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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

‎”Please,” she said, over and over and over again. “Please can I go, please, please, please, please?”

I saw the pleading in her eyes, like she’d never wanted anything as much as she wanted this and, in that moment, I believed that she probably never had.

A year ago she was crying herself to sleep almost every night because she didn’t want to go to a new school. Didn’t want to leave her friends, didn’t want to start fresh, didn’t want anything to do with the plans we had made. We tried to convince her otherwise, tried to explain how much better it would be, tried to help her see the bigger pic‎ture. Of course it was impossible. Of course a nine year old can’t see the big picture. Of course she just wants friends and most of all, the holy grail of friends, the best friend.

“I promise I’ll be careful, Mom. I promise.”

I hated that she could see the fear in my eyes so clearly. That she could already see, even at her age, that it is the fear, my fear, that stands in her way. I smoothed down her hair and answered that I know she would be and that I would let her know later that day what had been decided.

‎They came to the door last Friday evening and once the girls were upstairs he said he wanted to talk to me about something. My mind raced through all the possibilities of what it could be and I hate to say it but all of them were negative. Did the girls get in a fight? Did something happen? Was something said that shouldn’t have been said? I’m always so bad at dealing with these situations, what if I don’t know how to react?

But it wasn’t bad at all, it was good. They were going away for a couple of days, doing something really fun, and they wanted her to go with them. She had been picked. Their daughter could bring only one friend and my daughter had been chosen.

My heart warmed for her; that she would be able to experience, if even only for a brief time, being the chosen one. She was now what she wanted to be so badly all those teary nights before. She was the best friend.

Some people seem to come into the world with a place already waiting for them, a spot in the sun where things just seem easier and smoother and softer. My son is one of those people. He draws attention and bats his eye lashes and has people of all ages commenting that he’s adorable. He makes friends effortlessly because he genuinely doesn’t care if you like him or not, so convincingly that you can’t help but try and make him like you in return. He has his own struggles but even they have an effortless quality to them. It’s not a matter if “if” but “when.” You get the impression that he sees the world as being full of possibilities and his greatest challenge is deciding what to try next.

My daughter, on the other hand, will seemingly always have to work to find her place. ‎She has a hundred amazing talents but is satisfied with none of them; constantly trying to prove herself to some silent critic. She cares if you like her, she cares more than she wants to admit. She wants you to like her but works incredibly hard to look like she doesn’t. She seems to see the world as being full of obstacles, coming at her one after the other after the other.

And now she had almost made her way over a big hurdle , if I could only get out of her way. I wanted to, I really did, but at the edges of my happiness for her, I felt the fear creeping in. How could I let her go? How could I pack her bag and send her off with these people I know only in passing? How could I wave goodbye to her and send her off without me?

But how could I not let her go? How could I say no when she had been picked, been chosen, and when I know she would have such a wonderful time? How could I say no to the chance for her to make such amazing memories?

“Please Mom, please! Have you decided yet? Please?”

If I said no, if I didn’t let her go because of my fear, of my desire to keep her safe in the only way I know how – by keeping her right beside me – then what have I taught her? I have taught her not to be careful, but to be fearful. I’ve taught her not to trust her instincts, but to mistrust everything around her. I’ve taught her that while someone else may have picked her, I don’t believe in her enough to let her be chosen.

And so I finally said “yes.”

I hugged her close so she wouldn’t see the tears welling up in my eyes.

“You can go.”

She yelled with joy and ran to start packing her bag although she wouldn’t leave for four more days. It’s all she talked about and she hardly slept from the excitement. And when she left it was my turn to say please.

Please be careful. Please don’t do anything you know you shouldn’t. Please stay safe.

Please take care of my little girl. Please don’t think I’m crazy for all of my worrying. Please treat her like I would. Please bring her back safe to me.

That was two days ago and now she’s back. She’s sitting here beside me on the couch, home safe and sound with lots of stories of all the fun she had. I smile and sit back to listen to her, the words spilling out of her, tumbling one on top of the other in a hurry to be told.

I just sit and listen. I won’t tell her that I didn’t sleep while she was gone. I won’t tell her that I thought about her every hour and that I was sitting on the stairs just inside the front door waiting for her to get back. I won’t tell her that when I saw the car pull into the driveway I went and stood in the kitchen so it didn’t seem like I was hovering, even though that’s exactly what I was doing.

I know this is just the beginning. I know there will be many more times spent sitting inside the front ‎door, looking at the clock and waiting. I know there will be more questions and pleases and trips and answers I don’t want to give. More waiting for her to come home safe from wherever she was. Hundreds and thousands of silent prayers sent out into the universe to watch over her when I can’t.

