Friday, 5 April 2013

How Kids have Changed my Life

Someone close to me is expecting twins.  Having "finished" our family (and by that I mean my husband says no more, but no permanent measures have been taken), I enjoy talking to her about her pregnancy and listening to her plans, and reliving those months of wonder and anticipation.  She is wise, and acknowledges that she will change her mind about what she needs and wants a dozen times.  However, she still has no idea what she's in for.  Do any of us?  Ever? 

Even now that I am a seasoned mom, I have no idea.  In fact, sometimes I look at my 4 year old who talks (incessantly) and runs and climbs and uses the toilet and I wonder how the heck that happened.  If I somehow give off the vibe that it is due to my parenting know-how and expertise, it's total crap.  Here's what I have learned from years of parenting:

1) I was a way better parent before I had kids -- It's easy to be patient and creative and energetic and fun when you've had a full night sleep.  It's easier when you know those kids are going home and you can recoup in your quiet house that stays tidy after you clean it.  Don't judge.  Because Karma will treat you to a full-blown temper tantrum in the store from your own child one day.  Then you'll realize that maybe it has nothing to do with a lack of discipline at home and everything to do with the fact that the only time you could buy groceries for dinner was at 4 pm after picking up your hungry, tired toddler from daycare.

2) If they seem too good to be true, they are.  Don't trust them! -- Recently, while home on Spring Break, we got sick.  After a few days of patiently dealing with whiny, grumpy, snotty children, while hacking and sneezing myself, I was ready to throw in the towel.  Then one afternoon while my youngest was napping, my oldest (the aforementioned 4 year old) turned his angelic gaze on me and said, "Mommy, I'm okay watching TV.  You're not feeling well, why don't you have a nap?"  Tears filled my eyes as I pondered this compassionate, loving child we'd raised.  I laid down.  Ten minutes later I heard our garage door open and shut.  When I got up to check, he'd taken advantage of this moment to "borrow" his dad's fishing gear and take it to the front yard to fish with.  They are evil geniuses, and will tell you what they know you want to hear.  Seriously.

3)  You will find yourself saying things you'd never dreamed you'd be saying. -- Most recently: "No, those aren't mosquito bites those are your nipples... I don't know why they're itchy."

4) You will stoop to new lows you never thought possible to avoid toddler meltdowns. -- My proud parenting moment?  My son saw candy corn on the counter and wanted some.  This was my reply: "Oh no, honey, that's not candy.  It's soap.  You can't eat it, you wash with it." 
My husband's reply? "You're probably going to hell for that lie.  You know that, right?"

5) You will stoop to new lows you never thought possible to prove a point. -- My husband watched "Deadliest Catch" without fail.  My son got out of bed one night in time to see someone getting his arm stitched up by the skipper.  "What happened?" he asked wide-eyed. 
"He didn't listen to his mommy and got hurt." I replied. 
"He didn't yisten to his mommy?  He should've yistened to his mommy."
"Yes, he should've, because mommies keep you safe."
Point made. Lessoned learned.

6) You will become waaay more sensitive to things you didn't even think about before. -- Teenagers using bad language in front of your child.  People walking by in the park, as their cigarette smoke wafts past your stroller.  Someone telling you you have the cutest little girl, when your baby boy is dressed completely in blue and even has his little hair spiked.  That Tim Horton's commercial when the dad secretly watches his son's hockey games.  Country songs on the radio about kids growing up and aprents growing old. Diaper commercials with sleeping babies. Willow Tree figurines. 

7) You will discover things about yourself you never knew. -- So many amazing things:  You can operate on two hours sleep.  You can keep your head and act effectively when your child is bleeding.  You can clean up vomit without vomiting yourself.  You can turn into a tigress to defend your cubs.  You can make dinner, tidy up, nurse a baby and make a dental appointment all at the same time.  You can handle cotton balls being spread from one end of your living room to the other when you look in your child's eyes and see their delight at "making snow for you."  You can climb into a lukewarm, poopy tub to wash diarrhea off your screaming, sick toddler before you've even had your morning coffee.  You may not think so, but you can and you will.  Most importantly, you will do it without even thinking twice about it.  You won't even be amazed at yourself afterwards.  You should be, though, because you're awesome.

