It was like an extended movie montage where the protagonist attempts to learn a new skill in order to overcome some taxing social vendetta, except that my vendetta was with myself and it never culminated in success.Read More
Among the many things I’ve learned about myself since having children, one of them is this: I do not like playing Paw Patrol. There. I said it. I will build train tracks, use my sock as a puppet, even turn our living room into a fort, but for some reason playing Paw Patrol makes me want to dive into the netherworld of mysterious grossness that exists under our couch.
Of course, I instantly feel like an asshole for saying that. I’m thinking someday my son is going to read this and think, “WHAT? My own mother didn’t like to play my favourite game?! Call my therapist!” Judah, if you are reading this, I love playing with you, dude, I’m just too old for these bootcamp-like military races around the first floor. You will cry at the sight of a scratch you got five days ago yet somehow you can slam your knees into hardwood a million times without flinching once.
I feel this is a giant red X in the cons column of my current parenting style. Were I to get a report card from the boy, Paw Patrol play would likely be my weakest subject, possibly even lower than meal preparation:
Alison actively skirts my direction around Adventure Bay and consistently offers me plates of unwanted vegetables instead of the macaroni cheese or rabaloli I so politely request.
I know I’m not alone. I was talking to a friend this morning as we dropped our kids off for their weekly meeting at the day home, also known as the time I try to get a week’s worth of shit done in less than three hours. We were talking about how wonderful the day home lady is with the kids. She does crafts, takes them outside on adventures or picnics, lets them leave their toys all over the place. This week, for some reason, she has an Ikea mattress out in the middle of the living room floor. The kids have been using it to jump or roll or do whatever little kids will do with such things.
She just has fun with them, seemingly without another care in the world, even though she has a lot on her plate. And we aren’t sure how she does it.
“I hate playing Lego,” my friend said with a sigh. “Sean’s way better at it than I am. He’s the fun one.”
I feel you, sister. I think we all do. Luke is somehow always able to find a way to make daily challenges with kids into something fun. Judah doesn’t want to get dressed so Luke turns it into a contest to see who can get dressed first, making sure to accidentally put his sock on his ear, or something equally silly. Ellie is being grumpy so he does an exaggerated grumpy face back and tells her not to laugh. Me, I just get exasperated.
Maybe it’s because he spends most of his time working in an office with adults who see the value of wearing shoes outside and can readily admit when they need to pee. He still has to deal with high-level bullshit, but perhaps that makes the frustrations of raising strong-willed micro-humans feel like, well, child’s play by comparison.
For me, it is a daily, sometimes hourly, or even minute-by-minute challenge. Some days I’m good at it, like the other day when Judah and I had to wait for Ellie’s class to finish and I started talking to him on my banana phone. He thought that was hilarious, especially after he took a bite and garbled (gobbled) the connection. Other days I just want to put in my earbuds, turn on a podcast and pretend like I’m taking part in an uninterrupted, intellectual conversation with a couple of like-minded adults.
I realize how fortunate I am to spend this time with my littles and, of course, I wouldn't change it for the world. I find myself simultaneously counting the days until they are both in the same school for the same amount of time—glory, hallelujah—while watching videos of when they were little and wondering when they got so big. I am in a boat on an ocean, never sure which way to paddle. But time has its own agenda and, sooner or later, I will reach a shore.
In the meantime, there are decorations to hang, advent calendars to create, meals to cook and appointment to make. This week's worth of shit isn't going to do itself. Luckily, there’s a new episode of Edit Your Life available to keep me company along the way. Paw Patrol is on a roll!
I don’t know about all of you, but we started the week off on a spectacularly shitty note. I could tell from the moment I woke up that it was going to be rough. My hindsight brain is saying, “if you knew that going in, why didn’t you do something to change course? Duh."
Hindsight brain is such a turd. He’s always like, “I would have handle that so much better.” It’s in the same category of people who offer helpful advice for how to best handle challenging situations next time, as if you hadn’t already learned that going to Ikea on a weekend with a three-year-old was a bad call. Has no one read Men Are From Mars? Women don’t want advice. They want empathy.
So, yes, hindsight brain, I realize I could have altered course. But I didn’t. And that’s what brings us to where we are now.
Here’s my mandatory list of excuses: We were running late. When we’re under the gun, younger people seem to somehow move slower than usual, like time is speeding up and they’re stuck in molasses. Then my stress about getting younger people moving seeps out into the world and makes everyone cranky. There was even a clothing crisis… from a child who wears a uniform.
I believe that’s what therapists call miscuing. People think kids are straightforward and easy to read. Hell no. It’s never about what you think it’s about. Maybe it started off being about uncomfortable jeans, but it morphed into something much harder to manage: reality. Specifically, the realization that another week of school was about to begin. More specifically, the realization that she was going to miss me.
