Since I am sitting here on the couch next to a sick kid who insists I never leave his side I figured, “Why not post a blog?”
First, some housekeeping. I promised my reader I would release my best albums of 2014 in the last post. Since it is almost 2015, I guess you have waited long enough: Angel Olsen, Burn Your Fire For No Witness. I also liked other stuff too but, really, who gives a shit.
Now that’s out of the way, onto the post at hand. Two stories to share, mostly so I can keep track of them.
The brain of a five year-old will floor you
Miles is in kindergarten this year. There are so many things about this that blow my mind that I can’t seem to chronicle because it feels like my world will collapse in on itself. The combination of pride and cuteness cannot be measured. He is going to Indianola Informal, which is a public school three blocks from our house that sees art, music, and dance and project based learning as crucial to a child’s learning experience. Or, to put it another way, it’s a public school for the kids of hippies, iconoclasts, ne’er do wells, and delusional artists. Needless to say, we fit right in. Actually that’s not one hundred percent true but the machinations and politics of the Columbus public school system can be saved until after tomorrow’s election.
Anyway, we live about 3 blocks from this school. One of the true genuine pleasures of this is that Miles and I walk to school most mornings (except on Wednesdays and Fridays, when I teach) and I walk him home everyday. Oh my god: his back pack, his walk, his stories, the tackles he gives me when I walk in the classroom in the afternoon, his hold on my shoulders the first couple of days when he didn’t want me to leave…like I said, pride and cuteness. I can’t handle it.
But school is not without its challenges. It has proven often to be bubble bursting. For example, last week was “Red Ribbon Week.” What’s Red Ribbon Week you ask? Well, its a week where kids wear a red ribbon as a symbol that they will not use drugs or alcohol. Miles is five. Five. F.I.V.E. While I am naive, I do know that there are kids in his class whose home lives I cannot comprehend. At the same time, Miles seems so impossibly innocent and sensitive, particularly when he cries about experiences like sunsets that he can’t seem to capture with a camera. How do you talk to a five year old like that about drugs and alcohol?
I chose to do it like this: I told Miles that some kids might be wearing a red ribbon all week and that I was going to tie one on his back pack so he wouldn’t have to worry about losing it. I explained that wearing the ribbon was a type of promise to only put things into our bodies that were good for us. I thought that was pretty good and we walked out the door for our morning walk. And that is when the following conversation happened:
Miles: Dad, I have something to tell you.
Me: What’s that buddy?
Miles: You know those drinks we had after my soccer game this year, the pouch one’s?
Me: Yes (he was talking about a Capri-Sun that wasn’t entirely from fruit juice. Shannon and I muttered something about sugar content that day but I didn’t think he was paying attention).
Miles: I had one of those at Grandma and Grandpa’s this weekend. It was a different flavor but it was the same.
Me: That’s ok Miles.
Miles: Well, I just wanted to tell you because I know it’s not good for my body and that maybe I shouldn’t be wearing the ribbon this week.
Me: Oh, Miles…thanks for being honest but its totally fine. There are things that are ok to have on occasion, we just don’t want to have them all the time. Do you understand?
Miles: Well, I just wanted you to know because I know the drinks are kind of close to the beer in the grocery store and I wanted to tell the truth.
Me: Oh, Miles, you’re so sweet. It’s really ok. You can have some drinks from time to time and, as long as you don’t have them everyday, you will be fine. We just want to take care of our bodies. It’s the same for adults even if they are drinking things that kids can’t drink. Adults can have drinks like beer and wine but they just shouldn’t have them all the time.
Miles: Like if they had them too much they would get sick?
Me: Yes, that’s exactly right.
Miles: So, like [redacted]’s dad. Like that time when he had all that beer and [redacted] had to help him.
Me: [Trying not to laugh]. Miles, did you mean when [redacted] was on vacation with [his/her] parents?
Miles: Yeah. We would try to help him, right? We would try to help him not have so much beer and tell him that it’s bad for his body and that he shouldn’t do that.
Me: Yes, buddy, we would help him but he’s ok. I am pretty sure he is ok. [Redacted] might not be ok when [he/she] hears this story, but he is fine.
Miles: I understand.
Five year-old’s are weird and fun and wonderful.
The weight of a not quite two year-old will only crush you if you let it
Shannon’s out of town on work and I set Miles up in his bedroom with an iPad in an attempt not to get Lena sick too. Time will tell if this actually works but I needed to make an effort. Because of this lovely piece of technology, I actually got to spend some one-on-one time with Lena for the first time in a while.
I feel bad for her a lot. She really has gotten the shaft in terms of dedicated attention. Her brother constantly clamors for us to pay attention to him when we try to focus on Lena so she often gets divided attention. If we ever had a third child, that kid might as well raise herself. Despite these trying circumstances, Lena does her very best to make sure we know she needs something. She is particularly good at letting Shannon know when she is sure that Shannon shouldn’t be doing anything by herself. She often does this by hanging onto Shannon’s leg and screaming as loud as she can. Our daughter doesn’t do subtlety right now.
Lena rarely treats me the same way. If she is crying in the middle of the night and I go into her room to check on her she will scream, “No, daddy!” or maybe just “No daddy!”, I haven’t been able to parse the semantics of it; either way, I get her point. When Shannon is trying to do something in the kitchen I will try and present myself as a reasonable alternative to Shannon, Lena will scream, “No, daddy!” or maybe “No daddy!” and push me away. Again, not exactly subtle.
But Shannon wasn’t available tonight. And Miles was, like I said, in his room watching videos, so Lena and I spent some time together. She came over to me when I was cutting sweet potatoes and pulled at leg saying, “I see? I see?” because she wanted to look at what I was cutting. At dinner, I asked her if she wanted me to scoot her chair in and when she said yes, I asked her if that was better and she nodded and smiled. After about two bites of food, she spent about ten minutes getting down from her chair and saying, “Daddy, scoot?” before trying to push my chair close to the table. When she finished, she would go back to her chair and say, “Better?” I would say, “Yes. Thank you, Lena.” and the cycle would repeat again.
We cleared our plates. She took a bath while we listened to music. I cuddled her in a towel after bath and helped her brush her teeth. Then she led me by the finger down the steps to the couch, where she pointed and said, “Daddy, sit” while she grabbed some books. She then climbed up onto the couch and I read to her until it was time to carry her up to bed. It was lovely.
I think I have said somewhere in the periodic annals of this blog that I used to be reticent to hug. Sometimes people just got too close to me too quickly. But tonight Lena leaned into me with all her weight while I read and it was ok. Well, it wasn’t ok at first: I teared up at thinking how fast all of this was going and that my baby girl wouldn’t do this forever; I wanted to squeeze the moment and hold it forever. As I reminded myself to just appreciate this time, her weight didn’t get any lighter but I felt how comfortable she felt leaning into me while I read and that was…something. It was really something.
Gratuitous pictures of the day (Outside lies magic edition):