"The Tightrope Walker"

"The Tightrope Walker" by Jean-Louis Forain

Monday, August 30, 2010

"I have a really good question!"

As I mentioned in the post before this one my oldest daughter has become a bit of a handful. She has turned into a super inquisitive kid in the last few weeks and is asking all kinds of questions that very often I'm not prepared for. The biggest of these questions was, "Where did the very first person come from after the dinosaurs died?"

She asked me this about three weeks ago and I didn't answer her right away. I honestly didn't know what to tell her. I couldn't figure out how I was going to explain evolution in a 5 year-old friendly way that wouldn't make her think the monkeys in the zoo were going to lose their hair, start wearing clothes and become her new classmates. Kids her age really don't understand the passage of time and I just didn't know how I was going to explain to her a concept that takes millions and millions of years to occur.

While pondering my dilemma and side stepping her question a bunch of times it occurred to me that if my husband and I were religious questions like this would be easier. Now, I hope no one takes offence to what I'm going to say because it is not my intention to belittle religion or make light of its importance, but I have been wondering in what ways religion might make parenting easier. For example, in this case I could have explained to her that God created Adam, Eve and the Garden of Eden. Since most 5 year-olds are still magical thinkers, can imagine wonderous things, and really do have the ability to be true believers this bible story would answer her question. I know that my daughter would love the story of Eden. She would listen intently and likely the discussion would end as quickly as the question appeared.

While pondering the ways that religion might make parenting easier it also occurred to me that it might make parenting harder. For example, what if my beliefs conflicted with things my children were taught in school? I suppose it would then be my responsibility to carefully explain why I believed something different. I can't even begin to imagine some of the other challenges that might be presented, especially in these times when religion is linked to so much world conflict. With this, I come full circle to where I started. Parenting is hard. Answering our kids questions can be hard too. Doesn't matter the question or our beliefs, giving a satisfying answer can be a challenge in the best situation.

In the end all my worrying and side-stepping was irrelevant. I finally just laid it out there and told her that sometimes with lots of time going by animals slowly changed to become other animals. Then we talked about how monkeys did some things like us and how maybe they changed, and changed until there was the first person. She seemed satisfied and had a few more questions, but all went well. Until I took the fateful step. I said, "But not all people believe the same thing. Some people believe that God made people and everything else on Earth." Oh no! I could see it in her eyes, the wheels in her brain building momentum and...phew. The next question I anticipated didn't come, but I'm still waiting to be asked, "Who is God?" And, I have absolutely no idea how to answer that one! Maybe she will surprise me and ask me another tough one like, "What is a rainbow?", "How does the fridge work?" or "How are babies made?" (Funny thing is I wouldn't put it past her to ask exactly those questions and in exactly that order.)

Going to get out the dictionary and encylopedia now. I'll let you know how it goes...

Words, Words, Everywhere.

I begin many of my days waiting with bated breath. Just waiting. Waiting for the words to spill forward. Waiting with excitement for my baby to speak her first, true and clear word; and, waiting with anxiety for my older daughter's big question of the day.

My 15 month-old is making lots of sounds and "words" that we translate in to some sort of meaning. For example, she says bye-bye, book, bottle, baby, blanket, bottle... Are you noticing a pattern? Yes, she has mastered the 'b' sound and with a little finger pointing can clearly indicate to use which 'b' word item she wants. We manage to communicate quite well with her, especially since her understanding of what we say to her is growing in leaps and bounds. The only time we really have trouble is when she is after something that doesn't start with that beloved 'b' sound, and then it is a chaotic mess of pointing, grunting, leg hugging and guessing until we get it right. So it is with excitement and anticipation that we impatiently wait every day to hear her first word that doesn't require parental translation to adult english. (In other words, we are waiting for her to say something that any adult will clearly understand.)

On the other hand, my almost 5 year-old will speak incessantly, all day long, if allowed and not interrupted. We have advanced past the "Why?" phase and into a whole new level of conversation. Her latest conversation starter is, "I have a REALLLY good question...." The second I hear these words my heart skips a beat and my brain goes into overdrive attempting to guess what topic she is going to tackle next. In the last few weeks I have been asked: how fabric is made, how do clouds make shape art in the sky, why her Grandmother's cat doesn't wear a collar, how is glass made, why do people move, what was the very first animal, and (the grand-daddy of all questions) where did the very first person come from after the dinosaurs died?

