The guilty displeasures of parenthood

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! 

Good intentions don't carve themselves

Somebody please disembowel me and give my life meaning

I always start out October with grand plans around Halloween. I set my sights on the first weekend of the month and make a mental note: We need hay bales! We need pumpkins! We need a blow-up mechanical Edward Scissorhands display! I decree that decorations must be out by sundown on that Sunday.

Flash forward to right this very moment: 3pm on Hallow’s Eve when I find myself standing next to the only candy I could find at Costco this morning (rocket lollipops and mini bags of MSG) and a lonely, warty, lopsided, and decidedly uninjured pumpkin. I really don’t want to carve this thing. My MacGyver brain is going into overdrive. A wig? A funny hat? Wait… guilt brain is making a last minute play. Dammit! Where are the rubber gloves?

I like to say that Halloween is my favourite holiday but I always seem let it slide. Not only am I lacking a costume, our three-year-old is going as the same dragon he was last year because his ignorant mother had her head up her ass. The man is obsessed with Paw Patrol. Did it occur to me that a child could be a Paw Patrol character? NO. Did I notice during any of my umpteen trips to Superstore or Costco that Paw Patrol costumes exist? NO. Did I go today in a last minute panic after being made aware of this possibility? YES. What was left? Wonder Woman. Dammit again!

The Main Event

I love the excitement of Halloween. If it’s warm, I love going around while the kids yell at the neighbours, demanding hoards of candy. If it’s cold, like today, I love to stay at home and see all the adorable costumes. I have learned not to make assumptions about who they all are because they get really insulted if you get it wrong.

“Ohhh… aren’t you a scary…. Witch/Zombie Bride/Pippy Long-Stocking!”

“I’m Evie from Descendants.”

“Of course you are, dear.”

I love all of this until it comes time to put the kids to bed. I’ve heard through the grapevine that some people have children who are gloriously immune to things like sugar, late nights, excitement, and unusual happenings. Then there are my children who take the better part of a week to recover from one night of staying up past 8:30. If you miss getting them down during the bedtime window, they get that adrenaline kick and end up bug-eyed and bushy-tailed until after 10. Sweeten the deal with handfuls of food dye and corn syrup and, well, we could re-enact Children of the Candy Corn right here in our living room.

Hmm… that’s not a half bad costume idea. That’s going in Evernote.

I Want It Now!

What’s everyone’s philosophy on candy consumption? There are those who believe children need a chance to learn self-regulation and, therefore, should be given free reign over bulging pillow cases. The theory is the child will eventually feel ill and stop eating. We tried that once at Easter. 47 eggs into it, there was still no sign of defeat. We had to shut it down. That did not go over well.

Other strategies I’ve heard include one piece of candy per age, exchange the candy for toys, exchange the crappy candy or better treats. I suggested that one to E.

“What do you have to offer me that’s better than candy?”

You got me there, kid

There’s even a dentist here in town that does an after-Halloween party where kids can exchange their candy for money, green smoothies and dried apples.

I have also heard of a mystical breed of unicorn children who forget about their candy. I laugh at this, then have a moment of panic over the expiry date on their mayonnaise.

But here’s what I don’t get: we’re all buying candy to give away so that our kids can collect candy that we want to give away. There has to be a better way. If it hadn’t been for that fictitious razor in the apple, we would all still give away homemade fudge and popcorn balls. This coming from the woman who’s pumpkin skill hasn’t carved itself.

I think I’ve stalled long enough. Time to get my gloves on and remind myself why that career in medicine never worked out.

Happy Halloween!

Baby, it's cold outside

snow day 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.