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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Bits and pieces

I’ve been very busy with the kids home the last week, plus the monster head cold (almost gone!). I keep starting stuff. These are my bits:

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Earlier today, I headed down to the kitchen, and as I walked down the hall, I heard a heavy thump-thump sound I could not identify until I could actually see the cause. It was Boo, my petite little 6-year-old. She was making running leaps at the fridge, and the double thump sound I heard was both feet hitting that fridge at the same time. It’s better than what she last used the fridge for, when she took to opening the freezer door so she could hang on and climb the fridge with her feet. I am sure it is only due to her tinyness that the freezer door is still on.

She also climbs the pantry doors, slides down the banister, climbs up stairs on the outside of the banister rails, leaps off the top of her bunk bed to the floor like a chimpanzee from a tree … I really never thought I’d have to use the phrase, “Our house is not a jungle gym,” as many times as I have.

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Boo is 6.5 years old, and to her enormous frustration, she hasn’t lost a single tooth. Four of her teeth have been loose for ages, longer than a year, even. Today, she asked me to wiggle them for the thousandth time and I had a sudden flash of memory of Asher’s reticent bottom teeth.  I felt her gums and, sure enough, I found her first two adult bottom teeth, almost broken through the skin behind her baby teeth. Shark child, V2. The baby ones are loose, but still a long way from coming out.

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Maya’s bat mitzvah is charging towards us at the speed of a locomotive and we are actually getting ready for it. I took her looking for dresses and she found something she liked fairly quickly and with a minimum of pain on everyone’s part. Rsvps are coming in, food is being organized. We are both practicing our Torah portions with renewed zeal as the date approaches. She has a great deal to practice. I have 8 lines. It is remarkable how much faster her young and flexible brain picks this stuff up. I have every faith in her ability to be ready in time; not as much in my own.

Every time I hear her practicing, I take a moment to be thankful for the fact that we have a kid who goes off and voluntarily practices every day, without any nagging. In fact, she nags me to practice (I need it). Then I heave a sigh, because I know that as good as we have it this time, there will be payback next time. On the other hand, at least Asher won’t have his own ideas on how the invitation should look, and colour schemes of anything. It all balances out.

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who is almost 13, at bedtime:

Me: Goodnight, honey. Sleep well.

Her: Goodnight. I love you.

Me: I love you too.

Her: And, stop being weird.

Me: Me?

Her: Yes.

Me: When was I weird?

Her: Like, all the time.

Alrighty then. I just added it to Monday’s to-do list: Finish video for open house at school, buy missing knitting needles, send pamphlet to printers, stop being weird all the time.

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I am starting to remember why I quit working (outside the house) last time.

As I mentioned before, snot is flying. I have been trapped in the house with whiny sick children since last Friday. That I could handle (sort of), but I still have work to do. No problem – I work from home part of the time so this should be easy, right? I’m all set up for it.

What I’m not set up for is trying to concentrate on work while also dealing with the whining of bored children. Today is the worst, because I have Asher and Boo and they are almost better, which mean they are more – how shall I put this? High needs. They keep taking to me and asking me for things and Boo, my beloved Boo, won’t actually shut up at all.

I’ve got two huge deadlines looming and I just need them to go away. I think  thoughts like that and then feel guilty about shuffling my kids off to the side to get work done and then – whamo! – I remember why I quit last time. I never felt like I was giving my kids proper attention and never thought I was giving work proper attention, trying to attend to both at the same time. This time, I won’t quit, because I really like the job and because by tomorrow, this dilemma will be resolved because I’m sending the rugrats back to school. When I quit last time, I had a 3-year-old and an infant, so there really wasn’t any time.

But when the kids are sick and the work still needs to get done, all those feeling come back.

Alright, Boo has stopped talking and is now gluing something to something else, and Asher is actually doing the work his teachers sent for him, so it is back to work for me!

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Mary G, over at Them’s My Sentiments, asked in her latest post:

If you were asked why you had children, if you wanted them, what would you answer? Would it be an easy answer, or a struggle like this one?

You should go over and read it yourself, if only for the adorable picture of her girls when they were wee. But for those of you who don’t, her basic point is that she just kind of fell into it, because that is just what you did back then – get married, have kids, get a house, etc. She was never into babies, but is delighted to have survived that stage, because she quite liked the children they grew into.