By the time I figured this out, the morning had already gone to hell. I saw our metaphorical train leaving the station and I did nothing to stop it. I could have waved frantically at the conductor or pulled the emergency brake or even let the train leave so we could wait for its non-crazy cousin to pull in. But, no, I let it keep chugging away.
“This is the worst morning ever of my whole life,” she screamed as I tightened her brother’s car seat, crushing his nuts in the process.
“Yes," I commiserated, "it probably is.” Meanwhile, my upstairs brain is knocking on the door of my downstairs brain, cautiously whispering, “This would be a good time to be stronger, wiser, kinder. You know… be the adult.”
I close the car door, do a silent fist-shaking swear dance, take a deep breath and accept that we are going to be late. I go around to her side of the car. I help her with her seat belt. I look her in the eyes and tell her how much of a joy she is in my life. I tell her she is a good person. I pray that some of my words will stick to her Tephlon heart.
Things seem to settle down until I turn on the car, see the time and immediately turn back into cranky, late, asshole mom. Then I realize I’m being cranky, late, asshole mom and that this does nothing to help set them off on the right foot. I apologize for my behaviour, but not my feelings. I’m trying to show them it’s okay to make mistakes, that people will still love you if you lose your cool.
I’m sure there are practical lessons to be learned here. Set out clothes the night before. Get them up earlier. Get them to bed earlier. Be more organized. Move closer to the school. Perhaps the most valuable is this: Mondays are already tough. Skinny jeans will only make them worse.
I tend to walk through the brevity of autumn with a naive hope that the crisp, sunny days will last for weeks, or at least until Thanksgiving (the Canadian one). I picture myself crunching through leaves on the sidewalk, comfortably dressed in jeans and a sweater with perhaps a vest for good measure.
I'm not sure where I picture myself enjoying this fabled fall, but it certainly isn't the city in which I live. This is the city where Halloween costumes have to either fit over snowsuits or incorporate them into the theme. Oh look, another Stay-Puff Elsa! Cute!
So it came as no surprise when the flakes started flying this morning. Sure, it was pretty but it was also really friggin' cold. I have a tendency to treat my winter wear like I used to treat vacation days when I was granted such things: save them, hoard them even, for when it's really REALLY bad.
"I can't put on the parka when it's only -3 degrees (Celsius)," I thought. "If I do that, what will I wear when it's -30?"
I even resisted turning on the heat. Now that it's been on for a few days, I'm finding the house cold again. And believe me, this isn't a case of insufficient body fat.
One might think a day like this could be a happy excuse for filling the house with the smell of freshly baked goods. Muffins, cookies, cinnamon rolls... all those things that beg for creation when the world outside is solidifying. It's a beautiful reason to stand next to an oven with a hot cup of coffee, waiting for some new delight to emerge.
Unfortunately, my freezer is already full of delights, some that no one but me will eat (apparently, in the absence of gluten, I've lost all perspective on what constitutes an edible cookie) and, besides, there was another cold hard reality staring me right in the face: a three-year-old boy.
You see, when you're a parent, you're not supposed to stay inside all day when it snows. You're supposed to act all excited that it's freezing cold outside while you rally the troops to go explore the new winter wonderland.
Yay! I can't wait to squeeze myself into snow pants I know I can't do up. Double yay! I can't wait to wrestle you into a snowsuit only to have you need to pee five minutes later.
But, as we all know, a good part of parenting is being able to bullshit. Examples include:
- What are you talking about, flu shots don't hurt!
- The dentist is fun!
- Broccoli is delicious!
- We have perfectly good food at home!
I muster up my best fun mommy voice and say, "Hey buddy. Let's go outside and play in the snow!" He looks up at me and says, "No." This is his standard response to every sentence that doesn't involve Smarties or Paw Patrol, so I try again. "Come on, it will be fun!" This time, he literally runs away from me. "No! I will be too chilly!" He grabs his talking dog, hops on the couch and says, "Mommy, will you come put the banket on me?"
I hesitate. I'm supposed to force him outside, aren't I. That's what good parents do. They show their kids that it's worth a half hour of prep to walk around the block. This is our penance for being Canadian. But as I walk to the living room, I get sucked into the cuteness vortex and lose all resolve. To hell with it. I'll be a good parent tomorrow. Better yet, I'll get Luke to do it.
In the days leading up to this moment, all I could think about was how the hell I would ever get the Queen of Stall Tactics to school on time. I've been ruminating on that point since about May, back when we learned school would start at the ungodly hour of eight o'clock in the morning. I imagine it was my brain's way of creating a diversion from the actual task at hand: letting go.