8) Lastly, and hopefully this goes without saying, you will discover new depths of love. -- Your joy blazes a little brighter in your little one's grin.  Your day gets a little better with every hug.  You can hear "I love you" a million times from that little mouth and love it just a bit more each time.  You know every look, every inflection of their voice, and fall for them a little harder each day.  No one's child is smarter, or funnier, or cuter.  Every kiss good night is beautiful and a little sad, as it's one day closer to a day when home won't be their home anymore; when their room won't be just down the hall; and you won't be the one they run to when they're hurt.  But hopefully...
Hopefully... you've taught them enough about love to be the one someone else runs to for comfort.
Hopefully... they'll find someone who sees what you see in them, and loves them as fiercely for it.
And then, maybe, one day they will discover that they were a way better parent before they had kids.

And if there's any justice in the world, they will find themselves in a living room full of "snow," wiping a snotty nose, while dinner is cooking, and the baby is crying, thinking of you and wondering how you did it.

Monday, 10 September 2012

The Juggling Act

I just finished my first week back at work.  Hooo boy... was teaching always this hard, or had I just forgotten?  Maybe all those days of dealing with a baby and a preschooler, who are always finding new ways of making me lose my mind, painted teaching in a rosier hue.  Maybe it's getting up at 5 am to get myself and the kids ready before I drop them off for the day.  Maybe having two kids means that I have even less time to get done everything that NEEDS to get done.  Probably a combination of the above.  I feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water, and more keeps pouring in: preschool, daycare, nursery, housework... the list seems endless.  I'm not even one of those "super-moms" who works full-time, sits on the PAC, bakes all of her kids sugar-free goodies herself, and still makes it to the gym for her "me-time."

For me, working full-time means someone else takes my son to school and gets to meet his friends and connect with his teacher, I rarely bake (and then only if it's an instant mix), and, as far as I'm concerned, gym-time is not "me-time."  Gym time is something that sucks up my "me-time" and leaves me sweaty, tired and grumpy because now I have no time to sit down with a book and some chips.  Therefore, since I've started work, "gym-time" is extinct.

I spent an hour with my youngest son today, and most of it he spent eating dinner in his high chair.  I missed out on praying before bed with my oldest son because I was working on schoolwork on the computer, and when I went up to see him fifteen minutes later, he was sound asleep.  I leave work before I've gotten done, everything I want to get done, and I'm already stressing about how I'm going make it to all the after-school meetings I need to get to.  I've pretty much used up the free family babysitting, and I still owe my husband a date night for his birthday... and our anniversary.

This is reading more and more like a confession, and I'm not even sure what I'm confessing.  Inadequacy?  Can one even confess inadequacy when one never claimed to be adequate in the first place?  To be honest, I'm not even sure why I'm writing this.  Perhaps, I'm hoping others understand; that I'm not the only one.  Or that someone has found the answer, and figured out the best way to balance it all.

No, scratch that.  If you've found the answer, I don't want to hear it.  Guaranteed: the answer will be to get involved in PAC, bake sugar-free treats, and get to the gym regularly.  ... la la la, I can't hear you over the sound of me chewing potato chips...

Saturday, 21 July 2012

These Days with Joey... Life Lessons I've Learned from my Preschooler

My son, Joey, can be the cutest, smartest, sweetest, most frustrating, time-consuming, make-you-want-to-scratch-your-own-eyeballs-out, preschooler on the planet.  Now, I do understand that that does describe most preschoolers... the only difference is that this describes most other preschoolers SOME of the time.  However, it describes mine MOST of the time.  There are days when I just start laughing because there is no other alternative.  I must either laugh, or go insane.
There are days when the insanity comes fairly close to winning.
There are days when I'm not entirely sure that I haven't gone over the edge and perhaps the argument I'm having about whether he should be allowed to pee in the grass instead of the toilet isn't actually happening.
But, he has taught me so many things about myself and life and I have grown so much in the last 3 and a half years.  So I thought I would record them for posterity, so I can re-read them and remind myself when I feel like I'm losing my mind.  (In other words, probably tomorrow).

