Saturday, September 14, 2013

Balancing School And Motherhood

This week has been a big week for our house. With Angel starting kindergarten, I discovered a difficult truth. I no longer have the sole influence on any of my children. It's certainly not a bad thing, consider the line "It takes a village to raise a child." I have carefully chosen my 'team' to help raise my kids. Now, I have to put my faith into our collective efforts for yet another life.

There are no longer any morning snuggles with Angel after the boys go to school. My mornings are now rushed and busy. Three different schools to get to (on time) every morning. Waking up four of us and making sure we are all ready for the day is not always going to go smoothly.

The transition has been hardest on my Angel. Grandma has always been home in the mornings, so Angel generally woke up just after I took the boys to school. Now, she is up at the same time and leaves when the boys do. She has been the only child of mine who had the luxury of having Mommy home all day, everyday, since she was born. With my work from home job, I was rarely away from her except for occasional meetings.

Now, not only is Mommy leaving, but I am leaving her in an unfamiliar place. The first day of Kindergarten was terribly hard. She cried the WHOLE morning. The second day, she had a few moments without tears. I stayed in close contact with the teacher and we worked together to smooth her transition as much as possible. Monday was hard. Tuesday she said she didn't want to go to school anymore. Wednesday, I left her crying in the classroom again, but this time she was full of smiles when I picked her up.

Wednesday night was Meet The Teacher night. I knew that the importance of this night was not really about meeting the teacher, but giving Angel an opportunity to share her classroom with the rest of the family. Particularly Daddy. After she had shown everyone the things she likes about kindergarten and had the reassurance from all of us, she felt more comfortable in the classroom. (The Trucker often underestimates his influence on the children.)

Thursday she said she had a good morning, but she didn't want to talk about it. I didn't push. I do not want to overwhelm her with questions or make her think that I am worried about what she is doing while I am away. Friday was even better, though she still doesn't want to talk about it much. She now says she likes school and is looking forward to seeing her friends again next week.

My first full week of University was challenging. Yes, I had homework. Textbooks to read, terms and definitions to memorize. I knew this was going to be difficult. I was prepared for a week of figuring out my schedule, my adjusted daily routines. I've made a few steps in the right direction this week. But I ended up with a bigger priority.

I felt like I was drowning at a few points. The Trucker has injured his shoulder and is suffering low back pain again, so he's not really much more help than just another body in the house. I've scrambled to get dinners cooked and lunches made. I've stayed up past midnight to do homework because I just didn't have time in the daylight. I've left dishes on the counter and fell behind on laundry. I am grateful for my mother right now, she is picking up my slack with housework. She's not even complaining. In fact, she has mentioned how it's almost boring having no one in the house with her in the mornings! (Yay for me)

I'm exhausted and mentally drained.

But, I know with every ounce of my soul that I got things right this week. My number one priority was helping the kids adjust. School transition may be easier for the boys than for Angel, but it is still Transition. Art has new orthotics and also a new expectation to carry his Epi-pen on his body this year. He's had a lot of changes to remember and he is doing well. Macboy moved to grade eight and we had several issues with his class schedule this week. It is still not completely sorted out.

Angel had it the hardest by far. She has rarely been away from me at all. And when she has been away, it's almost always been that she stays home and I go out. I spent my week focused on her more than anything else. I played cars and built ramps. I made crafts and colored pictures. I played with Playdough for hours. It's paying off. It's showing her that even though we all have to change our mornings now, that is all that is changing. Home is still home. Mommy is still Mommy. We can and will always have time to play. I won't stop reading her stories even if the teacher is reading stories at school. I won't even stop when she learns how to read by herself.

I reinforced her sense of security. (I have had to do a lot of that with all three kids this summer.) I showed her that I will be waiting right outside her classroom door every day and that she can count on me. I will not leave her at school. I am not giving her away. I am COMING BACK. Every day.

I know that starting University is a big deal. I know that focusing on my homework and studying is important. I will not say that I avoided that in any way. It remained a priority, of course. But it was not the most important thing I did this week.

I've worked on my schedule and made a weekly planner for the fridge so I can keep track of four of us in school. Lots of things have needed to change and will continue to change. It's been a long challenging week. I expected it to be hard. Some days are actually easier than I expect while others are painful.

Being thirty five and starting University with three kids is complicated.  I have to think creatively. I have to stay motivated. I have to constantly review and assess my priorities. They change every day. I have to sit through a lecture, while thinking constantly about leaving my poor little girl in hysterics at school. YOU try to focus in that situation!!

This is only the beginning, I have a lot of time to get the daily routine nailed down. I can find a babysitter when I need it. I can leave the Trucker with the kids and go study away from my house. I can make this work.

It will be so much easier to manage going forward because I spent the time to show my children that everything is going to be okay and our lives don't really have to change that much. Every minute that I spend showing my kids that I am STILL here for them, every extra hug and snuggle, every moment of one on one time to ease their minds will come back to me. Each second lays groundwork for easier studying time in the weeks to come. The kids know what to expect and what will be expected of them.

