Category Archives: All About My Kids

She’s 10. (mic drop)

She was named in the hospital, after naming her Charlotte. After learning she was a girl (what?!). After the kerfuffle between the OB and lead nurse who took her away from me. After she had spent a mere 11 minutes in the birth canal, too fast to squeeze those tiny lungs clear. After sending my friends home because I didn’t know how long the birth would be. After an afternoon of my partner and our best friend feasting on burgers and shaving his soon-to-be-dad head. After calmly announcing I think I might be in labour, and getting a coffee down the street. After watching my belly get bigger and my ability to predict the future get smaller. After watching people shrink away, or step up. After seeing the little blue line and smiling in spite of my fear. After my boyfriend gently suggested I take a pregnancy test, and blinking at him like he was speaking a different language.

Monica. The name landed on her so hard there was no removing it. Not after all that.

Monica rocked my world. She knocked everybody I knew on their ass. Her arrival made people nervous. Her multiplying cells sped up my life. I spoon fed her apple sauce and she force fed me focus.  There was a lot of kicking and screaming, from both us. Fuck she was a tough baby. Do you remember? Do you remember how tired I was? How loud she was? She looked like a porcelain doll and sounded like a siren. Monica asked things of me I felt offended to have to answer – like Do you have what it takes Mir? Her method of communication ensured her survival, as though she knew she had been born to the un-ready. She kept me awake, kept me on my toes and kept me in line. Monica knew. She’s always known.

Monica screamed her way through infancy, like the notion of being a baby was infuriating. Her lack of control, her limited communication, compounded by her dumb parents who couldn’t read her signals – it all seemed to overwhelm her. It was like she had done this before and she knew she was shit-out-of-luck having to do it all over again, and so she raged with a fire only newborns possess. But when she stopped long enough to connect, her presence was breath-taking. Do you remember?

Toddlerhood redirected her energy. Her developing language calmed her, gave her a voice. Her developing voice empowered her, gave her a will. Her will was so strong I often found myself in a deadlock with a 2 year old that felt unnaturally balanced. My inability to maintain my authority speaks more to my wavering expertise as a young mother, but her intelligence has always been a little unnerving. It is hard to stand behind an argument when the conviction of your opponent is unrelenting and comes from one so small, with a fire only toddlers possess.

Today Monica sits on the edge of pre-teen. She doesn’t care for endurance sports, documentaries, or Danny from The Mindy Project. She loves hearing stories about herself and staying up late with her parents. Insightful, emotionally intelligent, focussed, quick as a whip and if she tries – or if her brother pins her down – she can be silly. When she flirts with the carefree I breathe a sigh of relief. Stay childish. Stay light. She has always had a tendency to know, take on, feel and understand too much.

As soon as she could talk, Monica wanted to know where she came from. You were picking your parents I said – a response that captured an intuitive feeling that I had been selected for this job. From the moment she dropped from a star and took up shop in my body, I knew she wasn’t mine. I felt the weight of being a guide, and at times I have protested hard. She’s watched me fumble, heard me apologize and still seems to like me. Every day she’s a step ahead, and every day I try to keep up.

She’s beautiful.

Smart af.

Shockingly empathetic.

Conservative to a fault. Monica.

Motherhood often feels like a bad basement party; dark, loud and somebody is always standing lonely in the corner. I don’t find I excel at the endless tasks, restrictions, stresses and failures. I shirk many conventional behaviours that motherhood demands and make an effort to dress as well as I did when I was childless.  But true to form, Monica knew what she needed and landed herself in a family that is brilliantly flawed, fiercely loving and knows she belongs to the future. After 10 years I can see the value in that, and am grateful the future came to me when it did.

 

 

 

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The Night Before Four

On the eve of my son’s 4th birthday, I managed to give him the present one boasts about as an adult. The present that outlasts, that outdoes, that outshines all others. I didn’t even know that I was going to give it to him until he had unwrapped it.

It’s hard to predict how a day goes. There are nights I get very little sleep. These are not nights to complain about. There are nights I get even less sleep than very little and it’s hard not to moan about those. There are familial stresses and tensions. My daughter has taken to telling me very long, very boring stories with no climax and I have to nod dutifully to be supportive but I am actually memorizing cracks in the sidewalk. There are parental and marriage woes, mostly to do with the lack of time, the lack of grace, the lack of 2 bathrooms. Breakfasts, lunches, backpacks, flyers, agendas, behaviour, fatigue, rivalries, meals, lessons, hobbies, video games, laundry, dog walks, social texting, cleaning – it’s all a bit much.

