Institutionalized

The Girl’s first day of Pre-school was today.  This past month has been a whirlwind of activity, from deciding that she should go to pre-school, to contacting the pre-school, from filling out forms and writing checks, to dropping her off this morning with her little back pack, earnestly clutching her stuffy.

We decided that it would be best to put the Girl in part-time Pre-school to start.  Two full days a week, possibly increasing to three days a week when she turns four, in preparation for full-time big kid school when she turns 5.  We shock her a little bit now, to lessen the shock later on down the road.  And socialization, and independence, and all the other good things that come with being somewhere where your parents are not.

I have a lot of baggage surrounding school and daycare.  One time in particular in grade Primary, I remember purposefully missing the bus.  My mom then drove me to school, as I sobbed and wailed.  When she parked the car, and came around to pull me out of the car, I tried to hide under my baby brother’s car seat.  She then hauled me to my classroom by my arm with one hand (while I did spaghetti limbs), and my brother in her other.  I was wailing and crying the whole time.  My teacher held me in her arms, as I sobbed into her shoulder, and my Mom left.  I stopped shortly thereafter, but I wasn’t happy about being at school.  Looking back, I’m not sure what exactly my problem was.  It’s not as if I was ill-used at school (at least, not at that point).  I have very pleasant memories about grade primary in general, and my teacher in particular.  It’s not as if that was the first time that I had been left somewhere else under the care of others while my parents were somewhere else.  I had been in Daycare for a time.  But I remember being not too pleased about being left at daycare either.

She’s always been quite independent, so I wasn’t all that worried about her reaction to being left.  Often when we’re somewhere that she’s having fun, and it’s time to go home, she’ll suggest that we go and leave her there.  I wasn’t worried, that is, until we went to the school to drop of the registration forms.  We were going to leave her in the classroom to play, and get used to the place, while we went down to the office on a different floor of the tiny building.  I told her, “Mummy and Daddy are going downstairs for a bit, but you can stay and play, and we will be right back.”  We weren’t half way down the stairs when we heard a sound from the top of the stairs, which could have been either a cat being murdered, or my daughter’s distinctive meow-crying.  It was the latter.  All my own emotion-memories surrounding daycare and school came flooding back.  We ended up bringing her downstairs with us.  At that point I knew it would be worse today, when we were leaving the building entirely.

So today.  She was not nervous in the least leading up to it.  She was excited, even.  This morning she said, as she sat and ate her breakfast, “Mummy, I hope you remembered that I’m going to school today.”  I had told her that Mummy and Daddy couldn’t stay at school with her, so that she wouldn’t be surprised.  She accepted it.  I took some pictures of her earnest face, and enormous back-pack on the way.  When we got there, she walked right in, and started chatting with other kids.  But the time came for us to go, and I said, “Okay, Mummy and Daddy are going now!”  No reaction.  She stared off somewhere else, like she wasn’t listening to me.  “We’ll see you later on!  Have fun at school today!”  Still no reaction.  So we left.  Then we heard it.  She made a run for it, she was crying out for us.  One of the teachers intercepted her on the way out, because they are professionals.  We did not look back.  (I may have cried in the car).

Now I’m sitting here in the eerie quiet, (the Boy immediately went down for a nap upon arriving home) wishing that I had thought to ask if she wanted to hug and kiss us good-bye.  At the time, she was unresponsive, so I didn’t think of it, and I was worried about drawing out the good-bye.  Now I think it might have been too quick.  For now, I’ll believe that she settled in quickly after we were gone.  Enough to have fun.  Maybe have something to eat.  (I really hope she doesn’t shit her pants, but that’s another set of worries entirely.)

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Can we be honest?

The universe gives me a theme, and I must listen to it.  (Does this happen to anyone else?)

Emotional honesty.  This has been a running theme of mine for a while now, but what had once been gently tapping on the window, is now full on banging on the door.  Every conversation I have, ever article I read (no matter what the “actual” subject) for the past two or three weeks all come back to this.  Being honest with others, and especially myself, about the emotions I feel.