Deep breath, what, ask me that again, uh, well-um, let me think for a minute...GULP. I'm glad she is inquisitive, loves to learn and is eager to hear all about the world around her. BUT when it is 5:30 and dinner is burning in the pot, the baby is screaming, TV is blaring and the phone starts ringing I can NOT for the life of me remember how glass is made, where fabric comes from and what the heck is a cloud that makes shape art!?!?!?

One of the many ironies of parenting - we can't wait for our babies to speak, to say Mama/Dada, to verbally show us they know about the world around them. Once they do talk we curse the back-talk, give responses like I don't know, because I said so and ask me again later, and to top it off we ask them to stop talking all of the time. Then when life slows down for a minute and we really take the time to listen to what they are saying we are amazed. Amazed by their magical thinking, by their curiosity and intuitiveness, their ability to see the world in a way we don't. Sure I've laid in the grass and named all the things I could see in the clouds, but never did I consider that my imagination had nothing to do with it and that the clouds were putting on a shape art show purely for my pleasure. Amazing!

Whether it be a first word or what feels like a million words in less than a minute they are all important, valuable and worth listening too. Even when they sneak out of bed at 9:30 to tell you one more "important" thing before they fall asleep. After all if it is important to our kids, isn't it important to us too?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Busy being...

...miserable. Had a bit of a grumpy week and stayed away from here in order to save everyone from my down in the dumps attitude. Happy to report that I've made a big decision that hopefully will turn things around. I'm feeling committed to my goals and ready to turn the so-called page, and start working towards the life/lifestyle that I envision for myself. Stay tuned for more details!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Beer Bubble Bath: A New Trend Among Mommies!

After a great, but tiring weekend away I was in desperate need of some quiet time last night. The girls were sound asleep and my husband wasn't home from his weekend adventure yet, so I began to ponder all the possibilities.

Not long after that I found myself soaking in a hot bubble bath with one of my husband's bottles of beer open in one hand and a bag of chips propped just right against the outside of the tub for my other hand to reach into. For one split second it crossed my mind that it was probably really weird to be drinking beer and eating chips in the bathtub, but somehow it seemed like pure luxury and total self-indulgence. My beer-bath was followed by a fresh set of jammies, cuddling up in bed, and reading in pure silence until I fell asleep. Perfect from beginning to start! (Well, wine and a back rub in the tub would have made it better but with no wine or husband in the house I had to improvise.)

So simple, yet so necessary. I woke this morning feeling energized and ready to go. The irony is that my girls are spending their first full day at the babysitter's house today so they won't benefit from my rejuvenation. But, my husband is home for most of the day before heading to work which means we might actually be able to have a lunch date where neither of us feels the need to head home early for a nap! I'm telling you every Mommy and Daddy should find a way to carve out one hour every day for pure self-indulgence. Totally worth it, mind you I might skip the beer and chips next time!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Babysitter.

It was with some trepidation and anxiety that I parted ways with our babysitter over a year ago. She had lovingly cared for my oldest daughter for two-years, had assisted in potty-training, witnessed milestones and from time to time offered parenting advice. But with the arrival of a new baby and some changes in logistics with my oldest starting school it just wasn't realistic or practical to continue care with her.

Since then, I've mostly been home with the girls, except for while my husband was laid-off earlier this year and some days that I supply taught after he went back to work. This spring when my husband and I decided it was time for me to stop playing at stay-at-home-mom and really get serious about re-joining the workforce it meant looking for new childcare. Of course it was with even greater trepidation and anxiety than before that I set out on the hunt. When I finally found someone earlier this summer I was pleased at how well our parenting philosophies and styles seemed to mesh. I was happy that my girls would again be in a home daycare setting, that there would be other children their ages, and most importantly that I had found someone willing to take both of them. Yeah! Right?

This week they started their transition into her care. All of those things that I was so happy about seemed to mean little to nothing as I prepared to take them there for an afternoon visit. I wasn't really worried about my oldest. She loves other kids and is always looking for a playmate. But, when we were eating lunch before leaving she got very anxious, teary-eyed, and told me that she didn't want to go. "Oh-oh" I was thinking as we chatted about how fun it would be and why I was going back to work. Concern for my oldest distracted me from thinking about the baby for a minute. At almost 15 months I had never left her with anyone other than family. I remembered leaving my oldest daughter when I went back to work and it was hard, and harder still after switching her care from a family member to our last babysitter. Of course everything worked out and we ended up adoring our babysitter, but this time seemed different. Two kids to worry about, a new school and a new schedule. Plus my youngest, though more sociable, is also more dependent and for whatever reason she and I have a closer bond. With heart aching and pounding at the same time, I loaded the girls in the car and off we went.

