They Even Have a Sandbox

So today was a pretty exciting day for the Noodle (my nick name for my three-and-a-half year old son) and I. He had been looking forward to this day for months, in a way that surprised me – I didn’t know a kid that age could track time this way. Today was kindergarten orientation. He caught a glimpse of the excitement waiting for him in September, and I caught a glimpse of just how many boxes of tissue it was going to take to get through the first day of school.

They Even Have a Sandbox

The kindergarten classroom was everything I wanted it to be: clean, bright, filled with natural materials, lots of hands-on play opportunities, a solid house corner, water table, and as Noodle breathlessly declared “They even have a sandbox!”. To him, it was a little dude paradise. The teachers seemed lovely, and switched on to the importance of things like one-on-one attention, affection, and outdoor play time. Noodle even had a pair of his buddies from daycare to bond with. The highlight however was the practice bus ride. Oh my heart.

Watching how his big head and little body bounced and lurched on the bus made me realize just how little an almost-four-year-old still is. Sure, he’ll be on that bus with his ten and nearly thirteen-year-old sisters. Sure he’s beyond thrilled about the whole thing. Still, I saw The Sweet Hereafter, well before I had kids, and the idea of a little body on a huge school bus simply makes me want to barf. I kept my cool though. I know it’s dumb to download those illogical anxieties on your kids. The world’s his oyster, and I want him to feel that way just as long as he can.

But here’s thing…No matter how vast the universe of possibility and opportunity I want for him, it aches deep down into my very atoms (another Sweet Hereafter reference?) when I think of him growing up. Obviously I want him to grow and thrive, but there’s always going to be a part of me that wants to keep him as close as I can. Like, on a cellular level. I guess that’s what you get for growing a person in your body. Though hell, I get those pangs for my non-bio daughters too, and I didn’t even get to meet them until they were three and five.

Watching my twelve-year-old’s sharp angles slowly morph into softer curves is the sweetest form of heartbreak. I know she’s going to blow minds and take names, but I also know that the sweet little bubble we have built up around our tadpoles, with spit and love and tenacity won’t hold forever. Eventually it will burst because the world is just like that. It’s a bubble bursting, bubble blowing party.

And as long as they aren’t dating, playing injury-causing team sports, blowing auditions, taking school buses, having adventures without us, basically, we get to keep that bubble in tact. Kind of. Not really. Sigh.

The greater your love, the greater your fear of loss. The greater your loss, the greater your fear of love. I can’t shut it down, no matter which end I tackle. I feel the magnitude of my fear just as deeply as I’m filled with the depth of all this love in my heart.

So, I’ll keep my shit together on that first day of school until he’s safely inside his classroom. (Because I’m driving him there on the first day. The bus will have to wait until day two, damn it) Then, after I get into my mom-mobile I will shed those tears and say goodbye to the sweet stickiness of the toddler years. Goodbye to our carefree Fridays off, playing zoo and enjoying day trips together. It won’t be as bad as the first day of daycare. I know this, because leaving him sobbing in the arms of a stranger was the worst parenting experience I’ve had thus far. He’s excited about Kindergarten (or JK/SK as he calls it) in a way that he never was about daycare. Maybe he had a premonition of all of the colds he would be destined to bring home from such an unsophisticated place. Or, maybe even he knows he’s growing up and hitting the big leagues. Even he knows this is a great big deal in the department of milestones.

Thrive on little man. Play with all of the plastic animals. Sift your pudgy fingers through all the sand. Make all the macaroni art. I’ll spare you my tears, just know that I want you to drink up every moment that JK/SK lays at your feet. And please, for the love of God, be careful.



For All of The Mothers In My Life

Happy Mother’s Day to ALL of you fabulous women who have loved and nurtured children near and dear to you. In my own short experience of motherhood, I have been humbled and broken down by the magnitude of love that is both required of mothers and returned to them by the children they raise. This year is the first year that I believe I am deserving of that abundance, (it’s been a long and at times dark journey to get here) and the first year that I feel confident in my own ability to lead with love where all of my children are concerned. That confidence, that faith in my own newly discovered softness is the greatest Mother’s Day Gift I could hope for, aside from my three children of course.

I could never begin to reach for my own strength without great teachers to model myself after, so here I must honor the many mothers in my life, and the beautiful lessons they have helped me explore.

