First Grade and Pre-K

September 11, 2011

In the Seattle school district, the Wednesday after Labor Day is The First Day of School.  So we had a big day in the Dana Treat household last week.  Graham had his first day of school in his new school (1st grade!) and Spencer moved up from the Orange Room to the Yellow Room at preschool.  The Yellow Room is pre-K, the room with the biggest kids.  How it came to be that my baby is in that room, I can’t really explain.

Emotionally, I’m a bit all over the place.  I don’t feel the crushing nostalgia that hit me last year at this time.  I feel thrilled about Graham’s new school.  Being there for an open house last week, meeting some parents and kids at a 1st grade brunch, being there on the first day as the ribbon was cut and the community was welcomed – I just feel such relief.  This is the right place for him.  He will thrive there.  I want to get involved.  I see myself making lifelong friends and really joining this community.  Why didn’t I feel that way last year at his other school?  Was I afraid that Graham would not be successful there and was I protecting myself?  If so, how selfish.  I’m not sure truthfully.

I feel glad to see Graham back in school.  We had a nice summer.  He spent a few days a week at a day camp near our house but he also got plenty of time with me and Spencer.  We had a couple of Lopez weekends and two trips involving airplanes.  I love and adore that child with all my heart but he does tire me out.  The fact that he still, at the age of 6¾, requires so much of my attention is exhausting.  I can’t just say something offhand to him, every remark, every request has to be extremely deliberate.  At school he has a lot of success.  He has many people who adore him and are cheering for him.  He will have the same resource room teacher as last year and the same beloved librarian.  I am ready to hear about how well he is doing instead of focusing on challenging he can be.  I hope that doesn’t sound too callous.  I have to add the caveat that Graham continues to be a sweet, loving, charming, sensitive child who really truly always tries his best.

My emotions about him continue to be so complicated.  I still feel that I have failed him every night when I get into bed.  I need more patience, more acceptance, more tolerance, more light-heartedness, more thankfulness, more celebration in the things that make him uniquely Graham.  I need to be easier on him, kinder to him, more generous with him.  I first wrote about these struggles years ago and I am ashamed to say that rather than improving I am worsening.  Sometimes I feel that I don’t really “get” him.  I don’t know what he is thinking or experiencing because often he can’t really tell me.  It is hard to see the world through his eyes.  But on the first day of school, I did get a glimpse.

Because it was the first day for everyone in this building, they had a photographer on hand to get a picture of all the kids.  The parents stepped away for a few moments as the photographer clicked away, hanging out an upstairs window.  Before we knew it, the ribbon was cut and there was a bit of a crush as all the kids, parents, and teachers went up the steps and through the doors.  I hurried over to find Graham and saw him a few paces ahead of me and his body language (shoulders rounded, head down) told me that he was trying to hold it together.  I pushed past a few small people, touched him, said his name, and he spun around with a look of terror on his face.  Once he saw it was me, he burst into tears and wailed, “I don’t know who my teacher is!”  Oh my.  Of course.  Here we are, walking into a building that he has only seen once before, to a classroom he has only seen once before, to see his teacher who he has only met once before.  Overwhelming for really any young child but particularly one who doesn’t totally understand what is going on.  This poor kid who tries so very hard but spends a good part of his day a bit confused.  He knows he is at a new school, he does not know why.  At times he embodies that saying “fake it ’til you make it”.  He smiles and charms people all the while not truly understanding what is going on.  And yet.  He thrives in school.  He is learning at a pace similar to his typically developing peers.  He does not have any behavioral problems.  He eats and sleeps well and is nice to his brother.  Sometimes being a mother is a bit bewildering.

This post is not about me but I do have to say a word about my hair.  I’ve stopped coloring it.  I am not sure how I feel about it.  As it was starting to grow out, I even considered writing a post called “Gray – No or Yay” but that seemed a little vain.  My mom has the most gorgeous all-silver hair and while I know I am far from that, it seems to be the path I am taking.  Randy loves it, my family loves it, I think my friends are puzzled by it.  I’m on the fence but I don’t miss paying a fortune to sit with chemicals on my head every six weeks.  Thoughts?



