Evie, today is your fifth birthday. How can this be? Just a short time ago, we were bringing you home from the hospital. We had no idea what to expect from you. I’m sure you felt the same way.
Five years later, we know you very well. You must feel the same way.
Evie, sometimes I imagine your reading this blog when you get older. I hope you get a sense of what it’s like to know you, to love you, to be your mother. I hope it makes you laugh. I hope it makes you think. I hope you don’t decide to sue me for invasion of privacy.
On the first day of your fifth year, I can’t help but feel we’re entering a new era. I look at you and see absolutely no trace of the chubby baby you once were. And yet, at the same time, that’s all I see. I know that’s all I’ll ever see when I look at you, even when you’re many times older than you are now. This is something that used to frustrate me about my parents — they see me through a little-girl filter. But they can’t help it. I understand it now, as you will if you have children.
Anyway, as I was saying, the new era. You’ll be entering kindergarten this fall. We’ll be apart for larger and larger chunks of the day. You’ll be out in the world. You’ll meet new friends, learn new things and begin to discover who you are apart from being my little girl. Evie, this both thrills and terrifies me. Because although the world is wonderful, it is also terrible. It will be terrible to you. And I won’t be able to protect you. And there will come a time when I won’t be able to take the hurt away just by holding you. And then maybe there will come a time when you won’t even want me to hold you anymore. Terrifying.
But today, on the first day of your fifth year, you’re still my little girl, both in reality and in my imagination. I’m so grateful for these few short years I get with you where that is so. The older you get, the more I realize how short and precious this time is. Believe this, Evie: I rejoice in and treasure every single minute of it because of who you are. Your little self has completely filled my heart and my soul with so much happiness and joy. Being your mommy has clicked my life into place, and for that I am so grateful to you.
Happy Birthday, baby girl.
Here’s the truth: When I envisioned Evie’s first day of kindergarten, it was a scene ripped straight out of an episode of Leave It to Beaver. There I am in my bright blue house dress, freshly pressed apron and pearls, standing at the end of our front walk and waving goodbye to Evie, all pigtailed and apple cheeked as she walks the two blocks to John F. Kennedy Elementary School, swinging her lunch pail and humming the theme to Bonanza. After wiping away a tear, I tuck my handkerchief back into my sleeve, brush the front of my dress and go back inside our pretty little ranch house to wash the breakfast dishes and make a list for the milkman.
Like many American dreams, this one’s gonna look a bit different once it’s all said and done.
Around here, getting your child into kindergarten at a school for which you’re not zoned is almost as easy as having frizz-free hair or finding a parking place at the good produce market during Snow Bird season. Which is to say, it’s not easy.
As far as I know, all the charter and magnet schools’ admission policies are based on a lottery system. All the applications are assigned a number and then randomly drawn. Fundamental schools also use the lottery system. For those not familiar, fundamental schools…well, I’m not sure what fundamental schools are. I just know that parents are required to volunteer and sign a bunch of stuff that’s sent home and everyone loves them and wants to get in. I toured one fundamental school, Curtis, and for reasons I find hard to name now, I loved it, too. I’m not sure what that’s all about, if there’s some sort of brain wave manipulation going on there, or even if Scientology is involved in some way, but after visiting Curtis I was all in.
The results of Curtis’s lottery were revealed this week. I heard there were 400 applications for 45 seats. I was still disappointed to discover that Evie is 175th on the waiting list. Nope, that is not a typo. One hundred and seventy-four kids have to mysteriously disappear before Evie can attend Curtis in the fall. I kid, of course, but the results were upsetting. I even debated crying about it, but it was the end of the day, and I just didn’t have the energy. I’m disappointed for several reasons. First, all Scientology jokes aside, Curtis is a really good school, and Evie would have gotten a solid education there. Second, fundamental schools feed into each other, meaning once your child gets in at the elementary level, they’re guaranteed a spot at the middle and high schools. Which also means I don’t have to go through this flippin’ lottery process again and can go back to eating bon bons and watchin’ my stories. Third, Curtis’s location is a very easy and short commute from our house. Given our reputation for getting our shit together and getting out the door in the morning, this was an exciting prospect. Fourth, and most important to Evie, her best friend, Meredith, will go to Curtis courtesy of Meredith’s big brother whose prior admittance secured her a spot. To Eve, anything in life is better with a little Meredith thrown in.
So, we’re sad. Or, I’m sad. I haven’t told Evie. She wouldn’t really understand, and I don’t think she really cares very much anyway. As far as she’s concerned, preschool lasts forever. Would that were true.
We have four more chances for the opportunity to shadow the elusive and hallowed halls of a charter school. The first school is Plato, which is a very good school, but sort of knows it, you know? Like, is all snobby about it. Shut up, Plato. You’re still a public school, and your mother buys generic soda. But, let us in! You’re awesome! Next is DaVinci, which is just precious. And small. Very small. But its focus is performing arts, and if you know Evie, you know why I toured that school first. Then there’s Pinellas Prep. This school is also very good but has no natural lighting in the classroom. As good as the school is, this is very depressing to me. Lastly is the Pinellas Academy of Math and Science. This is how desperate I am, friends. Math and freakin’ science.