Friends had told me how they melted into puddles of tears the first day their little one marched off to school. I couldn't imagine why. It's not like we're shipping them off to boarding school. It's kindergarten. It's less than three hours long. You can't even do Costco in that time.
Then it was my turn. Luke stayed home late that morning to help get everyone out the door on time. As I mentioned, I was worried I would be dragging a half-dressed, underfed fit of defiance to the school yard to greet the new teacher. On this day, she was standing by the side of the bed, fully dressed and raring to go before I had both eyes open. Excitement, fear, nerves, whatever we were working with, it certainly made my life easier.
It all seemed rather idyllic. We walked hand in hand in hand, the three of us, towards the schoolyard we know so well. She has spent many an afternoon exploring its playground or running through the field. It's where she learned to ride a bike and where she flew a kite for the first time. Despite my agonizing over school options, I think we always knew she'd some day join them on the inside.
The teachers stood outside in front of the swarm of nerves. Parents and children alike staring silently as they waited for a name to be called. Some ran to stand in line without looking back. Some ran the other way. All of them with their massive, snack-filled backpacks smacking the backs of their knees.
E had a few last minute tears, then walked up the steps and disappeared. All of a sudden, it was just the parents, standing there watching the doors close behind kids that two minutes ago were taking their first steps, saying their first words or eating a grape for the first time without it needing to be cut into a million pieces.
How the hell did that happen so fast? Why the hell did I want it to? Now it's all coming crashing down around me, all this time that I can't get back, and I finally empathize with the ugly cry set. We're not sad that they're growing up (we all talk about how wonderful it will be when they can get their own lunch or walk to a friend's house without a secret service detail), we're sad that they're doing it at the speed of light.
We're sad that with each new milestone, the previous ones seem to fade in our memories. We long for the feeling of their baby soft skin sleeping against our chest, for the fuzz of their hair tickling our nose, for the squeak of their voice as they learn how it works. We long for them to be small and vulnerable and close just a little while longer. Then they let go of our hand and walk away.
Igot yelled at this morning. A lot. In my quest to deflect blame from yours truly, I landed on the most obvious villain I could find: Daylight Saving Time. That jerk.
You see, children, like farm animals, are not swayed by the concept of hours and minutes. They (the children, not the farm animals) are driven by desire, hunger, energy, fatigue and the search for that invisible line that separates what they can control and what they can’t. What makes all those things easier to handle is a nice, predictable routine. Having well-rested parents also helps.
Enter Daylight Saving Time, a true abombination. The sun still rises and sets. The weather stays relatively consistent. But all of a sudden you’re either going to bed when it’s light and getting up when it’s dark or vice versa. It doesn’t make sense to me (and millions of other people) so why should it make sense to someone who can’t tell time or discuss macroeconomics.
I am flummoxed by the havoc this tiny little hour wreaks on modern society. It’s easier to adjust after traveling across three time zones than it is to physically accept this biannual sixty minute leap. Maybe it’s because when you hop around the continent, you’re psychologically geared up for time-related turmoil. Also, it often means you’re on vacation, which makes lots of things easier to take.
I went to an adult person gathering (i.e. not a play date) on Sunday, the day of the time change. Most of us struggled to string together three coherent words. I even drove to the wrong house. Not the wrong house on the right block but the wrong house in an entirely wrong neighbourhood.
I have also been waking up before 5 a.m. and craving carbohydrates like there’s no tomorrow. Sometimes those 5 a.m. wake ups are greeted with the silent, shadowy figure of a child staring at me through the darkness. Try getting back to sleep after that.
So let’s take stock. We have a house full of tired people, two (maybe three) of whom are still trying to get in touch with their emotions, one of whom has zero language skills other than to feverishly use the sign for please while making anxious grunting sounds. Add to that the fact that I am trying to wean myself off coffee. It’s no good. We all need an emotional reset.
This morning, in an attempt to make peace, I sprinkled a few chocolate chips in E’s oatmeal. After witnessing a performance that would make Gordon Ramsay look polite, I played my last card.
“Just try it. It tastes like a chocolate chip cookie.”
She tries it.
“NO! It does NOT taste like a chocolate chip cookie. It tastes like a chocolate chip cookie WITH OATMEAL!”
<Dish gets pushed off placemat. Placemat gets thrown off table.>
Needless to say it’s been a rough week, one that has us all wanting to disguise ourselves as unmade beds and promptly fall asleep (see photo). And as I trudge around in my new gluten-and-caffeine-free hell, I am wont to lose perspective. It’s her job to push my buttons. It’s my job to… I don’t know. Not go totally insane? Keep making oatmeal?
In the absence of revelations, I am choosing to watch this twice then go for a walk. You know, to take in some of this daylight we so desperately needed to save.