Have Ambition, Will Quilt

quilt-7020

I still can’t figure out what I was smoking the day I agreed to be one of the class parents for my son’s kindergarten class and the co-leader of the baked goods section for his school’s annual fair and marketplace. One would be fine, but doing both is going to drive me crazy through the end of the day on October 19, the day of the fair. The Boy is excited; I’m dreading it.

As a class parent, I had to attend an orientation meeting last week. At that meeting, we were instructed on how we should communicate with the other parents in our children’s classes and what information we should disseminate to them. Each class has two class parents, and as the class designees, my co-parent and I were informed that not only we were in charge of keeping up communications with the other kindergarten parents, but that we also had to dream up an idea for a class gift to be auctioned at THE school fundraiser in the spring. And did they forget to mention that we were also tasked with creating said gift? Oops, sorry, but yes. Dreamer and creator. That’s what the job description should have said.

My brain works in funny ways. As I was listening to the class parent overseer describing the responsibilities regarding the class gift, my stomach was simultaneously dropping to the floor and doing back flips at the idea of doing something creative. I love the idea of being creative, and I get thoroughly excited at the prospect of crafting, sewing, scrapbooking … generally anything that involves the creation of original and pretty things. I just never seem to find enough time to execute my grand schemes. An idea popped into my head, and when I shared it with my co-class parent, she loved it. The teachers loved it when I told them. So now I’m committed.

To making a quilt. With all of the little urchins’ handprints and handwriting on individual muslin squares. To dragging out my long dormant sewing machine and figuring out how to use it again. To pulling out all my scrap fabric and cutting the border pieces. To designing the borders with all of that scrap fabric so that it doesn’t look like a paint box threw up on the quilt top. To layering the quilt and batting on the wood floor of my mostly empty living room. In short, I’m committed to driving myself crazy making a quilt that will be auctioned off to the highest bidder among the kindergarten parents.

Regardless of how many hours I actually have or may be able to find, my quilt must be not only good, but great. But not too incredible, lest I end up with a job on the auction committee moving forward. Apparently, in the history of this annual auction, no other class parent has dreamed up an idea quite so early. What I didn’t have the heart to say is that I only came up with the idea so early so that I wouldn’t be stuck playing catch up over the holidays and the school break. I have plans for those school breaks, and I’ve no intention of changing those plans to sit around on my duff and sew.

I used to quilt, actually make gifts for people in my life. One memorable holiday season, I made a king-sized quilt for an old boyfriend. At the time I made it, we had been together for a year and a half; we broke up after three and a half years. Every once in a while when I open my “crafting closet” and see my cutting mat and fabric cutter, I wonder if he kept the quilt, and if he did, whether another girlfriend ever asked where it came from. It’s unlikely that he kept it, but I do hope he at least gave it to his mother, sister, or someone else who might appreciate it. Thinking otherwise might make me crazy to think about all the time I put into that quilt, all the time I took away from other parts of my life. Then again, I did it willingly and happily.

My son’s teachers are excited about helping the kids make their individual squares. I’ve purchased the requisite washable acrylic paints and fabric markers. I’ve designed the quilt, figuring out the best layout for 17 one-of-a-kind squares. This week I will go and get the twelve inch square muslin pieces. I’m excited, too, but I wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. Of course, regardless whether the quilt fetches $500 or $5,000 at auction (hey, I can dream!), the important thing is the memories my son will retain of my involvement in his life and his education. I can only hope that when he is a parent, he will look back and remember his mother’s reign as a classroom parent with fondness and humor instead of cringing.

monogram_2013-10-10_12-38-58

The Right Decisions

hands

“Can I invite Jill on Saturday?”

This question came from  my son in the back seat as we drove home this afternoon.  Our town is having a fair on Saturday, a festival of entertainment that celebrates our community by providing fundraising opportunities for town youth groups and non-profits, and highlights the work of our town’s service organizations.  The town center is closed to all traffic, and the streets come alive with pedestrians swarming and darting where there are normally only cars.

The fire and police stations are open to the attendees, and the kids get to climb up into a fire truck and sit in a police car, complete with the opportunity to sound the sirens.  There are bouncy houses, miniature golf, electronic race car courses, food stands, and all sorts of demonstrations and vendors.  It’s kind of like a parent approved free-for-all for the kids.  There are police everywhere, and kids don’t stray too far from their parents, as one or both hold the key to a successful day:  the money.