Drop-off was smooth and when I picked them up a few hours later they both were happily playing. Nothing to have worried about. Today being day number two I figured my youngest would lose it when we got there. I thought that after being there once she would know what was going on and not be happy. I was wrong! The sitter opened the door and in walked both the girls. My oldest stopped to say 'hello' and take her shoes off, but my youngest just kept walking. She toddled right into the living room and began scoping for toys. I waved good-bye and was out the door without even having closed it when I went it. Success! Right?

If I'm honest I'm happy that I've found what seems to be a safe, happy and loving place for them to be when we can't be with them. BUT, I'm feeling a little crushed, a little sad and a just a little heart-broken. It is so ironic that as parents we strive for our kids to be well-rounded, social and kind while trying to strike balance between our work, parent, and personal lives; and then, when we see the first signs of having achieved this goal we are a little hurt. Hurt that our kids don't cry for us the way we silently ache for them when they are away from us. Letting our babies grow-up is so very bittersweet. In a short while I will happily go pick my girls up, hopefully receive "happy-to-see-you-Mommy" hugs and kisses, and as we leave the sitters enjoy a moment of pride realizing that my girls have hearts big enough to love their parents and care for all the other people who help to raise them. For me that is an accomplishment! My husband and I are raising two, sweet little girls who know how to care for and enjoy the company of others. Bittersweet!

Shedding it all.

Its been a busy week of lightening loads. A little while ago an overwhelming need to purge my home of "stuff" came over me. When I told my husband what I wanted to do he said, "We don't have 'stuff'. We don't have big screen TVs and a thousand electronic gadgets to get rid of." This is true, but we do seem to have a collection of lots of little odd things and so off I went. I started in our bedroom and I managed to pack up 4 bags of old clothes for charity, another three of damaged clothes, old magazines, broken things never to be fixed and more. I packed up boxes of books too, which is accomplishment since I usually feel I must keep EVERY book I read. After all that I realized that was just ONE room! I'm now imagining how light I'm going to feel after doing the whole house, room by room.

Two interesting things have arisen during this process. First, I've realized that my husband is a far worse offender than I am when it comes to poor house keeping skills and being a pack-rat. I found receipts in his dresser from before we were married, boarding passes from our honeymoon, t-shirts that he owned when we first started dating in the late 1990's, old glasses, and on and on it went. I don't think the poor guy knew what hit him when he saw what I'd done, but out with the old and in with the fresh!

The second interesting event is that somehow this load lightening has re-motivated me to return to my original goals when I set out blogging. So, all excuses aside I dragged my tired, head-aching body to the gym last night and managed to find the energy to stay for an hour of cardio. I'm intrigued by this idea of the impact your physical environment has on your mental and physical state of being. Any time I've heard people talk about how de-cluttering or altering their home and surroundings changed their life entirely I secretly think to myself, "That's a load of crap!" while I politely grin and nod. But now I'm starting to wonder. I'm wondering if living in chaos has been so overwhelming for me that I've just let everything else get out of control too.

I know you are now thinking I'm some kind of hoarder or that I live in filth which is far from the truth, but I'm not great at putting things away and there are a thousand other things I'd rather do than organize toys, fold laundry or sort through old books and magazines; and as a result things get shoved in closets or put in Rubbermaid bins under beds. The trouble with this is all these things eventually become mountains of "stuff" that we don't need, don't use and eventually forget we have. So, I'm purging my house and in a surprising turn of events my life. I'm looking forward to seeing the final outcome...only trouble is it took 2 days to do the bedroom so by my calculations it might take 12 days to do the whole house and another 3 or 4 for the garage. Add to that my impending return to work and being a mommy, it might take a lifetime to get it all done!!! ;-)

But....it will be worth it!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Kids Say and Do the Darnedest Things.

Yesterday after dressing herself in play jewels and necklaces I witnessed my daughter having the following conversation with herself in the mirror:

"Man, I likkke IT! I REALLLLY likkkke IT!"

Long pause while admiring herself.

"I look nice today!"

Can we say personality!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Acts of selfishness? (Watch out, opionated!)

Last summer I read an interesting article in Maclean's magazine entitled, "The case against having kids". The premise of the article is that increasingly individuals and couples are making the well thought-out and conscious decision not to have children. However, many people who make this choice are often criticized for going against the social norm and labeled as self-centered, not willing to give themselves to others. I tend to disagree with this view. I think that anyone who carefully assesses their life and comes to the conclusion that children are not in their future are actually making a rather thoughtful choice. After all, is it better to meet social expectations by having children you may not really want thereby increasing the chances of becoming a selfish, neglectful and resentful parent, or is it better to live your life happily while being true to yourself? The latter I think.