Always bring her home to me.

Always keep her safe.

Please.

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When I was a kid I played a few different types of organized sports and one thing that was common across almost all of them was the ready position. It varied slightly from sport to sport but contained a few consistent elements: knees bent, arms slightly raised, head up, eyes focused. If you were in the ready position you were prepared for anything that might come your way, at least in theory.

Years later I am now an adult and I play no organized sports. Yet it occurred to me that I spend a large amount of my time in the ready position. Not physically though, I have to admit I would look a little odd standing in my kitchen hunched over slightly, ready to field a hotshot grounder on a baseball field, but rather now the ready position seems to be a constant state of mind.

What next? What’s going to happen next that I have to deal with? What problem to be solved, ‎issue to be fixed, potential argument to be avoided?

When I’m at work and the phone rings, I wonder “what now?” When someone walks into my office and closes the door I’m already anticipating which crisis they are going to drop at my desk.

When I’m at home and I go through my kids school agendas I fear the pieces of paper that signal something else to be done. When I see a text message on my phone that says “call me” my first thought is “this can’t be good.”

Because is it just me or ‎lately does it always seem to be bad news? Something that means more work and more stress and more problem solving and more and more and more. Sometimes when I find myself assuming the worst I try to force myself to go the other way. I stop and try to come up with ideas of what it could be that would be good.

I usually don’t get very far.

It always seems there are a million different things that can (and do) go wrong, but barely a handful of things that could go right. I’ve never been very good at math but even I can figure out that those aren’t great odds.

So I find myself searching for times when I don’t have to be ready and able to deal with the next thing. I forward the phone to voicemail, leave my cell phone in my purse, turn off the TV and just sit. I try to give my brain a break from the constant need to solve, arrange, fix, schedule, organize everything that comes my way.

I know these moments won’t last long and that sooner rather than later I will have to reconnect to the world and all of its demands but when I do, I find myself a little calmer, thinking a little clearer, breathing a little deeper.

And once again ready to face what will inevitably be coming next.

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‎My daughter hums, almost constantly. She does it when she brushes her teeth, when she put on her shoes, when she dresses the dolls I’m glad she’s not too old to still love playing with.

She doesn’t even notice she’s doing it. From time to time I will ask her what song she’s singing and she’ll look at me, not understanding what I’m asking.

That’s when it occurred to me that whereas I hear words in my head, she hears music. That is her comfort, her centre, her constant companion. And it makes me smile.

I sometimes wonder what it’s like to hear the music, because it’s definitely not something I have ever experienced. I’m basically as non-musical as you can get, but maybe one day she will explain it to me. I will have to ask her.

I’m glad she has it, has something to keep her company, even if she can’t yet appreciate it. And so I will continue to smile each time I hear the humming, off in the distance, down the hall, across the dinner table. And I will lean over and kiss her on the head, although she won’t know why I do it.

Because I love her, and I love that she hears music wherever she goes.

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When we found out last year that our cat was sick my kids, after their initial shock and sadness, asked if we could get another pet.  They have an amazing way of turning lemons into lemonade, or at least trying.  I informed them that we would not be getting another cat.  Hubby is allergic, and has always been allergic, he just put up with it the first time around.  We wouldn’t ask him to do it again.  They already knew we would never be getting a dog.  There’s the whole allergy thing, on top of the fact that I am definitely not a dog person, so that was strike two.

They sat there looking at me with those big eyes, begging me to give them some kind of hope, something.  I caved.

Maybe a fish, I said.  Sure, yeah, I could do a fish.

We have had them in the past and other than cleaning out the bowl once a week or so, they’re really about as low-maintenance as you can get.  Okay, we could do that.

We said goodbye to our cat in July and I managed to hold off on the fish until September.  It was kind of a back to school kind of thing, together with the fact that my parents were in town so they could go with us to the pet store, the kind of thing grandparents love to do.  So we went to the store and left half an hour later with $50 worth of supplies and two little fish in two little plastic bags.

My daughter picked an orange fish, and named her Cheddar.  According to my daughter it’s very obvious that Cheddar is a girl.  I’ll have to take her word for it.

Cheddar

Cheddar

My son picked a black fish, and named him Puck.  The name became particularly fitting when, on the ride home, we got the call that he had been selected for the rep hockey team.

Puck

Puck

In the beginning I was really just hoping that they would make it through the week.  I mean you never know with these types of things; and my luck hasn’t been the greatest lately.  But, here we are a couple of months later and Cheddar and Puck are still happily swimming around in a fish bowl on a table in our living room.