I’m desperate because of the school for which we’re zoned, which is in walking distance, by the way. I’m very concerned that Evie be challenged academically and is well-prepared to progress successfully in her education. I don’t believe those things will be available to her at a level I’d be happy with at the school for which we’re zoned. Bottom line: There are better options out there for Evie’s education. And we will attend one of those options if she and I have to Mission: Impossible our way in there.
Does this mean my Leave It to Beaver dream has died? Well, yeah. Everybody’s has to eventually.
I’ll still wear pearls that day though, damnit.
May you build a ladder to the stars
and climb on every rung.
When Evie and I moved to join her daddy in Florida a little over a year ago, there was a period of adjustment for all of us. Gill adjusted to sharing the TV again, I adjusted to lugging groceries up the 4,876 stairs in our townhouse, and Evie adjusted to adjusting. One of her major adjustments was actually a backslide. Evie refused to go to sleep by herself or to stay in her bed the entire night.
Before we moved, I would put Evie in her bed at night, kiss her forehead, tell her I loved her and walk out of the room. The next morning I would know she had awakened by the chattering I heard coming from the other side of her bedroom door. After we moved, all of that came to a screeching halt. Bedtime became a battle which I eventually lost, i.e., surrendered, and you could find me each night in Evie’s room, rocking in the the rocking chair, waiting for sounds of soft snoring coming from her bed. And after we moved, I knew she was awake by the kidney-kicking I received each morning from the little body pressed up against my back.
After awhile, I adjusted to Evie’s refusal to adjust. I could have fought it. I could have put another child lock on her doorknob like she had in North Carolina. I could have Ferberized her again. I could have dutifully carried her back into her room each night and put her back into her own bed. But I didn’t. The truth is, I came to enjoy that quiet time in her darkened room at night, softly rocking and thinking my thoughts while my baby drifted off to dreamland. And I enjoyed rolling over in the middle of the night to find her warm little body snuggled against me. And I knew she enjoyed these things, too. They made her feel safe. I made her feel safe.
Mother’s intuition is a son of bitch. A real bastard. It told me that all of this had to end. It hissed in my ear that I had set up and was continuing to foster bad habits. It stood behind the rocking chair and crouched by my bed, lecturing me about how I would feel still doing all of this when Evie turned six, eight, ten years old. I ignored it. Then I ignored it some more. Then Evie turned four, and I was ready to listen.
One day, out of the blue, I started to talk to Eve about acting like a big girl. Not just being a big girl but acting like one. I told her that all of her friends were big girls. They didn’t need their mommies to stay with them at night, and they slept in their own beds all night by themselves. Evie offered that they also didn’t wear Pull-ups to bed. I panicked a little and told Evie not to get ahead of herself, i.e. rush Mommy.
That night we began the experiment. I have learned this over the past several months: If you want Evie to do something, don’t offer a reward. Threaten to take something away. Sound cruel? As Bill Cosby so wisely observed, “This is not your child!” So, I told Evie if she didn’t go to sleep by herself, she couldn’t watch her favorite show the next day. I figured we’d tackle the going asleep first and then work on staying in her own bed all night next. I asked Evie to explain back to me the deal we were making. She said, “I have to go to sleep by myself and stay in my bed. Not get in your bed.” She threw me off guard, but my brain quickly rallied and caught up with that of my four-year-old daughter. “That’s right. Yeah, that’s right. Evie, you have to stay in your own bed,” I managed, strong disciplinarian that I am.
And she did. Holy mother’s intuition, she really did it. And she kept doing it. And she also doesn’t wear Pull-up’s anymore at night. My child, bless her little Type A heart, is an overachiever.
And I? Am a freakin’ mess.
My baby. My baby. Where is my baby? I’m sad. I’m happy. I’m proud. I wish I’d never started this. Mother’s intuition rolls its eyes at me and tells me to get over myself. It explains through gritted teeth that Evie has to learn how to make herself feel safe. That part of growing up is pulling away. That part of being a parent is pushing away. That if I don’t help Evie instill a firm sense of independence and pride in herself, that she and her good-for-nothing unemployed boyfriend will still be living with us when she’s 37.
I know, I know. But can I just say one thing? One of the most unnerving things I’ve had to do in my short parenting career is stay downstairs. My baby is upstairs in her dark room with three nightlights burning, her blankets pulled up to her chin, who knows what lurking outside the window, trying, trying, trying to be a big girl, and I have to stay downstairs. Stay downstairs and piddle. Flip through the channels. Check email. Pet the kitty. Wait…was that Evie? Was that her little voice? Does she need me?
