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Posts Tagged ‘parenthood’

It was your birthday yesterday.

When you woke up in the morning (to the loving sound of your sister singing ‘Happy Birthday’ at the top of her lungs from the bottom of the stairs) you were still seven, but a couple of hours later you officially turned eight.

Your teacher emailed me to say the class sang ‎to you at exactly 9:11am (the time you were born) and I knew you would get a kick out of that. For all of your easy-going ways, you still appreciate the clarity that comes from precision.

I got to drop you at school, something that almost never happens. You took my hand as we walked down the stairs at the back of the school yard and chatted away about something I no longer remember. Truth be told I wasn’t listening very closely; I was too busy looking at you and wondering how it’s possible for eight years to seemingly pass in the blink of an eye.

As we neared the corner where we would turn into your play yard you slipped your hand out from mine and started to run ahead, eager to see your friends, your baseball glove and tennis ball at the ready.

A glimpse.

I wonder how much longer you will let me hold your hand ‘in public.’

I wonder how much longer you will let me kiss your cheek and smooth your hair and cheer (embarrassingly) loudly for you from the stands of a hockey arena or baseball diamond.

Your older sister has taught me that these things are fleeting, only lasting a definite period of time, based on a timeline that I can neither predict nor change.

One day you will do what you have always done, and the next day you will not. You won’t even realize the change, but I will. A line will be drawn in the sand between then and now and I won’t fully realize how much I miss ‘then’ until I can no longer go back.

We went out for dinner last night and you brought along two friends from your hockey team. The three of you sat across the table from me, still young enough to have little plastic lids on your drinks but old enough to order for yourselves and go to the washroom together chuckling the whole time about a joke I probably wouldn’t understand.

You chatted with your aunt on the phone, at one point telling her you were out for dinner and “had two buddies” with you.

Buddies.

Not friends, but buddies.

For some reason the way you said it gave me pause.

You now have buddies.

All of a sudden I could see you at 16, you and your ‘buddies’ coming through my front door, in the house only long enough to empty my fridge and grab some sporting equipment from the garage before jumping in the back of someone’s car and being off again. I can almost feel the words ‘drive safely’ and ‘wear your seatbelts’ caught in my throat.

‎I try to reassure myself that there is time, so much time between now and then, years and years to get used to a new normal.

And then I realize how quickly the last eight years have gone and say a silent prayer that the next eight pass just a little slower.

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‎”Don’t!”

“I didn’t do ANYTHING!”

“Mom, he made a face at me!”

“I did not!!”

Guys, can you just ignore each other, please?? Just look out the window or something. We’ll be home in 10 minutes.

Thirty blissful seconds of silence.

“Let’s play a game”

This could either be a blessing or a curse.

“The first one to see a truck, yell truck!”

“TRUCK!”

“TRUCK!!!”

“I was first!”

“NOOOOO! I was first!! You cheated!!”

A curse. Definitely a curse.

“Mommmmm, she cheated!!”

I’m not sure how a person could cheat at a game that involves seeing a truck and yelling.

Leave it to my kids to find a way.

It’s in moments like this that I can’t believe there was a time when I wished for them to talk. A time when I wished for them to be old enough to have a conversation and interact with each other. A time when I was excited for them to act like brother and sister.

“Mom!!! She’s pointing at me!!! Make her stop!!”

‎Close eyes.

Bang head slowly against steering wheel.

Repeat. ‎ ‎

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‎The place is so quiet that I can hear the clock ticking. The clock has been in the wall the whole time we’ve been here but with four kids running around it’s usually much too chaotic and loud to hear the tiny sound of a ticking clock.

But the kids are out for now, up at the pool with the dads and so the house is quiet and I can hear the clock ticking. I went to the pool yesterday and the day before but today is overcast and cool and I barely get into a bathing suit when the weather is scorching, let alone when the sun is hiding and my body is covered in goose bumps.

My friend is asleep on the couch. She will wake up in a few minutes and claim she was not sleeping and, in fact, was only resting her eyes but I know the truth. ‎Her kids are younger than mine and so she is still in the stage when days start early and nights are never uninterrupted. She deserves to grab sleep, any sleep, wherever she can find it. I, on the other hand, feel somewhat guily napping when I had a full nights’ sleep last night (and the night before and the night before). I know she looks at me and wonders of she will ever get here, to the other side, where I now am. I remember being her and hating people who told me this phase will end, so I say nothing and just sneak quietly from the room so she can rest her eyes for a bit longer.

