Learning Division and Patience

I taught Mario long division. I felt like a superhero at the end of the evening. 

In the beginning, there was an in ordinate amount of stomping and crying and yelling and affirming “I am man-trash at division!” (Yes, that is Mario’s new phrase for everything bad). I remained calm, taking deep breaths as he slammed the table with his pencil, and rose up to bang his head against the wall. I allowed him to let off steam and then gently brought him back to the table to try another problem. He would get the first number but then have trouble with what to do next. He would stare at the problem, dig the lead of the pencil into the paper, and then begin his tirade routine all over. I, in turn, was able to continue my routine of taking breaths, letting him vent, and then re-setting him. I explained to him that skills do not always come immediately – there are certain skills that need continued work to master. This is sometimes lost on him and Ri. Although he stared at me in disgust, my communication was having an affect because he continued to work on the division problems with me. Thirty minutes after we began this work, I gave him 5÷125. He asked me to not give him any hints. I stood up from the table and moved to the stove to stir the chicken in the skillet.

“ Mom, I finished. Can you come and check it?”

I gave a silent prayer up to the heavens that he got it correct. I walked over to the table and looked down at his solution. I saw two at the top of the division problem. I saw where he subtracted 10 giving him another 2. I saw that he dropped down the five and put another five by the 2 on top and then subtracted the 25 to get a remainder of zero. In other words, he had done it! All by himself with no help from me. 

I beamed like he had received the Nobel Peace Prize. But that is just how it is as a mom. You feel that exuberant no matter if the accomplishment is folding their own laundry, acing a math problem, or winning a renowned prize. I patted him on the back and gave him a new problem. He got that one right, also. He looked up at me and asked if he could be done with math for the week. I told him that I would give him one more problem and then he could be done. I gave him 4÷164 and he got it correct. Alleluia! 

As I watched him complete the last problem, I made a conscious effort to soak in the moment with him. I am not exaggerating when I say that it felt like angels flew down from the heavens when he got that final answer correct. You could see how excited he was when he looked at me and I told him he had gotten it right. There is not a better feeling than seeing your kid work hard, and get to where he needs to get. 

A few years ago, I would have been too wrapped up in work, getting the house clean, feeding the kids, etc. to be able to calm myself enough to sit down for thirty minutes and persevere through tantrums to solve math problems. But I have gotten older, read more, contemplated more, and reconstituted my priorities. And, in return, received this gift.

Soccer girl

I have loved watching Ri out on the soccer field. She had practice on Saturday morning. I was supposed to be in a meeting but I called into it instead because I wanted to watch her play. She likes being goalie (just a hunch why – less running). I think she will be really good at that position because she’s not scared of the ball and she’s strong. She did really good at practice.
The girls had their first game yesterday. Holy cow, I was so nervous for her. She’s never played soccer in her life and had only had three practices. I didn’t want her to get in the game and get discouraged if she missed a ball in goal or didn’t kick the ball well down the field. Mama Bear.
She didn’t go in at the start. One of her friends, Gabby, started in goalie. Gabby’s been playing for three years. She knows where to position herself and how to kick the ball to one of our players. She stopped some good kicks. The other team had some tall girls on it. Two in particular barreled down the field most of the game. We played a lot of defense.
Ri got put in for the second twelve minutes of the quarter. I paced up and down the line with my mom who was just as nervous. Jon was able to stay quietly in his seat. How?! The play started and the two tall girls flew toward Ri. There was a mass of our defenders tangling with the girls. Ri didn’t quite know where to place herself. She stood ten feet from the goal post trying to help the defenders when one of the tall girls broke free and kicked it into the goal. My heart sank. My mom sighed. A few minutes later, one of the tall girls sank another one in the net – this time Ri was there but it was hit hard. I cringed. My mom cried “oh no.” Ri looked upset. She wouldn’t respond when I cheered for her.
She made it through the twelve minutes and walked off the field as the whistle blew. She wouldn’t look at me.
You listen here. You tried your hardest out there. This was your first time as goalie and you didn’t give up! You need to be proud of yourself and tell yourself you did your best. You hear me?”
She nodded. Another mom came up to her and said nearly the same thing. She smiled. She went in two more times as goalie without flinching at the thought. A few went by her but she also snagged a few. And she had some strong kicks from the goal to her teammates. All my nails were bitten to the core when the final whistle blew but I survived. And Ri flourished.
She walked away with a smile on her face (the post-game snack and the camaraderie of her friends helped, I’m sure). I was so proud of her for not giving up and not freaking out. She could have easily cried out on the field when the second goal was scored on her but she shook it off and kept playing. And she could have refused to play goalie again. But she continued.
On the way home, I told her again and again how much I admired her determination and perseverance. I was so proud of her. She nodded and looked out the window of the car but I know she heard me.
It is such a joy to be her mom.