Life Lessons by Joey:
#1 -- When someone is upset, the best thing to do is look them in the eye and apologise.  You can avert 90% of nasty confrontations this way.  (Unless your mom had very little sleep last night, and you're supposed to be napping, but you wake your baby brother up by screaming in protest from your room).

#2 -- If someone is staring at you in a vacant sort of way, shoot them a great big, cheesy grin.  It'll probably make their day! (Either that, or they'll wonder what you're up to).

#3 -- If you're supposed to get something done, and you haven't, don't waste too much time explaining.  People are not interested in the reasons you haven't gotten it done, they just want you to do it.  (If it takes longer to make excuses than to actually do it, then just do it and be quiet... also see #1).

#4 -- Snuggles can make most things better.  Have you hugged someone today?

#5 -- Telling someone that they've done a good job and appreciating their hard work goes a long way.  (And if you keep making Mommy feel appreciated, maybe she'll keep picking up your toys).

#6 -- If you use your manners and don't whine there is a better chance of the answer being "yes."  (If you forgot and you whined, see #1).

#7 -- If the answer is still no, and you accept it calmly, there is a pretty good chance something else just as good or better will come your way.

#8 -- If you yell and scream and demand your own way, the answer will DEFINITELY be "no."

#9 -- Time outs are essential for everyone.  Calming down isn't just for kids.

#10 -- Don't underestimate the impact of a well-timed "I love you."  People need to know.  People need to hear it.  It doesn't get old.  It makes a difference.

Thanks Joey.  You've made me a wiser woman, and a better mommy by being your mommy.  I'm privileged and blessed to have you for one of my boys.  I hope and pray that one day, another lucky woman will feel privileged and blessed to have you as her man.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Adventures in Potty-Training

I was the world's greatest parent before I had kids.  I had it all together.  I had all the right answers, and I followed every recommendation from every "expert" on child-rearing/development/psychology. 
I remember seeing a 3 year old with a soother in his mouth and thinking, "That won't be my kid.  My kid will be weaned by 2 at the very latest."  I remember seeing some little boy telling off his harrassed-looking mother in the store and thinking, "That won't be my kid.  My kid will be taught manners and respect."  Mostly, I remember being shocked when a friend of mine changed her 2 year old's diaper, and thinking, "Shouldn't kids be potty-trained by age 2?"  It painted her in a kind of "too lazy to bother potty-training" kind of light...
...until I tried potty-training my sucky-wielding, cheeky 2-and-a-half year old...
Then, I realized (as I had countless times before) that all my smug confidence in my ability to be the picture-perfect parent was simply a display of my own ignorance.  Having children and parenting is a very humbling experience.

The thing is, that even before I started potty-training Joey, I knew he wasn't ready.  There are checklists for these things, and Joey did not score particularly high on them.  Plus, there was the fact that he would happily sit in a dirty diaper, feeling poop squish between his little bum cheeks, all day long if it meant he could play uninterrupted by pesky diaper changes.
One might ask why I even bothered to try if he wasn't ready.  That, my friend, is an excellent question.  One very big reason was that certain members of our extended family were of the opinion that there was no such thing as "readiness" -- you just potty-trained at age 2.  Another reason was that we were expecting our second child, and certain members of our extended family (the same ones) felt that it would be "easier" for me not to have two children in diapers.  When potty-training was brought up (by said family members) I could feel that "too lazy to bother potty-training" kind of light in a halo around my head, and I bowed to peer pressure... for two days.

After two days, and countless accidents I understood just how not-ready Joey was.  He couldn't even tell me when he had to pee.  In fact, half the time he was unaware that he'd had an accident.  We'd discover the accident, when I'd step in the puddle in my bare feet.
"Joey, did you have an accident?"
Nonchalantly, he'd look down at his pants and give a little shrug and a nod, a kind of  "Oh yeah, I guess I did.  Huh, how about that?"
In two days of hauling my very pregnant-self down to the floor to clean up accident after accident (in the heat of summer), it became abundantly clear to me that potty-training at this stage was definitely NOT EASIER than having two kids in diapers.  Plus, I kind of had a feeling that he would suddenly choose to go on the potty when he felt ready; just like he had done with crawling and walking and sleeping in a toddler bed.  When he was ready it happened and it was easy.
So, we waited. 

