I Only Know What We Need for Today

Tuesday afternoon, two Tuesdays ago. I was picking up my younger daughter from preschool.

“Mommy!” Anna exclaimed, opening up her backpack to show me her latest arts and crafts projects. The paint on one of them was still a little wet; a feather was falling off another one.

“How about we look at everything at home?” I suggested, stuffing the masterpieces back in. Then I overheard some of the other moms talking about the upcoming field trip. “Field trip?” I repeated, looking up.

The moms smiled at me.

“What field trip?” I tried again, adding, “I may have missed a note…”

One of Anna’s preschool teachers shared with me that the next class (there were three classes left, before the end of her school year) would take place at a local lake. The kids would hike around the lake, playing “I Spy” as they looked for birds, fish and other wildlife. A picnic would happen afterwards—and every child needed a parent to accompany them.

(That would be me.)

Anna beamed at me. “I have my very own field trip, Mom!”

I smiled weakly. “Mm-hmm, I just found out,” I said. “Yay.”

“I may have missed a note…”

Because I had been planning to write, as I do when both girls are in school. I was thisclose to finishing a story, and submitting it to a magazine. I would just finish it a little later than hoped for, I told myself, as I buckled Anna into her car seat. No problem.

Thursday morning, the day of the field trip, arrived. Stanton had headed out the morning before for a business trip. So that morning was a little more hectic than usual, as I packed up everything Grace, my older daughter, needed for kindergarten that day and gathered everything Anna (and I) needed for our hike/picnic. Water bottles, sandwiches, hoodies…

“Anna, there’s going to be a horse named Anna for you to ride at your field trip,” Grace was saying.

“A horse! Named Anna?!”

I reached for my coffee. “Grace, stop lying to your sister.”

“…no horse?”

In other school news, Grace’s class had started an “alphabet countdown” for the remaining 26 days of the school year. A was for stuffed animal, B was for brain buster… I scanned the countdown sheet to see what today, C, was for.

Aha, there it was: C was for candy.

“I want candy too, Mom!” Anna said. “I want candy on my field trip!”

I began opening and shutting kitchen cabinets. “I don’t think we have any candy.” Maybe there was something leftover from Easter…

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“Mom.” Grace raised her eyebrows at me. “You always have chocolate.”

My daughter spoke the truth: my hidden stash of good-quality dark chocolate that I—judge me if you must—prefer not to share with my family. Stanton’s got his chips and salsa; the girls have snacks galore: ice cream, Teddy Grahams, pretzels and Nutella, Girl Scout Cookies (still)…and raw veggies and hummus, of course (of course we have healthy snacks too…). Just leave me my chocolate, people.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. I broke off some of my last dark chocolate bar (with caramel and sea salt—arguably the most satisfying flavor combination!) so that my beloved firstborn could participate in C Is for Candy Day.

Grace gave me a thumbs-up.

The three of us began filing outside. I was carrying a bunch of stuff, and some of it was falling from my arms.

At the same time, my retired neighbor was pulling out of her driveway. She smiled and waved through her window. I would bet a huge amount of money, friends, that she was thinking, I’m glad that’s not me—and I’m not a betting woman.

Anna and I dropped Grace off at her bus stop. Then I realized I had left the directions to the lake in the breakfast nook. “Ugh.”

“Just use Google Maps, Mom,” Grace said.

“You know…”

“I know you like directions on paper,” Grace acknowledged. (She knows me too well.) “But you can do it.”

I looked at Grace. Then I looked at Anna, who smiled at me. “You can take me to my field trip, Mom,” she encouraged. “You can!” Ah…our children’s blind faith in us. 

Grace’s bus pulled up.

“Mom, one more thing.” Grace tapped my arm. “What’s tomorrow?”

“What?”

“Today is C Is for Candy—what’s for tomorrow?”

I had no clue. “I only know what we need for today,” I said. “Bye, love you, have a great day!”

I would bet a huge amount of money, friends, that she was thinking, I’m glad that’s not me—and I’m not a betting woman.

