A missing side to our square

Luke was away last weekend, in Panama, of all places. People kept asking me why Panama and honestly I have no clue. This is how strange our conversations are these days. I knew when he was going, who with, and when he was coming back, but I had no idea why they went there and what they were planning to do. Maybe he had a secret passion for canals as a kid.  

He wasn’t gone long—in the neighbourhood of four days—but the littles acted like he was off on some round-the-world trek with no end in sight. She had an emotional breakdown the day before he left, thinking she hadn’t given him an adequate goodbye and wouldn’t see him again. And man was she pissed when she woke up on Sunday to find him not yet home. Clearly she inherited her calendar skills from the maternal side of the gene pool. 

She talked about missing him much more than the boy, though that may be a factor of age and understanding. One minute, she was acting out about some random thing only to break down in tears a moment later, desperate for a hug from dad. Hugs from me were not an adequate substitute. 

The boy was okay during the day but then kept waking up at night for more snuggles. I was okay with this the first couple of nights—who doesn’t want a warm, cuddly bundle of affection right next to them in bed— but by the last night I was in need of a little space. There’s only so much touching an introvert can handle, even if it is in the form of an adorable, nuzzling little boy.

The problem is I'm a sucker and the boy knows it. This is why Luke has been on middle-of-the-night duty ever since Judah was about 15 months old. I can’t fathom the idea of losing more sleep than is necessary, so I always just crawl into bed with him which results in neither of us getting a good rest. Somehow when he falls back asleep in the middle of the night it’s that light, not-really-sleeping sleep that causes him to jolt back upright anytime he senses my desire to go back to my own bed. 

“DON’T LEAVE,” he whisper-yells as he reaches out to grab my arm. At 3 am, I don’t have the mental capacity to argue nor the physical stamina to resist so back down I go. This is partially the reason why his big boy bed is a double. I never understood why people got huge beds for little kids until this guy came along. 

The night that Luke came home, everything came back around. The girl chilled out and the little guy slept in his own bed for the whole night, possibly because I told him he had to but that’s putting a lot of stock in my ability to influence the actions of a sleepy preschooler.

I always find it amazing how Luke’s return can bring them back down to earth, which is why I often hesitate to write these sorts of things. I realize how lucky I am to have a partner who’s here more often than not and who shares in a lot of the child-rearing when he is here. 

So many parents out there are doing this on their own full-time, with either no end in sight, or with the moments of reprieve months away. I don’t give them sympathy—no one needs pity—but my compassion and empathy for the struggle that is managing kids on your own. It’s probably the same way people who have family support might look at me and wonder how I manage to get by every day. A lot of the time, it’s really friggin’ hard. But what other choice do we have? 

The times when Luke is away are definitely getting easier, despite the afore mentioned struggles. It’s nothing like the trip to Nova Scotia a couple years ago. I think we’re all still traumatized by that one. But there is still something about having him missing from our foursome that sends them into emotional upheaval. It’s like we’re a square with a missing face. We aren’t a triangle, just a box with a big hole on one side.

With two more trips near on the horizon, I’d be wise to consider a strategy for managing the next hole. Perhaps a bit more patience when little man loses his shit over an uncomfortable sock. Perhaps a bit more empathy when she snaps at of me or gives Judah heck for not “playing right.” And, if all that fails, baking cupcakes in our pyjamas always seems to help. 

Wake me up when September ends

IMG_3325 Kindergarten is the modern world’s dunk tank into cold, hard reality. One day, you’re sleeping til you’re done, eating a lazy breakfast, and getting dressed when the mood strikes. The next day you’re ripping yourself out of bed, being blinded by the rise of curtains and shovelling down food in an attempt to provide sustenance before the bell rings.

I’m sure it’s been tough for E, too.

After three hard weeks I’ve come to a startling conclusion: September kind of sucks. I had notions of sliding into a gloriously well-oiled routine after a summer of lackadaisical free-for-alls. Clothes would be chosen the night before. Bedtime would be easier (since she’d be tired from all that learnin’). Then we’d have a happy skip to school before she faced another exciting day of mind expansion.

That fantasy played out for the first few days. Then sometime in the middle of week two, E woke up and asked me how much longer she’d have to go to school. At first I thought the truth would be a hard blow but then I remembered she has no concept of time. I also realized that no matter what I said, it wouldn’t be the answer she wanted, which was likely something along the lines of, “just a few more days, babe.”

In the last few weeks she’s gone from excited to tired to annoyed. Now we’re at just plain pissy. And I’m here thinking, good gravy this is going to be a long thirteen years. Luckily, I know people who’ve been around the schoolyard a few times. I’m told everyone’s shit hits the fan near the end of September. The kids have caught on that this school business is an actual thing and it isn’t going away. Apparently, they lose their will to fight after Thanksgiving (the Canadian one).

(I’m sure there are exceptions. We all know those people whose social media feeds have us believing they’ve found the key to the perfect family life. No one yells, their kids do the dishes and everyone plays Jenga together on Friday nights.)