‎I should probably fold something or pack something or tidy something but I tell myself I’m on vacation so I don’t have to. Chores still exist on holidays, especially those with children, but I take the position that they become optional rather than mandatory. Whatever gets me through the day. We go home tomorrow so soon enough there will no longer be an option.

I sit here and look out the window, expecting to see the rag-tag bunch trudging down the hill from the swimming pool. They will be cold and tired, although they will admit neither. The quiet will be broken and there will be showers to run and soaking wet bathing suits to wring out and stories to listen to about who dove in and who swam the fastest and who stole the beach ball and wouldn’t give it back.

I will feel both happy and sad to see them. Happy for all of the reasons I’m supposed to but also sad because quiet time is done, and perhaps I’ve wasted it. Time alone is so precious that I feel I should have accomplished something amazing, although what that would look like I’m not sure. Instead they will return and all I will have done is pinned a new muffing recipe on Pinterest and written this post. Amazing? I fear I will once again have fallen short.

I look out the window again, and again no sign of them. It’s almost as though I don’t know what to do when I’m sitting here without them, without a constant list of things to do. Apparently I’ve lost the ability to be left to my own devices. When my kids are present I don’t know what to do with them, and yet when they are gone I don’t know what I’m supposed to do without them.

But soon enough they will be home and it will again be loud and chaotic and all of those other things that kids bring along with them wherever they go. And I will love them for it (at least a little bit) and I will fondly remember my time alone, when it was quiet enough to hear the sound of the clock ticking.

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‎You’re seven today. In less than two hours it will be official. You’re very precise about these things, even asking me to find your watch so you can make note of the exact time at school.

9:11 a.m.

Right about now, seven years ago, we were still trying to get used to the idea that you were coming today, a couple of weeks earlier than planned. We left the house in a bit of a rush a few hours earlier, forgetting your sister’s shoes as we carried her, half asleep, out the door to the car to be dropped at grandma’s house on the way to the hospital.

We chatted about baby names on the way, in between contractions. We were still waffling on a girl’s name. Soon enough we would realize we wouldn’t need one anyway.

In a way it seems like only yesterday, the memories and feelings of those first moments and hours with you seem so clear. Sometimes I can’t recall things that happened last month or last week but almost every minute of that day seems etched in my mind forever.

And then I look at you now, at seven (or almost) and can’t believe it’s you. I see you run around with your friends, learn to ride a bike, meander along the sidewalk on your way to school, your backpack bouncing every step of the way, and I almost lose my breath.

Last year you played hockey for the first time, falling down every second step but always getting up one more time than you fell down. This year you decided you wanted to be a goalie and, admittedly, I wasn’t sure. But you did it. You made the top level competitive team in our area and skated out there every day, padded up in so much equipment that I often wondered how you could move at all, let alone stride from side to side and end up doing the splits.

In your final game, one your team needed to win for the championship, you played the overtime and then the referee announced it would go to penalty shots. I looked at you down on the ice, all alone in your net, and I wanted to yell at them to stop, that you were only six and couldn’t possibly be expected to do this.

But you did. And when you made the final big save and your team went and scored at the other end I could see your grin from ear to ear, even through the bars on your mask.

And suddenly, in my mind you were eight months old again, sitting and splashing in the tub; two years old again, tottering around the house with an ever-present apple in your hand; four years old, heading off for your first day of school; six years old, graduating from senior kindergarten.

Perhaps that is the way it always is for parents. While those around us see our kids as who they are, in that moment, we can’t help but see them as they were, the previous versions of themselves all rolled up together.

So you’ll have to forgive me if today, when you blow out your candles, you look up and see a few tears in my eyes. I’m not sad, I promise. I’m just so proud of the little boy you have become and so excited to see what comes next.

Happy Birthday Buddy.

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‎You will never hear me say I’ve got it all together. You’ll never hear me say it because it would be a total lie, and also it seems a little like waking a sleeping bear. As soon as you say it, you can pretty much guarantee that the universe will burst forth just to prove you wrong.

And so I will never say it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t hope for it, dream of it, strive for it every day.