As I made my way to the lake, Google Maps confirmed for me why I prefer to look at a map and plot out my own route beforehand. There was road construction on one street. Another street had become one-way only since the last time Google Maps checked. And now Google Maps was rerouting me onto a highway during morning rush hour. (I excel at what you might call small-town, wide-open-spaces driving.)

“Merge onto NY-85…” Great.

Meanwhile… “I have my very own field trip,” Anna sang in the back.

Anna and I did arrive safe and sound at her field trip, thankfully. We actually were the first ones there, which worked out wonderfully, because parallel parking is another skill I’m not particularly strong in…so I was able to pull right into a great parking spot. Hallelujah.

The two of us took in the beautiful nature around us as we waited for others to arrive. Anna slipped her little hand into my big one. “I love my field trip, Mom.”

“Awww, I love you, honey.”

Everything with Anna’s field trip ended up being OK—really nice, actually. Later that day, Grace informed me she loved my dark chocolate. She also mentioned that she was excited about Family Math and Science Night at her school the following day, Friday (which also happened to be D Is for Favorite Drink Day).

Family Math and Science Night… Right. I had almost forgotten about that.

The early childhood years are fun. 😉

On Friday evening, my neighbor friend texted me. We were walking over to the school together with our kids. Would 5:45 p.m. be a good time to meet up, or maybe too early? she asked. (The event started at 6.)

I looked around the kitchen. I was in the process of making dinner (not ready yet). The counters were covered in unopened mail, Shopkins and, randomly, our birth certificates (an identity thief’s jackpot, should one happen to wander into our home).

(I’ve been meaning to organize all our important documents, under which “birth certificates” fall, into a filing cabinet. I’m optimistic this will happen…sometime soon.)

Another text, this time from Stanton. I read this latest piece of information: “Home between 10 and 11. Sorry so late. Ferry delayed due to weather.”

Stanton was on Martha’s Vineyard for work.

“Mom! We’re hungry! And it’s Family Math and Science Night, MOM!”

Maybe one day I’ll be stranded on a secluded island somewhere.

“5:45 might be a teensy bit too early,” I confessed in my text back to my friend. She kindly understood. In the end, we all made it to Family Math and Science Night, and everyone had fun—all’s well that ends well.

As last week wrapped up, I realized what a, well, not-smooth week it had been. I discovered important information about my children’s lives at the last minute (if field trips and C Is for Candy Day fall under the universal definition of “important”—but let’s not split hairs 😉 ). I still haven’t submitted my story. I did move the birth certificates to the master bedroom, but a determined identity thief might still find them.

We also lost Bernelly and Harriet last week, you might remember.

Oh, and there are no secluded islands in my near future.

I was thinking, though, that our family did make it through the week, one day at a time. And I was thinking that there are times in our lives, maybe even whole seasons, where that’s the philosophy we simply must work with, or make work: “I only know what we need for today.”

No shame in “one day at a time.” Maybe it’s not as impressive as a “five-year plan,” or as profound as a “big-picture approach.” But “one day at a time” can get the job done.

Something I’m very conscious of is that no matter how harried life may seem sometimes, what I’m so lucky to have now—my family, all of us healthy and here together—is what I hoped for so much (prayed for, really) years ago.

…”one day at a time” can get the job done.

It is such a gift to have people in your life who love you, and whom you love too. Even when you’re winging it day to day. (Maybe especially when you’re winging it, and trying to stay on top of all the stuff.)

If you happen to be winging it for people you love…let me assure you you’re not alone. You’re not the only one who is. And although it may be hard to realize in the moment, you’re very lucky.

Cheers to TODAY.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

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But What Will People Think?

One morning this past week, the four of us were getting ready for the day. Stanton left the house first, as a light snow began to fall. Grace and Anna stood at the window (Anna’s chin touching the windowsill) and wondered if then (7:45 a.m.) would be a good time to build our first snow girl of the New Year.

(Answer: No.)

