Photo: It’s almost time for Camp Mama… and I’m… feeling bitter sweet. We’ve got more planned for the boys this summer, even swim lessons and a pass for the local beach! But still, it’s not as much as I was hoping it would be. The good news? The boys are enjoying their big wheels, their sandbox, their slide, and hopefully the raised beds that we’re going to set up soon. There will also be the weekly adventures to our CSA and some out-of-town adventures. There is a lot to do and explore. The older they get, the bigger their world will become…


I want to go back to the auction in this post, because there was a second conversation with that teacher who I walked in with that I have to write about.

You see, later in the evening, in the transition from the silent auction to the live one, I rounded a corner and found that same teacher dancing in the silent auction room. Hands up, feet tapping, hair wild, the girl was gettin’ it.

“I love this song! Yeah!”

I, foggy from my drink and a half and also just generally embarrassed at the sight, said, “Wow. Well, you’re dancing to it! You know you’re dancing to it, right?”

She stopped. Walked up to me and wrapped her arm around my shoulder. I clarified, “I just want to make sure that you knew you were dancing. ’cause people around here don’t seem to know what’s up or down, so, if you’re cool with that then, have at it!”

But she was done. She was standing next to me now. Her face was thoughtful.

“I just want to say how much I love [Major’s] sense of humor. That child really knows how to laugh. It really is heartwarming.”

I put on a smile. Sorta rolled my eyes. “Well, yeah… he certainly has a silly side. We’re working on when it’s appropriate to be silly and when it’s not…”

“Well, I just have to say that it’s wonderful. He’s quick to a laugh. And if he’s frustrated and you can make him laugh, man, he just perks right up.”

I won’t lie, I wasn’t terribly excited to talk about my son. Also, I’d heard this before a few weeks ago at the parent-teacher conference. I nodded.

She then told me a story about him waiting his turn to do a group art project. It was finger paint and the kids were surrounding a poster. He’d found himself a brush, waited for someone to bring him his own paper. She (the teacher) thought that was interesting. When she explained to him that it was finger paint, that he could dip his fingers and do whatever he wanted wherever he wanted on the poster, he dove right in.

Me, strict mom and teacher brain fully turned on: “Seems to me like he was daydreaming, or at least not paying attention when you gave the original instructions!”

“No, no, he was fine.” She was frowning now. “He is a sweet boy. It was good to see him exercise patience like that.”

“That’s something we’re working on at home, too,” I said. She was still frowning. I found myself being honest again. “You know, I know that you guys think I’m hard on my boys. But it’s the hard work that I’m doing at home that makes the difference at school.”

And here is where she was honest, too. “We just hope that you remember to be joyful with them. They are such great kids. We want you to remember to find joy in the moments, because this is a precious time and it goes by so fast.”

Now, I’m going to pause here. This woman had had a drink, I’d had a drink, I admit that I had a bad attitude walking in to the event… and while I don’t recall how my face looked, (ya’ll know I can’t control it), it probably twisted up a bit.

“I know that it’s a precious time. It’s hard to be joyful sometimes when they are constantly fighting over the same toy or same inch of space, or we’re having the same fight about the same thing on a daily basis. They are so close together, so I feel like I am having the same conversations all the time. And, again, I am thinking about a lot of things. Their behavior in the world matters to me.”

“Oh, we all remember what it was like to have young ones. We know it isn’t easy. Just, remember, it goes fast. They’ll be adults before you know it and you’ll miss this time. So just, remain joyful. It should be a joyful time. Those two boys are sweet and smart, they have so much to give. You know?”

I did what I could to walk away, tolerating the conversation for a little bit longer and being grateful to another mom came over to engage the teacher, allowing me to step away and get some air.

I have written many times about my annoyance with this idea that it is ok for older women to tell mothers of young children that they need to “enjoy it” all the time. It’s pretty much the most condescending thing you can say to a mother of young children, especially when you are watching her struggle. Offer me help, do something nice, or smile and shut the hell up. Seriously. I don’t need your memories and I for damn sure don’t need “advice” and cliched “wisdom” reminding me that “the time goes so fast.” I know. Thanks.

But as I was debriefing with my mother about it on Sunday, I was feeling anxious. “It bothers me that [Major’s] teachers don’t think much of me. They really think I’m too hard on them. What the hell, Mom? I just don’t want my boys to be wild, entitled brats.”

Mom reminded me of something important: “They are temporary players in a very long game. It doesn’t matter if they like you. It doesn’t even matter if they think you’re a good parent. It matters that they are teaching your sons well, that your boys are learning, and that you feel comfortable sending your boys there.”

Well, damn.