I had many moments this week where I thought I wasn't going to make it. I thought I'd made a horrible selfish mistake. I thought I could never do what I needed to do. But I can, I have and I will. I have chosen to go back to school for my own reasons. Yes, purely selfish. It's got nothing to do with money or because I want to support my children better. I've had pretty decent wages in my past. I just want to spend my time doing things that I love. And that is definitely the message I want to send my kids.

I am not doing this at their expense, even if I am doing this only for me. I am showing them that the only person in the world who really knows what each of them wants to do with their life is themselves. I want them to learn this early. So they don't have to start over at 35.

My work, focus, effort this week has not been without reward. We are all learning and growing. No degree in the world can ever change the fact that I am a Mom. I will fight to remain the Mommy I have been. We will not just survive this time in our lives, we will thrive. Because I have learned that being the Mommy they need, the Mommy I always wanted to be, is the most important thing I can do every single day.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

And So It Begins, School Days For All

Last week, school started for the kids and I.  Tuesday and Wednesday were a trial run for the mornings, learning how to get my boys and I out the door on time. These days were an opportunity for me to really get an idea of how long my commute will be dropping the kids off at two schools and getting myself to class on time.

Thursday was Angel's first day. Thankfully my Thursday class starts a bit later, as it was a difficult start to the day. There were a lot of tears, hers at the school and a few of my own as I drove to my class. I sat through my Sociology class and tried hard to stay focused. I'm also grateful that the beginning of the year is not too intense. Yet.  I arrived at the Kindergarten classroom a few minutes early to be sure I was in the right place (Angel gave me specific instructions) when she came out of class.

My little girl was so red faced and puffy, it broke my heart. The teacher informed me that the crying did not stop, it would ease up now and then, but essentially, she cried the WHOLE MORNING. That is not what a mommy wants to hear, ever.

Chatting with the Angel afterwards, she said she had fun. She told me all about what they did in class and she seemed pretty happy with it. She also said she was happy to go back again Friday.

Friday morning was the same as Thursday. Lots of tears and clingy hugs. I hated to let her go. But I gave her my biggest hugs and lots of kisses and reminded her that I would be back, waiting right where she told me to wait at 11:30. And I ran out the door as soon as I had said goodbye.

I was late for my Psyc class and even more distracted than the day before, since I knew how hard Thursday had been. I prayed my way through my English class, willing the minutes to move faster so I could go and check on my little one. Friday, she came out of the classroom with a smile. She still had cried quite a lot, but eventually she found something she liked to do and that occupied her until the day was over.

I'm spending as much time as I can trying to reinforce the sense of security in her. Seems like I've been reassuring my children all summer. I want to show her that home will not change just because she leaves in the morning now. I am reminding her that I will still read with her, even if her teacher reads to her that day. I will still play with her even if she finds new friends at school. Home is still HERS.

Art has been amazing. He has really stepped up as a big brother and he is helping her so much. Both days, he was able to go into her classroom (at the teacher's request) to remind Angel that she is not alone in the school and help her find things she likes about Kindergarten. He's waited for her at recess and given up much of his morning free time to make sure she is having fun. She drives him insane most of the time at home, but he sure adores her and is looking out for her. I have never been so proud of that boy!

Macboy is adjusting well to grade eight. I think it bothers him that, like me, he is not in the same place as the Angel. I get an email or two everyday from him asking for an update. How was today, Mom? Did Angel like school? Coming from my boy that can't stand school and never has enjoyed it, this is quite nice. Everyone wants Angel to be happy.

For me, University is a big adjustment, even without my own kids to worry about. I'm surrounded by people closer to Macboy's age than mine. My Professors have been wonderful, especially my Psyc prof, who was very kind when I warned her that I might be late for a few classes while we adjust to Kindergarten. Turns out, her little one started Kindergarten too. At least there is someone my age.

The cool thing about University that I've noticed so far, is that no one cares. I've introduced myself to those who sit near me and in that precise moment, there is no age. We are all just students in a class that we have all chosen to take. In the classroom, I am not 35, I am simply a student. And being in a much different age category is definitely going to spare me from some college kid drama that I don't want anyway.

I will have to learn to juggle a lot of things. Homework and children, laundry and essays. Dinner and dishes with reading a textbook. The Trucker has to learn a bit about how to help me too. So far, not much has changed in terms of help around the house. The kids are helping out more at least, so I'm not trying to struggle through completely alone.

Friday night, my wonderful sister came by to hang out with my kids. She played with them all evening. I was able to cook dinner and clean it up and get some homework done. I was even able to relax and catch up on a couple TV shows while the Trucker was working his Friday night gig.  She is awesome.

Saturday was laundry and cleaning, with a few errands to run because I am still missing a few things for the four of us in school. Today, I will focus on my family. I need some real down-time before another busy week starts.