I have met a lot of women who admit that they never much liked the baby stage and much preferred their children once they started to become their own little people. I’ve met enough of them to no longer be surprised, but I used to be surprised because I am the complete opposite. I loved babies from when I was a kid myself. I couldn’t wait to be old enough to babysit so I could get my hands on squishy, delicious babies.

Loved the babies. Didn’t so much like their older siblings. I found little kids to be mostly boring. Bigger ones were annoying. Babies never ever intentionally annoyed you. Of course they did lots of annoying things unintentionally, but it was the intention that really made me crazy, so I never got irritated with a baby, even though ones who cried for hours.

When I was only just 15 years old, I babysat a little guy who was about 8 months old for a weekend. They were right across from our house and my brother, a year younger, co-babysat. He played with the 4-year-old. The baby cried for about the first 4 hours, then clearly made up his mind that his parents had abandonded him forever and I was his new mommy, and this one wasn’t getting away so easily. I wasn’t allowed to put him down to pee with protesting wails (good practice for having Asher, turns out). He wouldn’t go to sleep for hours past his ‘bedtime’ and woke me up at about 5:30 am. He tossed me into the deep end of the baby pool and I adored him. He was delicous. (And I still remember the look of utter shock on his face when his parents walked in the door.)

So it is safe to say that I wanted a baby. I really, really wanted a baby, although I was a responsible human being and waited until the time was right. I did assume – hoped, really – that I wouldn’t find my own child quite so boring once s/he got past infancy as I’d found the kids I babysat. I didn’t find Maya boring (although endless Franklin books and pretending to lose at the game of Sorry has frequently worn on my nerves), but I did find her more of a challenge to parent as she grew. Infancy I knew how to handle, even when the infant was colicky. Past that point, I have wished quite frequently that I hadn’t lost the manuals they must have come with.

Now I have no more babies. I adored my babies and, while I do not want any more, I do admit to missing my kids’ babyhoods, when parenting was easy and they loved me more than anything and they mostly smelled really, really good and were squishy and huggable rather than all elbows and knees, and they were so much more easy to understand.

But, thankfully, it turns out that I really like these kids I ended up with in my quest for babies. They are very funny and remarkably smart and always surprising. Turns out I’m pretty glad I had children, not just the babies I wanted.

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What did we do with all our time, back when we only had one child?

Oh yes, now I remember. She was extraordinarily demanding.

Maya and Asher are off to sleep-over camp for 12 days and 3 weeks respectively. I’m a little worried about Asher, who sometimes perceives the world differently than his peers. I really, really, really hope he has a good time, because if he doesn’t, I’ll probably never get him to leave home ever again. This is his first year at camp. Can you tell?

So Boo is having a brief stint as an only child and she’s actually being pretty darn demanding herself. Mostly, she just talks incessantly, which is really nothing new for her. The new thing is that I actually have to do stuff for her, like feed her or help her reach something or play Old Maid. We are both used to having her siblings do all that. When I offered to play a game with her today, she said, “But it’s boooorrring playing with you!” That’s the difference between first and third child. I’m convinced that Boo and Maya are exactly the same child, the only difference being that they were born into different family positions. For Maya, there is nothing better than doing whatever she wants to do with me. Her siblings are a distant, distant second.

So, I figure that in theory I should spend next week engaging in some serious mother/daughter bonding time, since Boo rarely gets that, but instead, I signed her up for day camp. I listened to her alternatively yammer on at me and complain about how bored she was, coming up with names of playmates that stretched back two years that she begged me to call for her to play with (and, it appears, ever damn one of them is on vacation or in camp themselves) and decided that it would be best for our relationship if she had what one friend of mine kindly called ‘structured playtime.’ (She told me she signed her twins up for camp because she believed they needed some structured playtime, rather than just saying that they were driving her nuts and she needed them gone for a while.)

So I signed her up for a swim camp and told her, prepared to have to sell it to her a bit, but there was no need. She is delighted. Thrilled. Happy, happy, happy. Can’t week for this week to be over already. That certainly takes some of the mother guilt out of it. Actually, there was only a smidgen of guilt there anyway, so now it is gone. And everyone gets to be happy, happy, happy. Including, pleasepleaseplease, Asher.

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I confess that for years, I’ve been dreading Maya’s bat mitzvah. They are such huge deals and it all seems so overwhelming to handle. Maybe it is because I converted and therefore never went through one of my own (or, more likely for my generation, watched my brothers go through bar mitzvahs), but I’m not sure that is all, because J is pretty much terrified too.

