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Posts Tagged ‘Children’

All Dressed Up and Everywhere to Go

March 14, 2019 7 comments

Our 2001 babes are graduating high school this year.

Yesterday/twelve years ago we sat cross-legged on the carpet of Ms. Kocher’s kindergarten class with them on our laps, amazed our wee ones were embarking on their academic and formative journey, away from our watchful gaze and in the path of bullies, germs, detention, and other pitfalls elementary schools breed.

Grudgingly, bravely, and in need of a five hour break, we let them go.

At first, they returned from school enthusiastically sharing stories about what happened on the playground, who was friends with who, and what they learned in science that day if it involved bugs. But the stories dwindled to a drip as they advanced through elementary school, halting completely in high school. You can’t put your finger on the moment it happened, where and when the line was drawn, but they eventually stopped seeing you as their confidante and most trusted resource and instead view you as solely – cue the eye roll – their parent.

Mourning the loss of our identity, we take a trip down memory lane to when our peanuts were newborn, and our hearts exploded with joy and optimism and also fear and anxiety should anything interfere with our precious nut. The power of these mixed emotions was the most intense love you’ve ever felt. No one mentioned when you were pregnant that this would happen. Sure, they warned of the cost of diapers and the lack of sleep, but neglected to mention the mountain of emotions your head and heart would scale – only to stumble and plummet from – daily.

Parenting is a serious mind feck.

So when this most perfect being created in your likeness (but is not, as they assert, us at all but a completely different individual from whom we expect them to be, thank you very much) can’t stand the way you chew your food or part your hair, that explosion of love experienced at their birth remains steadfast.

Behind their monosyllabic answers to our questions and closed bedroom doors they are growing, expanding, enduring heart break, learning calculus, coordinating outfits, Snapchatting and finding their voice.  Determining who they are is a full-time job and they are exhausted. We watch in awe and in terror as they morph into their identity, wishing we could help, daring to make suggestions, but keeping our distance.

Our soon to be graduates had their prom last weekend. Beautiful in their uniqueness, our babes from Ms. Kocher’s class have transformed into athletes, artists, academics, fashionistas, vegans, ravers, rappers, techies and wellness experts. They coiffed and tanned and donned fancy clothes over their full grown bodies for their event but we still recognized their newborn faces. They remain our babies, they just have become themselves.

And the unfathomable thing about the tidal wave of love we experienced the day they were born is this: it grows.(Their grade three classroom art project still hangs prominently in my house)

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Surprising Things I’ve Learned About Parenting

November 19, 2013 5 comments

I had preconceived notions about motherhood before I joined the cult.

I thought that newborn babies slept all the time. I imagined I’d set our round kitchen table for three balanced meals a day, but not much else would change. I believed my children would flock to me for advice, and once they were comfortably seated at my feet, I would begin my teaching moment. I thought my children would be exactly like me, just smaller and with better hair.

I remember thinking these thoughts, and now gently ask myself, self: were you on crack?

If motherhood is anything; good, bad, ugly, wonderful, transcendent, frustrating, confusing, beautiful (it is all of these, and frequently within the space of fifteen minutes), it is mostly full of surprises; reality has tossed my crazy ideas right on my perpetual ponytail.

Too late, I learned that newborns rarely sleep (except when you want them to be awake). Our place mats still have price tags attached. My life bears no resemblance to its former self, back when I mattered. The more advice I offer my kids, the less they want to hear. And my children are as different from each other as they are from me. But with better hair.

So, preconceived notions cast aside and thrown in the garbage alongside an astounding amount of candy wrappers, everyday I learn new things about motherhood that surprise me. Shock the hell out of me, in fact. A short list of recent surprises:

  • I didn’t realize I would be the butt of all jokes in our house, and that the only thing that unites my children is their collective laughter at me. Apparently, and without even trying to be, I’m hilarious. Forget surviving middle school relatively unscathed – if I can survive my daughters scorn, I can survive anything.
  • We spend more time discussing my teenaged daughter’s social life than socializing.
  • No matter how many groceries I buy, my kids can’t find anything to eat in our house.