  1. I love these photos – Spencer is such a little ham! Did Graham have a good first day? I can imagine the drop off was more traumatic for you and Randy then for Graham.

    Re the hair, I love that you aren’t coloring it! I’ve always thought that because so many people color their hair now, my generation probably won’t even know when we’re going gray b/c we’re already dying it. I think your hair looks unique and awesome!

    Comment by Maris — September 11, 2011 @ 4:35 pm

  2. oh dana. how absolutely sweet.
    whole foods has some really good hair colors that aren’t all crap filled and chemical burn. they weren’t that bad really.

    Comment by vanillasugarblog — September 11, 2011 @ 4:41 pm

  3. Your boys are adorable! I love first day of school photos! In fact, my youngest daughter knows I love them so much she had her boyfriend take a photo of her last week…on her first day of graduate school! I’m still waiting to see the photo…

    On gray hair…your hair looks great! I’ve just about decided to quit coloring mine.

    Comment by Kath — September 11, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

  4. Adorable pictures! 1st grade is such a big step.
    I love your hair. In the end, you have to be happy with it and yourself.

    Comment by Annika — September 11, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

  5. Love this post, and appreciate your honesty. And I LOVE your hair…I stopped coloring my hair 6 years ago and am happy with the way it looks (so far)! All the best to your beautiful boys as they start another school year.

    Comment by Liz — September 11, 2011 @ 7:07 pm

  6. It’s funny, before reading the post I noticed the photo of you with salt & pepper and I said how much I liked it! Then I read the entire post! You look beautiful, and you are doing a great job. The boys are loved and adorable. Keep up the good work!

    Comment by stacey snacks — September 11, 2011 @ 7:07 pm

  7. Dana-
    I think your hair looks fabulous!

    Comment by Suzanne — September 11, 2011 @ 7:16 pm

  8. You wear the grays very well. You also have an amazing cut!

    Comment by Libby — September 11, 2011 @ 7:40 pm

  9. I believe all Mothers feel exactly the same way you do whether their children have special needs or not. We all feel inadequate, impatient, unorganized, etc. at times. I think you are a wonderful mother and definitely doing the best you can. Try to focus on your successes and learn from your mistakes. Just because it’s hard or unpleasant doesn’t mean that it’s not worthwhile.

    My thoughts on your hair… I believe gray hair makes women look older than they are. Keep coloring!

    Comment by Shawnee F — September 11, 2011 @ 7:48 pm

  10. fantastic shots- if you are worried about chemicals- do it the chem free way. I agree gray hair makes a person look older, but if you don’t care it’s your choice and no one else.

    Comment by Lynnette — September 11, 2011 @ 9:01 pm

  11. Dana,
    I have no words to describe how it felt reading this post.. It is so honest, so full of love . I think all mothers
    Can agree on not feeling we are doing our best at all times, but you know what?
    I think we are not doing bad at all. We are human beings in love with our
    children , and loosing our patience here and there, is part of it..
    Just looking at the pictures of your boys , I can see happines spelled
    all over it. You have a beautiful family and… You are absolutely rocking
    The hair. I Love it .

    Comment by Diala — September 11, 2011 @ 9:52 pm

  12. dana i realized that my comment might have meant you should color your hair.
    none such!
    i just wanted you to know that there are safer ways out there; ones that I use because I hate the traditional hair colors they burn me.
    you have the face for salt & pepper, should that be your route.
    but i think you know what i was trying to say, so i’ll hush now. lol

    Comment by vanillasugarblog — September 11, 2011 @ 10:20 pm

  13. I am so glad to hear that Graham and you guys are loving the new school! I was worried because I know how hard change can be for ANY kid, but I am so happy for the update! Also, don’t be so hard on yourself. I know YOU and I know that you are doing everything you can for Graham, while still maintaining your sanity. Even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

    I really love the hair. You are so adorable that you’ll look fabulous no matter what color it is. And you’ve totally got the spunk to pull of that all-silver look, which I really love, actually.

