took me about a half an hour into setup to realize what an idiot I was, and I was suddenly acutely aware of why she gave me such a puzzled look when I asked who she was. This is right on the heels of learning that there’s another well-connected Hollywood family in the class as well.

Immediately after the party, I was leaving when I recognized the face of someone I went to high school with (and hated!) who is also an actor. C-list at best these days, but still probably recognizable to a significant chunk of my generation.

At the PTA meeting a few weeks ago, I was seated next to a parent who was obviously an actor and was promising all kinds of crazy experiences for the auction. I have no idea who she was, but I probably should know. Maybe if I ever had a chance to watch TV. Although honestly, one blonde 3-something famous mom in yoga pants looks a lot like every other blonde famous mom in yoga pants.

Anyway, I’m feeling a bit weird about this because these just aren’t my people. I mean, they’re lovely and kind and generous, but I guarantee that they do not live 1 mile from school in a house with one bathroom, DIY landscaping and a dirty Ford in the driveway.

I think the thing that bothers me the most is that I went to private school with the children of people like this all throughout my school years, and I never felt like I fit in. Ever. I don’t want to be setting Charlotte up for that kind of social experience. I also don’t want to be projecting my own insecurities and issues on my preschooler.

I’m glad winter break starts tomorrow and I can have a few weeks to force these insecurities from my system. They certainly won’t do any of us any good.

 

 

Paw Pa-nope

There was a day two weeks ago when I thought I might seriously sell my child to the highest bidder. We’d been having awful mornings. She would wake up grouchy as hell and it would just spiral out of control from there. On this particular morning, she slapped me across the face so hard I saw stars and then kicked me in the shin and ran to her room and slammed the door. Where does she even learn this stuff?! 

When I finally got her to school with her face blotchy and red from tears and her handprint on mine, I wished her teacher good luck and ran out of there as fast as possible. I called Catch the moment I got in the car and told her I wanted to do an experiment. NO TV on school days. None. Zip. Zero. Nada. Effective immediately.

It wasn’t so much that we were relying on TV to babysit our child. Except that we were relying on TV to babysit our child. It crept up on us. She had always been so good at self-regulating her screen time, and then while she was sick a month or two back, she got a bit too comfortable on the couch. I was letting her watch TV before school because I am barely alive in the mornings, and all I wanted was a chance to drink some coffee before I had to be wonder mom. After school, we’d let her watch a show with her snack so she could have some wind-down time. Then we’d let her watch another show after her dinner so we could finish our own meal in peace and tackle the cleanup/prep for the next day.

I imagine our story is not unlike many others. You used to scoff at the screen time guidelines in the pediatrician’s office because your kid just wasn’t interested. Then you blink, and suddenly your kid can sing the Sofia the First theme song from memory and she’s talking about Paw Patrol in her sleep.

So we pulled the plug. We told her the TV was broken. She was understandably devastated, but we held firm. It was broken indefinitely.

After a week, it was like someone sprinkled our child with magic dust. We watched as her play became more and more creative. She was less dependent upon us to provide guidance in how/what she should play. She was pulling out toys we’d forgotten about. Even her ability to sit still and focus for longer than 30 seconds was improving. ALL IN THE SPAN OF A WEEK.

I won’t lie. It was really hard for me at first. Especially in the mornings. I just don’t want to have to be “on” in the morning. I’m coming around, though and it gets easier every day. We’re spending a lot more time cuddling on the couch and reading books after we get dressed. Mornings have been easier. Her mood has been better, too. She still has her difficult moments, but not nearly as often or as extreme.

Last Friday night after about 10 days of no TV, we cuddled up on the couch together and watched the Polar Express. ALL of us—even the dogs. It was LOVELY. It felt really special. Like a treat. We weren’t using the TV to occupy her while we were elsewhere. We used it to bring us all together under a big fuzzy blanket and be close as a family. Charlotte’s school holiday show is tomorrow night and the theme is Polar Express. Even though I’d read the book to her a bunch of times, we wanted her to see the movie since they’re singing some songs from the film.

Charlotte still sat on Santa’s lap and asked for Paw Patrol toys for Christmas, but instead of asking to watch Paw Patrol, she’s been asking me to read her the book we bought. We read it over and over again and talk about the characters and analyze the pictures. It’s the first time she’s ever been so interested in books. She always liked books, but she never really had the attention span to sit for the longer ones. Last night, we read the Snow Queen, which was easily a 10-minute bedtime story. Afterward, she fell asleep faster than she has in weeks.

All of this is on the heels of some research I did for school last term. I wrote a paper about the effects of television on preschoolers, and I really found the research fascinating. I’m really interested to see how this all plays out for Charlotte.