lucky and they know it

The season of football is upon us. There was a time a few years ago when we devoted entire weekends to college football. I would spend my Fridays off packing up baby Caroline (who lately is more often called Lady Lou, Toots, or "I said two seconds more five minutes ago") for an early afternoon getaway toward Boston up the Merritt with our fingers crossed to get through Hartford and onto 84 before an accident or the afternoon crunch, whichever came first. We would arrive to Kiki and Papa's house in time for a much needed glass of wine after we put the baby to bed. The morning would be an all out press of tailgate prep, diaper bag packing and the execution of the proper balance of layers and baby amusements. Sunday would be a hummie sandwich by Papa (amazing) and a plan for exit around baby sleepiness and if the Pats were playing while we were driving home (and they nearly always were) it meant Pats coverage on satellite all the way back home. If I didn't have Mondays off back then, it would have been completely unmanageable.

By the time Connor arrived on scene, we were back in Massachusetts. I cannot even fathom how we would have gotten "he who refused to ride in the car" back and forth for football, but I'm entirely sure that we would have found a way.

I'm sure many of our friends and family think we are insane for bringing the kids to six full seasons of football save a very small handful due to weather, illness or a kickoff after bedtime. Most days I think we are insane, but then I see the kids (who with the exception of the last five minutes of each half without fail), sit tight, pay attention, cheer appropriately and have one heck of a time. Caroline kicks her feet as hard as a grown man against the metal at her feet. Connor asks questions constantly and the game is no exception, but it is often me fielding these questions and I am not always sure that I have the right answers. They love the tailgate with family and friends, the balloon artist and face painting, Baldwin, the band, and they are always the last kids standing at the games. They can hang. Sure, they often need smuggled snacks, matchbox cars, and sometimes our phone, but for a first grader and a preschooler, they do as well or better than some of the adults we see.

Highlights from this weekend.

Caroline turning each time this LOUD FSU fan behind us cheered because she knew she was cheering for the other team. "I don't like it when she does that."

Connor and Lyle playing tackle football keep away at the tailgate.

Caroline CRYING at the end of the end of the game and covering her eyes "I can't watch, tell me what happens," she was THAT invested.

Connor losing his MIND when I came back pretzel-less post halftime because they were sold out. I'm not sure BC was ready for that many fans?!

Caroline's answer to "what was the best part of today?" It was "being together with our family."

I will deal with the day after soreness from carrying tiny people on my shoulders, bigger tiny people on my back, if the best part of her day can always be that. That is why we do this. They are lucky kids and they know it.

demon

We motored right through that summer, didn't we? We packed a lot in; lots of beach days, a relaxing family vacation, many a lobster, countless ice cream novelties, and some quiet times at home just us. I always get a bit sad when another summer comes to a screeching halt. This year my sadness was eclipsed by the replacement of my sweet (though incredibly energetic) daughter by what I can only nicely describe as a demon. It might have been the terrible combination of lack of routine the week between camp and school and first day of first grade jitters, but Steve and I will always remember Labor Day weekend 2013 as one long frustrated beyond frustration time out from hell. We were both at the end of our ropes and when we left the rainy beach on Sunday just before noontime to head to a movie with the kids, we never expected that we would be still in movie mode at 4pm that afternoon.

Opportunity 1: Canceled unceremoniously by me when the little one ran ahead and nearly toppled a huge "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" display, forcing me to yell his full name to the as you can imagine CROWDED cinema lobby. "It's hard to do the right thing," was never more true because while no little boy who behaved that way deserved to get plunked into a cushy seat with popcorn, what in bloody hell were we going to do with these kids when we were both just completely defeated?

Opportunity 2: a frank discussion in car about behavior and disappointment, another chance to go as a reward for good behavior in bad Cape traffic which honestly seemed impossible at that point. They proved us wrong and after we wasted time around the SECOND theatre awaiting the movie start time and the kids were as good as gold for the first time in DAYS, "SOLD OUT." Insert white flag and trumpet here. That one was a head slapper.

Opportunity 3: At this point, after all we had been through, we were getting to the GD movie. One way or another. 2:30 showing at yet ANOTHER theatre further up the road, tickets purchased from the second theatre and we had nearly an hour to kill. The sass and frass came back from the larger animal in the back seat, but the tickets were purchased and yeah, white flag was still flying high. It would be a miracle if we all survived the day.

So, it was a rough way to end what really truly was a wonderful summer. Our girl is still not herself, but I keep trying to remind myself that this too shall pass, things will right themselves if we continue to be consistent and reality will return.

I told myself these things and then did something that seemed unthinkable. I warned the world. I notified her new teacher via email that she had a very difficult weekend and we suspected there might be some school anxiety and wanted to give her a heads up that things were off at home. I sent the same email to her after school program who reported to me at pick up that they had no issue with her that day. I crossed my fingers and hoped, but when we got home the demon was back out of her cage.

Yesterday when I picked her up, I was informed that she had an episode of "freshness" with a teacher, she had apologized, but it was out of character for her. On the tense ride home she told me a friend told her to say it. We did the you are your own person, you know right from wrong thing and since I have experience with this other little girl who is herself a true demon (once laughing at another child that her grandmother was dying - "ha ha, your grandma is dying!") I probably did the absolute wrong thing and told her that this girl was not a friend. sigh. Later we talked about how her supposed friend always tries to get others to do and say naughty things so that they get in trouble. I told her that she should be strong in those moments and walk away from her. I reminded her that she alone is in charge of her actions. The teacher involved has not been able to make eye contact with me, or at least it feels that way.

Last night we had a heart to heart and I told her that it must feel like she is in over her head with this and that she must feel like she is drowning in all the badness. I told her we could turn a new page and start over, but that it is up to her to decide what goes on that page, not me. I laid out what she is expected to do and how she is expected to behave and then made rules for how I will respond. I say it over and over, but it is so hard to actually do; I won't give her my emotion, it just feeds the demon. I want my girl back. I want to enjoy her again.

(Dear Caroline, this one is for you in about 30 years honey when you call me to say you are at the end of your rope with your sweet little girl.)