I was wondering if school would be delayed because of the snow. (Answer: Another thumbs-down.) So I made Grace’s lunch, changed Anna’s shirt (“Mom! I had a spill! But it’s not a problem, Mom!”) and began gathering all our bags.

Do you and your kids also have so many bags to locate, pack and get out of the house each morning? I’m continually loading stuff out of my house, into my car and back again every…single…day.

Backpacks. Lunch boxes. My laptop bag. In the winter, bags with the girls’ snow pants and boots so that they can play outside during recess.

I stuffed a granola bar into my handbag. Anna noticed and noted that she was hungry. Grace held up her finger. “Mom! I need a Band-Aid!”

“Mom!” Anna had forgotten about the granola bar because now, of course… “I need a Band Aid too!”

“OK,” I said. I distributed Band-Aids for one paper cut and one nonexistent medical emergency. Then we all climbed into the car.

I drove Grace down the block to her bus stop. Once she hopped on the bus, I drove Anna to preschool.

Someone once said that the major requirement of parenthood is a driver’s license. This might be true, friends.

I distributed Band-Aids for one paper cut and one nonexistent medical emergency.

En route to Anna’s preschool, I realized I had forgotten to pack her sneakers into her backpack, for her to change out of from her snow boots. Sometimes my almost-3-year-old can be amazingly understanding. Other times, she teeters toward irrationality. Not sure which Anna Parker Leddy I’d be getting, I broached the topic: “Honey, guess what.”

“What, Mom?”

I tapped my fingers against the steering wheel. “I forgot your sneakers.” I glanced in the rearview mirror; Anna was starting to frown. “Oh, well, right? You can be comfy in just your socks…”

“MOM!” Anna exhaled. “But what will people think?”

“They will think…your mom forgot your sneakers.” Hopefully, that was all people would think about Anna’s mom.

Anna sighed. “Oh, Mom… How could you?”

Dear Lord. “I know, honey; I know.” But trust me: At some point, for some reason, I’ll fall short of your expectations again.

Forgetting your sneakers? This is nothing.

What people think. I had forgotten we begin worrying about that at such a young age.

“They will think…your mom forgot your sneakers.” Hopefully, that was all people would think about Anna’s mom.

I remember when I was in third or fourth grade. I had gone to the nurse’s office, and returned back to my classroom with a note recommending that I see an eye doctor to get glasses. That day—and I remember this clearly, to this day—I folded the note up and hid it in the palm of my hand, so that my classmates wouldn’t notice. So that people wouldn’t think something was wrong with me. I was maybe 10 years old, and I worried what people would think.

Twenty-five years later, I’m thankful to share that “what people think” isn’t much of a worry anymore. Yes, I care about things…but I’m comfortable—dare I say, confident—with the person I am.

Many of us reach this comfort zone, I imagine, by the time we’re adults. We’ve lived a little. We’ve probably loved, and lost, a little. If we have a young person in our life—a child, niece or nephew, little neighbor—we’re aware, in a way we probably weren’t before, that life is fragile, and precious. That good health, and family, and friendship far outweigh things we once thought mattered so much: the cool table in the school cafeteria, the right logos, the hot ZIP code.

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On Saturday, I brought the girls to a friend’s birthday party. I enjoyed chatting with the other parents while Grace played (and Anna ran back and forth from the water fountain). It was remarkable—and really nice—how easy the conversation among everyone was.

Easy because, perhaps, all the moms and dads had some shared experiences related to parenthood. When you’re raising a child, you have empathy for those who are doing the same. There’s a kinship, a kindness, a respect.

I’ve been reading a book about teaching children about empathy. The book mentions John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, and his “seven-point creed for life,” which his father gave him. This creed for life includes guiding principles such as “Be true to yourself,” and “Make each day your masterpiece.”

As the New Year unfolds, I’ve been thinking about main guiding principles I’d like to pass along to my own children. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. Be the best YOU.

2. Do your best. Work hard, play hard, get enough sleep.

3. Talk to people—really talk to them. Set your phone aside; then don’t look at it. Look at the people who are with you. And listen to them. Be in communion with them.