I’m not exactly that all-knowing role model I expected to be. Surprise. But, and sorry to overuse the word, another surprise. Mostly, it is my children who teach me. I knew (or hoped) it would happen in time, but I’m astounded by how fast it’s happened. Here’s a short list of things I’ve learned recently, courtesy of my daughters:

  • The eldest educates me about important things like eye primer (did you know there was such a thing? She owns five.) and the vast difference between my mascara and the BEST mascara. Needless to say, I’m not meeting her expectations.
  • My twelve-year old patiently explains the rules of hockey to me. Every week. (Penalty! No mom, they’re allowed to do that.) She doesn’t play the sport, but grasped an understanding of the game – even an appreciation for the fighting – that I have failed to achieve in my lifetime. (Still, those refs are blind.)
  • My nine-year old signs me up for Instagram, and then explains the apps I should download and the filters I should use for an optimal experience. Her fingers fly across my iPhone like butterflies around a flame, and I’m like but wha – whoa – hey – where – wait a – how did you get there? Kids these days.

And then the more profound surprises, of course.

I knew I would need patience, but the frequency with which I meet its limits is astonishing.

I knew my children would need me, but didn’t realize how much it is actually I who needs them.

I knew I would watch my children grow, and by definition, overcome obstacles, but didn’t think about the pain and restraint involved in watching them struggle.

I knew I would love my children, but the depths of which I love them, still, is shocking.

Motherhood hasn’t been a smooth ride – on the contrary, it’s filled with potholes, sharp curves, and the occasional road block. And no driver’s test required, amazingly. It’s not a one-way street, and frankly, I’m not always in the driver’s seat.

But oh, the places you can go.

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We Remember

November 11, 2013 1 comment

Powerful. Moving. Emotional. As usual, I required a box of elusive tissues, and sniffed for an hour instead.

It’s not Hollywood’s latest blockbuster, but rather, the annual Remembrance Day assembly at my kids elementary school.

Imagine a world that knows no hunger, my daughter sang.

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Because watching children on bleachers recite In Flanders Fields will never grow old. Seeing veterans sitting tall and stoic in front of the children is remarkable. Listening to children tell stories of heroes in their family is amazing. Poppies made of tissue paper, and pop-art peace doves adorn the gymnasium walls.

Imagine a world where children are free.

The children sit still. Chins rest on hands. They are listening. They are learning about sacrifice, bravery, and loss. Learning things it almost hurts to tell them.

Imagine a world of infinite beauty, given for all to share.

We remember our past, and dream of a future where war is only a memory.

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Have You Seen My Teeth – Chilling Words On Halloween

October 31, 2013 2 comments

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I regretted the words as soon as they were out of my mouth.

My kids are all set, they’ve given their costumes a few test runs. They’re totally ready for Halloween.

This non-apologetic brag comes after years of running around like the headless horsemen without their horse on Halloween morning, as the kids dressed in costume for school. I felt entitled. Like I’d earned the bragging rights after so many disasters. It had taken a lot of costume mistakes to arrive at this comfortable spot.

Still, I should have known better. Because every parent knows, the instant you brag about your kids, the bragging fairy will turn on you and bite you on the ass.

And so, as I lounged a little longer in bed, listening to the pitter patter of my children donning their costumes, I heard the words that made my blood curdle.

Where are my teeth, asked my nine year-old vampire. Her black gown with elaborate red lace cost $34.99, but it was the $1.99 set of vampire teeth that were the clincher. The teeth that she had put for safe keeping in her miniscule plastic goodie bag that she’d received on the weekend at the Haunted Village. The plastic bag filled with candy wrappers that I had thrown away Monday morning.

It’s always the accessories that come back to haunt you.

It was also, bizarrely, at this moment when I heard the garbage truck’s banging progress down our lane. I had a fleeting nightmarish vision of me, standing in line at Spirit of Halloween, or worse, Walmart, today along with fifty other frantic parents, only to be told all the vampire teeth have been sold out since Tuesday, since Bella from Twilight has made vampires a hit with girls of all ages.

