The Permanence of My Records

A few months ago, I spent an evening sifting through a box that contained my school records from kindergarten through college.  During those years, my parents diligently saved report cards, memorable artwork, progress reports, and yearbooks, among other items, and then handed them off to me when I moved out.  I don’t know what compelled me that night to look through the stuff, but I remembered pretty quickly why I don’t go through them very often: I hate reading about my younger self.

There is in fact a great deal written about me from those early years, starting with the letter that my parents wrote in support of their application to have me attend a private school for kindergarten.  They unfortunately thoughtfully kept it for me, for what purpose I have yet to decipher.  While my father now points to the positive portions of the letter as proof that I was then who I am now (does that make sense?), I actually hate this letter.  I feel as if it makes me out to be this little monster instead of a probably pretty normal 5 year old only child.  This gem of a paragraph, which Dad wrote in his best PhD-in-childhood-development-ese, still stings:

Probably the least successful aspect of her development so far has been in developing social relationships with other children. She tends to be aggressive and self-centered.  Thus, as an only child who is very independent, she tends not to share well or to seek out relationships with other children on an equal, sharing basis.  Rather, she tends to dominate efforts of other children to relate to her.

Was what he wrote true? Absolutely. But reading about these propensities of mine in such strong, negative and almost accusatory language still gives me the feeling of failure and bad-egg-ness.  Before you get indignant on my behalf, though, know that the essay worked, I was admitted to the school and got glowing reports from kindergarten onwards before they pulled me out after third grade because it was getting expensive.  And, I now I have friends and get paid to be aggressive. Ironic, eh?

But, what strikes me now for the first time is the question: what 5 year old kid isn’t like this?  Seriously. Aren’t all kids basically self-centered, aggressive (passive or otherwise) miniature adults who are still learning the social norms and graces for maneuvering successfully in the world? Reading the letter in the past has always made me feel as if I was exceptional in this regard.  Now, though, I have to wonder if being a well-adjusted, selfless and passive 5 year old is in fact the exceptional thing.

Watching Rex grow has helped to put this all into some kind of perspective.  I’ve been reading a lot about toddlers and their behavior and I’m beginning to subscribe to the notion that the ‘bad’ behaviors of toddlers are not ‘bad’ in the way that they would be if you and I did them.  They are trying out all the world offers and it’s my job to say what is and what is not acceptable and where, not label them as self-centered or aggressive.  Above all, I’m embracing the notion that it is a phase, as in temporary, will grow out of it behavior.  Just like being a self-centered aggressive non-sharing brat was (mostly) a phase with me.  I share now, although I still hate it (but I would never tell you that to your face while you are helping yourself to my ice cream).  I am aggressive only when called for and I feel pretty confident that I’m not wretchedly self-centered, or at least any more than anyone else.

So after that stellar introduction of me to the school, what did my kindergarten teacher think about me?

She is able to be a playful little girl but readily takes on the challenges of being six years old in a competitive environment.  She is strong minded and can be quite stubborn.  She is sensitive and has a good sense of humor.  These characteristics have helped her to become a leader and much sought-after playmate.

I like this version MUCH better.

CSI: Toddler Room

There is a pint-sized biter in Rex’s toddler room.   One of those adorable little persons is sinking their fangs into the delectably chubby limbs of their unsuspecting classmates.  Rex was not in this new classroom a full week before he was a victim of the Little Chomper.  We were told that Rex had it coming attempted to pick up the other child’s sippy cup after the child had put it down  thus provoking the bite.  He came home that day with a nasty looking welt on his arm but otherwise seemed no worse for the wear.  Less than a week later, I received a call from the daycare reporting that the same child had bitten my child again! and this time, there was no apparent provocation on Rex’s part.

Not the Culprit - Via Creative Commons

Our concern for Rex’s safety soon morphed into anger that the Little Chomper was allowed to roam free in the general population after such heinous crimes against my sweet blonde cherub.  Because, now, it seemed like Rex’s bites were personal.  Little Chomper obviously had it out for my kid since LC had bitten him twice, one time of which was unprovoked.  Typical toddler behavior you say, total vampire tendencies I say. It is obvious that Little Chomper vanted my baby’s blood.

For their part, the daycare has been annoyingly adult about the whole thing.  They won’t share with us the identity of Little Chomper because they’re progressive like that or perhaps they knew that if we were told we would give the kid the evil eye every time we dropped off and picked up Rex.  And rather than put the offender in the stocks (I bet those Puritans would have obliged me) to ponder his or her biting ways, the plan going forward has been to keep Little Chomper and Rex separated in the classroom.

This plan so far seems to be working.  There have been no further biting incidents against Rex. But, Mr. X swears that Little Chomper struck again the other day and this time the victim was Rex’s BFF.  Mr. X might even have figured out the identify of the Little Chomper.  Better get those pint sized stocks ready.

Welcome, September

I am so over summer.  August was brutal here in hell Texas.  I’ve been living in cotton dresses, flip-flops and the bare necessities.  We’re also in the worst drought in living and recorded memory.  Temperatures are regularly in the 100’s with lots of bright burning sun, and they barely bother to dip below 80 at night.  The weather men have their work cut out for them each night to prevent mass insurrection with each forecast of high heat, lots of sun and no rain in sight.   September, though, holds hope of a break, even just a few degrees so that we can say that our high temperature was in the two digits.

by RL Johnson, via Creative Commons

When I was growing up in Maryland, the arrival of September also heralded change.  Except for us in the northeast, it marked the beginning of the end of summer.  The local pool closed its doors for the season the day after Labor Day while the kids simultaneously started back at school.  We all knew that the end of September would be a lot colder than the beginning and the days would be shorter.

Down south, though, September is welcomed more for its promise than its foreboding.  A cool front bringing temperatures in the low 90s is celebrated like the birth of a child. And, while I came to Texas six years ago to escape a hurricane, I now get inappropriately excited when a tropical storm is anywhere near the Gulf because it means that we might just get that deluge that we so need.

So September, welcome. May you bring some sense back into the weather here in Texas and try to reason with Mother Nature on why it is just not natural to have 100+ heat in the month where fall decorations are already popping up in my local grocery store.