stretching - Boston Moms Blog

We turn the corner to the first-grade hall. I hang back, letting him lead the way to the classroom door while I hold my breath and wait. Wait for the clutch at my shirt. For the glassy-eyed glance back at me. For the plea to stay just a few minutes more. Instead, a quick squeeze of my ribs (wasn’t his embrace only to my hips a year ago?), and he’s off. Buddies await. I watch with wonder as classmates receive him and share that anticipatory energy that abounds in every “first day of school” classroom. Exhale.  

We pass through the chain-link fence to a sea of bounding bodies and unwieldy soccer balls dancing about the green expanse. Making our way to the assigned field, my son asks if there will be “friends.” “Yes,” I say. “A classmate or two.” I promptly remind him there are friends yet to be made. And I wait. Wait for the complaint of too-tight cleats. Wait for the pressured plea to kick the ball with him for just a bit. But then… he spots a classmate, and he’s off. I watch with wonder as he dribbles toward the familiar face and initiates an impromptu shoot-out. Exhale.  

Parent-win moments, right? Aren’t those the sweetest?

But they’re sweet precisely because of the bitter/salty/spicy moments in between.

And because the snapshots above do not remotely capture the emotional angst that accompanied our child through a variety of transitions following our move to the Boston area last fall. 

A year ago, “new beginnings” went something like this…

Fifteen minutes into practice, and the coaches still had not arrived. Kindergartners, in their soccer best, wandered the field aimlessly, some preoccupied with dandelions and earthworms while others committed to the activity at hand, launching balls in every which direction with any appendage available. We confirmed one classmate in the midst of relative strangers, but this failed to find traction with our 5-year-old.

With each passing minute, each futile attempt by restless parents to salvage the first practice with haphazard “drills,” I watch as my son’s energy slowly shifts from nervous excitement to general confusion to the (misguided) assumption that he should assume full responsibility for this rag-tag “soccer team.” And I wait. And I fear. And it begins. The tears. Fast and furious. Body thrashing, voice stammering, as he insists, “I’m the worst soccer player in the whole world. Never again! I will never play soccer again. I hate soccer!” Those were the laments suitable for public consumption. It devolved from there.

Twenty minutes later and the whole town soccer league bore witness to the most epic of meltdowns.  

So I get it. I get it when, in late spring, a classmate’s mom sends out an Excel spreadsheet mapping out week-long sessions at a summer camp, inviting parents to fill in accordingly to ensure coordination. I get it when parents begin drafting a proposed fall roster of classmates intended for the community soccer league, sights set on a team oozing with school pride. Yes, I get it. Because the concerted efforts to finesse “comfort” for our kids reflect the daunting predicament the alternative would require — to watch as our kids confront the uncertainty of new people and places, and to bear witness to the vast repertoire of distressed responses our kids might exhibit (including epic meltdowns).

These scenes capture my son’s range of responses to new situations. I’ve managed to omit other relevant facts about our move.

Like how a year since we’d arrived I hadn’t yet joined a running club like I’d promised myself I would. Or how I’d been eyeing a class schedule at a local yoga studio for months, readying myself for a resurrection after leaving a reliable yogi community behind. After all, yoga studios can be intimate places — scant clothing, scant sounds, scant defenses. And there was that pesky matter of people — a new community of yogis I’d have to stretch to connect with (figuratively and metaphorically). Ugh. Strrrreeeetch. Isn’t stretching the most optional of human exercise? You don’t have to stretch. You could just cut yourself a break after the grind of “adulting” and retreat into the comfort of a well-worn yoga mat right at home. Except…

My son did attend the local camp this past summer. We did not reference the Excel sheet. And yes, he was thrilled on the occasion that school buddies turned up in his sessions. But walking home at the close of the very first week, my son announced he had made an “awesome” new friend who was new to town and who loved soccer as much as he did. Gleefully, he produced a keychain from his bag — a burnished soccer medallion. A gift from his new friend and an apparent consecration of their shared bond.

There was more. A weathered piece of notebook paper from the child’s mother inscribed with her email address. Emphatically, my son insisted a playdate was in order. I assured him I would email shortly. “No,” he countered. “You have to write a note… in pencil. That’s more special.” Right. No email, no rosters, no Excel spreadsheets.

Sometimes I think our kids show up as mini-prophets when we need them most.     

A year after our move I finally put on my big-girl yoga tights and tried that studio. Because our kids’ nimble little bodies — and hearts and minds — they do stretch. With so much more ease than ours. And so we, their parents, need to stretch with them, or — at the very least — move to the side when their reach extends beyond our own.