Her bat mitzvah date is April of 2009 – a year and a half away. I thought that was enough time to keep my fingers in my ears and loudly and tunelessly sing, “Lalalala, I can’t hear you” for a while longer, but apparently not. A few days ago, a friend whose kid is having her bat mitzvah about the same time asked me if I’d signed Maya up for her class at shul yet, and was I going to the meeting? Huh? I knew nothing. J knew nothing.

So I called the synagogue, where the nice secretary peppered me with questions – how much is she going to read? Are we having our evening even at the synagogue? Are we having the lunch kiddish there? Will we be doing a Friday night thing, or Saturday morning thing? I dunno I dunno I dunno.

So I went to the meeting, where I was happy to see I wasn’t the only perplexed parent there. I realized that it was in fact high time Maya start the classes, as apparently they are supposed to take them for 1.5 to 2 years. I can’t figure out what it is going to take so long to learn, since she can already read Hebrew fluently and knows many of the prayers. As far as I can tell (but as I said, I’ve never done this before), she needs to learn the cantillation.

The Torah is a complicated thing to read. Hebrew for grown-ups doesn’t have vowels. You can put the vowels in, as they are marks that go under and over certain letters to let you know, for example, that the ‘t’ sound will be ‘ta’ or ‘to’ or ‘ti’ but after you learn how to read fluently, you drop the vowels. So no vowels in the Torah. There are lots of other little marks on the words, though. They tell the reader how that word is to be chanted. All the different marks, called trope, have their own specific tune and the kids need to learn them so they can properly chant their Torah portion.

This does strike me as nightmarishly difficult and so I do see requiring a far amount of prep time, but now I’m not so sure, since Maya came home from her first class at ‘shul school’ last week with a page of the names of all the different markings, and began singing them to me. Next!

Okay, it isn’t that simple, but she certainly is sucking up the information. At least one of us has a brain. I panicked at the meeting when I discovered that classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays only. I asked the Rabbi about tutoring as, I explained, Maya has piano on Tuesday and delivers her papers on Thursday. I know one has to make priorities, but piano is unmovable and I think having a job is very good for her. To bad. The tutors are booked solid.

Thursday seemed more flexible, but then I saw that the class was currently populated with 4 boys from her grade at school. Nuh-uh. One boy’s mom came over and told me if I put her in that class, they’d carpool her there and back. That’s very sweet, I told her, but Maya will freak if I put her in that class. But, said the mom, they are very nice boys. Nice? Nice has nothing to do with it. They have penises and nothing else matters.

I then realized that piano is only half an hour and I could race from it to the synagogue, and at least she’d be in a class full of girls, with her best friend. I signed her up. Leaving the meeting, I phoned Maya to tell her the news, as I knew she was keen on being with her friend. After I told her, she said, “Mom, my piano lesson is on Wednesdays.”

So, so not ready.

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I’ve always been quite pleased with my kids’ Halloween choices, with the exception of my fairy princess. This year, Asher is going to be a knight and Maya decided to be a clown. I found a cool knight costume at the Children’s Place. All we needed was a sword, which the Children’s Place politically correctly did not include. How long is a knight going to last without a sword, I ask you?

Maya went with something new this year, deciding to be a clown. I was delighted. That’s an easy one. Wig, make-up, goofy clown costume. Since my kids are past the days of being impressed with my no-sew homemade halloween costumes, off we went to find a clown costume at the store.

The first one we went to had no clown costumes at all. How odd that they would have run out. They had good face paint, though. The second one had a clown wig and clown nose. It also had ailses of costumes, but nary a clown in sight.

The third one had ailses and ailses of costumes. The had an entire wall of swords, so now Asher is the most dangerous knight around (when we got home, I allowed him to attack and kill all the dead plants I had yet to clear from the garden – boy heaven). They had Bratz, pumpkins, regular vampires, slut vampires, angels, bunnies, slut bunnies, knights, ninjas, Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Spongebob, an entire ailse of princess dresses of all sorts, cowboys, dogs, kittens, slut kittens, turtles, Ninja turtles …

Not one damn clown.

It seems to me that a clown costume would be very easy for them to make – two pieces of cheap colourful polyester sewn together with pompoms down the front. Maybe a ruffle. Certainly, that is easier than the slut bunny costume I saw. Why no clowns?