4. Make each day your masterpiece. (I love this one; I’m stealing it, friends!) If it’s cold out (it’s been cold out, right?!), bundle up and make the most of it. EMBRACE LIFE. There are no do-overs, girls.

5. Count your blessings.

A quote I’ve always liked—and I’ve probably shared it before—is Willie Nelson’s: “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” You forgot something. You got bad news. Things aren’t perfect. Yet…

You have so much. You have so much, girls. You have so much, friends.

It can be difficult, though, to feel grateful. For me personally, there have been times in my life when I’ve been down. I can’t know for sure, because I never spoke to anyone professionally, but I’m fairly certain there were times when I was depressed.

Even during those difficult times—which I’m so thankful to have walked through and have left behind—I had moments of clarity when I knew, consciously, that life is good. I struggled with counting my blessings, so I tried to “be a blessing,” so to speak, to others. I tried to be kind to the people around me. I tried to write stories that would make people smile, or laugh, or feel uplifted.

As it turns out, blessing others with kindness can help turn your life around too. At least, it turned out this way for me.

When you’re raising a child, you have empathy for those who are doing the same. There’s a kinship, a kindness, a respect.

I would make that my next main guiding principle:

6. Be a blessing to others.

Or, simply: 6. Be kind. Give love away (to quote another great musician, MC Yogi).

One day you’re riding in the back of the car, horrified that your mom forgot your sneakers. But what will people think? Then in a blink, it seems, you’re up front, driving.

From your vantage point behind the wheel, you have a better sense of what people will think.

Did she care?

Did he try?

Did they show up?

You did?

Then you’re standing on solid ground, friends.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

How Do You Do It?

On a recent morning, I woke up to Anna kicking me in the head. (Who needs an alarm clock when you have kids?)

Some nights, Anna sleeps in her bed, contentedly, until morning. Other nights (most nights), she yells out around midnight or 3 a.m. (depending on if she napped that day), “Mom! Dad! MOMDADMOMDAD!” and it’s easier to snuggle her into bed with us rather than rock her back to sleep. (A motto for this season in my life could be, “I give up.”)

Now, Anna is a petite 2-year-old, and she weighs less than 30 pounds. However, she takes up a lot of space in our queen-sized bed. Her preferred sleeping position is smack dab in the middle, at the top, across both pillows, arms flailing and legs kicking, without rhyme or reason, throughout the night. Good night, and good luck.

She also notices if I get out of bed. Not Stanton—who often escapes to the guest bedroom or family-room couch—but myself, “Mom.” When I get up to, God forbid, use the restroom, or make coffee, I soon hear a small yet accusatory voice from atop the two pillows: “Mom? Come…back!”

Mornings can be rough, in my home and maybe in yours too. Everyone needs to get to where they have to go—clean, dressed, fed, with all their stuff…and preferably on time—in a short span of time. There is little wiggle room, and occasionally some (lots of?) stress.

On that particular morning, the one where Anna kicked me in the head, Stanton woke up with a sore throat. He had a full day of presentations ahead of him, so I rifled my Yogi Throat Comfort tea out of a kitchen cabinet. “Here, have some of this, and take extra with you,” I said.

“I don’t need it,” he replied.

“I promise it will make you feel better,” I said.

“I’ll be fine,” he promised instead.

OK.

I pointed to the guest room doorknob. “Did you see the new dress shirts I bought for you? You can wear one today.”

Stanton looked at me, bewildered. “I already have shirts.”

Current life motto? That’s right, friends: “I give up.”

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Now, the subject of clothes didn’t end there—no, not that day. Because that day just so happened to be “Dress Like a Farmer Day” at Grace’s elementary school, and “Wear Red Day” at Anna’s preschool. Grace was learning about agriculture; Anna was learning colors.