When we brought them home my kids made all of the promises that kids make.  Yes Mama, I promise I’ll feed them.  Yes Mama, I promise we’ll help you clean the bowl.  This isn’t my first trip to the rodeo though and I could pretty much predict how long it would take until the novelty wore off.  So now I’m usually the one that feeds them, and I’m always the one that cleans the bowl but to be honest, I don’t mind.  In fact, I kind of like it.

I miss our cat all the time, probably even more than I thought I would.  I miss him when I open the door and he’s not there at my feet, trying to squeeze past me to get outside.  I miss him in the morning when he’s not waiting for me in the kitchen, crying for his treats.  I miss him in the evenings when he’s not curled up on the carpet in the hallway, his head tucked under his arm.

I miss him.

And there’s no way two little fish swimming circles and blowing bubbles around a blue tree in a bowl in my living room are going to make up for the fact that he’s gone.  But, in their own little way, they help.  They give me something to do every morning and every night, and I can talk to them and not have to listen to them talk back!

In their own little way, they need me and, in my own little way, I need them too.

Welcome to the family Cheddar and Puck.  We’re glad you’re here.

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It’s early, very early. It’s Saturday and I’m up and out of the house earlier than on a weekday. There’s something inherently wrong with that statement.

The alarm went off at 5:33am although, truth be told, I was already awake. Sleeping in seems to be a figment of my younger days, like touching my toes or staying up past 11pm. I can’t seem to sleep in, even on the days my schedule allows for it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to bitch about having to get up.

I crept out of the room as quietly as I could and snuck down the hallway to‎ where I had left my clothes the night before. This kind of thing takes planning. A quick brush of the teeth was all the grooming required. Where I was going, that kind of thing doesn’t matter.

My daughter jumped out of bed much quicker than I did, thankfully. If she didn’t want to get up this would be even more difficult.

Standing in the soft glow of the kitchen light I got her a glass of milk and started to get her dressed. The fact that my kitchen floor is covered with hockey equipment at 5:40am no longer seems strange to me.

As I help her into her chest protector it hits me that this is one of those moments. One of those things that I have done a dozen times already and will probably do a hundred times more, and yet I wonder if someday I will forget. Someday maybe this will just be a distant memory, a punchline for a dinner party story. Remember when we used to get up so early for hockey practice? Ouch, wasn’t that painful?

But I won’t remember that it was also kind of special. The silence of the morning broken only by whispers. The well choreographed dance, each of us knowing our moves and what comes next.

A quick inventory at the door confirms we have everything. Don’t forget my stick Mom, she calls as she heads out the door. Right, don’t forget the stick. And don’t forget the travel mug filled ‎with hot tea, as crucial to me as the stick is to her.

The streets are quiet. We pass house after house, each more dark than the next. I think of the two we left sleeping at home. I turn the radio up a little louder, I hear soft humming from the back seat. She informs me that she’s not tired. I smile.

And now here I sit, watching her on the ice. I don’t know where she gets the energy to do this so early in the morning. All I have to do is sit here and that is difficult enough. I sip my tea, I fix my blankets, I say good morning to the other bleary-eyes parents as they arrive. I feel like part of a secret club. She’s only fallen once so far. I can’t believe the improvement. She tries so hard and it’s paying off. I could learn a few things from her about perseverance.

The cold is starting to reach my bones now. No matter how many layers I wear or how many blankets I bring it’s always cold. I finish my tea, I look down on the ice and see her smiling at me.

I don’t wave because I know she would roll her eyes at me.

Maybe she won’t remember these mornings either. But I will try. And I will try to remind her when it was her and I and the darkness of the streetlights and our cold noses and early morning hugs.

These are the moments to remember.

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Other parents I know are so terrified of their kids wandering off in a busy public place that they keep them close with those little kids leashes. I know some who are so scared at the possibility of choking that they continue to cut up their kids grapes into tiny pieces well into their middle school years. And still others are so frightened by the mere possibility of their kids being exposed to germs that they basically wrap their kids in plastic wrap and douse them in hand sanitizer for the duration of the school year.

I don’t judge.

I don’t judge the leashes or the grapes or the plastic wrap because I get it.

I have my own (somewhat) irrational fear.

This is mine.

You see fun...I see terror.

You see fun…I see danger.

I know it’s ridiculous. I know it’s right up there with leashes and cut-up grapes and plastic wrap, but I just can’t help it.

I remember loving the swings as a kid. I remember the amazing sense of freedom that came with pumping my legs as hard as they could go, higher and higher until I felt like I could touch the sky. I remember closing my eyes and feeling my hair floating around my head at the exact moment I hung suspended between forward swing and backward. Being on the swing was the closest I ever came to flying. In a word, the swings were bliss.