My Mom, Rachelle Skinner

Selflessness, Acceptance – My mother is relentless in her natural, free-flowing ability to care for others. It’s completely second nature to her to see to everyone else before herself. Whisking away dirty plates before you can even set down a fork, psychically connecting and then materializing the tea you are longing for, calling you at exactly the moment you most need to hear her voice. So comfortable is she with taking care of everyone, that if you try to turn the tables on her and spoil her even a little, she will put up a fight. She’s been a constant source of comfort and security for me, during some pretty dark times. I can tell her anything, and she tries to support me, even when she can’t begin to understand the choices I make. I feel like she has embraced the person that I am, and I trust that as long as I’m safe, and my children are safe, then she is happy for me. I never, ever feel like she over-steps, or that she is trying to change me. I feel that she adores me, for exactly who I am.

My Wife, Sarah Jamal

Commitment, Patience – Sarah is a deep, placid lake. Even in the face of insane kid frenzy she is cool and unflappable. When a certain fireball of a middle daughter is raging and screeching in her face, she is calm and striving to hear the pain and frustration that lies beneath the poor choice of tone and utterly indecipherable hysteria. Our Ayla isn’t the only fireball female that Sarah has applied this stalwart patience to. Sarah has remained constant and dedicated to me in moments that baffle me to this day, and I’m eternally grateful for her faith in a picture much bigger than any of the rest of us mere mortals could see. Sarah taught me what unconditional love looks like, long before I birthed a bio child, and I continue to try to deserve the gift of her heart.

My Mother-in-Love, Glenna Oleksinski

Forgiveness – Glenna could give you a lot of reasons why I should be put into a head lock, to say the least. In the earlier days of our relationship, (my relationship with her daughter, that is) the roller coaster we were on was off the rails, then on the rails, and then off the rails again. I’m sure to a protective mom, it could seem like I was in the driver’s seat, and I was doing a terrifying job at that. Despite what can only be described as my extreme asshole behavior, Glenna has been willing to wipe the slate clean and keep her heart open to me, and what a marvelous, beautiful heart it is. She’s wise, well-read, super funny, and the kind of mom who would do anything for her kids and her many grand kids. I love her dearly, I love her abuncance for her family, and I’m so grateful for another chance to be part of that love.

My Other Mother-in-Love, Khadija Jamal

Grace – Khadija mum is grace personified, and not just the beautiful, flowy kind. She moves through each moment with so much love and kindness and positive intention that you feel like you’ve been touched just by watching her. It’s a divine grace she embodies, to be sure. Always even, patient, exuding the love she feels for her family, you just want to be a better you when she’s nearby, so you can catch a glimpse of the smile that lights up her entire self. There aren’t enough words to express my gratitude for her love, her incredible hospitality, her outrageously good cooking, and her faith over these last two years that we’ve been living together. I wonder if she’ll ever know how hard I’m trying to emulate her warmth?

My Aunties, Gigi and DeeDee

Joy – Not a week has gone by since the birth of my now two-and-a-half year old son where I have missed the delight of my aunties as they play with my children. One of the great blessings of my life was being raised among a tribe of fierce sisters who helped me understand what it means to be a woman. My aunts have experienced so much sadness, but despite this, continue to find joy in the simple beauty of life. The laughter of my son, the cheeky precociousness of my daughter, the willowy grace of my oldest girl; I see these gifts so sharply through my aunties’ wise and sorrow-touched eyes and I recognize the blessings I have every single day. I’m so grateful to have these incredible women here to witness the milestones moments of my children, when so many members of our tribe must now watch them from afar.

My Fairy Godmother, Gail Fisher-Taylor

Empathy – Gail has touched my life in ways that have shifted the very fiber of my being. She has helped me find the courage to look into the darkest corners of my soul, without fear of what I might find lurking there. She’s held my hand when I couldn’t find a way to love even myself, and she’s helped me see that without this self-love, I could never truly love anyone else. Gail has made it okay to feel my own pain, and hold my own heart. She’s been the mirror to my terrified eight-year-old self and showed me just how much love that little girl needs. What’s more, she’s shown me with her magic mirror that a deep ocean of love lives within me and flows deeply for anyone I wish to share it with.