Since I read the article I have come across this debate a few times in the media, and each time I find myself intrigued by the whole discussion surrounding whether or not it is good or bad, selfless or selfish to have children. The point that bothers me the most is when individuals express the point of view that parents are actually selfish for deciding to have children. There is a train of thought that adding more kids to our population is bad for the environment, they are expensive, the only reason people have children is for a sense of self-gratification and that becoming a parent allows individuals to run away from life. As a parent my only reactions is....WHAT? I'm selfish for having children?

Who knows maybe by having children I am doing harm to society at large, but the same can be said for owning a car, buying non-environmentally friendly cleaning products and eating meat. So on those counts alone I'm already going to hell. As for the self-gratification and running away from life parts - I feel that the parents I know didn't have children for either of these reasons. And here's why:

As women wish and hope to get pregnant, but when we do are bodies morph, change and alter in ways that we never dreamed. Before too long we don't even recognize our bodies as our own, and some of those changes last a lifetime. Is this selfish?

When our babies are in womb we dream of seeing them and holding them, but when they arrive we are shocked into a state a sleep deprivation that drives us to be emotional, erratic and sometime outright crazy. Is this selfish?

We urge our children to hit the big milestones like crawling, walking and talking, but when they do our lives become even more turned upside down, and both physical and emotional exhaustion become the new normal. Is this selfish?

We love that our children need us. They need us to cuddle to care for them and to be with them always, but we do this at the cost of other adult relationships. Both marital relationships and friendships become more difficult as our time is stretched thinner. Is this selfish?

We wipe bums, we clean throw-up, we stay up countless nights rocking and cuddling our children, we give up all-inclusive holidays with tropical cocktails for Disney World and the beach, we wipe snotty noses and we spend 15 minutes dressing our kids in their winter wear just to spend another 30 minutes undressing and redressing them because they need to go pee. Is any of this selfish?

Parenting is hard-work. It doesn't end at 5 o'clock or even once your little ones are asleep. It can also be a lonely and patience-testing job, and for many of us it includes some sort of self-sacrifice. Far from selfish I think.

So never would I call another adult who carefully and consciously makes the choice not to have children selfish, but in turn don't call me selfish either. Yes, I'm rewarded with hugs, kisses, cuddles and a million other daily treats, but I'm also giving everything I've got everyday to two little people who depend on me, as are most other parents. Having or not having children? Good or bad? Selfish or selfless? How about none of those things? How about, having/not having children is a very personal decision that should reflect your own personal goals, values and dreams. You decide and then let's support each other in that choice!

Oh yeah, and to the people who say things like, "I chose not to have children so I shouldn't have to pay for other peoples kids, like paying taxes that go to the education system." Two questions for you: 1) Did you go through the education system? Yes, well now you are simply paying for that education. 2) One day when you are old and gray may you need a doctor, lawyer, plumber, electrician, bus driver, or other professional to help you? Well guess what? That professional might just be my kid. Do you want to help pay for their education now, because I'm think a doctor who can't read or write might be a scary thing! Now that I've got that off my chest I think its time for a mind-numbing movie...

P.S. Chat back. I promise no opinion will go unheard, unshared or un-posted!

Hope these links to the articles and book on this topic work!

"The case against having kids!"

"The 'No kids' debate continues."

"No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not to Have Children."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"Have your people call my people."

Picture this: It is the 1940's and Hollywood's movie industry is just starting to shine. Glamour abounds and everyone wants to be a movie star. One of these young hopefuls is meeting with a big shot movie producer. As the meeting comes to an end the young man leans forward through the thick cigar smoke and says, "It was nice to meet you! Be sure to have your people call my people to set something up!" He scribbles a telephone number below the name Sue on a piece of paper and leaves it for the producer.

As the young man leaves the office he is excited and thrilled by the prospect of being in a movie, but why did he have to be so bold at the end. The whole way home all he can do is worry about how this is all going to play out. At his front door he takes a deep breath, walks in and calls out, "Hey Honey! I'm home." His wife comes from the kitchen and asks how the meeting went. "It was really great, but Sue you've got to do me a big favour!" he says.