It also doesn’t help that E is convinced I’m the one who made school start at eight in the morning. What kind of crazy fool does she take me for? In a fit of irrationality, I tried to introduce reason to our conversation.

“How could I possibly be responsible for forcing hundreds of kids to be at school that early? More importantly, why would I ever do that??” I suppose I should be flattered by the reach she assumes of my power, although also concerned that she thinks I’m capable of such lunacy.

When her anger first started to rise, I wondered whether something bothersome was going on at school. Unfortunately getting pertinent information out of a five-year-old is like trying to get shoes on a two-year-old. Both are incredible frustrating activities that usually result in footwear being thrown across the room.

Then I found this list of great questions. I tried ones like, “did anyone do anything nice for you” and “who made you smile” but another thing about five-year-olds is that they have no concept of gratitude. I was asking these idyllic questions of the same child who, a week prior, cried over the future absence of ice cream while she was still eating the ice cream.

Last night, I took a different approach:

Who did you sit beside? Noah. If someone in your class could be the teacher, who would you want it to be? Me! What’s the hardest rule to follow? NO TALKING!!

Little by little, I’m shedding light on the mysteries that unfold behind those closed doors. In this respect, I’m happy Alberta has bucked the trend of subsidized daycare and kept kindergarten at a half-day. It gives us a bit more time to prepare for that day when they go off on their own, forget that we exist, and only call when they need money or advice about how to do laundry.

Five days in November


Karma and I have had a falling out. I wouldn’t say things have been going swimmingly recently, but they’ve definitely been better than a dog paddle. I no longer roam through each day in a sleep-deprived fog and I’m able to eat the majority of my meals without feeling like crap. These are definite bonuses, especially when most days involve some kind of battle with a four-year-old reincarnation of Stalin.

This week had an agenda no sleep trainer or elimination diet could have saved. After all, the combination of no child care, -30º weather, and a temporarily absent husband is I believe what you will find in the parenting cookbook under recipe for disaster. Additional ingredients for extra zing include a teething toddler who’s also learning how to walk and a preschooler whose starting position for everything that doesn’t involve TV or chocolate is an ear-piercing NO.

In my naivety, I thought it would be manageable and, potentially, fun. Even the Cheerios tried to warm me. Perhaps an arrow pointing feverishly to the door would have been more effective message of impending doom.

Normally on days when the kids are home, the first mission of the day is to get the hell out of the house. But it’s November and it’s dead-of-winter, snot-freezing cold.

E was not-so-secretly pleased about our inability to venture out of doors. She has developed a strong sense of fashion that doesn’t include her one-piece snow suit. I understand where she’s coming from, but at the same time I don’t need my ear drums pierced every time I suggest a romp in the snow.

After one particularly impressive display that would make Gordon Ramsay look polite, I decided my sanity was worth the exorbitant cost of new snow pants. So we made a deal.

“What should we do if you (lose your shit) at the store?”

“Take away my show.”

Losing TV screws me more than it screws her, but it’s her currency so I had to go with it.

This is (one of the many times) where I feel like an asshole. I set her up to fail. It was late in the day, she was tired after a morning play date, and I was about to take her into a huge store to try on something bulky, hot, and complicated. Brilliant combo.

We left the store with no snow pants and, of course, no Dora on the horizon.

That evening, I realized the dishwasher had been sitting full of clean dishes for three days. I unloaded them onto the counter and crammed an Ikea’s worth of colourful plastic bowls into the machine. Then, I went to the basement to relocate the carpet in anticipation of the cleaning ladies’ arrival the next morning.

Mid-way through sorting toy trains and Frozen costumes, I heard an appliance yelling at me from the kitchen. It was the dishwasher. It quit.

At this point, I guess little man was feeling like he wasn’t pulling his weight in the catastrophe department. About ten minutes after the dishwasher buggered off, he woke up and started a night from hell. He screamed more than he slept and I cursed everything under the sun, including boy’s trips to Phoenix.

Day Five has arrived. Our entire collection of dishes is on the counter in various states of dirtiness, there’s a pork tenderloin in the fridge that’s been waiting to be cooked since Thursday (when I still had hope), and there is no TV again today, thanks to the g.d. snowsuit. I thought I had a decent post-nap peace offering in the form of a muffin and new puzzle, but the muffin went flying for not having enough chocolate chips and there was too much screaming to allow for a new toy.

This is when I start to wonder whether four-year-olds understand consequences.

Now that everyone is asleep (knock wood), I start my evening ritual of second guessing every parenting move I made during their waking hours. I google things like “why is my four-year-old so angry” and read articles that make it sound like I’m damaging both of their psyches. I text my friends for sympathy and pray the kids have good benefits when they’re older.

Luke’s resurfacing is sure to be met with gloriously happy children who will make the incessant texts he received over the past few days look like vacation-killing lies. He will be popular, loved, cuddled, and serenaded with giggles. I, on the other hand, will be the jerk who didn’t want to make waffles because it would have dirtied our last three dishes. At least now there’s someone else around to share the glory of dish pan hands.

Saving daylight. Losing sanity.


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.