    Comment by Joanne — September 12, 2011 @ 12:02 am

  14. Your hair is wonderful, you can always color it again if you change your mind…the boys are darling!

    Comment by jenna — September 12, 2011 @ 12:08 am

  15. Your boys are so cute. I like hearing your honesty as a mother. I don’t have kids yet, but I feel there’s such pressure to not have the feelings you’ve expressed hear. The fact that you’ve acknowledged them surely means you are a wonderful mother.

    And I personally love seeing women who rock beautiful white/silver hair! I only hope I inherit that kind instead of salt n pepper.

    Comment by Jacqui — September 12, 2011 @ 1:32 am

  16. Dana,
    I love your post and I love your hair! Hooray for no more chemicals!

    Comment by Courtney H — September 12, 2011 @ 1:39 am

  17. You look fabulous, darling! Where did Graham end up? Love your way with words. It is complicated, isn’t it?

    Comment by Brooke — September 12, 2011 @ 2:06 am

  18. So I have thoughts about boys and motherhood swimming in my head and what I’m going to tell you is – yay on the hair. It looks wonderful. (I may be biased, I’m growing out mine as well).

    Great shots of your boys and their first day of school – this week was our boy’s first day of K. I can’t know what you struggle with with Graham and what he does and doesn’t understand but I find myself nodding at so much of what you say – so many times I’m confounded by my child and I ask myself “who is this boy” – I know I need to be more patient, understanding and loving. You are so right – motherhood is bewildering.

    Comment by Charlotte — September 12, 2011 @ 2:35 am

  19. Your gray hair is a lovely shade of silver and it looks striking with the darker hair. I’ve always thought that with the right coloring gray can be beautiful, and it looks like you have it! Graham will thrive in the new school with his sweet attitude and your support it is only up from here. Being a mom is the hardest job I’ve ever encountered. There are no easy days, but boy is the love you get in return ever worth it.

    Comment by Phoo-d — September 12, 2011 @ 3:09 am

  20. This is my first time commenting on your blog (pretty sure, anyway!)…and I just have to say that this post is the reason I read blogs. I love when people reveal themselves like you do here…, hair and otherwise. Of course, I found you because of the food, but it is the realness that comes through that makes me come back. :-)

    Comment by Jora — September 12, 2011 @ 3:39 am

  21. i am also a first time commenter on your blog, but a long-time avid reader and enthusiast of your wonderful cooking!!

    i really appreciate and empathize with this post – i am an older sister to a special needs brother, who is 15 this year and starting high school. it has been and continues to be a journey – a hard, inspiring, tiring, and rewarding one! my only advice is to be gentle and understanding to yourself. you are doing an amazing job, and your sons could not be luckier :)

    and the hair looks wonderful!

    Comment by Priya — September 12, 2011 @ 4:37 am

  22. swear, before i even read your paragraph about the hair, the second i saw the pic, I thought, I love it!! You can rock it, Dana, do it!
    You are so honest and vulnerable. I wish I could just sit in your kitchen and chat with you, I SO appreciate someone who has the humility to say “I am getting worse at something”. I think the fact that we can recognize it if more than half the battle. Good luck to Graham and Spencer as school gets going, and to you for doing your best with all of it.