We tried again when the baby was 3 months old, during a week in winter when we were pretty much snowed in.  This time some pee ended up in the potty (and a poo!), but only after sitting on it for 40 minutes.  After two days, my very active 3 year old started fighting about sitting on the potty.  I can't say I blame him.  If I had to sit for 40 minutes every time to go pee, I'd consider diapers the better alternative as well.  Needless to say, we took another break for a while.
By this time, I was starting to get a little nervous.  Preschool was starting in September.  I was starting to think that maybe toilet-training was this hard for everyone, and I was really just too lazy to do the work and see it through.  Maybe it wasn't about Joey making the choice, maybe people were right and it was about me making it for him.

Then one day in April, I had had enough.  Joey had started pooping in his diaper and not telling us.  Which is fine if you smell it, but if you can't (and, strange as it may seem, sometimes you can't) we'd go to change his diaper a couple of hours later and find it had given him a raging rash.  Then we would have the joy of trying to wipe poop off of a little boy who is screaming and writhing in pain.  You would think, after the first couple of times he would have learned to tell us he had a poopy diaper, but... he didn't.  This had been going on for a a few months, when, after a particularly nasty episode, I couldn't do it anymore. 
"That's it!  Starting tomorrow, no more diapers."
The minute I said it I regretted it.  What if it didn't work again?  Oh well, it was worth another shot.

So, the next day, the potty came out into the living room.  The training pants went on.  But this time, two things were different:
#1 -- He actually told me when he had an accident!  "Mommy, I'm leaking," he'd report.
#2 -- He would come running to the potty and say, "I have to pee."
It became apparent to me that somehow, either by his own choice, or by a stage in development, HE WAS READY!
Sometimes they were false alarms, sometimes he wouldn't get there in time, sometimes he'd get busy and forget.  Once, he came to tell me he'd pooped in the garage, and when I went to clean it up we couldn't find it (although the dog looked particularly pleased with herself -- gag!). 
However, as the days went on, instead of getting harder (as it had before), it got easier.

Three months later, he is completely potty-trained!  Night-time, day-time, all the time!  There is still the odd accident, but those are few and far between.
What have I learned from this whole experience?  That I might not be the perfect parent, but I know my boys better than anybody else.  I need to trust myself more, and worry less about what others think of me.  Mostly, I have learned that, as parents, we don't need any more judgement or criticism than we already put on ourselves.  I have learned that the best thing I can give any parent, is support and encouragement. 

Parents, if you are making home a safe and happy place for your kids then you are doing a fine job!  Love your kids, listen to your kids, and don't sweat the small stuff!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Did I Really Just Say That??

As a parent and a teacher there have been many times where I've stopped and asked myself: "Did I really just say that?"  I'm not talking about the times where I realized I sounded like my mother (although there have been many), or where I have let slip a "bad" word (never in the classroom, but at home..."No Joey!  I said "crab"... "ohh crab..." he he).  I'm not referring to the cliches of parenting that I swore I'd never use like: "I'll turn this car around right now!"  I mean those times where I cannot believe such a weird or disgusting sounding sentence has come out of my mouth.  Let me give you an example from the other day when I found my 3 year old smashing ants with his toy elephant: "Oh great Joe!  Now I have to clean ant guts off your elephant's feet!"
Later, as I stood at the sink scrubbing said elephant's feet, I thought about how completely crazy I would've sounded to anyone walking by at that moment.  Then I started wondering how many other of my friends who have or work with kids have experienced the same thing.  So I asked in the mommy chatrooms and on Facebook.  Then I laughed for days as hilarious and crazy things kept coming in from the wonderful and courageous women (no men responded) who take care of and mold the future generation.  I've put them into loose categories:

Please don’t lick the windows.
Stop licking the couch.
Don’t lick the flour in the dustpan!
Don’t eat the toilet paper.
Don’t dip your toothbrush in the toilet.
You do not feed boogers to your brother!