For the past two years, my son has invited his friend, Jack, from nursery school, whose mother became a good friend once the boys began begging us for playdates.  Although our boys attend different schools and we live about 25 miles apart, we try to get together every couple of months, more if time and scheduling permits.  Jack and his mother will come again this year, and we plan to ride our bikes down to the town center from my house.  Both boys enjoy riding, as long as the riding involves their tandem bikes.

And then today my little guy tossed out his request to invite Jill.

Jill is an eighth grader at his school and the daughter of a school administrator.  She is a lovely young woman and I enjoy watching them interact.  It is sweet that The Boy has such a great relationship with her.  He often talks to me about playing with Jill on the playground during recess, and how he really likes that she pushes him and his friends on the swings.  One day toward the end of the summer, when The Boy was getting a little nervous about going back to school in general, and in particular about starting kindergarten and having full days, I opened the mailbox and there was a letter for him.

It was from Jill.  She wrote that she missed him and was looking forward to seeing him back at school and hanging out and playing with him at recess.  My heart melted as I read the letter to my son and I saw his eyes light up.

Upon the kids’ return to school, I told Jill’s mother what a sweet gesture I thought her letter was.  Her mother relayed that Jill had asked if she could write to my son because she missed him and wanted to make sure he was having a good summer.  A few days after school began, The Boy and I arrived at drop-off at the same time as Jill and her mother.  Jill bounded out of the car and yelled a hello to my son, then scampered over to walk in with him.  He let got of my hand and took hers, then happily skipped away with her.

When Ernie and I were looking at schools for The Boy, one of the things I loved most about his now-school was that they allow children to be children and encourage the older kids to interact with the younger ones.  I wasn’t entirely sure how it would work out in practice.  Seeing his smile when I drop him off and pick him up, hearing the excitement in his voice when he tells me about something new he’s learning, and watching the relationship develop between my son and his eighth grade friend, I’m thrilled with the decision we made.

monogram_2013-10-10_12-38-58

Flashbacks

desperately-seeking-susan_592x299
Back when we were beautiful…

I had to go to the mall today to buy a birthday present for my friend’s daughter, who is turning 8. Walking into the mall with a five year-old boy is always an adventure, and I usually sneak all such errands under the radar while he’s at school or camp. I couldn’t do that today as I had to be a grown-up and have a mammogram during his last hours of camp, so I was stuck.

We entered through J.C. Penney as I wanted to go the store Justice for the birthday gift. I was told that the birthday girl is into fashion, so I decided clothes were my best option, and from my limited wanderings around the mall, Justice seemed like as good a place as any to get some cute little girl clothes. In we went, my stride long and determined, The Boy skipping to keep up with my pace.

Then we hit the women’s clothing section, and I saw the cute little red blazer with the rolled up sleeves and the cuffed, faded blue jeans with the rose embroidery. I stopped and touched the blazer, the soft silk of the lining showing on the outside of the sleeves where the were rolled. For a moment I was back in college, circa 1989, finishing getting dressed to head out on a Thursday night with my roommate and best friend, our hair curly and pulled up off our faces, cascading down our backs, unruly and sexy and wild.

How beautiful we were, how completely unaware of our own power and the luxury of our lives as undergraduates at a private women’s college in Boston. Our tuition was paid, and our part-time jobs provided enough pocket money to ensure we could pay the cover charge to get into any bar we wanted, where we then would drink for free all night courtesy of the handsome and buff young men who clamored around us. We never felt it, of course, but we held all the cards. We had what they wanted. All we felt, however, was the fleeting loneliness at the end of the night when we would walk away from the bar, arms wrapped around one another to keep ourselves from falling down, laughing at something one of the hapless young men had said or done. We wanted them to love us, and they did. We just never knew, and in our own way, we were as clueless as they.

I came out of my reverie to the sound of The Boy’s whining and tugging at my hand. “Let’s go, Mama! I want to go to the Lego store!”

I released my hold on the blazer and allowed myself to be pulled forward through time to the present, to the exquisiteness of my real life, by the beautiful boy who now owns my heart. As he dragged me along, I mused that fifteen years from now he will be one of the handsome and buff young men in another bar, in another town. He will wait for one of the young women in that bar, so beautiful and powerful, to notice him, never dreaming that was his mother forty-odd years before.  With much bigger hair, of course.