    Comment by sara — September 12, 2011 @ 4:59 am

  23. Oh Dana… so many things to say!

    1. Spencer looks exactly like you in that first picture. So adorable!

    2. Thank you for such a vulnerable, honest account of motherhood and life. It is a breath of fresh air.

    3. Your kids are darling, polite, charming and all around great. And that means they have one fantastic mother!

    4. Your hair? You’re gorgeous! Any which way you do it. I say rock the gray and spend the time and money that you would have been coloring every six weeks on something to pamper yourself…you know, pedicures, burrata, whatevs :)

    Comment by Melinda — September 12, 2011 @ 9:03 am

  24. Dana, you are lovely and your boys are wonderful. My two hooligans just went to school (PreK and first like yours) and I’ve been experiencing nostalgia mixed with excitement over their broadening horizons. I too share your concerns about doing the “right thing” all the time, every time, for our kids. We all do our best. And from reading your blog, I know your best is pretty darn good.

    Comment by Tori — September 12, 2011 @ 11:41 am

  25. Beautiful post! As someone who’d like to be a mom soon it’s encouraging and helpful to read an open and transparent account of the journey. You’re beautiful and I think your natural hair will be stunning!

    Comment by Emily — September 12, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

  26. Dana- I don’t have children, and so at first I felt like I shouldn’t comment, as I wasn’t sure I could contribute something meaningful. But I so enjoyed this post, and wanted to tell you that I really enjoy reading these types of more personal posts that you do from time to time. And while I don’t have children, I think the way you’re handling this situation is wonderful. One of the things I love most about the blogging community is our ability to openly share the tough situations in our lives. I did something like this just last week and found it to be so uplifting. I hope this does the same for you. To me, it seems your handling the situation with Graham beautifully, but I know our internal critic is always the biggest voice.

    And lastly, I love the hair! You look absolutely gorgeous.

    Comment by Clara — September 12, 2011 @ 4:16 pm

  27. Dana – I read everyday but this one really got to me. Yep, yep, yep – I know exactly how you feel. I want more fun, more love, and more patience with my son too but often feel like I just don’t understand him. It’s a guilty-ridden situation. Some days I have a handle on it, many more days I don’t. There’s a lot of exhaustion there and not a lot of left over emotional energy for others in the family. Hang in there – you are clearly doing an amazing job.

    Comment by Katie — September 12, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

  28. What a beautiful post … as someone who’s celebrating my 4-year old’s birthday this week, I know I’m a step away from pre-K, 1st grade. It’s so bittersweet isn’t it? Knowing that they like this time away from you, knowing you yourself like this time too – but still feeling guilt. Thank you for sharing.

    And your hair looks lovely! I love the silver look … hope my hair goes that way sometime. When my hair grew back after chemo I decided I wasn’t going to dye it anymore. No more $140 toxic-chemical treatments. I pledged to spend my newfound money on massages instead! :)

    Comment by Amanda@EasyPeasyOrganic — September 12, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

  29. Dana – I really enjoyed reading about your kids. I love the pictures of your boys – so adorable. I have two boys too, but my boys are both in their early 20’s now. I’m sure that you are doing just great as a mom!!! It’s hard not to have doubts though. And by the way, your hair looks fabulous. Not everybody looks good with gray, but it looks good on you.

    Comment by Elli — September 12, 2011 @ 7:35 pm

  30. I don’t have much to say except that you are beautiful, inside and out (truly!), and I really appreciate this glimpse into your life and the honest and humble voice that you wrote this post with!

    Comment by natalie (the sweets life) — September 12, 2011 @ 8:23 pm

  31. Dana, thank you so much for sharing your life and journey through motherhood. My 3 year old just started pre-school today and I can relate to the feeling of getting a little break from her intensity while she is away on monday, wednesday, friday mornings- all the same I spend almost the whole three hours worrying about how she is doing and missing her. Oh and I love your natural hair, it really looks very elegant!

    Comment by Emily — September 12, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

  32. Keep the silver hair. You’re beautiful and it looks great. It’s all about attitude.

    Comment by Mia D. — September 12, 2011 @ 10:05 pm

  33. Hey Dana,
    Thank you for sharing so openly with all of us. You are very honest, humble, and brave – such amazing qualities. You are not alone – being a parent is the hardest job I’ve ever had – there are days that I cannot imagine my life any other way – and there are other days where I can’t believe how hard it is and I struggle.