Fortunately, for both her and me (but not, you’ll see, my husband), it was not garbage can pick up day, only recycling and green bin day. Our garbage was intact. It would only take rooting through a few or six bags of garbage to find the missing vampire teeth.

And that’s where my husband comes in.

The Trouble With Lunch

September 6, 2013 2 comments

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While I am absolutely ecstatic that my kids are back at school and I am back to being productive (which may or may not involve Downton Abbey), I am not thrilled about the nightly ritual of making lunch. Also known as fruitless labour, since it involves assembling food that is sure to return uneaten.

There’s a law in my house: if I make it, they won’t eat it.

Yet, I persist. Not only because the school would call Child Services if I sent them without lunch regularly, but actually because I’m hellbent on hearing the words, “That lunch was awesome today, thanks mom!”.

To be fair, food is not my strong point. Knowing this, I frequently turn to them for help. So, what are the other kids eating for lunch that you would like to have? Apparently, those little bags of mini-Oreos are all the rage. No, I mean food that actually has a nutritious component? Silence.

Every now and then I get excited about an idea – buoyed by their initial response to a product. It may not have been super positive, but it wasn’t one of disgust, either. My enthusiasm inevitably sends me to Costco, to buy a year’s supply of the damned things, only to have them return in their lunch bags after school. I thought you liked Cheddar Bunnies? No, we’re sick of them now.

Swear words run through my head, vision of sugar plum-like but with symbols.

It’s beyond tiring. The natural peanut butter and almond butter they find disgusting. Putting grapes/carrots/orange slices/something healthy into little containers is futile. Putting anything between bread besides Nutella is useless. They’re sick of bagels. Going to the trouble of making a salad or wrap for them is like straightening my hair for the windstorm – why would I bother?

So, I don’t go all out with lunch. But old habits die hard, and I find myself wandering the aisles in the grocery store in the hopes that something will jump of the shelf, at the same time nutritious, inexpensive, and already prepared, that I can send to school with them, that will not end up in my overflowing kitchen garbage. I’m looking long and hard, but still haven’t found anything.

Whichever mother came up with the phrase “Let them eat cake”?  – I totally get her.

Ask.Fm: Where Wild West Meets Social Media

May 10, 2013 5 comments

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Another day, another social network to monitor. I first learned of ask.fm from my friend last week. She was in a flap. Generally, she is unflappable. My interest was piqued.

It’s horrible and nasty, you won’t believe what kids are saying on it, and ALL the kids are on it. Check it out.

So I did, and my unflappable friend was quite right to be flapping.

Ask.fm is an anonymous platform that allows users to post questions or comments to a user’s profile. It’s the social media equivalent to the wild west: anyone can follow anyone, and users don’t have access to who is following them, they can only see their number of followers.

In other words, it is a hotbed breeding ground for bullying, harassment, and inappropriate comments. If I could sound alarm bells here, I would let them ring.

You should know I’m not a helicopter parent. I have somewhat liberal views on social media, I believe it will play a role in our children’s lives and we need to keep an eye on things, while understanding that we don’t fully understand its (important) role in their lives. Whether we like it or not, it’s here, and it’s big.

That being said, I created an alias on ask.fm and followed my kid and her friends.

The questions and comments range wildly from inoccuous compliments to ranting insults, and everything in between.

Interestingly, as dismayed as I was with the content, I was impressed with the way she handled the insults, basically by laughing at the caustic comments or posting silly YouTube cartoon videos as a response. I suppose a sidebar of these social network sites is kids learn to deflect and stand up to haters. (I’m not sure I have the same capacity.)

But inevitably, others will fall victim to its nasty nature. Ask.fm is being blamed for the suicide of at least one teenager in England last month.

Apparently, you are able to block a user that is being abusive, and if you don’t respond to a question or comment, it won’t show up on your profile. This article, aimed at parents and teachers, will give you the lowdown on this potentially caustic site.

I can’t see the point of this network – it seems like nastiness personified to me, but I guess that is also its charm. My daughter tells me it’s just silly fun. When I was her age my friends and I stuck jellybeans up our noses for silly fun, but there you go. The times they are a changin’.

