Dear Carrie & Sean,
Just writing you a note, since I miss you at pick up time. It was another rough day for Ian, and I am not sure what is going on. Today he continued to touch people near their private parts, was potty talking, and burped directly into teacher Julie's face and thought it was funny.
If I can give you some advice as a teacher, mother, and grandmother I think his smile and charm have got him far in his short life. I think 'love & logic' is an excellent approach and he may need some tough love.
Please know I am only trying to help. Ian is such a great kid, he is just going through a rough patch and needs firm and constant direction for awhile.
This is the letter we received from his preschool this week. When I first read it, this is what I heard;
Dear Carrie & Sean,
Just writing you a note since I'm never here when you drop off and pick up. Since he is one of the first here and last to leave I hardly get a chance to talk to you. In fact, I barely know you exist. Ian is not just here for preschool but before and after extended care as opposed to some of the other children who have mothers who can raise their own kids.
Ian has been a total shit lately and it's all your fault. Your too easy on him, and instead of punishing him in the 1 hour a day you have with him, you are letting him get away with murder. Please, in the time you do not have to parent your child please read 'love & logic' which should give you some tools you obviously do not have.
I know I'm being dramatic, it's what I do. But that was my initial response. There is SO much guilt involved in being a working mother. And just in case anyone isn't sure, (as friends have commented on this in the past) this is not my 'choice'. Had I the 'choice' to be home with my kids I would. But we are not all so lucky to have that choice. So I've done the best I can, and sometimes SURPRISE! It isn't enough.
A friend of mine keeps a blog and recently wrote a post titled, the scraps of motherhood. This is a person who get's my life, and more times than I can count over the past 3 years has been my lifeline into the light. It's her and I that swear we'll start a club titled, 'extra-curricular activities against working moms' as we've scoured the internet simultaneously looking for dance, karate, and soccer we could enroll the kids in that wasn't on Tuesdays at 3pm. It's her that I text from my car, fighting tears when I forgot to send Alex with her lunch, or for the umpteenth time had to turn down classroom volunteering or chaperoning a field trip. We have both been through a lot in the past few years and picked each other up when we were down, offered a laugh when needed, but most importantly we've been there to say, 'i know it's hard. it's the hardest. you can do it, you are doing it, and your doing a good job'.
It was these words, her words that got me through this one.
After I had some time to let this letter sink in, I did what I always do and came down to a level of sanity and because I cannot change the amount of time I have with Ian I will have to come up with a new game plan in how I spend that time.
Of course we have weekends to provide 'firm and constant direction', and in the evenings it will have to be less about me and filling the void I have from being away from him and more about him and steering him in the right direction. I guess.
Most evenings I get home at 6:15, start dinner and from that moment on I start my barking.
'Alex, unpack your lunch'
'Ian, take off your shoes and coat and PLEASE HANG YOUR COAT UP rather than tossing it in the air'
'Alex, get out your homework'
'Ian, check Chips food and water bowl'
meanwhile, dinner burns and festers.
Some days Sean arrives home and we quickly eat dinner and head up for baths. Other days (and these are frequent as of late) I receive a text that he's 'running late', or 'won't be home til after bed'. These are harder days as I rush them through and maybe/maybe not give a bath. My #1 priority is leave enough time Alex's 15 minutes of nightly reading. If I don't do this, I receive notes from her teacher like, 'what happened this week' and 'please make sure your making time for reading!'. Through it all there is still a lot of barking going on here regarding 'settling down', 'quieting our voices', 'stop fighting', 'Ian please stop running', 'Alex comb your hair', 'Ian, brush your teeth'. All the while the clock is ticking in my ear TICK TICK TICK. It's now 8:11 and the kids really need to be in bed at 7:45 latest so we can yank them out at 6:45am without too much of a meltdown.
With quick kisses and 'I love you's', I tuck them in and leave their rooms to go and clean up the hurricane that occurred in the chaos of the last hour. I at this point feel defeated, and sad, and lonely for their conversation. I then rehearse all the things I could have done differently, how I could have made better use of my time, and how I could have given each of them more. And then I wonder how I can possibly do it again the next day.
So you may understand that I'd rather gloss over the running, kicking, coat throwing, the burping, potty talk, and toy fighting because I do enough barking as it is. And the guilt of working, piled with the guilt of rushing through my only time with them, piled with the guilt of it not being enough is just sometimes crippling.
When I decided to have kids, I was afraid of being able to care for a newborn. There is so much emphasis on having a 'baby'. The long nights, the lack of sleep, the inability to get out of the house in less than 4 hours, the absence of a social life'. The newborn/baby stage was a blast to me. Taking care of physical needs is a piece of cake! Nobody talks about the really hard stuff. What comes next. Raising a responsible, respectful and caring person, citizen, and human being. That stuff is intense. It is only now as my kids approach 5 and 7, that I feel I have entered the throws of parenthood.
I must say that I love Ian's school. With the time and energy I have put into finding my kids good quality care over the years I could have swam around the world by now, but it's important. And his school and teachers mean the world to me. Despite my initial feelings on the letter we received, I can only commit to doing better and thank them for their caring so much for him and his well-being to make this an issue.
Today, after just 24 minutes at work I received a call that Ian had thrown up at school. My initial response was 'oh my god, i just got here', and 'i have so much work to do', and mostly, 'my poor poor baby'. but now, after having some time to process and as he sleeps quietly on the couch I think, 'oh joy!, a whole day with my sweet boy'. It's the little things.