There are days when I feel like I come close. Days where things are relatively in order, the schedule is manageable and there might even be time left at the end of it all for a cup of tea and a quiet minute to relax. On those days I’m cautiously optimistic that maybe balance is possible, that maybe working and being a decent mother, wife, friend, daughter can all exist in something faintly resembling harmony.

Usually shortly after those thoughts cross through my mind I hear the words, “Mama, my tummy hurts.”

And then the little house of cards that looked fairly stable ten minutes ago topples to the ground. We do the scramble of who is going to stay home; the intricate dance of which schedule is less movable and which tasks take precedence. Today my day has very little give in it at all, meetings from beginning to end with little possibility of rescheduling. My day wins, or loses, depending on how you look at it.

So I have to kiss him goodbye, the little guy tucked in his bed upstairs with the tired eyes and the sick tummy, and go off to my day. And the entire time I will hate myself for leaving him even though I know he’s safe at home with his daddy because I think it’s supposed to be me there with him. Me there with the hugs and the cups of juice and the cool cloth for his head.

Instead I will spend the day questioning this whole working mother thing and doubt every major decision I have made that led me to this place. ‎My carefully-crafted schedule will implode, things will have to be shuffled and scheduled again. I feel the exact opposite of someone who has it all together.

In my head I know this will pass. I know I will pick up all the cards, gather then together, shuffle a few here and there and I will rebuild the house. That’s what we parents do. It probably won’t look the same as it did before, some of the cards will be in different spots, but at the end of the day it will be fine, perhaps even stronger than it was before.

But I also know there will come a day when it will fall down again, such is the nature of this balancing act we all try to do. And I’m slowly trying to get to the place where the real appreciation comes not when the house is complete, but the whole time spent building it along the way.

I’ll let you know if I ever get there.

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Of course I remember the moment you were born, how could I ever forget it?  But, to be perfectly honest, I don’t really feel like the moment you were born was the moment I first met you, if that makes any sense at all.  The moment you were born the room was filled with a whole bunch of people, even more than usual perhaps, because you were being somewhat stubborn about your entry into the world.  I now know it was just a sign of things to come, that stubborn personality of yours that you inherited directly from me.

The room was filled with people and machines and lights and it just felt very busy.  They put you on my chest and I cried and your dad cried and we took pictures and they did all the things they have to do with you right in the beginning.  I remember feeling like I was in a daze, not sure what was going on but sure that I was supposed to be remembering it all, taking it all in, so I could tell you about it one day.

The first few hours were all about letting everyone know about you, that you had arrived, safe and sound, that you were a perfect little girl and the name we had given you.  It was about trying to track down your grandfather at the airport after a frantic, red-eye flight in from the West Coast when you decided to come just a little bit earlier than expected.  It was about everyone else getting to see you and kiss you and hold you, and I sort of felt as though I was at a distance.

Then they wheeled us into what would be our room for the next 24 hours and suddenly we were all alone, you and I.  I remember all of a sudden it seemed so quiet and so still and you looked so small wrapped up in that blanket with only your face showing.  I gingerly propped myself up on the pillow, easier said than done now that the medication was wearing off, and pulled your bassinet closer to the bed so I could reach you.

I kept expecting someone to come in and tell me I wasn’t allowed.  That I wasn’t allowed to take you out of there, that I wasn’t allowed to touch you, but then I realized that I was allowed, that you were mine and I was yours.  It seemed to take me hours to get you out of there, between my sore body and your seeming fragility I moved about one inch every minute, so afraid something would happen to you.  Finally I pulled you in close and lifted my feet back on the bed, laying back on the pillow and feeling the full weight of you in my arms for the very first time.

I gently unwrapped the blanket, it suddenly seemed very important that I look at all of you, not just your tiny face.  I looked at your toes, your feet and legs still curled up so tight.  I ran my fingers along your chest, feeling your heart beat under my hand for the first time.  I held your fingers, examined your tiny finger nails and pulled off your hat to see all of your beautiful dark hair.

And it was there, in those five minutes, hours and hours after you actually entered the world that I felt like you and I met for the first time. There in the silence of the hospital room while the world continued on just on the other side of a thin curtain, you were now all that mattered.  A little piece of me and a little piece of your dad and a whole lot of the amazing person you were going to become.

