The Circle of Life

My very first baby went to preschool at the completely amazing, life-changing-for-me public school in our neighborhood. It was a totally normal preschool in that we had to walk our kids into the classroom, sign them in every morning, then sign them out and walk them out every afternoon. This is a horrible, cruel expectation to set for mew mothers, because as sure as hell is hot, come the first day of kindergarten my son wouldn't even let me on the play area where the 'big boys' lined up. We made it all the way to the flag pole out front of the school and then he turned, kissed me, and said "I got it from here, momma."

The distance between those two points was exactly 1,392 miles. (That's 2240.407 km for all you Canadians.)

By first grade, I was allowed to walk him to the end of the street. Our street, not the school's street. 

If miles were measured in heartbeats, he rode his little bike to the moon and back every school morning. 

My second one entered school and was a little bit more forgiving of my need to, you know, parent him. He'd occasionally let me in the general vicinity of the drop-off area, but only if I remembered who was in charge.

Ain't nobody got time for dat, Jesus.

By the time we moved to Canada, they were getting themselves on and off of the city bus every day all by themselves. (*I* can hardly manage the city bus without a Xanax.) These boys forced me to let them go, let them be, let them become. I was helpless against their cute noses and dashing hairdos and squeaky voices asking please mom, please let us push these boundaries and find out what's waiting for us in the world beyond your arms.

I hated every minute of it, and loved every minutes of it. They made me so anxious, so worried, and so. freaking. proud. 

Turns out, boys and girls are different. Huh. 

My daughter is seven and-almost-a-whole-half-mawm, and every morning I walk hand in hand with her to her bus stop. Together we talk to her friends, sometimes she'll leave to play with them...but she leaves me with her toy or backpack so I don't have to miss her too badly. She kisses me goodbye and waves back to me with every third step towards her bus.

I'm not too proud to admit that I love it.  Sometimes we purposely run late so that I can drive her to school, giving us a whole lot of extra seconds together in the mornings.

So today when I told her she was going to have to walk her little self all the way to the bus stop by her own self because I had a conference call that I simply could not miss, she panicked. She panicked almost as much as I did.

She told ne she couldn't do it, because she would end up getting burglarized. I told her she could do it, that all her friends would be walking at the same time, and that as soon as she turned the corner where she wouldn't be able to see me anymore, she'd see them. She told me she didn't care, that she wasn't ready, that she simply could. not. do. this. 

And I was fairly uncertain whether I could, either. I mean, it's like a 63-second walk

Part of me feels totally justified in my overprotection. Jessica Rdigeway was just walking to school like everyone else, too (doesn't help that I used to live in that very neighborhood, no it doesn't.)

But it had to be done, we had to do it, and dammit, we did it. She said she understood why she had to do this, and I said I understood why she didn't want to. I bundled her up, stole all the kisses I'd miss at the bus stop (while on a conference call, i'll have you know, who says mother's can't do it all?) and sent her on her way. I stood on the sidewalk in bare feet and watched her every step until I couldn't see her anymore. She watched me the whole time, too. 

It'll all I have to not call the school and just make sure she's there, but she's there, everything is fine. I hate every minute of this again, and love every minute of it again. She makes me so anxious, so worried, and so. freaking. proud. 

How To Turn a Blog Comment Into A Very Long Blog Post

Two days before Valentine's Day. The moaning has hit full tilt.

Everyone hates Valentine's Day. I don't hate it; I just don't celebrate it, and I really never have. The Donor and I, I don't think, have ever once really 'celebrated' it. I mean, he'll run out on Sunday morning and buy me the obligatory Bunch of Asparagus, and I'll give him the obligatory Redacted.  But we'd do that because it's Sunday. We'd do that because we are wasted. These things work for us.

Besides, I think mothers day is way more fun.
Mother's Day, 2008.  Yum.
But a few weeks ago, my friend Earnest Girl wrote a post about Valentine's Day, and I left her a little comment, and this morning while I was asking Twitter to decide for me whether to bitch about getting kicked out of Canada 90 days before the reason we moved there in the first place, or bitch about explain Google Buzz, my other friend Deb Rox asked me to post about that old comment instead.


Why I Love Valentine's Day; A Tale of Love in the Time of Awkward Adolescence

Do you remember that kid in school? You know who I'm talking about...the one that always smelled bad, or the one who has some weird gastroenterological disorder that made them poop 8 times every day, or the one who's parents forced them to dress like Puritans, or the one who always wore clothes that were 4 years out of style, or the one who got free breakfast and lunch at school, and never once had a dime to their name? You remember that kid. I was that kid.