Stay Gold, Ponyboy

April 12, 2013 5 comments

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As a parent, there is nothing better than introducing your children to things that you loved as a child, and watching the amazement on their face as they likewise are enamored by that same thing.

Or not, as may be the case. In fact, as always seems to be the case. That is to say, if I loved something as a child, it is almost a certainty that my children will abhor it.

Now, in both my and their defense, things like technology have come a long way in my thirty or so years (#liar!). With movies, for instance, special effects have evolved to the point where it is almost impossible for my kids to enjoy the same movies I loved. When I staged a screening of Pete’s Dragon for my children, my hopeful enthusiasm that they would cherish Eliot and Pete’s friendship as much as I did quickly went south when they started laughing in all the wrong places. Same thing with Bedknobs and Broomsticks and The Shaggy D.A.

But they are vintage, I explained. It was a simpler time, you have to ignore the grainy picture, the poor acting, and the strange voice-overs.

They choose their movies now.

I moved on to books, and enjoyed a small window of success. I introduced my charges to The Paper Bag Princess and Where the Wild Things Are, with huge fanfare. When they asked me to reread these at night, my confidence in my tiny self was restored. Oh yeah, who’s your momma now?

As a fan of books, my kids are used to me shoveling them down their throats. I know, I know, I should back off, let them come to titles on their own terms, but I can’t help myself. YOU. MUST. LOVE. THIS. My enthusiasm gets the best of me. I can’t be tamed.

Yet with certain things I truly obsessed over loved, I tried to take a more delicate path, in order to ensure success. Since I know from past experience, when I return from the library with an armload of books for my kids, I’m met with three eye rolls, I have purposefully kept my lips sealed about the best book ever written for adolescents. The Outsiders, duh.

I speak for the generation of teenagers who listened to Kool and the Gang when I explain what The Outsiders meant to me. Despite never knowing how to properly pronounce The Socs, this book, about a family of orphaned boys and their peers, the Greasers, stole my heart and my imagination and made me pine for chocolate cake for breakfast. I went on to read every book S.E. Hinton ever wrote and wore out our Betamax machine replaying Francis Ford Coppola’s movie adaptation. Ponyboy, Sodapop, and Dally, ripped from Teen Beat magazine, adorned my walls. I committed half of the screenplay, including Robert Frost’s poem that Johnny reads, to memory, and in times of trouble I quietly utter, ‘stay gold, Ponyboy,’ which has been met with quizzical looks.

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This gem of a book I’ve been saving, wanting to offer it to my own flesh and blood at just the right moment. Several times I held it in my trembling hands in the library, only to kiss it and replace it on the shelf. It’s not time, said a voice in my head, similar to Darth Vader’s.

Then, goddammit, the school system stole my thunder, and my daughter brought it home for required reading – required reading being the kiss of death for any novel. (Note that the school telling you to read a novel and your own mother telling you to read a novel are radically different.) It took me years to come around to Charles Dickens after being force fed Great Expectations, so I can relate.

But surely, reading a book with your mother hanging over your shoulder, you know, just in case you had any questions about the context, or a need to expand and discuss on the themes presented, would only help someone enjoy it more. There is nothing worse than ambiguity, after all. I made myself available.

So, I asked her once or twenty times, what do you think? She looked at me with one of those looks. I backed off, but noted her progress, and when she neared the end I begged suggested we read it together. Savour the moment. Surely, this would be her ‘aha’ moment.

We snuggled in bed with the book between us. I bawled openly. She looked at me with a new strangeness. Through my tears I tried to bestow the magic that the book itself failed to reveal. S.E. Hinton couldn’t make her love it, but surely I could.

Yeah, that didn’t work.

It’s a hard lesson for me to learn, but I’m taking ownership. Thou shalt not expect my children to love what I loved as a child, ever again. I do, however, have my very own copies of Jane Eyre and The Catcher in the Rye, underlined in all the poignant places, should she ever want to take them for a spin. #HopeSpringsEternal