Don’t pull the dog’s private part.
What was Daddy doing while you were feeding chocolate sauce to the cat? (answer: playing golf on the x-box)
Please don’t lie on the cat! (40 x a day)
Don’t lick the cat.

Where did you have the accident?  Did the dog eat it?
Are those leaves and paper in your poop?
If you want to hold the poop, hold it nicely or not at all!
Where is the poop?
Yay!! Poop!!!

Peanut butter is not shampoo.
Chalk is not lipstick.
Yogurt is not lotion.
Penaten is not paint.

THE PRIVATES (or what sounds like it!)
Put down your balls and wash your hands for lunch.
No sweetie, don’t lick the balls. (In a ball pit)
Honey, please stop touching your penis while you’re eating.
To a 2 year old penis grabber: Leave it alone, you have other toys to play with.
Babies don’t eat nipples, Pumpkin, they drink from them.
No honey, babies don’t drink soy milk out of their mommies’ boobs.

How about you bang your head on the part of the wall without pictures?
No, honey, you have had enough broccoli.
Take my bra off your face, you are not a bumblebee.
Put my finger in your mouth.
No you can’t sleep in the hallway, go back to bed.
Are those boogers in your hair?


Don’t talk about blue waffles, that is inappropriate… and don’t ask me how I know that.

Try not to think that forty years from now, when you're having a hip replacement, someone might've once said to your surgeon: "Oh yuck! Did you seriously just lick the gym floor?"  (Because if I'm the proud mama of that surgeon that's not the worst he's licked!)

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Confessions of a "Sucky" Mommy

We recently (FINALLY!) said good-bye to our 3 year old's "sucky."  This was a HUGE ordeal!  Joey loved his sucky.  LOVED his sucky.  From the first day in the hospital, he took to it.  When he was older, he even named one of his imaginary friends "Sucky Suck" after it.  We had planned to wean it down to nap time and bed time, and then the "Sucky Fairy" would trade him a big boy bike for it when he turned 3.  Keeping sucky for sleeping time wasn't too difficult.  Although, I admit, I kept one in my diaper bag for times like the tail end of church.  (The evil stares -- imagined or otherwise -- from those disapproving of my almost 3 year old with a soother in his mouth were still less disconcerting than my tired and cranky child yelling at everyone to "STOP SINGING!" -- true story, that actually happened once). 
We started talking about the "Sucky Fairy" and the big boy bike.  Joey was excited and happy.  Then, as he realized that this would mean his beloved suckies would be gone, he started becoming upset.
"I'm not a big boy!  I just a yittle boy!  I don't want a big boy bike!  I want my suckies!" he would wail pitifully.  We started finding his soothers hidden all over the house.  He had little "sucky stashes" just in case the Sucky Fairy came.  It did not help that by this point, his baby brother was about to be born. 
We had Benjamin two months before Joey's third birthday.  It became apparent to us that having Joey give up his suckies while he was adjusting to a new brother was not the smartest thing.  So we put off the Sucky Fairy; and I must admit, I was almost as relieved as Joey.  There were a few reasons for this:
First, the sucky ensured peace and quiet at least two times a day from at least one of my children.  This is worth more than any amount of money to anyone with a newborn.  Especially -- and ironically -- a newborn who wouldn't take a soother.
Second, I had a blankie growing up.  I understood his attachment.  I understood the solace and comfort that an object could provide.  My blankie had held a place in my heart (and my bed) longer than I care to admit.  I remember coming home from rough days at school and curling up in bed with my blankie for a cry.  If I was honest, I was unwilling to take this kind of comfort away from him.
So we waited.  Joey was approaching the 3 and a half mark.  We noticed that his teeth were shifting.  I started sneaking into his room at night after he was asleep and taking the soother out and placing it beside his bed so he wouldn't suck it all night.  Then he began to forget to ask for it when he went to bed, and I didn't offer it to him.  It was time. 
As an experiment, I cut a small hole at the base of one to see if he'd still take it.  Nap time came and I handed Joey the "experimental" sucky.  He popped it in his mouth, and then pulled it out, frowning, "There's a hole in it."
"Hm!" I took it from him and inspected it. "Looks like you sucked a hole in it.  Huh!  Well is it okay, or do you want another one?"
"I want another one."
And so Operation Sucky began.  Systematically, every day or two, another of his suckies would end up with a hole in it and get tossed out, until we were down to the last one.  We cuddled up in bed with his teddy and his robe for nap time.  He was happily sucking on his last sucky and I let him know, "When there is a hole in that sucky, I'm not buying any more.  If you're sucking holes in your suckies, it's because you're getting too big for them."  Joey was okay with that.  I think that, in his mind, he decided he wasn't going to suck any holes in them. 
After his nap, while he was playing outside with Daddy, I took a pair of scissors up to his room.  Guiltily, I cut a hole in his last sucky.  A whole gamut of emotions ran through me: sadness -- for his loss, guilt -- for my role in it and at my deception, and fear -- that we were opening the door to afternoons and nights of endless screaming for his best friend.  Oh yes, there was FEAR.  In my mind, this could be the end of the little peace I had left.
He didn't ask for it until nap time the next day.  There were tears, there was yelling.  But, it wasn't as bad as I thought.  Truth be told, I was used to tears and yelling.  Eventually, I laid down with him and he fell asleep. 
It was when he woke up and sleepily came down the stairs, that the reality of the situation hit me.  There was a third reason why I was so reluctant to take the sucky away.  Normally, I would watch my cute, ruffled-haired, bleary-eyed toddler come down the stairs -- his rosy cheeks sticking out of either side of his soother.  This day, my sleepy PRESCHOOLER came down the stairs -- his hair still sticking out all over the place, his eyes still bleary, and his cheeks still rosy.  However, that last vestige of babyhood was gone.  He was, indeed, a big boy.
I'm not going to lie, he's starting to give up naps now that he doesn't  have his soother.  There have been times when I've been tempted to run out and grab him another one just so he'll sleep in the afternoon.  But we've turned that corner, and there's no going back.  To be honest, I don't really want to.
Now... for potty training...

