This morning was day two of the new school year, and with it came the usual morning madness. Here are some quotes taken out of context because they're more fun that way:
Claire: At school they want our snacks to be healthy, and I'm all like, (tsk) why?
Me: I'm not signing anything until you get dressed and brush your teeth.
Emma: Feed my bear while I'm gone, and remember that she has to wear her dinner dress, and remember she's allergic to crackers.
Me: Dog, I'm going to put you on Ritalin.
Claire: Yay! You'll be right next door to my school! But don't come to visit me because it'll be embarassing.
That last one was said right after I told Claire that I'd be in the building next to hers for Christopher's kindergarten screening. He starts in two weeks and he's not happy about it. The girls are nervous about this year too. Claire goes to a new school for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders and rides a different bus without Emma. Emma rides a different bus too. At her elementary school they give the buses animal names to make the trip to class a cuter experience, and last year she rode the Turtle bus. This year she rides the Wolf bus. Her eyes went wide at this news.
"I'm riding the wolf bus?" she asked.
"Yeah, cool huh?" I said.
"No. I don't want to ride a wolf."
I wondered why Emma, the kid who likes to tell scary stories, would be afraid. Then I remembered two things. First, Emma only likes scary stories if she's telling them. She doesn't like hearing or seeing scary things that are out of her control. Second, the bus is named after a the fairytale eater of small children and pigs. When the bus pulled up and opened its doors she stared at the entrance like it was the jaws of death itself.
I kissed the top of her head and said, "Have a good day sweetie." This was her cue for getting onto the bus and she knew it. She turned to me with a look that said, "Are you out of your fucking mind?"
"Can you take me to school?" she asked.
"No, sweetie, you need to get on the bus now. It's all right."
I don't think she believed me but she listened. I admit that my heart sank when she gave me that sweet, pleading look and asked me to take her to school, but really the kid needs to ride the bus. If I start taking her to school then Christopher and Claire will wonder why I don't escort them, and I can NOT chauffer three kids to three different schools, especially when two of them start at the same time. I'm already disorganized as it is.
It's nuts that they're all officially in school, not pre-school or anything. There are no diapers to change, no shots to take them in for, no food to cut up into bite-sized pieces. And I don't know how they think their summer went but I think they had a good time. We caught lizards and frogs and studied them, we swam a lot, we took the dog for long walks, and we all learned really important life things.
I say we because I had to learn a couple of things too. First there was the Chirpy lesson. I don't think I've given an update on that. Chris and I hand-fed Chirpy for almost two weeks and then I heard about a bird sanctuary on the Northshore that took in orphaned baby birds. The kids wanted to keep him, not give him to strangers, and in truth so did I. Chris and I had become attached to the cute little critter. One day while Chris was feeding him he said, "I wish we didn't have to give him away. He's so darn cute." But as my Aunt Anne (a nature guru) explained to me, birds aren't meant to be kept as pets. She said if we kept him he would survive but he wouldn't thrive.
"I thought that birds could become domesticated," I said. "Like parrots."
"No, no, no. They escape the first chance they get. There's a reason why people have to clip their wings," she said.
It was hard, but we brought Chirpy to the sanctuary. Then a couple of weeks later we found another baby bird. This one was a morning dove in our front yard, chirping its head off.
"The parents are around here somewhere," my neighbor told me. "It's been a few hours, and they're completely ignoring him. Poor little guy."
I called the vet and she said that it would be best to take him and feed him too. He hopped up to me, Emma and Claire with his beak wide open, screaming to be fed.
While I fed him the cat food that Chirpy had survived on for a week, the kids made their case about why we should keep this one.
"He likes you, Mommy," Emma observed.
"And we'll help you take care of him," Claire said.
"Mommy, don't take him to the wild," Christopher begged. "Pleeeeeaaase."
Oh...dear...God. There are few things that are more painful than having to explain to your kids why they can't keep something that they love. Emma had already named him "Bubbles." It had a name and we were feeding it, so certainly I wasn't going to insist that we let it go, right?
The one lesson that keeps getting shoved down my throat lately is learning to let go of people I love who thrive better without me. Or without my meddling at the very least. But I'm 32 and I've developed skills to help me accept that painful fact and my kids are, well, kids. Now matter how many times I tried to explain to them that if we really loved Chirpy and Bubbles we needed to do what was best for them, they kept coming back to the belief that releasing them was the cruelest thing we could do.
"You're just going to have to trust me, Emma," I told her as she cried on the way back from the sanctuary.
Just like I wanted her to trust me when she stepped onto the wolf bus. Hopefully I won't let the kids down with all this promise of trust and faith in my resolve. Eek. The funny thing is that as I develop better self esteem, my kid's esteem in my judgement will go down. It's already starting to happen.
"Mom, I'm like nine," Claire said when I asked her what she wanted for breakfast. "I can make it."
Does anybody know of a sanctuary for teenagers? I might have to look into that in a couple of years.