We did find a pair of stretchy polyester pants that I strongly suspect came from another constume, but it was alone when we found it, and they sold it to us for $3. And a hat with a flower on it. Clearly, clowns are not off the radar, what with the hat, clown nose and wig. but since when do marketers then assume people will just make the actual costume themselves, providing us with only the accessories? They make ghosts, for god’s sake, and even I can hand-make that costume.

Fortunately, with help from some internet back-up (“See, these people made it themselves and it looks cool. These people too.”), I have convinced Maya that a colourful over-sized shirt with big patches and pompoms or buttons sewn on by us will make a perfectly good clown top. But still, it means I have to go buy some cheap colourful shirt at Walmart, find or make pompoms and sew on the colourful patches. I am so past personal effort for Halloween costumes.

But, even though she’s 11.5 years old, Maya is still my baby and she doesn’t have too many Halloweens left. And she does have the good sense not to want to be a fairy princess, so I’ll do it.

I want all her Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, though.

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When I was pregnant with my children, I used to wonder if they’d have my eyes, or hair colour. It didn’t really occur to me that more than that would get passed on, which is short-sighted of me, as it all got passed on to me.

I have (among many other things) Restless Leg Syndrome. It basically means my legs twitch uncontrollably at times. Sometimes my left arm too. Annoying – sometimes very – but not life-threatening. Turns out, according to Consumer Reports, only 3% of the population have it. My mother has it too, as has one brother, so I never felt that weird.

A little while ago, I happened to be sitting with Asher as he fell asleep. He kicked his feet as he faded off, and continued to kick in his sleep for a while. He did it the next night too. I then asked him about it, why he moves his legs as he goes to sleep. He said, “I just need to move them or it feels weird.” And on it goes. I feel kind of bad about that one.

I bought a pill organizer that is comprised of 7 small containers that screw together, one on top of the next. They are all different colours and come with the days of the week on labels to place on them. As I labeled them, I commented on my irritation that they didn’t have the right colours for me to use. “I need a brown for Monday,” I said, mostly to myself.

Another quirk – I have a form of synesthesia called grapheme, wherein you experience the days of the week and, for some people, the months of the year, as having an inherent colour. In my case, Monday is brown. Tuesday is blue. Wednesday is yellow. And so on.

I had no idea everyone didn’t have this until I read an article on it somewhere. I asked my family about it and they all made it clear they thought I was insane, then tried to trip me up by asking me at different times what colour various days of the week were, to see if the colours changed.

So I was kind of delighted when, after I commented on Monday being brown, Maya said, “Monday isn’t brown. It’s green. Use this container.” We compared our days and agree that Tuesday is light blue and Wednesday is yellow, but our days and months are different colours. We had fun arguing over them.
I told her how weird she is, which she did not appreciate. The days and months are so inherently colourful to her that she cannot imagine that other people do not experience them this way.  I said, “Go to school tomorrow and ask your friends what colour Monday is, and see how many know what the heck you are talking about.” She said, “I will! And they’ll say it’s green!” “Brown!” “Green!” “Go to bed now.”

She not only has my eyes, she has my grapheme. And on it goes.

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When Maya was born, J’s entire extended family showered us with gifts, which was very nice of them. Several people gave us ruffly pink dresses and those pink headbands you put on naked baby heads so everyone knows you have a girl. We got pink sleepers, t-shirts, jumpers saying, “Little princess.”

I wrote out thank you notes and then took everything but the sleepers to a consignment store. I could not bear to put them on my baby, especially the dresses, which J and I called baby armpit warmers.

As she aged, I put her in dresses and girly things – black dresses, blue dresses, green dresses. No pink. Most of the non-dress stuff I got was gender neutral in case I had a boy next time. That was my excuse, anyway.

We have no Disney movies, so Maya had limited ‘princess’ exposure and it never caught on with her, to my great relief. When someone gave her a viciously pink book of Disney princess stories for her birthday, I nudged it under the couch the moment she was distracted by the next toy and she never saw it again.

She soon asserted her independence, of course, demanding only shirts that demonstrated some sign of femininity, like flowers or hearts. She feel madly in love with Barbie and much as I hated them, I figured making them forbidden fruit was worse.

So she got girly. But at least she wasn’t princessy. For her 3rd Halloween, she went as a biker chick, with a faux leather jacket from her aunt and wee cowboy boots from a friend.

Asher came along and loved pink more than Maya. Perversely, I was happy to dress him in the pink sleeper. Then I steered him towards gender neutral stuff too, not wanted him to be abused by his peers. He had his own dolls (named Sam and Sleeping Baby) and wore nail polish, but I managed to distract him from the bright pink raincoat he was set on with a colourful but less pink umbrella.