Now, years later, I am a parent and I have a much different perspective.

Now I wonder who decided that strapping a slippery piece of flexible rubber between two metal chains was a good idea? Seriously, how could this not end badly? I made my son sit in the baby swing until he was five. It would have probably been longer but he got stuck one time and I almost couldn’t get him out.

If it were up to me, every swing would be a baby swing. I mean seriously, they made us put a seat belt on our Bumbo chairs for “safety” reasons but suggesting they put a restraining device on something that helps your kid fly through the air? Apparently that moves me from the category of “diligent” to “crazy.”

So my kids have learned. When they go to the park with Daddy he does “under-ducks” and pushes them as high as they want. He laughs as they laugh and lets them swing as long as they want.

However, they know when they go to the park with Mommy she will encourage you to play on anything BUT the swings. If you do manage to get on one, she won’t push you more than three times. She will say that’s “high enough.” Then she will go sit on the bench and stare at you with the frowny face until you finally give up and go play on the slide.

I hate that this very simple thing freaks me out and I know it doesn’t make any sense. A swing is no more dangerous than a bike or a car, or walking from here to there for that matter, but I can’t seem to get over it. Apparently this is just my thing.

Realistically I keep telling myself that in the big scheme of things it probably won’t leave them too traumatized.

I mean it’s not like I’m afraid of ice cream.

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Happy Graduation to you!

Happy Graduation to you!

A row of backpacks lines one wall, neatly hanging on their designated hooks. Shoes are tucked into their allotted slots; name tags tell everyone where their things belong.

Tiny chairs are arranged in rows. Streamers crisscross the ceiling, balloons hang from every available space. A small table holds homemade cupcakes, apple and orange slices and plastic cups filled with juice.

We file into the room quietly, not really sure what to expect. I turn my head and there you are, my baby, standing shoulder to shoulder with your classmates, a blue paper hat propped crookedly on your head. You see me and smile, a proud grin stretching across your entire face.

It is graduation day.

There are tears. The teacher gets choked up less than two sentences into her opening remarks and I feel my own tears join her. I am not one to allow anyone to cry alone.

There is a little slide show, diplomas and gifts are presented and 30 adults do the delicate dance of moving in to take pictures and then back out of the way for the next child. My father-in-law takes his position as the family photographer so I don’t have to bother. I know he will take care of the pictures. There will be perfect shots to send to relatives, post for friends, print for the photo albums. I will thank him later for that, for taking care of that so I don’t have to.  For allowing me to just sit and watch.

Watch you wait anxiously for your turn to be called, the smile on your face when it finally is. Watch you carefully walk across the classroom and take your diploma, laughing as your teacher shakes your hand and turn to smile, pose for all of the pictures that will allow us to remember the day.

Not that I can imagine ever forgetting this day; these images stamped on my mind.

After my in-laws and my husband leave, I stay, mingling a little with the other parents, nibbling on a cupcake and sipping my juice.

My son pulls me by the hand around the classroom, “Mama, look at our caterpillar, he’s in a cocoon now!”

“Look, this is my cubby and these are my shoes”

“Look, this is a picture of my friend Kevin and the volcano we built. It was my favourite thing this year!”

Look, look, look.

I know Buddy, I’m looking at it all. And the whole time I’m looking at you and trying to remember you, in this moment, forever.

Because everyone else in the room looks at you and sees you, as you are now.  But I look at you and see six years of memories all rolled up in your little body.  I see months of late nights and painfully early mornings, scraped knees and bruised feelings, bedtime stories and morning kisses.  I see a terrifying trip to the emergency room, a hundred rocks thrown into the lake, a dozen early mornings at the ice rink, your face lit up in excitement when it’s finally time to step on the ice.  I see melted popsicle dripping off your chin, sand in your shoes, bubbles in the bathtub and rubbing your head as you fall asleep, your eye lashes fanning out on your impossibly soft cheeks.

I see it all.

And now I see you here, with a paper hat on your head, cupcake crumbs on your chin and one shoelace untied on your “fancy” shoes that you asked to wear especially for today.  You seem so incredibly grown up and yet so impossibly young, all in the same moment.  I can hardly breath, it’s all so much to take in.

Fancy shoes.

Fancy shoes.

But I steady myself.

This day is about beginnings, not endings.  It’s about the future, and although it inevitably makes me think of the past, I force myself not to get stuck there, as I so often do.  Instead I will focus on all that you’ve accomplished and yes, perhaps even all that we have accomplished, together, you and I.

It is the end of a chapter, but there’s still so much of the book yet to be written.

I can’t wait to read it.

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