Come bedtime, my kids are lucky if I still look human. They’re also lucky if I have the energy to do the right things, like read books, tuck in, and give a kiss.

But tonight. On the eve of his birthday there was just enough in the tank and I made it. The glorious moments I had with him. His laughter. His hilarious observations. His facial expressions. His ability to follow impulses and watch him recognize that they got a laugh, then milk it a bit more. His laugher at himself.

His present was that I was there. I let bedtime go on too long, and his reward was watching his mother relax and release with giggles. He so rarely sees that, and it was a joy to let him experience it after a tough slog of uphill battles.

The memory will escape him by tomorrow, he’ll have no recollection of this night we shared. But it’s there somewhere, tucked in both our sub consciousnesses, ready to fuel us when we’re running on empty.

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Mom whats it going to feel like?

What?

My birthday. How long will it take you to set up?

It’s not your party tomorrow. It’s just your birthday.

It’s my birthday on this day?!

No, my sweet. Tomorrow. It’s your birthday for the whole day.

A whole day? And then I’m going to be 4?  (so many vowels jammed into that word. I don’t know how he does it)

That’s right. When did you get to be so big?

Hmmm, I got so big because I eat all my dinner. 

Sometimes.

Can I smell your armpit?

Sure.

Will it smell bad?

Probably.

We don’t want things to smell bad. Not our penis, not our feet, not our belly button, not our…

Just smell it.

Okaaaaaay!

The Chronicles: DAY 1

1.i) Do not compromise on cleanliness. Pick up, wipe down, wash, dry, fold and hang immediately so as to avoid feeling like things are falling apart. If the apartment is sticky, messy and smells bad – people will worry. Personal hygiene also applies.

1.ii) Stop whatever you are doing – driving, showering, performing open heart surgery – to take off the Power Ranger suit that is now unbearably uncomfortable for the toddler. By-pass all your parental discipline morals and just end the screaming. Hear the tsk tsk of others at your jellyfish spine and be thankful you know how to give in when necessary. You’re a winner.

1.iii) Carefully explain to your daycare provider that the bungie cord around your son’s chest was put there voluntarily and that the term ‘Hooker’ was conjured up by him, because of his observant nature and the fact that there are hooks on either end. Comment briefly that it was part of a Power Ranger suit and leave the establishment confidently, but quickly.

1.iv) Heed your husband’s advice and ensure the right element is on when you make dinner (it might take 3, or 4 checks). Use your newly learned skills to make a smoothie for the kids, and promise to play Horsie from the living room to the bathroom to get the toddler in the bath. Brace yourself for sore knees.

Day 1 was a complete success.

A) Enjoying the euphoric facade of Day 1, convincing myself that every day will be just like this one. Also, in bed at 9:30.

B) Grateful that my daughter is old enough and wise enough to sense my tension and knows how to diffuse any situation. I’m going to owe her big time after this…screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-7-01-00-pm

Chronicles of a Single Parent

INTRODUCTION

Successes, mistakes, regrets and lessons are the themes of this chronicle. It will be a month long project, aimed at keeping me creative and armed with a sense of humour. It’s not a long time, I recognize that and I’m excited for the challenge, I’m excited for the change. As my mother texted, ‘A change is almost as good as a rest’.

My goal will be to write every day, an odd thing to fool myself into thinking I will have time for. I will be transparent, ruthless and will record 2 things each day that were awesome. I am hesitant to make it more than 2 – anything more than that seems wildly unrealistic.

To set the stage, I dim the lights, draw the stage curtain and invite you into a minimalist scene, where 4 people stand centre stage. A family. Tired, but well fed. A slideshow of images, cataloguing the last few months plays behind them. The typical: family tensions, relationship woes, toddler power struggles. The unusual: a couple of car accidents, depleted bank accounts, a job laid off. The slideshow ends with an audio text of a young man asking the man of the house to leave for a month and help him with his new business. Lots of work. Good money. The man walks off stage, waving and downloading new apps on his phone to make video chats easier. The woman of the house and her two kids stand in the spot light. Their faces grow in tension and the light fades just as all three are about to wail into the darkness….screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-5-20-47-pm

The #mommyfail High Striker

Just a few Christmas moments. Because all those pictures of smiling kids,  stockings, and all the stories of gaily coming together were really starting to depress me.