This is difficult for me for several intertwined reasons.  I used to feel everything very intensely and for a very long time, I’ve hidden my feelings.  One too many times I’ve been told that I shouldn’t feel the way that I do.  One too many times it’s resulted in complete upheaval of my relationships.  One too many times I’ve been called a cry-baby, because I cry over “everything.”  I’m so used to burying my feelings that now I’m not even sure what I’m feeling at any given time.  Pushed down feelings often become anger, anxiety, and depression, and I have all of those in spades.  When I start feeling mad, anxious, or sad, I really have to notice, stop, and ask myself what the real feeling is.  Am I mad because I actually feel afraid?  Do I feel anxious because I feel excited?  Do I feel sad because I can’t express my other emotions?  But first I have to notice.  Mostly, when I’m angry, I yell or bang things around.  When I feel anxious, I clean and eat.  When I feel sad, I lose myself on the internet.  All habits done before I even have a chance to know that I’m feeling something.

Another block that I have to emotional honesty is my fear of hurting other people.  I often keep my own thoughts and feelings hidden out of fear of the other person’s reactions.  Whether that reaction be sadness, anger, or  even just changing the way that they see me.  Extreme reactions freak me out.  It upsets me too, when their reaction is “negative,” to think that I caused it.  I don’t want other people to feel badly because of me.  I’m also very empathetic, and when someone feels something, I tend to feel it right along with them.  It’s come to the point where I consider my feelings to not count for as much as other people’s happiness, or even just the status quo.

In spite of all this working against me, I am determined to be more up front and open about how I feel.  And I’ll tell you why.  First of all, I want to model healthy emotional expression to my kids, and I haven’t been doing a great job up to this point.  Secondly, I want to be up front and honest in my relationships, because a relationship in which you can’t do that is no relationship at all.  And lastly, and most importantly, I want to feel confident in being exactly who I am, no more and no less.  I feel so small and insignificant right now, a mere shadow of who I truly am.  I tell myself I’ll feel better once I can sleep again, and while I’m sure that’s a part of it (it’s incredible the range and reach of ailments one can get from poor quality sleep), I don’t think it’s the sole cause.

So why am I telling you all this?  Because I would like some help.  Does anyone else struggle with this?  Any suggestions for what I can do to point myself in the right direction?

Scary Piles, a response

Wombat Central from Postcards From Oblivion , who is a kindred spirit (check out this post, and then my comment to see why), recently devoted a post to what she referred to as scary piles.  You know, those piles of unopened mail that tend to collect, and when left unattended begin to contain scary things like extremely over-due bills?!  Yikes!

I was about to comment on the post itself telling her what was in my scary piles and how she was lucky that her scary piles contain only paper.  But why tell you when I can show you?  Behold, my pile of terror!

The Horror. The Horror.

(Yes I used Comic Sans for the labels.  Can we move on?)

Some things of note:

  • That is Mr. Goldragon’s High School Diploma.  No, I’m not robbing the cradle.  His Mom dropped it off to him on a recent visit.
  • The What to Expect Book is the 1989 edition and full of amusingly outdated information (none of which I can recall at the moment).
  • The Burlap Sack O’ Runes is exactly what it sounds like.
  • The various baskets were employed to reduce the scary piles, but as you can see they just get sucked into the vortex and then become a part of it.  And make the pile more efficient in its flostsam collecting.
  • When a jar of Zincofax is empty, is it an empty jar of Zincofax, or is it a former jar of Zincofax?
  • The X-Men Camera is disposable, and will probably go unused.  Even my crappy digital camera is better than a disposable film camera, even if it does have mutant powers.  What’s that you say?  Throw it away?  Are you insane??

Every so often, I will clean it off, put all the stuff that’s collected into its proper spot.  And for a brief shining moment that spot of counter is beautifully bare.  Before the sun sets, however, it’s back to this.  If I’m not careful, these piles start spreading to the rest of the house.  I regularly clean up those piles by moving them on top of this main one.  At least it’s out of the way.

