Thursday, September 4, 2014


Oh so very much to say about what haps have been happing in the youth demographic of my household. First and foremost, today is the little guy’s 6th birthday. I left for work before he awoke this morning, but tonight he will get a special dinner of his choosing (pancakes and bacon) as well as one birthday present. He will probably be given the present before dinner so as to maximize the amount of time he can play with it before being forced into bed (tomorrow is a school day as well) which will then put him in the difficult position of having to choose between favorite new toy and favorite food shortly thereafter. Ha, just kidding, he will not be given a choice, dinner isn’t really optional in our house, not even on your birthday.

This coming Sunday we will have a proper birthday party for the little guy, with some of his friends, and his godparents, and the local grandparents and aunt and uncle. There will be hot dogs and ice cream cake and many, many things Lego (including the remainder of his presents from his mother and me). Should be good times. I’m looking forward to it at any rate.

As mentioned on Tuesday, the little guy went back to school this week, embarking on the grand adventure of first grade. My wife took him BTS shopping over Labor Day weekend for both clothes and school supplies, which was moderately successful. The little guy was due for a new lunchbox and new backpack as well, and I was expecting him to of course gravitate towards the Lego Movie licensed merch, but the pickings were slim (whether because we were late into the fray or because the Lego people are being really selective about how much branded crap they put out there, I’m not entirely sure). So his new lunchbox is plain blue, and his new backpack is Batman-themed (though, to be fair, it’s the black-and-yellow Burton-era Batman, much like the Batman in the Lego Movie, which I have no doubt was the appeal) and he only got one new Lego t-shirt with the rest of his wardrobe upgrades all fairly simple non-graphic duds. He seemed happy overall, so all’s well.

The backpack is actually fairly hilarious because it’s just black with the Bat symbol on it, near the top. Batman of course, like any classic-patterned superhero, wears his symbol on his chest, so the backpack is something like a close-up of his torso. Something very like it, in fact, seeing as how the front pocket is actually molded to look like pecs and abs, which I admit I find hysterical. (Torso pun!) Honestly, it’s just as well that the backpack itself has extra muscles built in, because man did that kid have a lot of crap to carry to school on the first day. Apparently, school systems (or ours, anyway) are so strapped for cash now that they don’t budget for the teachers’ supplies, and instead each student contributes not only their own pencils and composition books and gluesticks but also packages of dry erase markers and boxes of tissues and sundries like that. And honestly, I’m fine with that. Given the choices of A) a classroom that lacks various necessities B) higher taxes or C) getting the parents of the kids to all chip in, the latter option seems reasonable enough. (A is just unacceptable, and B and C might seem like a wash but man, I can’t tell you how sick I am of hearing my friends who don’t have kids bitching about their tax money going toward schools they don’t use, which of course misses several points about how society works as a whole in the long run, but never mind, if me springing for hand sanitizer and pocket folders shuts them up, I’m on board.) Where was I? Right, the backpack, which actually was pretty full on Tuesday and yet still didn’t contain absolutely every item we had been instructed to provide. We might have been able to jam a few more things in, but then again our little guy would probably have barely been able to move with any more weight on his shoulders, so we decided it would be just as well to send multiple shipments to school over the course of the first week.

As you may have gleaned from some of my posts over the past year, kindergarten was not as easy for the little guy as we might have hoped it would be. There’s no question he’s a smart boy, he likes reading, loves science, prides himself on knowledge and will recite facts at the drop of a hat. He even has an affinity for rule-following that could (theoretically) be beneficial for a model student. But he lacks focus and discipline, and has almost no patience for practicing things, whether it’s something new and challenging or something so old hat that it’s boring. So, for example, writing the numeral 5 over and over and over again to fill up a sheet of wide ruled paper was not his idea of time well spent, and he would in response just zone out and not do the busywork at all. Understandable and easily sympathized with, but at the end of the day both his teachers and his parents are pretty much in agreement that he has to do the same work as all the other kids whether he likes it or not. But we spent most of the last school year not sure if we should be drilling into his head more strongly the idea of buckling down and doing the work, or if we should back off and let nature take its course, since he was barely five and all. We ended up with a kind of wavering bit-of-both approach that certainly didn’t feel like it accomplished anything.