Parenting Choices

infant-picture-1a

As I was drinking my morning coffee today, I came across an article about breastfeeding, specifically whether a woman can be a good mother if she chooses not to breastfeed.  Reading through it, I became thoroughly annoyed and decided to post an essay I wrote last year about my own experience with mothering and nursing.  The long and short of it is that every woman – no matter her background, education level, socioeconomic level, marital status, or anything else – has the right and should be encouraged to make her own decision as to what’s best for her and her child, without guilt, without fear.  What was right for me is not right for everyone, and I have no right to judge what any other woman does to keep her children fed and happy.

*********************

Yesterday I had fifteen minutes to spare while waiting to go pick up my little man at school.  It wasn’t quite enough time to do any of the myriad household chores that seem to pile up daily like so much waste after a natural disaster, so I decided to have a cup of tea and surf around the CNN website to catch up my news.

I quickly read through the world and local news items that caught my eye, making sure I was up to date on where the presidential race stands and the weather, then clicked on the entertainment tab.  I scrolled down to the bottom, where I often find the most interesting tidbits buried deep by the techies at CNN.  I clicked on a link about celebrity moms.

One of the photos showed Alannis Morrissette with her son.  Next to her photo was a snippet from her interview on Good Morning America back in May.  The essence of the caption is this:  she is a proponent of breastfeeding and plans on allowing her son to continue nursing until he has decided he is done and weans himself.

I am a major proponent of breastfeeding, as well.  I read the Time Magazine article in May about extended breastfeeding and attachment parenting, and at the time I sat down for a good long think about my own feelings on the subject.  It’s a deeply personal decision and while I might advocate it as a positive in developing a strong bond with your child, it is by no means the only method by which a mother can bond with a child, and for a whole variety of reasons, it’s simply not for everyone.  That being said, here’s what else I thought about.

My son is nearly 5.  I nursed until he was thirty-nine months old, including through recuperation from a lumpectomy.  I held him constantly until mobility grabbed hold, and I never let him cry.  Until almost age four, my son slept in bed with my husband and me.  Now, The Boy starts out the night solo in the room next to mine, but more nights than not, ends up back with my Ernie Hemingway and me by morning.  It has only been recently that my husband and I resumed any social life.  Until four months ago, my son had never spent the night away from me; in June, Ernie Hemingway and I went away for a weekend and The Boy spent two nights with my parents.  The only people who have ever watched The Boy are my parents, my sister, and very occasionally his older sisters.

Apparently, all that makes me an attachment parent.  Apparently, that makes my parenting style is about self-sacrifice and utter devotion to my child, devoid of any intention to raise a self-sufficient child.

But I don’t see it that way.

I was raised by a young mother who became a single mother.  She did the best she could do, exceedingly well, and came as close as possible to attachment parenting before it was defined.  Although she was not able to nurse me due to medication given her to cease lactation, she held me constantly and may have even slept with me, but in any event never left me to cry.  Until I was school age, I don’t believe she ever left me with anyone but family or close friends.

I am independent, self-sufficient, and accomplished.  I had a successful and lengthy professional career, and I voluntarily gave that up for my son, who is more important to me than any career ever could be.  I am raising my son the way my mother raised me:  we are bonded and he is confident that I am always there.  I encourage my son to explore the world and make the experience personal and intimate.

I did all this because it’s what felt right to me, not because I was subscribing to someone else’s definition of being a parent.  I nursed my child because it was the healthiest option for us.  I slept with him because after he was born he lost nearly 2 pounds and I needed to nurse constantly to get the weight back up, but I still needed sleep.  It was the best option for us.  I held The Boy, refusing to let him cry because I love him and can’t stand to see those little eyes filled with confusion and hurt when beloved mummy won’t hold and cuddle him.

If I am attachment parent, that’s fine with me.  I waited until I was almost forty to have a child.  I waited so that I afford – financially and emotionally – essentially to drop out of life and spend my time knowing and raising my child.  My son is the single most important contribution I will make to the future of this world, and why shouldn’t I devote all my energy to that endeavor?  Shouldn’t we all have the choice to do that for our children?  It has been a wonderful experience for us, and every parent should be able to say that without fear of judgment.

********************

I applaud Kristin Chase, Casey MullinsCasi Densomre-Koon and Catherine Connors for their willingness to stand up and defend their decisions, their lifestyle, and ultimately for a mother’s right to choose how to best nourish her children.  These women and so many unnamed others have given me the courage to take ownership of my situation, to stand up and proudly flex my parenting choice muscles.