Fast forward almost 70 years to today: My husband and his best friend stand chatting about what's new, holidays and any remaining summer plans. Then my husband says, "What are you up to next week? If you guys are going to be around we should try to do dinner one night." His friend agrees and then they both look to me. "Honey, wouldn't it be great to do dinner next week? We don't have any plans, right?" says my husband. Followed by his friend, "Yeah, I'm sure we can work something out. Can't we, Sadie?" Both now look at me expectantly.

Translation: My husband is essentially saying, "I'll have my 'people' call your 'people'!" And, in this instance 'people' usually refers to wife. Some things never change. With each decade since the 1950s it is very true that men have had an increasing roll in family life, but for some reason women are still the organizers, ultimate secretaries, and full-on life assistants. Not that I'm complaining because I have a funny feeling that if my husband were to plan a dinner date with friends the plans would somehow be very muddled. But why the veiled conversation? Come on guys just come out with it and say, "I'll have my lovely wife call your lovely wife to organize something because I have NO clue what our schedule is or if we already have plans."

Its funny how a man can be a great husband and wonderful father, but is seemingly incapable of keeping dentist appointments, calling the doctor, arranging plans with friends (unless it involves a sport of some kind) and remembering their children's various activities. Well, guess what Sweetheart? We have a colour coded calendar for a reason! I'm looking forward to hearing all about the dinner plans. It should be a fun evening!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Kids Say and Do the Darnedest Things.

This is an oldy, but someone reminded me of it lately and I thought I'd share.

Last summer my oldest daughter attended summer day camp for the first time. One day while driving home after camp we had a very disturbing conversation:

Me: What did you do at camp today?

Her: I got see a really big cock!

Me: Pardon?

Her: There was a man with a big cock.

Me: What do you mean?

Her: You know, Mom! A big cock. It was really cool.

At this point I was so confused that I decided to leave the topic and ask again later. Once we were at home and I could sit talking to her I asked a few more questions.

Me: So, there was a special guest at camp today?

Her: Yeah, I already told you that he had a cock.

Me: What did it look like?

Her: It was big and brown.

Me: Did he have anything else?

Her: He had an owl too. He told us that he got them because they hurt their wings in the wild and now he takes care of them.

Me: So he had an owl and hawk? (Hoping I was right!)

Her: (With a frustrated look and voice.) Mom, that's what I said. He brought an owl and a cock!

Thank goodness she can know say hawk! Now if I can only make her realize that the hill isn't STEVE, it is STEEP.

The Out-laws.

Over time I've come to learn that being married requires that I not only be a wife, friend and lover, but a diplomat. I frequently engage in what I consider to be acts of diplomacy in order to keep peace, harmony and open lines of communication between all the "family nations". Of course because I am comfortable with my own immediate family I don't usually have to be a diplomat. I can just be myself, tell it like it is, and say "F@*% off!" when I feel the need. However, with my in-laws (as I suspect is the case for most woman and maybe men too) I often feel like I am lost in a foreign land, fallen through the rabbit hole and into Wonderland.

I know you all know what I'm talking about. That funny feeling like as much as you love your in-laws and they love you, the fit is always just a little off. Kind of like wearing someone else's shoes - even though they are the right size they still feel a little funny. They do holidays differently, spend time together differently, have different family traditions or communication styles that you just never quite adapt to 100%.

I care for my in-laws deeply. They both clearly love my girls, they are helpful and kind, they are willing to do almost anything for us, and I know they appreciate us. But, and there is always a but, they are different from my parents. Sometimes they do or say things that my parents would never do and that to me seem so strange I can't even imagine what they are thinking. They are by no means bad people, but from time to time I do feel annoyed, irritated or even hurt by them. This is when I put on my diplomat's hat, grin, nod and go along for the ride.

Many people who know me well would likely describe me as blunt, maybe even to the point of being witchy, but when my mother-in-law proceeds to give my children one more treat or gift after my husband has asked her not to I bite my tongue. And, when my father-in-law complains that we never visit, but after 5 minutes of catching up gets comfortable on the couch to read his book I turn my head. I do these small things because they are my husband's family. They are the people who one way or another helped to make him who he is. I know for him all these little things don't seem that strange, annoying or even hurtful, and that is because they are what he knows...what he is used to.

So, here I am a few days after a relatively uneventful dinner with my in-laws thinking about the little things they did or said without really thinking first and reminding myself that if nothing else they do love their grandchildren. That alone is worth a million little acts of diplomacy. Now...time to start thinking off a surprise for their 40th wedding anniversary...after all my husband isn't likely to organize anything! ;-)