The night before, I had pulled out a pair of jeans and a white top from Grace’s dresser. I had also rummaged through several boxes in the basement, in search of a pink cowgirl hat I knew was down there…somewhere…which I did eventually find. I also found, in the dining room hutch, a green gingham cloth napkin that could double as a bandana. Grace and I had agreed that these items would work as her outfit for “Dress Like a Farmer Day.”

But come morning… Grace tossed the cloth napkin on a counter. “I wish it was pink, like my hat,” she said. “Pink is prettier than green.”

Grace has got her colors down pat.

Anna, meanwhile, didn’t like her red pants. “No…have…pockets!” she shouted.

Grace prefers pink; Anna wants pockets. I sighed.

At this point, Stanton amiably waved goodbye. “See you in a couple of days, girls. Love you!”

Because that day just so happened to be ‘Dress Like a Farmer Day’ at Grace’s elementary school, and ‘Wear Red Day’ at Anna’s preschool.

It was about 7:30 a.m. I needed to take a quick shower. “Girls…you can watch TV together while I get ready,” I said. “Just one show.”

“Yay!” Grace ran to the family room.

“I love TV!” Anna shouted, running after her. Then, as an afterthought, she shouted with the same enthusiasm, “I love Walmart!”

(This is a true story.)

What would other moms think of me if they heard my preschooler’s crack-of-dawn declarations? Love for TV? Walmart? Let me just say here, in my defense, that I turned on PBS Kids for my daughters that morning. Educational TV, OK? So…there’s that.

But yes, it’s true: Under the Supermom entry in Merriam-Webster’s, you won’t find my name.

Grace’s and Anna’s schools start at the same time, which is—to say the least—logistically inconvenient. So we get Grace to school on time, and Anna is always, reliably, 20 minutes late. But as everyone from my own mom to Anna’s teachers have reassured me…it’s preschool.

Speaking of my own mom, I asked her, “How did you do it?”

My mom had four kids; I have half that. My mom worked full-time; I’m a freelance writer (which, depending on the month, is a synonym for “unemployed”). Both my dad, throughout my childhood, and my husband, now, travel(ed) for their jobs. It’s difficult (and unhelpful) to compare one family situation to another, but for sure, my mom had a lot to do.

“How,” I wondered, “did you get everything done, every Monday through Friday morning, for years?”

My mom laughed and replied, “By the time I got to work, my body felt ready for a nap.” I could believe it. Especially now that Grace has started kindergarten—real school, real accountability—along with all the usual doctor’s appointments, sports practices and games, and family commitments as before.

(Later this week, by the way, is School Picture Day/Early Dismissal.)

How do you do it, friends?

Under the Supermom entry in Merriam-Webster’s, you won’t find my name.

Let me be the first to acknowledge that I do it, but not always well. Some days are great, even the mornings. Other days, I raise my voice at my daughters…or I’m distracted when they’re trying to tell me something…or I forget to buy something for someone’s school project.

A woman I very much respect recently said something that struck me. She was telling the story of someone—a nonprofit leader, I think—who, when asked about the toil of his work, said, “It’s not something I’ve got to do; it’s something I get to do.”

Not something I’ve got to do; something I get to do. I loved that. I try to remember that every day.

One evening, I was rocking Anna to sleep. (In several hours’ time, she’d probably be kicking me in my bed, but for the moment…) She was almost asleep. Then, unprompted, she said, “I really love you, Mom,” before snuggling against my chest and nodding off at last.

Moments like that, I feel I’m the luckiest person in the world. I understand the “get to do this.” The price you pay for the privilege.

This story started with clothes, and that’s where it’s going to end too. So…School Picture Day/Early Dismissal. Grace and I were looking through her dresser, picking out contenders for her School Picture Day photo. “And remember, Mom,” Grace said, “we get out early too.”

“Yes,” I said. I had written it down on the calendar.

“If you forget to pick me up…”

“I’ll be there,” I told Grace.

She looked up at me and smiled. “I know.”

“I give up,” and “Happy.”

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

I’m Redshirting My Summer-Birthday Daughter: Our Family’s Story

“Higher, Mom! Higher!”

