Get A Grip: 'Preschool I'm ready for but Mom? '

"You did what?!"

The husband looked slightly alarmed at the news.

"I enrolled Sophie in pre-school," I repeated.

Sophie bounced in her seat, holding two crayons.

I picked another one off the table and handed it to her.

"I have three colors!" she enthused.

"Merci." She resumed her careful scribbling on the restaurant place mat.

"Do you think she's ready?" asked the dubious husband.

I tried not to laugh.

"Yes, dear, I think she's ready, although you may not be."

As she approaches her third birthday I'm trying to make sure Sophie is getting the tools she needs to be happy and successful in life.

I'm also trying not to be a pushy, achievement-obsessed parent.

These are not simple things to balance but I'm certain that it's possible to be intelligent and have fun.

At this stage, the balancing act involves things like putting her in a big bubble bath and reading poetry aloud while she splashes around.

I don't make her sit still and listen (yet) but in this manner she has already heard many of Shakespeare's sonnets and verses by poets from Milton to Millay.

I'm also certain that Sophie is ready for some structured learning.

But my amusement at my husband's consternation the other night was short-lived.

Home again after a dinner out, Sophie asked me for apple juice.

Her request stopped me in my tracks.

"I want some apple juice, Mom," she said following me into the kitchen.

I spun around.

"What did you say?!"

"Pleeeeease," she drew out the word.

"No.

I mean what did you call me?"

"Mom."

Yikes! I'm not ready to be Mom.

I'm not ready to transform from Mommy to Mom.

Preschool I'm ready for but Mom? The word seems too grown up for my baby girl.

I still want to be Mommy.

Of course I know that I'll always be Mommy.

My brother-in-law and I discussed this the other night.

Even as adults, when the going gets tough forget calling for Mom, we want Mommy.

Sophie's growing up also means that this year, for the first time, she is beginning to have an awareness of Christmas.

I'm considering this a trade-off for my becoming Mom (at least part-time).

Watching her eyes light up at the sight of Christmas decorations and hearing her exclaim 'It's Mrs.

Claus Time!' whenever we hear Christmas music, adds a new joy to the season.

Despite corrections she identifies images of Santa Claus as 'Mrs.

Claus.' When I ask her what she wants Santa to bring her, her standard response is 'presents.'

For years I've watched with disdain while parents go out and buy their kids every toy in the store.

I think to myself that these parents are spoiling their children and fueling a materialistic society.

But last weekend I found myself fighting the urge to buy my little girl every toy in the store as I shopped for Christmas presents.

She'd love this and this and this and this, I thought to myself as my arms overflowed with potential gifts.

Then I caught sight of myself in the store window.

Yikes! I'm one of them.

I'm a child-spoiler.

I put down the armload, culled the pile and checked out.

I've come to the conclusion that parenting is like trying to stand steady on the back of a bucking bull while juggling knives.

There is no way to do this without falling down and getting cut a few times.

But the ride sure is a kick.

Especially around Mrs.

Claus time.

***

Speaking of Mrs.

Claus time, I've been thinking about traditions and about passing them along to my daughter.

Our traditions, old and new, ground us and give us reference for our lives – whether we know it or not.

I recall a story I heard hears ago about a new bride.

Excited to fix her husband a special holiday meal, she bought a ham.

Before cooking it she cut it in half and arranged the pieces side-by-side in a pan and put them in the oven.

Observing her actions, her husband asked her why she cut the ham, if that helped it to cook better.

She thought for a moment.

"I don't know," she said.

"That's just the way I know to do it.

It's how my mom cooks ham."

Curious, she called her mother and asked why it was necessary to cut the ham in half.

Her mother was quiet for a moment.

"I don't know," she said finally.

"That's just the way I know to do it.

It's how my mom cooks ham."

And so she called her mother.

"Mom, why do you have to cut a ham in half to cook it?"

Her mother started laughing.

"Oh, honey," she said.

"I had to do that when you were growing up because our oven was too small to fit an intact ham."