A big day for the Goldragon girls

I’ve been very worried about the Girl’s socialization lately.  I am a stay at home Mom, and while I enjoy the company of others, I hate the process of making friends (especially in such mixed company as you find at the dreaded Playgroups).  We live a bit of a distance from civilization too, so if I want to go socialize, I have to plan it around dropping Mr. Goldragon at work, and picking him up at the end of the day so I can have the car.  I’ve found it so much easier just to stay home, and keep to the regular routines.  The allure of cocooning was never more strong than when the Boy was born and taking two children out in the car in the middle of winter seem insurmountable.  So for weeks on end we stayed home.

Unfortunately, this has meant that the Girl didn’t get around other children her own age that much.  It became suddenly apparent to me that she wasn’t going to learn how to be around other people, if she was never given the opportunity.  Weighing on me heavily was the knowledge that if she stayed isolated for too long, she would forever be SOCIALLY AWKWARD!  Dun, dun, duuuuun.  I know this sounds heavy-handed, but her brain is primed for social interactive knowledge with her peers RIGHT NOW, and it’s time that she can never get back as far as social learning goes.  So, I’ve been making a concerted effort this summer to get her out in social situations with her peers as much as I can.  We’ve been going to a weekly playgroup, and trying to get out to playgrounds on the weekends.

At first, it was painful, I’m not going to lie.  She was overwhelmed by so much activity.  Other children scared her.  When a child would come up and take the toy she was playing with, she would burst into tears.  One time she tried stealing other toys for herself.  I stopped her, and again she burst into tears.  At some point, she would get bored with the toys and the noise and she would wander out into the hallway, and I would either coax her back inside, or chase her around until I could take her home.  Cue more screaming and crying.  If a child talked to her, she would meow back at them (Did I mention she’s a cat?), and she would get confused stares back.  If a child came near her and she had a toy, she would clutch the toy tightly to her chest and glare at them.  She didn’t know how to take turns.  She couldn’t understand when children didn’t want to trade toys with her.  She didn’t understand that at the end of Playgroup, everyone needs to help put the toys away.  And the confusion mostly ended with her sobbing.  It was heartbreaking to watch, and I felt helpless as I am not one to ask how to make friends.  And it made it difficult to keep going back.  But I did.  Because you know what?  In spite of all the emotions and the turmoil, and the social faux pas, she always said that she had fun at playgroup.  And telling her that we were going to playgroup that day was like telling her we were going to Disneyland (if she knew what Disneyland was).

So, last Friday there we were again at playgroup.  She didn’t cry the entire time.  Not once!  She shared a toy with another little girl!  She cheerfully helped to put the toys away (and chastised another little boy for continuing to play on one of the ride on toys when it needed to be put away)!  They brought a parachute out and she took her turn in the middle, and helped to flap the edges when someone else was taking their turn in the middle!  She had a moment when the parachute was put away, all the toys were gone, and she knew that it was time to go home that she got a bit sad, and ran to the other end of the gym with tears in her eyes.  Three other little girls (of her own age) ran over to her and sat next to her.  I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but they were touching her socks and pulling at her shirt.  She got up, and they started to chase her.  Soon all four of them were running back and forth across the gym, squealing and laughing.  Okay, maybe the Girl was meowing, but I was the only one who noticed.  We stayed for another 20 minutes as the girls bonded, and as I watched them in their play, I blinked back tears of pride and relief (because I am a weiner).  When we left, there were no tears from her, as one of her new friends had given her a button, and she was pleased because I said she could take it home with her.

Also, I introduced myself to the wife of one of Mr. Goldragon’s co-workers, when I recognized their daughter.  So we both made some social leaps that day.

I am just a fan girl at heart

As you may or may not know, I’ve been quietly internet stalking Scott Johnson for about 6 years now.  I was listening to one of his podcasts, TMS, live yesterday, and hanging out in the chatroom with my fellow Scott Johnsonites.  And then it happened.  He responded to something I wrote in the chatroom.  I failed to get a screen capture of the event.

I can never wash my eyes again.