I have told a few of the other moms this because I firmly believe it, especially in the current news climate: I’m playing long-game parenting. The boundaries and behaviors that I set now, difficult as they may be sometimes, will pay dividends later. I know this to be true already because I see them living up to my expectations on playdates, field trips and even at school. My sons were born beautiful and sweet and maybe even smart, but they weren’t born saying “please” and “thank you”, nor were they born listening to directions. That’s my hard work. That’s our home training. That’s the vision of not now, but later that is coming to fruition. It isn’t about the preschool teacher today, but the college recommendations and job interviews of tomorrow that ultimately matter to me. I need these two sweet little boys to turn into engaging, interesting, smart, kind, (alive) and accomplished young men. That’s the ultimate measure of my mothering. The sturdy foundation for that matters. Brick by brick, lesson by lesson. These preschool teachers, though key today, are short players in my long game.

So. I have brushed it off and toughened up a little bit. I’m learning a lot from this preschool experience. As I watch my sons have the time of their lives, growing to love school and love learning, and making friends…. I am reminded that we are making great choices, even if they aren’t always comfortable for me. It isn’t really about me. Learning that now before they enter kindergarten (and the real work begins) is invaluable.

It is the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, dear reader, and while I hope you have something wonderful and warm planned, I also hope that you take a moment to remember the reason for the holiday. I plan on thinking about both of my grandfathers, who served during the second World War and were able to come home and tell their stories. Many of their brothers did not. If you travel to DC, I hope you’ll visit Arlington Cemetery, which is beautiful and should be visited at least once in a lifetime. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier always brings me to tears.

I have decided to dedicate my weekend to reading. No sewing, no writing, no outlining. I’m refilling the bucket with a novel I’ve been meaning to finish, a novel I can’t wait to start, and a bit of poetry. Matter of fact, I’m dedicating this summer to reading instead of writing. If anyone out there has any recommendations, let me know! I’m open to suggestions! Anyway, I am saying all that to say that I won’t be posting on Monday. I’m taking the whole weekend to renew. I’ll see you Wednesday. Mkay?

I wish you sunshine and rustling leaves, dear reader. A blanket spread out over sand or green grass, the sky high and blue above you, words to fill your mind or birdsong to lull you to sleep. I wish you a meal cooked and served outside, with cold crisp iced tea or Riesling on your tongue. I wish you fresh fruit, served with whipped cream, bonus if someone you love feeds it to you, extra bonus if that whipped cream is homemade. I wish you a thoughtful moment about the freedom of your moments, and the cost of it. Then the opportunity to express your gratitude however you so choose. I wish you a kiss, a whisper, and a reminder that you, dear reader, are loved. Thoughtfully, fully, deeply and in ways that you’ll never know.

Until Wednesday, dear reader, stay safe and take care.


10 thoughts on “[Quiet Thoughts] Long-Game Parenting

  1. Your mom nailed it and I love that analogy. People thought i was hard on my boys too but like you in the next breath they are praising how respectful and well mannered they are. One fight I had in high school was what to call adults.
    ‘O he doesn’t have to call me Ms. Jackie…all the kids call me Jackie’
    the struggle
    Well I don’t like my children to have that level of familiarly with adults so its either that Or Ms. Thompson’
    ‘O you are so hard’

    Im ok with that

    • I feel like I can’t win. You and I both know that if my kids were the opposite: not following directions, scrapping, breaking stuff… it would be a whole different kind of judgement. It’s either “Where are the parents and why aren’t they doing anything” or “why are they so hard on their children?” It is never enough. It’s never just right.

      And then there is the comfort level, that she felt like she could make that judgement and say it to me. It’s so very… augh.

      • Exactly! But I really wish I had your mothers quote because I would have put it on a tshirt!!!! I won because my children are men now and artistic, constructive, militants like their mama, and fighters of justice. No brats but grown men. One married w/child. You ARE wininng everytime someone commends you on your smart respectful children.

        She was drunk lol

    • Sorry it took me a while to get back to you!

      I am pretty eclectic. I love books with gravitas, but I also love books that are fun romps. Examples: I enjoy Toni Morrison (I bought her latest), I am reading a book called The Gone Away World which is testing my patience for narrative but is an enjoyable read. I love Terri Pratchett and will be spending a little time in Discworld this summer. I read a book called Snow Crash that was incredibly violent and funny, but also had some interesting intellectual concepts in it and was really enjoyable.

      So, I guess… I prefer books that have intellectual meaning or purpose. Books that are trying to speak to something lofty or philosophical. I like books that don’t themselves too seriously (Discworld) but I am also down to sit for real works of art (Toni). I hate books that are “beach books” and are supposed to be light and fluffy and nothing. Give me something meaty, something that will make me work, and something that won’t leave me when I’m done.

      • So many books I would love to recommend! Check out ‘Our Souls at Night’ by Kent Haruf, ‘A Place Called Winter’ by Patrick Gale, ‘Beauty tips for Girls’ by Margaret Montgomery, ‘Twin Truths’ by Shelan Rodger, ‘The Ghosts of Heaven’ by Marcus Sedgwick. If you read any I would love to know what you think 🙂

        • Gonna go on Amazon and check them out right now!! Can’t wait! I will try to read at least 2 between now and December. but because I trust your awesome judgement, I plan to get to them ALL! Thank you for the recommendations!

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