For years whenever I pictured Julian starting kindergarten I imagined myself sitting outside the room sobbing. However as the start of kindergarten drew closer I began to lose that vision. He is just so capable and so ready to learn. Plus, as much as I loved the adorable toddler he was I love the boy he now is and how our family spends its time as he grows up. I realized soon after he was born that a family moves at the pace of the baby. When he was done with napping, we could spend the whole day away from home, when he had the patience for a new activity our whole family could take part. Plus, watching out for a toddler who is obsessed with electricity and wires was never a relaxing job. Somehow when I thought of him starting kindergarten I never imagined Julian being anything but ready, even when I was staking out where I should collapse in tears.
On the first day of school when I picked him up another parent asked him how his first day was. Julian stuck his hand in the air like he was in Saturday Night Fever and said, "Awesome!" However 2 days later morning drop off was no longer awesome and then it got worse. I began to joke about looking for someone, anyone, who was not me, to take him to school.
On Friday morning I stood outside the school holding Julian in my arms with his whole body collapsed against mine as he cried. I was pretty easy to spot, I was the mother standing there crying with her child in her arms as he sobbed. I have done the tough drop offs before with my children but somehow this felt different. He was just so wretched, not yet ready to trust his teachers and start his day without me. Holding him as we cried and then having to peel him of of me and unwind his hands from my purse straps (my children are strong willed and crafty).
Until Julian sobbed in my arms before his school day I never before understood the Elizabeth Stone quote, "Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." Until I stood there crying with Julian I never fully felt I had to let my heart walk away from me. I love my children and I think about them whenever they are not with me. However as I stood there crying with him I understood more of what my children mean to me and how I share their emotions.
I didn't know what was wrong, or how to help him. I suspected that he just needed to learn to love and trust the adults he is with every day and then he would be comfortable with this completely new situation. Julian makes strong attachments, collecting people he loves and trusts and feels safe being his outgoing and strong willed self with. All that would take time and more tears. More tears that I suspect will finally give me all the grey hairs I really should have at forty.
On Friday, a school holiday, I spent much of the day e-mailing with his teacher how to make his transition better. I wrote to her of Julian and his 3 years of expecting to have Sebastian's kindergarten teacher himself (a teacher who is currently teaching second grade), how he has never gone into a new situation without already knowing and being attached to the adults. How he needs to remember all the adults and children in his school building that he loves and trusts. His teacher had some suggestions of things we could do to make his transition better, although I think many of her suggestions were to make me comfortable walking away as he cries. She had some folks she thought might be able to help brainstorm solutions, although confidentiality was an issue. I wonder how this blog post affects all of that?
In the midst of this emotional e-mailing (because I spent the day crying as I read about his troubles and brainstormed what he needs) I began to think of baking something that would help. Whether I was thinking of a baked good to drown my sorrows or one that I could pack in Julian's lunches like a piece of my heart I don't know. I was looking for a cookie that had whole grains and chocolate and maybe some fruit. I found these triple chocolate cranberry cookies, definitely something to savor.
This morning I was able to leave without any tears from either of us. Maybe it was the cookies, that and the fact Julian now loves and trusts his teacher. To help build on that love I brought in more cookies to pick up, one for Julian and one for him to give to his teacher and student teacher. Julian really enjoyed giving a cookie to his teachers, a way to make him more connected to her (or maybe her to him, after all these are not your average cookie). As we prepared dinner together Julian told me he loves me and I asked if he loves his teacher. He said, "Yes, I just had to get to know her first." At dinner when Lewis asked how drop off was Julian replied, "It was fine, I love my teacher now."
Tripel Chocolate Cranberry Cookies
Adapted from Bon Appetite
10 Tbsp (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup barley flakes (or use all rolled oats, I was just playing with multi grains)
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chunks (or use high quality semi sweet chocolate chips)
1/2 cup white chocolate chunks (or use high quality white chocolate chips)
1/2 cup milk chocolate chunks (or use high quality milk chocolate chips)
1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen unsweetened cranberries
Place racks in the center of the oven and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. If using convection preheat your oven to 300°, if not using convection preheat the oven to 350°
Beat the butter and 2 types of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer using the flat beater blade or in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in the egg, vanilla and salt. Add both flours and the oats and barley flakes and stir until fully blended. Add the chocolate chips and cranberries and stir until they are equally distributed.
Scoop out the dough by rounded Tbsp, I use a dough scoop because I hate trying to wrestle dough out of the spoon, leaving 2 inches between cookies. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven, if using convection you can bake multiple trays at once, otherwise bake one tray at a time, until the edges are golden brown (approximately 16 minutes). Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling racks to finish cooling. They become better after a few days.