I don’t just hate pink because people have irrationally assigned it to only one gender (oddly, in the 1800s, the colour was considered to be too strong for girls and was almost exclusively for boys). I just don’t like it.

I weakened a bit when Boo was born, because she had dark hair and looked pretty nice in pink. Limited, non-ruffly pink.

Despite the fact that we still don’t have any Disney movies, she found out about the princesses. I have no idea how. That’s the problem with the third kid – you have no idea what’s going on with them, even when they are little.

Last year, she wanted to be a princess for Halloween. Maya has been a witch, a ghost, a unicorn, a cat and a biker chick. Asher has been a wizard, a witch, a magician and a vampire. I sighed and told myself that at least she didn’t want to be a specific princess, like Cinderella, and bought her a cheap blue costume dress.

This year, she has decided on being a fairy princess. She already has the pink wings, but the blue dress is too small.

The other day, I was in the Children’s Place and saw this:

dress.jpg

It has that gauzy stuff underneath to make the skirt stick out all the time, like they do with wedding dressed (and which I took off mine), and you can’t see it well enough, but the front is all this brocade-type patterning. It’s really quite well put together, and it was on sale for $15.

I ignored it and went around the store collecting $3 skirts and $7 pants, and brought the entire pile up to the cash, where I spotted a knight’s costume for the same price and decided to get it for Asher, who is sick of being a wizard.

Then I stood in line and stared at the princess dress. I hate pink and I hate princesses, but Boo loves pink and princesses and as far as pink princess dresses go, I recognized that this was a good one, and for a good price too. I knew I could find her something I hated less and that she would like, but I also knew that she would love this dress.

I sucked it up and bought the dress. It isn’t me dressing up for Halloween, it’s her. And she was just as happy as I imagined she’d be when I showed it to her. She put in on immediately and wanted to wear it everywhere.

So there you go. It took me 11 years to slide all the way down that slope from giving away all the pink gifts and forbidding my mother-in-law to buy anything that colour to voluntarily buying my kid a pink princess dress. Now she’ll never be Prime Minister.

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I was listening to Sounds Like Canada on the CBC this morning as I puttered around (for the Americans, CBC is our version of NPR). The host, Shelagh Rogers, was interviewing several women about a book they contributed, called Nobody’s Mother. It is about women who have chosen not to be mothers. It sounds like a fascinating book. The conversation certainly was.

I found the topic so compelling I wrote a letter. (It isn’t the first time, but I don’t do that often, either.) The gist of it was that I wish more women would make the same choice.

I really wanted kids. I always wanted kids. I wanted them so much that I was convinced something would go wrong when we started trying to have kids because somehow the fates would punish me for wanting it that much. I was very lucky. And yet, I find this job exhausting. Having kids is tough work, mentally and physically. Little kids are boring much of the time. Big kids can be remarkably cruel. None of them come with a manual and most parents I know live in fear of messing up, because messing up means ruining a life. Erk! The pressure.

One of my brothers, A and his wife K decided against kids long before they got married. Many people (but not those of us in his direct family who knew him well enough not to be remotely surprised) thought he’d outgrow it. Their decision was dismissed by most people as immaturity for as long as they could get away with that, but now that A and K are heading solidly into their 30s with no sign of wavering, the ‘immaturity’ label is getting old. The ‘selfish’ label just keeps on working, though.

These are two very productive members of society. They have good jobs, they volunteer. As vegans, wearers of organic clothing and careful recyclers, they step more lightly on the earth than most Canadians (because really, once you have kids, who has the time?) They are great with kids and their nieces and nephews, who despite not getting to see them for months at a time because they live across the country, adore them.

I have a sneaking suspicion that many of the people who attack my brother and sister-in-law for their choice and try so hard to drag them into the fold are just jealous that A and K figured out not to have kids before it was too late. Their attackers just wish they’d had enough brains to come to the same conclusion before they threw their lives away and got trapped in parenting hell.

I’m not saying all parenting is hell. (Although all parenting is hell some of the time.) It is utter heaven at others time, as long as you are happy being a parent. But for those who just bumbled along, conforming to society’s expectation, and had a child they didn’t really, really want because they didn’t think about they really really wanted beforehand, parenting is hell. And I bet they wished they had the wisdom and self-awareness to realize that this is not the life for them, before they actually had a kid and found out the hard way.

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