It was a Friday morning, and my daughters and I had been at the park for nearly two hours.

We began our time here at the jungle gym (1-year-old Anna gleefully tried to keep up with her big sister; I burned hundreds of calories dashing to save her life several times). Then we walked through the neighboring savanna (a bathroom break for Grace, diaper change for Anna and snacks for everyone included). Now we were back at the playground, and I was pushing both girls on a swing set.

“OK, hold on!” I pushed Grace higher.

“Woo-hoo!” she yelled.

“Woo!” Anna echoed, clapping her hands.

This was the kind of the moment that made parenthood—especially parenthood of small children—worth it.

Worth all the sleep-deprived nights in the beginning. Worth the sibling squabbling that followed, sooner than expected. Worth the tradeoff of weeklong romantic vacations for date nights close to home, in order to save for the kids’ 529 plans.

My girls were happy and getting along. The sun was shining. I felt caffeinated and energized, thanks in equal parts to my travel mug of coffee and the natural Vitamin D.

It was a storybook moment. We moms and dads know they don’t come as often as we’d like. When they do, though, we treasure them.

Grace has an August birthday. In a couple of months, she’ll turn 5. She’s eligible to begin kindergarten here in Texas this fall (the cutoff date is September 1), but I decided to give her one more year at home with Anna and me.

One more year to experience more of these spontaneous storybook moments with us, before our family life becomes busier with more formal education for Grace (and Anna) and more out-of-the-home work for me.

Educators, policymakers and others call this practice of delaying kindergarten for summer-birthday babies “redshirting.” Maybe you’ve dealt with it, too?

Kindergarten

A lot has been written about the advantages and disadvantages of having a child start their formal education at age 6 rather than 5. I’ve read through some of these articles, keeping in mind that there are pros and cons along every path.

One advantage that authors often point out is that the additional year can benefit children socially. I do think this will be true for Grace.

She’s sweet, smart and shy, especially in new situations. Being one of the oldest in her kindergarten class, then, probably will give her an extra boost of confidence.

I’ve watched Grace look out for the smaller kids in her preschool dance and gymnastics classes—as well as her own little sister and kids in the park. She’s naturally nurturing with littler kids. I can see her feeling comfortable and helpful as one of the oldest in her kindergarten class.

Another advantage that educators and policymakers indicate is the academic one. If a child starts kindergarten a year later, then they will have had an extra year to prepare for kindergarten—to learn the alphabet, count and follow directions. Grace already does these things fairly well; if anything, reviewing these items in a kindergarten class may not hold her interest, a disadvantage.

However, the majority of families that redshirt their summer-birthday sons and daughters tend to be highly educated, upper-middle class ones—those who can afford to provide another year of preschool and/or child care. A 2015 Atlantic article discusses how this socioeconomic divergence in redshirting can, unfortunately, further widen the skills gap between higher-income and lower-income kids.

I don’t want to contribute to this skills gap. I think, though, that one more year of storybook moments will be special for both my daughters. I think it will be a time we’ll look back on and treasure—for its spontaneity, its simplicity, its sweetness.

I’m looking forward to the year ahead with my girls. Grace will be attending preschool three days a week. Anna and I will continue our “Mommy and Me” time at the park, children’s museum and (let’s be honest) non-fun but necessary stops such as the grocery store and dry cleaner’s.

Together, all three of us are embarking on something new, too. Our city sponsors a volunteer storytime program, with the goal of encouraging youth literacy in those who could use a helping hand. I’m excited to join this program, a great volunteer match for a book lover, writer and mom like me.

This experience should be meaningful for everyone involved—the kids, me and my daughters. Grace especially will see firsthand the good that can happen when people from varying sides of a gap unite over reading and stories.

“To hell with facts! We need stories!” said Ken Kesey, author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Every child has their own story to tell. Correspondingly, every family has their own ethos, their way of life that works best for them. Redshirting kindergarten is the route that makes the most sense for us—it’s simply our family’s story.

“Higher, Mom! Higher!”

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.