Friday, 2 March 2012

A Teacher AND a Parent

It is interesting to me the way the media portrays that there are 3 sides to the recent job action in BC: the teachers, the parents, and the government. As an elementary teacher and a mother, I don't understand how the they can be seen as two differing, even OPPOSING, sides! My oldest is not in the education system yet, but I have to admit that he is one if the reasons I feel so strongly about this current job action taken by teachers (including myself). I know I speak for many teachers when I say that, despite the fact that I do not make a large wage, I care less about the wage increases and more about the issues of class sizes and classroom support time. Everyone is trying to minimize the impact this job action has on the students, but most people don't realize that students were suffering to a certain degree before this.
I watched my special needs students suffer when they couldn't be integrated for long periods of time into my classroom because we didn't have enough TAs to go around. I watched my gifted students suffer because I couldn't always challenge them in the way they needed all day, every day. I watched my students with learning disabilities suffer, because I couldn't help them through every assignment they struggled in. I watched the students with behaviour difficulties suffer because I didn't always have enough time to deal with anything more than just the problem behaviour rather than getting to the root cause. I watched the student who is still learning the English language suffer because I couldn't always have the time to modify their assignments to better reflect their abilities and not just their proficiency at English. I watched the average student suffer when I couldn't spend the time with them that they deserved.
One might argue that perhaps I'm just not a very good teacher, or that I need to get better at time management. That might be the case. However, I don't know many teachers who feel that they are the best teachers they could possibly be and who have more than enough time on their hands. Perhaps I should let you know what my job entails and you can be the judge. My job is not just to teach, but to help students learn; to make learning fun and exciting; to help them understand that learning is a process, not a product. My job is to care for the students; to be a substitute parent and friend to the friendless; to dry tears, mediate problems, teach virtues, and be someone's enthusiastic partner when they don't get picked. My job is to advocate; to get support for those who need it -- at home, at school, in life. In other words, to try to meet every need all the time.
My job is not just to keep children safe, but to make them FEEL safe. I would, and have, stood in harm's way to protect my students. If it ever came to it, I would take a bullet for these children. I know most teachers feel the same way.

I guess, in a way, we have.