It was frustrating for all of us, to say the least, but there’s reason for optimism now: the little guy is a year older and still isn’t the perfect picture of composure and self-control, but he’s getting there. My wife and I are prepared to get on top of the matter and stay on top of it from the outset, as opposed to feeling blindsided by it when it first came to our attention. And a couple of days into first grade, the little guy is at least reporting that he’s having fun and enjoying school, not wailing that he wished it were still summer vacation or begging us to let him stay home or anything remotely so dire. I’m sure things are going to ramp up quickly in the next few weeks in terms of in-school assignments and homework and whatnot, and it’s when the rubber meets the road that we’ll really see what’s what. But so far, so encouraging.

Meanwhile, the little girl and the bino have both started daycare two days a week, and that’s going well, too. We’ve started them at a center that’s new to us, because of the after-school busing options, or lack thereof, in the area. Let me back up. Last time our kids were in any kind of center was right around the time the bino was born, so almost a year and a half ago. The little guy was finishing his second year of Montessori (which was distressingly repetitive of the first year material, so that was a case of rapidly diminishing returns) and the little girl was not quite two years old and doing her thing in the free-form older toddler/pre-pre-school room. My wife went on maternity leave and everyone was at home for the summer, and when my wife went back to work we decided to give an in-home sitter a try for a while. There were a couple of justifications for this. First, if I’m remembering correctly, the day-care center would pro-rate for four days a week as opposed to five, or three days a week, but not two. And two was all we needed with my wife’s new-at-the-time (and still current) job. Day care center rates for newborn infants are also extremely expensive (and rightly so) and even with the multiple-kid discount we were looking at a steep monthly outlay. And finally, again if I remember correctly, the day care center where we had been did not have a before/afterschool program that would bus the little guy to and from kindergarten, which was something we couldn’t do without.

Hence, the in-home sitter, who would charge a flat hourly rate for watching all three of our kids, mostly the two little ones while the big brother was at school. She would also be able to walk the little ones up to the bus stop in the afternoon and meet the little guy and walk all of them back home to await my return home from work. All in all, this worked out pretty well for a year. I didn’t have to fight traffic to, from, and at the day care center after work, and I appreciated that. The bino now holds the cross-sibling record for least number of colds (a handful) and ear infections (zero!) in the first year of life. Other benefits I’m sure I’m forgetting!

But parts of it wore thin, too. The sitter had a son in between the little guy and little girl’s ages, and would bring him along once a week. My wife and I were asked beforehand if this would be ok and we said of course. But not long after we hired the sitter, she initiated divorce proceedings with her husband. I can only imagine what her son’s homelife was like from that point on, but it can’t have been pleasant, and he acted out a lot in ways that were never scary or dangerous to my kids but still caused some friction and made my life more difficult. And due to some early misunderstandings about the terms of employment, we wound up paying the taxes on the sitter’s paychecks out of our own pockets rather than deducted from her earnings, and that was grating. Once the bino had gotten old enough to no longer require newborn daycare rates, it actually cost us more money to keep everyone in the home-centered arrangement. And we figured both the little girl and her baby brother could use more socialization, new experiences, &c. So, late August being a logical enough transition point, we made the switch.

And as I say, that’s going well. The bino of course immediately got sick with some kind of persistent super-germ, the main symptoms of which seem to be coughing and sleeplessness, so that’s been a little rough. (He’s been taken to the pediatrician and it’s nothing serious, just one of those toddler bugs.) But he seems to like the daycare and, especially after an 18-month lifetime of chasing after and being excluded by his older sibs, the other toddlers quite a lot. The little girl also really likes being with other 3 and 4 year olds and doing new things, and she seems markedly more talkative (sassy, even!) after just a couple weeks of exposure to that environment, which is highly gratifying.

So that’s the state of play as of now: a new year of school (or “school”) for all is underway and we’re settling back into the familiar rhythms. Just in time, of course, for the annual autumnal avalanche of fall birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and such. Wheeee!

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