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Dharma Kitchen


Late Summer Transitions: A Rambling Reflection


So, we were away. And then we came back. This week, we skipped doing a market tour. Brittany is taking a much-needed vacation. Next week, we resume. But that's not the focus of this post. Summer slams into fall, it seems, bringing halcyon days to a screeching halt, but leaving a confused, last burst of abundance. Are we supposed to be thinking about tomatoes and blueberries and corn and peaches, or saying bye bye to them, canning and freezing them, in favor of buying squashes, which are already popping up on market tables? Are we finished with sandals and swimming and ready for corduroys and earthtones? No, we're in this middle zone called September, where it's hot and cold all at once and summer's bounty hasn't quit, but we can't bring ourselves to buy pumpkins, even though I'm assured squashes have to come up now or otherwise they get mildew on them if they're planted any later. And you're farming organically (thanks, Matt Salvaterra, for that explanation.) Yet we're forced to leave all those summer signifiers behind to some extent once school starts.

Ocean City, New Jersey.

Ocean City, New Jersey.

We're talking about the acutely painful quality of transitions, which we have been dealing with in our house. The boys started kindergarten yesterday, and the month leading up to it has been one of slow, gradual shifts, with friends disappearing from their pre-K class to go on vacation and then make their own transitions into new schools, new situations, new routines, for the fall.

This hasn't been going over well with one of the two boys especially, who has been acting out quite terribly and uncharacteristically. It has been an exercise in trying to remain calm and present, to bring compassion.  Admittedly, this is kind of hard when one of your kids says "Attack her!" and then throws shoes at you. Or something else.

I say these things because they are true, and because I suspect others have these experiences with their kids. And because I'm hoping one of you will poke your head up and say, yep, that happened to me. And then we can all breathe a collective sigh of recognition.

For all the big feelings of anxiety and fear that may be trapped in those little bodies, they had a lovely first day as far as I could tell. No one cried at drop off. (That happened beforehand.) No one ran back for an extra hug; this was startling.

I have not been immune either, to these shifts. I have had these strange nightmares about somehow missing their first day and misplacing important documents that are necessary for school. (It's been two days in school, but the EASD has been sending us tons of stuff since the summer registration.) I didn't realize how much I'd internalized and shut off my own fears about them somehow getting swallowed up in what looks like a big school (compared to the Learning Center at Third Street Alliance, yes), but Desmond remembered where the library, nurse's office and bathrooms were, along with the gym. I was worried about them getting on the wrong bus until I was informed the kindergarten teachers line the kids up according to bus route. When we got them from Third Street yesterday, I was relieved they were both there even though logically, I knew that if they'd gone missing I would have discovered it long before 5pm yesterday, in the form of a phone call.

I learned that Miles has trouble opening things with peel-off plastic lids (yogurt containers are much easier), so we need to work on that skill. His teacher wants him to be able to have a snack that doesn't require an adult for help. This makes me sad—this was never part of my school-related concerns—but it's pragmatic and necessary, I suppose, although it feels a little bit like a rude awakening. I know this sounds dramatic but I don't mean it to be.  I bought some containers for sandwiches on the days like today when I pack them lunch for Third Street when they aren't excited about what's on the menu. I got some little ones that hold one cup worth of snacks, with a removable ice pack to keep the contents cold. I want to make it as easy as possible for them—they are still so little, they need to learn how to tie their own shoes (thanks velcro)—without resorting to overdoing it. They'll stretch naturally just by the sheer fact of having to adjust to a new school with new people. If there are small gestures I can provide as a parent, I will do so. This helps me as much as it helps them.

And so this means as many comfortable foods as possible, such as homemade pizza and pierogies, a little something extra here and there for snack after school, and lots and lots of hugs. It means setting up dates to see friends who are going to different schools. It means your son bursts into tears and tells who you who he misses. It means skipping karate on the first day of school because they're living without afternoon naps for the first time and realizing they sorely miss them. It then also means everyone tries to go to bed early. But mostly, it means hugs and love from as many familiar people as possible. The days of being coddled during change are somewhat numbered. I need to lengthen this last breath of innocence.