Monday, September 26, 2011

Settling In

Lilly started school less than a month ago, and she loves it. She's doing well. She's making friends, doing her work, learning, playing, socializing. She's saying the pledge of allegiance (or at least putting her hand on her heart and mouthing words), and she's praying and doing the sign of the cross like an expert. The moms are friendly, the kids are excited to see Lilly, and Lilly is so happy to be part of a nice class, in a nice school.

I am so relieved. Since Lilly was so little, I imagined her educational future. I didn't picture special education, although people pushed us towards it. I didn't picture a large public school scenario. I pictured a small school, loving environment, religious education, with her peers. And that's where she is, and I'm so happy for it. I feel like God has led us to this place, and in just a couple short weeks, she is thriving. I look forward to seeing how the rest of her year goes.

So we're settling into the school routine, and continuing to unpack (it's a large process - unpacking boxes from NYC, Charlottesville, childhood, and some even from our year in New Zealand), and getting used to living in Bethesda. We found a cute diner the other night with organic and local healthy ingredients, that I think we might visit quite a lot in the future. Lilly is an expert at going to the movies and the pool with her daddy, and we still bake a couple times a week.

After Europe in July, and a week in Atlanta in August, and a weekend back in Atlanta (just me) for a wedding two weeks ago, I swore I didn't want to travel again for a long time. We really do need the time to settle in here, and the past few years of living like vagabonds. Yet - the more we settle, the more I think about where we're headed next. So, we just booked a trip for the three of us to Atlanta to meet our new niece, born to Jon's sister last week. And Disney World keeps tempting me with special pin code offers which I really should ignore...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

1st day jitters

Most of the time, being Lilly's mom is the coolest thing ever. Because she is probably the most perfect (for me) made daughter. When I filled out her pre-K questionnaire form the other day, of Lilly's interests, I feel like I was filling out a "" survey for myself.

What does Lilly like? Dancing (both hip hop and ballet), Broadway, cooking, reading, traveling, building sandcastles, swimming, playing with Barbies, singing, anything Disney, putting on makeup...

Are all kids mini-me's of their parents? Or are only-children more prone to do exactly as mom does? Or is Lilly just a perfect little kid?

But occasionally, every once in awhile, there is a down side. It's not the fact that Lilly occasionally has selective hearing when I'm telling her what to do, and that she'd rather do what she wants, her way, in her time. That's frustrating - but again, I'm the same way. Jon figured out a long time ago that telling me what to do or how to do it or when to do it, is not the best marriage plan. So that's just one of those tedious parts of parenting that we all deal with.

The thing that actually is hard though - every now and then - are the new situations. Not because Lilly doesn't blow me away every time she tries something new; I'm continuously impressed at her efforts and wonder if there's a point where we've moved too many times or started too many schools or camps, or if a vacation might put her over the edge on what she's ok with.

But it's that, when we get into a new situation, I - as her mom - get terrified that she'll be prejudged on what her skills are. That teachers, parents, people generally, may look at her and think "oh, that little girl who can't do this or that" or "that family, bless their hearts" or "yikes, this child is going to be very high maintenance."

Once people get to know Lilly, they realize she's just a normal kid - with strengths and weaknesses, good and bad (but mostly great). That she can kind of hold her own in a group, and she might be a better dancer than some of the girls, and she definitely knows her pop culture as well as any tween. And if she doesn't talk as much - at first - it's because she's shy and not that she can't talk, and if you can't understand some of what she's saying, maybe you should listen a little harder - my girl speaks with her voice, her hands (signing), and most importantly, her eyes and she certainly isn't quiet about letting her opinion known - if you give her a chance to tell you.

But sometimes, once in a while, if someone looks at her and sees something not as positive, Lilly picks up on it intuitively. It's amazing, because she is a mirror to your impression of her - I swear if you look at her thinking negative things, Lilly won't make eye contact and acts like she doesn't know anything. But, for example, if you look at her and see how beautiful she is - inside and out - she will start to radiate charm and beauty, and might even start performing a song and dance.

So it's hard, with these new situations. I never know where people are coming from. If they are open to just seeing Lilly for who she is - which is most often the case. Or the opposite, and then Lilly might have a negative reaction right back.

Starting school today, I was terrified. This school is perfect on paper, of course, but nothing can be that good, right? It's pre-K, but at a school through 8th grade so the expectations are high for the kids - it's not preschool or daycare anymore. And it's a Catholic school, so I really am hoping that the faith that I've practiced for the past 30 years - that guided me to this school as a positive foundation for Lilly's education - and the fact that Lilly says the cutest "sign of the cross" you've ever seen - would lead us to a great start. But it seemed too good to be true, so last night I lay in bed all night long thinking of everything that could go wrong today - how prejudiced the teachers might be, how mean the kids might be, how overwhelming the school routine. It even crossed my mind that she'd go missing at school, and we'd never see her again.

And, thank goodness, my imagination was the worst of it. The day went fine. Lilly liked the morning prayer and pledge of allegience and announcements in the gym with the rest of the school. Then the pre-K kids walked downstairs to their class. Lilly was nervous, of course, but aside from extra hugs - and hiding under a table for 10 minutes - she did fine. Her teacher is wonderful, the parents are so nice, and the kids seem really sweet. And I think it'll only get better, as Lilly starts to get the rhythm of the routines. The academics won't be too difficult, her amazing teachers last year gave her a great head start. This year will be to focus on the routine of being a typical kid in a Catholic school, and prepare her just a little more for Kindergarten.

After school, we went to the back to school picnic. Again, I watched the students of all ages being fun loving and sweet and a few girls, probably in 4th grade or so, asked Lilly to do dance routines and gymnastics with them, before they pushed her on the swings. We met another mom of a girl with DS who goes to the school, and talked to Lilly's really nice teacher for awhile. Then, Lilly danced to her favorite Black Eyed Peas and Pink songs with the rest of the kids before we headed back home.

So now, at almost 11 at night, for the first time today, I am just now finally taking my first deep breath since yesterday. My face has broken out from the stress and anticipation, and I nervous-ate all day long, including half a box of Lucky Charms for lunch and a veggie burger at 10 pm. But Lilly was happy. The day was long but good. Tomorrow is scary again, but we all know what to expect. Lilly is in a happy and healthy environment, and I can't wait to watch her take over the world.