It’s now ten years later.  I don’t know how it’s happened but it has, and you are now so far from that little baby that I can hardly understand you are the same person.  But then I look into those huge brown eyes and run my fingers through your thick brown hair and I’m taken back to that room, in that bed, when it was just you and I.  I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, or how I ever got lucky enough to become your mom, and ten years later I feel essentially the same way.

And while the first ten years seemed to be very much about keeping you safe and teaching you some of the things you need to know, I kind of feel like the next ten are going to be more about me getting out of your way.  Me realizing that you are very much your own person now and it’s time for me to do less teaching and more watching, less directing and more appreciating, less questioning and more understanding.

We somehow managed to make it to this point, although I definitely had my doubts some days.  It’s a good thing you finally learned how to sleep for longer than 20 minutes at a time or I’m not so sure either one of us would still be here!  Between then and now there have been a million moments that I wish I could remember.  I wish I could pull them out of my pocket one at a time and examine them in my arms, like I did with you on your very first day.

But because I can’t, I will just take a moment to cherish you, as you are now, and for all of the million moments you have given me since that very first one.

I can only hope that the next million are going to be just as amazing.

Happy birthday baby girl.

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‎If there’s one thing I know for certain about parenting, it’s that just when you think you have a handle on things, everything changes .

Just got used to the whole pregnancy thing? You’ll probably go into labour the next day.

Finally got you child to sleep through the night? Not so fast! Now it’s time to potty train.

Terrible twos (and threes and fours) finally a thing of the past? Now it’s time to start school and deal with teacher troubles and friend troubles and homework troubles.

And although I am reminded of this fact on a regular basis, I still find myself surprised by it all the time.

Like this past Sunday.

Both of my kids play hockey. My son started last year and the learning curve was steep (more so for me than for him). I have watched hockey for years and was under the (mistaken) impression that the jump from hockey fan to hockey mom would be a fairly smooth one. That was until the day I had to get him dressed in all of his equipment.

It was more complicated than ‎I ever expected. His bag was stuffed full of strange looking pieces of padding with straps and velcro, all of which served a very specific purpose and all of which had to be put on in a very specific way, in a very specific order. I felt completely lost. But, as the weeks went by I learned, with more than a little help from my five year old.

So going into this season I felt much more confident. I now know what the two different types of hockey tape are for and how to make sure his socks don’t fall down. I’m good. We’ve got this covered.

That was until he announced he wanted to be a goalie.

And just like that I felt like I had fallen down the slide on the Snakes and Ladders version of my life.

For those of you who may not be very familiar with hockey, the goalie wears about five times as much padding as the other players on the ice, including two huge pads strapped to the outside of their legs. There are buckles and straps and laces and more buckles and more straps.

So everything I learned last year was now pretty much useless. Just as I figured out how to be a hockey mom, I now had to figure out how to be a goalie mom. A goalie mom on a competitive team that is on the ice four to five times a week.

And that takes us to last Sunday afternoon. It was a regular practice day and I was sitting in my regular spot in the stands, travel mug in hand, one blanket between my butt and the cold wooden bench and another wrapped around my legs. My gloves were on, my imitation Uggs from Costco helped warm my feet. I was feeling good. I had a moment of peace pass over me. Sure, I may not yet know‎ which pad goes where but I have confidence I will learn. Things are okay; I’ll get there.

And then I looked down to the ice and noticed my husband waiving at me. He was ushering my son to the gate. He had to go to the bathroom. We made it to the change room and then it hit me…how was I going to get him out of his equipment in time? And even if I could, how would I get him back into it all? My hubby was on the ice helping th other coaches with the practice. This was all on me.

So somehow I figured it out. I devised a plan to take off just enough of the padding to do what needed to be done, but not too much that I couldn’t get him dressed again. ‎ Just like I figured out how to change a dirty diaper in an airplane bathroom, or how to cram myself in one of those little elementary school chairs during a parent teacher conference. Or how I re-learned long division and how to multiply things without a calculator so I could help my daughter with her homework.

Because there’s no manual for being a parent. I just have to learn as I go and trust that I’ll figure it out, eventually. And just when I do, things will change and I’ll end up in a bathroom stall with a 6 year old in 15 pounds of hockey equipment.

At the very least it keeps things interesting!

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