A few days before Christmas I caught my daughter eating chocolates I had hidden away for her. She was all gangly on the counter, trying to hold her balance, and had a chocolate smear on her chin. She looked like a wreck. I was upset that she looked like an animal, unable to control her impulse for yet more chocolate and that she had found something that I had looked forward to giving her. I lost all composure and ordered her off the counter, scaring her into the other room. I gave in to the urge to just spray anger all over the place, and yanked the chocolates off the shelf and brought her back into the kitchen so she could watch me throw them all out. I asked her if she was happy now, and then I threw out some more things, I don’t know what, I just do that when I’m really mad. I told her “I fucking hate Christmas” and slammed some cupboards closed, opening some so that I could slam them again. I could feel my #mommyfail High Stiker puck rising, and I dared it to reach the top, so I launched into a speech about consumerism, capitalism, war, gratefulness and religion, and heard the DING DING DING of the bell, proving I was indeed the strongest of shitty mothers.

***

Our tree was supposed to be a Charlie Brown replica, one from the country and small. Instead, we picked a tree that looked tiny under a giant maple, but turned out to be far too huge for our small apartment. Lesson: “We’re not supposed to be living in an apartment, get me the fuck out of here” – Jason. Of course, before we had the tree up in our apartment, we had to drive with it strapped to the roof of our car. The mechanism used to keep it secure were two pulley straps and it wasn’t long before we reached the speed of 60 km/hr and found that the low humming sound of the wind through the door frame was picked up a notch. All of us had crossed eyes at the sheer volume of the noise. Our options were to either give ourselves migraines, or drive at just under 60 km/hr and mostly we opted for the latter. This meant being the asshole at the front of a long line of traffic on a two lane highway and getting death glares when we finally moved over to the right as we approached a passing section. Once the tree was in the city, and dragged into the apartment building (cleanup ensued; broom and dustpan down the hall, in the elevator, entry hall) we discovered that our Douglas Fir was prickly, sharp and gave us hives. Swearing and with shielded squinting eyes we raised it up and stood back scratching our arms as we took in it’s size. Out comes the saw, and there in our living, we saw off a good 4 feet of trunk, prune away the bottom branches and set it back up. More hives. We begin the decoration process and in a desperate attempt to show I have some Christmas spirit, I turn on youtube and play a Christmas carol playlist. Mariah Carey, Wham!, and others grate on my nerves and then…. ‘WATCH OUT!’ The tree slowly begins to fall toward our toddler, and without having understood my exclaim, he somehow managed to walk out from under the falling tree unscathed. I almost threw the computer across the room in rage. Back go on the oven mitts, and we reposition the tree. 4 strands of lights. 1 doesn’t work. We don’t realize that until they are all on the tree. We remove the broken set and do it again. For what seems like a small tree, it seems to consume all of our decorations and lights. Later, as I tend to my itchy arms, I sit and wonder how all our decorations manage to kind of disappear on the sparse branches. Most of the needles have been whipped off from the trip into the city, the dragging through the hallways, the sawing of the trunk, the falling down, and yet, somehow, I can’t really see any of our ornaments. “Next year I’m making a Christmas tree again, I don’t care what you say. Anything would be better than this,” I say, arms crossed and bottom lip pouted.

***

My daughter received a few books for her birthday and for Christmas, and I decided that whatever my level of laziness, I was going to read a whole book with her. No arguments. We picked A Wrinkle in Time, because it’s obviously the best, and began together one late morning. She really enjoyed the first chapter, and I felt good about this new project. In the middle of the second chapter a day later, she got fidgety and started to slither down the couch as I was reading. “Sit up and stop moving around” I barked. She sat down next to me. The chapters are long in this book and I convinced myself to stop in the middle of the chapter in order to keep her interest. I resented the way she breathed a sigh of relief and turned on the TV. At bedtime I convinced her to finish the chapter with me, and I was delighted when she asked that I go on the next. It wasn’t until I was kissing her goodnight and she eagerly asked me what time it was, “9:00”, and saw her face light up, that I realized it was staying up late that was exciting her, not the book. “You know it’s really important to read stories, and to have this time together!” I bellowed, remembering the ease at which I would rest my head on my dad’s chest and listen to him read stories to me and my sisters. I went to bed and told myself to stop making so many loud statements about enjoying herself, because obviously it wasn’t helping. The next day, we sat down to read and she was asking lots of questions, “good good!” I’m thinking, “she’s paying attention!” and then she starts asking questions about things that happened a page ago, things that she had obviously not been paying attention to. My patience started to stretch and I caught the eye of my husband who motioned for me to relax. Okay, I’ll answer her questions. “Well we just learned that Mrs Whatsit and Mrs Who are in the haunted house, so….” She thinks for a moment. “Okay, but who is Mrs Whatsit again?” I grabbed the lever, raised it up, smashed it down on the target pad and waited for the bell. “You’re not paying attention! I’m trying to give you a memorable childhood experience and you’re throwing it away by not being interested! So nevermind! I’ll read the book myself and if you want to read it when you’re older, fine!” Ding ding ding ding ding.