No. In this case she doesn’t. And she’s so proud of herself. She’s acting like a big girl. I would never, ever take that away from her. I will find a million little things to do before I walk out of her room at night, though: Hang up a dress that was on lying on the floor. “Night night, sweetie.” “Night night, Mommy.” Straighten up a few books on her bookshelves. “I love you. I’ll see you in the morning.” “See you in the morning.” Hand her another stuffed animal. “Mommy, are you leaving?” “Yes. Sorry. I’m going.”
I have to deal with my issues around the act of pushing away a person who has depended on me for so much for so long. But. When I roll over in the morning to see that little pink-nightgowned figure standing in the bedroom doorway, waiting for me to see her, I don’t hesitate for a second.
“Come here,” I whisper.
Well, my goodness. You’re sure a big girl now, Kimosabe. Can you believe that four years ago today when I held your unfamiliar little body, stared into your scrunched little face and thought about how I was your mommy, it scared the crap out of me? My, how times have changed…and how they’ve stayed the same. I still get scared sometimes, especially when I look at you and see almost no sign of that baby. Just a big girl.
The past year has certainly been an adventure. We’ve moved miles and miles away from where we used to be. And, we also moved to Florida. You and I have learned and seen and done so much together over the past year, and I wouldn’t trade a moment of it. There is no part of me that regrets the decision I made to quit my former life to hang out with you.
Evie, sometimes I wonder what I did to deserve someone so beautiful in every way. You’ve inspired me to build my life into one that is full of surprises, happiness and love. Being your mommy opens up the world for me in ways I never imagined. You’ve made me a bigger person.
Thank you, baby girl. I love you.
Well, here we are. November 30. Thirty days of posts from yours truly. I did it. I really did it. Holy crap.
I was dubious from the get-go about my ability to stick it out. During the month there were days when cleaning my toilets seemed preferable to posting. On those days I thought about you guys and how I’d put myself out there on November 1st. If I failed, I’d have an audience. I didn’t want y’all to watch me fail.
Also, there was KeAnne. Beautiful, wonderful, talented, infuriatingly diligent KeAnne. She was dutifully posting every day. I thought if she could do it, I could damn well, too.
True, there were days when a post on the The Evie Standard consisted of one or two sentences. Those were the bad days, folks. You know what I mean. Those were the days when I was so tired that pressing buttons on a remote was physically draining, and my brain was leaking out my ears. If you can believe it, I was genuinely afraid I’d forget to post one day. I imagined jolting awake at 11:59pm and falling all over myself to get downstairs to throw something, anything up on the blog.
I think I’ll probably do this challenge again some time in the future, especially now that I’ve got one under my belt. Notice I said some time in the future. I don’t know when, parentals and parentals-in-law. Simmer down. It was good exercise, and in the end, it gave me something to be proud of.
Thanks, everyone, for hanging in there. See y’all in a few days. My fingers, they are tired.
Lately Evie and I have taken to hanging out with her friend Charlie and his mom at the pool. The water is too cold to swim in unless you happened to really, really want to take a dip, but the kids like playing around the water with various detritus they find while Oolie and I take in the sun and talk.
Today, as Evie and Charlie were playing, Charlie decided to take a bathroom break in one of the pool’s restrooms. He walked in and closed the door. Evie walked over, opened the door and stood at the entrance. Below is what I heard:
Charlie: Eve. I have to pee.
Eve: (doesn’t close the door)
Charlie: Eve! I’m peeing!
Eve: (doesn’t close the door)
Charlie: Close the door.
Eve: (doesn’t close the door)
Charlie: Eve! Close the door! Close the door! I’m peeing! (slams door in Evie’s face)
Eve: (begins to cry hysterically)
Charlie: (finishes peeing, comes out of the restroom)
Eve: (continues to cry loudly)
Charlie: (curls up in a ball in a nearby chair, hands over his ears, face scrunched)
Eve: (continues to cry while staring at Charlie)
Charlie: (walks over to Eve, puts his arms around her and rubs her back)
Eve: (accepts the embrace, stops crying, starts hiccupping and sucking her thumb)
I looked at the two of them and sighed. Poor Charlie. I thought about trying to explain things to him. But, I figured that this wouldn’t be the last time in his life that although he did nothing wrong, because she cried, it was still all his fault.
Okay. Brace yourselves. What follows is the cutest thing you will see for the next 24 hours:
She sang so the back row could hear her. She knew all the words. Clad for the first time in her red and white robe, she clasped her hands in front of her as she walked up the aisle, as I’m sure Ms. Eby told her to do. When she saw me, she flashed me one of her delighted, slightly conspiratorial grins as if to say, “Look at me! This is so awesome!”
Proud doesn’t begin to describe it. I wanted to make a formal announcement at the end of the performance that the beautiful girl with the blue bow in her hair who sang so the heavens could hear her was our daughter. Our Evie.
Her daddy had to be out of town for work and missed it. She did great, sweetie. You would have wanted to tell everyone, too.