Weekend bliss

This weekend rocked on so many levels – the weather was incredible at a mild 72 degrees; the kids were in great moods; I didn’t get bombarded with work calls….

When I came home on Friday, Ri and Mario were hiding in the trees with their walkie talkies. I saw Mario but didn’t dare tell him I did or he would have been so upset. He loves thinking that he’s getting one over on us. Both of them were in camo – Maria was wearing Mario’s 4T jacket and shorts – and rockin’ them out!

On Saturday, we cranked out some house cleaning due to the incessant rain. Ri cleaned the top of the fridge and Mario cleaned the floor (he stopped prematurely because Dragonvale kept calling out to him). Ri hung in with me though – we can count on her to help clean anywhere but her own room.

The rain let up in the late afternoon and the kids and I took a walk up to Lazy Days festival at the library. I was a sucker and let them each buy a hand-made stuffed animal from a local vendor, Cherrie. I justified the purchase by telling myself that I’m supporting local business – I was secretly hoping that one of the kids would get the pig with a tutu but they chose the alligator and owl. She had the cutest animals ever.

Ri had to get her shaved ice drink with apple and lemon-lime flavors. She loves those things.

We got home and played Candy Land. Mario opted to continue his Dragonvale game on my phone so Ri and I played together. Ri has gotten a bit of a competitive streak since playing softball so when I took the lead by picking up the Ice Cream Princess and she got pushed back to near the start of the game by picking up the gingerbread man, I knew there was trouble. She threw our plastic men and the cards and cried “I can’t I believe I’m going to lose to my mom! I can’t even beat an old person!”

Mario cocked his head at me and quipped “She sure has some emotions!” That added fuel to the fire.

After she calmed down, we took a bike ride to the park. Ri loves when I rode my bike with her rather than run so Mario hopped on my bike in the “baby” seat he can still fit into and we were off. We zoomed down two hills and therefore, had to go up two of them. Ri was a trooper pushing her bike up. At the park, Mario wanted to try the monkey bars. He got across three bars and fell. Determined, he tried again. And made it. He was charged up.

I cheered him on but knew in the back of my head the entire time that Ri was gonna be upset if she couldn’t do it. Sure enough, she tried over and over but couldn’t get across. I told her that I could never do it as a kid either and there were lots of kids that couldn’t do it. Nothing helped. Mario tried to help by detailing every step he took to go across the bars. That really didn’t help. Ri stomped off and got on her bike to leave. We joined her and I continued to tell her that she was wonderful at other things. Mario chimed in with the sweetest little attribute: “Ri, I’m so scared to go off the high dive and you do it without being scared at all!” What a doll. Those moments seal the deal as to why we chose to have two kids. Ri smiled and kissed his cheek (Maria style which means she smashed her lips into the side of his face).

This morning, Mario got up for a run at 7:10. He got into bed with me in his t-shirt and shorts and whispered “I’m going for a run.” I heard the door open and knew he was off. Jon and I stood outside and watched him run all the way to the end of the street. He wants to sweat so much that he has “big sweat balls” dripping from his face, he tells us. My boy.
Ri took a four mile bike ride with me to Stauf’s and Giant Eagle. Her butt killed when we got home.

I made the kids play outside while I mowed the grass and picked weeds. Mario played like he was all alone in the woods and had to build his own fire to survive. Ri kept begging to play with him but he refused so Jon helped Ri find her own hiding spot, which of course spiked Mario’s interest. He wanted one, too. Before I knew it, there was silence for a while. I came around the corner and found them in their own secret spaces – Mario on his phone and Ri reading US Weekly that she had begged for at the store.

Pure bliss.