    I love your gray hair. I think it’s very becoming on you. I keep toying with the idea of letting my gray hair go b/c I am so sick of coloring it (time, money, chemicals) and I think if more women went au naturel… it would be more accepted and we wouldn’t be thought of as “looking older”. You go girl!

    Comment by angie — September 12, 2011 @ 10:39 pm

  34. I love your hair. I noticed at the Spinasse lunch. I remember thinking “has she always had some gray? has it really been THAT long since I last saw her? Is being a momma really THAT stressful? (not really that last one). Mostly I thought “I really like it”
    i think you are a very thoughtful momma. Just the fact that you ask the questions means doing a great job. No one has all the answers (not even mommas).

    Comment by eM — September 13, 2011 @ 5:45 am

  35. Whats wrong with looking older. If we are blessed to be alive we are all getting older. Embrace it and always love yourself and find your joy. That all happens on the inside. I am growing out my own hair color and it is sprinkled with shiny gray. I am loving it.I am sick of this age hating, celebrity worshiping society we live in.Embrace !

    Comment by Cherie — September 13, 2011 @ 4:43 pm

  36. Oh Dana, my heart goes out to you! Your honesty is overwhelming. I hope you find a bit of peace because I guarantee you those boys have the best mother around!

    Comment by fresh365 — September 13, 2011 @ 9:05 pm

  37. Hi Dana, I wanted to let you know how much I loved this post. I don’t have any kids…but your words still resonate, and your honesty really affected me. Thanks for sharing it! P.s. I read and borrow recipes from your blog all the time. I love it! And, please tell Randy I say “hi!” (in case you don’t remember me, he and I used to work together at MSFT and AveA). Best, Bo

    Comment by Bo — September 14, 2011 @ 2:00 am

  38. I remember your post regarding Graham and school last year. It’s awesome to feel confident that your child can succeed at school. I’m glad you found a great fit! As for your hair, I think you’re absolutely stunning, so I think you can definitely go without the chemicals :)

    Comment by Monique — September 14, 2011 @ 7:13 pm

  39. I love your boys, Dana. They are so very very sweet. You know I think you’re a pretty amazing mother. This was so incredibly touching and it says so much about how hard you try and how hard Spencer is trying. Love it. BTW, you look incredible without coloring your hair. I think you’re beautiful in ways that cosmetics, coloring, and other stuff just can’t improve upon :) xo

    Comment by Jen Yu — September 14, 2011 @ 8:05 pm

  40. Sorry – I meant Graham! I had Spencer’s name in my head because Jeremy and I were laughing about how Spencer sneezed on the bread tray ;) Too funny. xo

    Comment by Jen Yu — September 15, 2011 @ 6:32 am

  41. I thought the same when I had some dignified shades of gray in my hair. But it went from that to all-white pretty quickly. Now I am not so thrilled. It ages you, no question. I have to figure out what I’m going to do, because my hair reached a point that graying (whiting?) hair often does: the small overlapping plates that actually make up a strand of hair get tighter and slicker on gray hair. They won’t lift up to allow dye to penetrate. So dyes stopped working. There are products to pre-aply that loosen the plates to allow dyes to penetrate, but my tries with them were totally unsuccessful. So I have tried going all gray, but I don’t like it. I am still trying to think about what to do, and so I have no advice to give. Just that I loved the stage you are at now, and some while after that, but the end stage not so much.

    Comment by Kathy — September 16, 2011 @ 6:37 pm

  42. I’m not surprised Graham felt a little overwhelmed. I still remember feeling overwhelmed on my first morning of grade one! I hope he will thrive at his new school.

    The first thing I thought when I saw that photo was, “OMG Dana has grey hair. She looks HOT!” Grey – yay!

    Comment by Hilary — September 17, 2011 @ 12:12 pm

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