Weeks 37-38: My Babies!
(08/27/06)

My children. Lord, they are amazing little people. And I know I am probably overstuffed with excessively subjective adoration for the fruit of my own loin, but, really, they are. They are amazing, little bitty people, with great big personalities - people with a vast and frequently shocking range of emotions, the entire spectrum of which can be easily covered in an impressively short time, and an innate talent for evoking and provoking every emotion that exists within me: from anger to awe, and everything in between. I have cried because they have stretched my patience beyond the edges of its admittedly limited flexibility, and I have cried just standing in their bedroom, watching them sleep. It really is, well, amazing.

Equally amazing to me, as I sit in my little office area on the third floor of my East Asian home, listening to a lawyer argue the finer points of "intelligent design" on one of last year's Boston Legal episodes, is how my life is so different now. Different from my life before children, I mean. And not just because I am living in the land of the black spitting cobra - but because I am a different person today than I was then. Today, I worry - about bird flu, the height of the monkey bars on the school playground, whether or not one of the local volcanoes here in the "ring of fire" will start to spew asthma-aggravating smoke in to the air, and a thousand other things. Back before the kids, there was no worry at all. There was a time in my life - when the only life for which I was responsible was my own - when I did things that you couldn't pay me to do today: skydiving, bungee jumping, eating at restaurants disdained by the local health department. Crazy stuff.

And there was a time in my life that I thought I would never have children. Closely followed by a time - 12 weeks to be exact - that I thought the two little peanuts I was carrying would never make it safely into this world. The fact that they did survive, and are pretty darn healthy to boot, is a miracle - one for which I will always be grateful - because the odds were heavily stacked against them my friends. Those very odds, together with the life-and-death game of beat the gestational clock, are perhaps what gave rise to my personality change - guardrail to guardrail, as Greg says - causing me now to worry over things that most people probably don't even notice.

And now, after almost six years of upgrading my fears with each milestone passed (and a mere two days after the departure of our final guest for the year), my children - my babies - have entered a new phase of their lives: government-mandated and closely monitored education. This week, I watched those two little amazing people head off to their first day of non-optional school, knowing that I can no longer keep them home on a Tuesday just because I want to spend the day them; knowing that every day they are gaining the skills they will need to succeed in life, learning new lessons in independence, self-reliance, and math. I know they can't - and shouldn't - stay little and dependent on me forever, but seeing them need me a little less each day hurts almost as much as it makes me proud. This week, my babies started kindergarten.

It was a much-discussed and eagerly anticipated day, that first day of Kindergarten. It was built up, in their clever little minds, as the end-all-be-all of scholastic life. Unfortunately, I'm afraid it did not quite live up to its superlative billing. When I picked them up from school, awaiting news of this significant day almost as eagerly as they awaited its arrival, I was met with two dejected little faces. Cameron, a compulsively honest child, told me, "It was a lot different from what I expected." When asked for clarification, he stated, "I got in a lot of trouble for not following the rules." I'm not sure what the specifics were of the utopian educational experience he had in mind, but apparently, having to line up for lunch in an orderly fashion was not part of it. Alec, on the other hand, spent a good deal of his first day with the school nurse. With a splinter in his thumb. It is important to note that this campus is an incredibly safe haven for children, with nary a likely splinter source in sight. How he managed to lodge a sliver of wood into his tender skin while playing on a plastic playground surrounded by soft, rubbery groundcover is beyond me.

The school nurse met me outside Alec's classroom to pass on the gory - and rather dramatic - details of the ordeal. She also informed me that she had to reassure him, over and over again, that he would not, in fact, die from the infection he believed a splinter must inevitably generate. When faced with incontrovertible evidence that his imminent demise was indeed possible: "My mommy told me you can die from a splinter infection" - a claim I have never made, mind you - she told me that she simply replied to him, "Your mommy and I got our medical education from different schools." I'm pretty sure there was a hint of reproach in her gentle tone - to both of us.

When I imagine the scene in the nurse's office, I can't help but think back to the Cheers episode - the season ten finale - in which Kelly asserts, in a rather chastising tone, that Cliff's mother must have told him bedtime stories about gangrene (after the mailman faints when he pricks his finger trying to repair Kelly's much abused wedding dress).

But am I raising two similar little characters? Fearful children who will lead fearful lives? That's not what I want. Like I said, I have never told my children that they will die from a splinter, regardless of what the school nurse believes, but maybe I have overemphasized the extent of danger lurking in the world in general. I can see many of you nodding your heads vigorously, shouting passionate affirmation of this hypothesis at your hapless computers. It's hard though. I want my kids to enjoy life, to live it to the fullest; but I want them to be safe while they do it. I want them to grow into happy, confident adults, but I have to get them there first, right?

Of course, now that they have entered the cosmopolitan world of kindergarten, I think they are starting to realize that their mommy is, perhaps, a little more cautious (they call it "cranky") than the other moms. I'm okay with that; and, so far, so are they. We'll see where I stand in their eyes at the end of the year...

Take care,
Shannon et al.

Check out the new masterpieces below the photos...

Alec, Memaw, & Cameron

 

Cameron, after the first day of school

 

Alec & Greg

Alec & Cameron, heading off to the first day of Kindergarten...

 

Greg, Alec, & Memaw looking at the fish at the Fullerton Hotel

        

Memaw & Cameron

 

Alec, after the first day of school

 

eyeing the forbidden fruit (lactose intolerance sucks)

a rare taste... (note: that bite is the only one Alec took - he is a starch fiend, like his mom)

 

 

Alec, conquering the inflatable alligator Naynay sent

 

Cameron on the alligator

    

Alec & Memaw

Alec helping Cameron

         

Memaw, Alec, & Greg, down on Clarke Quay

Boys' Artwork

Cameron's Art...

 

"Bear in the Sun"

"Monster Bulls"

Alec's Art...

"Dragon"

 

"Crab"

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