***

My son woke up at 5:30am and was insistent that we leave his room and go into the living room. I objected because other people were sleeping. We should have been sleeping. He hit me in the face. So I hit him in the shoulder. Ding ding ding ding.

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She Lives Another Day

I look at my 7 year old from across the table. She is talking a mile a minute, forgetting all her manners, bouncing from bum cheek to bum cheek and speaking nonsense. Her vocabulary is actually mighty good for 7 years, but she’s incorporated into her speech phrases that mean nothing but that carry intonation she’s picked up around her. A simple response like ‘you’re right, I never thought of it that way’ is turned into a ludicrous sentence like ‘that’s true, I’m dead’. It’s constant, the illogic. Ironically, this particular 7 year old is literal to a fault and if I say it’s 20 degrees outside and it’s actually 21 degrees, I get yelled at for ‘not telling me the truth!’. Her energy is spastic and emotional, her body is beginning to gangle, and her teeth are starting to fall out. I mean, what the fuck? How did I end up with this?

I wonder – as she has yet another breakdown, or tells another bad joke, or sings another long made up song, or has another need to tell me a story she’s told me a hundred times – I wonder how any of us made it out of our parent’s house alive. It’s amazing me to that we put them through the evil, repetitive, draining experience that 7 year olds do and that we didn’t get whacked off in the process. I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to an endless stream of knock knock jokes and pictured shoving her into on coming traffic. Just to make it stop. I don’t of course, and I shock myself by answering ‘who’s there?’ and spend the rest of the day wondering if she’s bewitched me somehow.

I have come to the conclusion that the only reason she is alive today and will thrive tomorrow, is because she was once an infant.

From the moment my son was born, my daughter has seen me coo, cuddle, rock, laugh, kiss, sway, nurse and verbally gush about her brother. She has seen me burst into tears when he hurt himself diving off the couch. I have a never ending supply of British accented phrases and nicknames for him; jingles and jokes; physical and emotional energy. His needs usually come first (don’t wake the baby! or too bad, your brother needs me right now as I saunter into his room where he cries mama in his crib) and hers a rational second. She has indeed asked me why I love him more than her.

I wondered if she had caught me in a shameful truth. I have thought about and observed myself from a hundred different angles. I have hovered over myself looking to see if my love stops at age 7. I looked to my actions toward the baby. They are exhausting, but they are gentle, giving and patient. From the cooing to the cheering to the gentle whispers of good night, they are the picture of love. When I look at my actions toward my daughter, I see a hardline for following rules and having manners, semi-intellectual conversations that quickly get confusing and end up in arguments, no energy for physical play-time, and abrupt kisses good night. The contrast of my outputting love towards my children has left me concerned that I am inept in some monumental way and I began searching for proof that my love for my daughter is just as strong now as it was then.

The answer is of course it is. Beneath the impatience about getting homework done and the insanity of her socks being everywhere, there are things I do with my 7 year old that the semi-functional 1 year old can’t even dream of. Singing to Fleetwood Mac at the top of our lungs in the car. Laughing hysterically in bed at a joke that strikes both of us as hilarious. Explaining and apologizing to each other after a fight and really feeling like we understand each other. Talking. Nurturing her independence. Watching her learn. At times I feel like my love for my daughter is in the silent art of observation – and that outside of still providing food, shelter and guidance for her, my joy comes in the form of simply being with her. Sometimes we get along, sometimes we do not.

It’s no wonder my daughter compares the time spent with her brother to the time spent with her. But I have come to see that without the gentle bond that begins to grow in infancy, there is perhaps not enough strength to keep that bond sure and tight during the tormenting years of age 7, 9, 15 and whatever other age-hurdle is waiting for us. The years spent responding to a child because it’s sick, tired, hungry – they must cement an emotional attachment that will last when the needs change. They must make deeper the trenches of unconditional mothering, even though the demands change over time. I can confidently assure my daughter that she is safe, warm and able to complain to me about how little I love her because she got everything her brother is getting when she was an infant. I can assure her that there will be eye rolling and yelling when he hits the absurd age of 7. And when she hurls yet another knock knock joke at me and I want to throttle her for having no repertoire of jokes to change things up a bit, I realize I have no one to blame but myself. I guess I just loved her too hard as an infant.

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