For the record, I always smelled good.

But I wore my brother's hand-me-down underwear, and the girl at church's hand me down clothes, and school breakfast and lunch were, on most days, the only food we saw, and I was being raised as a good little subservient cult member, and I was either getting the shit beat out of me mentally or physically, depending on the amount of coffee brewed on any given day, at home, or watching it happen to my brother. I had the self-esteem of your common household ant-trap. And I had, like, one friend. Maybe.

I was not a popular child.  I was the elementary school's class graduating class of 1985's whipping post. I still have nightmares about elementary school, not kidding.

Part of the thing with being raised all culty is that we didn't celebrate holidays. Any of them. Ever. So I got to spend an extra super fabulous day at home every time Christmas parties or Halloween parties or Valentine's Day parties rolled around. And I didn't really care so much. I was so thoroughly brainwashed that I pitied the fools who were damning themselves for eternity with their cotton ball Christmas trees and their Berry Berry Kix garland strings. But still, none of it helped my feeling that I was standing outside of my childhood, looking in. I could see what being a kid was, I just could never touch it. I was never a part of the world I lived in, and that is a hard way to be a kid.

My teachers were always respectful enough of my mother's my beliefs that they never made me a Jack O' Lantern for the wall, and I never had a picture on a construction paper bulb hanging on the foam core Christmas tree. They always excused me to the library with a smile and a nod when there were Evil Pagan Holiday things to be done in class. At least I had an out....Ash, the kid next to me who didn't stop farting for 4 years straight, he just had to sit there and take it over glitter glue festivities.

It could have been worse, that's all I'm saying.

Sometimes, my teachers would try. In 4th grade, my teacher bought me a Clifford the Big Red Dog book for my birthday, and held on to it for an extra week, and wrapped it in regular paper with a very birthdayish ribbon that could be easily disposed of before I got home, and told me as much. "I'm giving you this because I chose to celebrate your birthday, because I think you're neat, but your mom doesn't need to know. Tell her it's for homework," she said to me after the whole class was dismissed one day. I kept that book, hidden under a mattress, until high school.  It's the little things.

But there is a difference between some Big Sneaky Adult Authority Figure acknowledging your presence on the planet and your peer group doing it. There was one of her and 30 of them, all day, every day. Thirty of them with rocks, thirty of them with new clothes and shoes every January, thirty of them to remind me that I would never, ever belong in their tribe. They were just kids; they didn't know any better. In the days of 67.39% Tolerance, the runt of the litter took it hard, and me with my old clothes and stringy hair, and poor little Ash who always smelled like half-digested curried goat, we were the runts.

But for each of those 30 kids, there was at least one parent behind them with the legible handwriting and the purse strings. Enter Valentine's Day.

Maybe the teachers knew better, and maybe the kids knew better, but the moms and dads who bought the Valentine's sure didn't. You never really know beyond your kid in elementary school, especially in the 1980's.  So every year, I would return to school on the 15th of February and be greeted by a desk overflowing with cards. Cards that had my name scribbled on them in dried-up marker or stubby crayon, cards with a piece of gum lovingly taped to Scooby Doo's buttcrack or Jem's Truly Outrageous Star, cards with sugar coated chalk hearts attached that said U R Cool or I <3 U, cards from every single kid I ever prayed would be my friend late at night, once the world slept and I was left with own, private black isolation.

On February 15th, I belonged where I was. I was a normal kid who got normal cheap cardboard inclusion in the world. I was a kid in a class and everyone knew my name, they'd all acknowledged that I existed. I stayed late every year on the day after Valentine's; I ate every piece of candy and traced my name on every card with my fingers before I threw them all out so my mother wouldn't see, and for one lousy day in my lousy school year, I smiled.

So maybe obligatory redacted is kind of lame, and maybe blowing $2.99 on stupid cards your kids will hand out at school and promptly forget about is wasteful, but every year my kids and I sit together and we carefully write every name on every card, and the names we don't know so well get an extra heart scribbled in crayon on them, because maybe that's the kid who needs a Valentine to show up in their desk just so they can remember that they exist. And if it takes one really annoyingly Pepto-pink day on my calender to make that happen for some kid, I'll deal. And I'll smile.