Family Day Faux Pas

Last week was Family Day here in British Columbia. As a new holiday, we are still struggling to figure out what traditions will form around this much welcomed statutory holiday. And that is exactly what I found myself doing on Family Day – struggling. Because of the word ‘holiday’ I felt like I had to do something, despite the fact that my four year old was a grump, my husband was too, and Myles (my two year old) was indifferent.

I kept tossing ideas out there, mentioning parks, browsing community calendars, trying to get the family moving. All I got were protests and begrudging half agreements. At one point I came sooooo close to getting them out the door – only to be faced with a protest about wearing shoes.

Finally it came down to a one on one between Dad and Kaiya. What was the root of her freak outs? I was pacing, looking at the clock. The day was almost over and we hadn’t done anything for family day yet. I felt impulsive, stressed out, like I was behind. Dave was trying to get her interested, even though he wasn’t that interested himself. I felt like I had failed to … to what? To join the hoards of people gallivanting around town… to face lineups and traffic and over-stimulated kids jacked up on treats because it’s an undefined holiday?

Hmmm, I think I’ll pass.

With that, I tossed up my hands, re-entered the living room and innocently asked, “Want to make cookies?” (Although in my head I sheepishly admitted that I had been pressuring the family all day for no real reason, other than the word holiday.)

Tune in next year to see if the tradition of cookie making sticks or if I can willingly get the family out the door.

A Reluctant Mommy Sandwich

For all of you parents familiar with Adam Mansbach’s brilliantly funny book Go the F**k to Sleep, you know how I felt two nights ago when both of my children decided to kick up a fuss at bed time. There is nothing like not one, but two, over-tired yet reluctant children at bed time. The excuses were fast and furious. More books, less teethbrushing, more water, less lights, more lights. And finally, the kicker – “I’m scared”. Because despite how irrational a four year olds fears may be, they can’t be denied.

So there I was, alone and exasperated, yearning for those couple of hours of my own time. I made a desperate move, I invited them both into the big bed with me. I closed my eyes and prayed for snoring kids. I had knees in my stomach, hands in my armpits, my hair was being pulled. They squirmed, they wiggled, they talked and talked and talked. At one moment I realized my fatal mistake – this was never going to work. Not with my chatty Kaiya and the ever-eager for big sister time Myles.

But slowly the rhythm of this escapade softened. Myles started to breath deeply. Kaiya stopped squirming so much. And they fell into gentle, cuddly sleep.

Fastforward 2 hours, and am I basking in the rewards of my triumph? Have I managed to squeeze in a bit of me time? Oh no, I have been coaxed into dreamtime by these little turkeys and relegated to the end of the bed.

I could have been frustrated I suppose. But the early part of their lives is so finite. These mommy sandwich moments will be what separates this part of their lives from that of pre-teen, teenage hood and eventually adult hood. So I sucked it up, laughed at myself, and snuck myself back in between them for an unsatisfactory yet satisfactory sleep.

Apologies to December Birthdays

Myles eating his well deserved birthday cake.

Halloween night came to an end. The kids were over-joyed with candy overload. Awake November 1st, Halloween paraphernalia whisked away to be replaced by christmas lights and carols. The stores overtaken. Kaiya already planning her letters to Santa. How quickly the red and green Christmas wave arrived. But wait, stop my beating heart (I love Christmas) there is a big celebration before the overbearing December 25th: Myles’ birthday.

November progressed and with it the Christmas mayhem escalated. Despite every effort to avoid it all in honour of Myles, inevitably it encroached. I started to think about gifts, I was tempted to put on Christmas music, I craved candy canes. I slipped: we went to the Santa  Claus parade. But overall I resisted until I had celebrated he who makes me smile each day – Myles. This was harder than it sounds – and Myles’ birthday is early in December.

So to all of you who have birthdays in December, or even the last half of November, apologies. You’re birthdays are overshadowed despite your parents best efforts. I never understood this more then now.

And yes, the day after the cake, I put on Christmas carols.

 

 

 

The Pizza Artist

Kaiya’s Pizza Masterpiece

It was a Friday night, ingredients were at the ready, and Kaiya was given the task of creating the kids pizza. The back story to this event is that Kaiya has become a self-proclaimed artist and is now spending hours a week colouring, painting and doing intricate, self-designed crafts.

She placed the olives, she placed the pepperoni, but not in the usual pizza fashion. Instead of the pizza technique we are all familiar with, an even mix of ingredients across the pie, Kaiya’s pizza was taking on a unique, art-like pattern.

I was about to criticize her technique when I stopped in my corrective tracks. I suddenly thought of the work of Julia Cameron who discusses the internal censor that we all have regarding our creativity. In The Artist’s Way Cameron defines the Censor as “our own internalized perfectionist, a nasty internal and eternal critic.” You know, that annoying internal voice that self-demeens our attempts at creativity and is often the result of some sort of unfortunate childhood event.

With this in mind, I took a second look at Kaiya’s pizza. Okay, so it wasn’t conventional. And no, she wouldn’t have a variety of flavours in each bite. But who cares? It looked cool, she was evidently proud of it, and the world would not end if this pizza wasn’t made in the usual fashion (despite my perfectionist tendencies). So chill out mom and let the artist work.

The whole experience was a reminder of the sensitive balance between meaningful encouragement and teaching versus criticism. The way I frame feedback and point out areas for improvement will potentially form how my kids judge themselves and their future endeavours. (No pressure or anything!) Another good reason to take a long pause before I open my mouth; the long-term impacts of my words are potentially limitless.

Introducing the TodBot

Evidence of my resident toddler.

Dear Universe,

On behalf of all the parents of toddlers everywhere, can you please help us out? These toddlers are out of control! I have a great pitch to solve the woes of many parents – a todbot (short for toddler robot). And I have all the programming ideas you need to get started.

First, the clean-up setting, designed to clean up the unexpected messes of any 1-2.5 year old: crayons on the wall; the bucket of toys they dump out for fun and then abandon; the food and/or juice all over the floor, table, face and walls (how and why?!). Another great feature of this setting is ensuring that all sharp objects are away from counter edges and any unobvious yet dangerous weapons are tucked away.

Setting number 2 – the safety setting. This setting is designed to keep an eye on the trouble makers so parents can actually get things done. It includes spotting our little monkeys as they climb on counter tops, kitchen tables, and jungle gyms. The todbot shepherds toddlers back to their parents when they run away again and again and again.

Setting number 3 is a special favorite of mine: the reduce grossness setting. This setting puts the todbot on high alert for anything especially gross and keeps disgusting things out of toddler mouths and hands. No more taste-testing chalk, crayons or playdo with this setting. Kiss drinking puddle water goodbye and no need to worry about the toilet scrubber being used to “clean” the floor or wack older sisters and parents.

Of course, an unquantifiable demand is that the todbot would perform it’s duties with the love and patience all of us parents have down on earth. Think you can make it happen? Because seriously – we need a break down here.

Yours truly,

Ragged Mother of a 20 Month Old

p.s. If you can program it to do my dishes and fold endless piles of laundry that would also be appreciated.

 

What’s in a name?

As is a fairly usual occurence in the life of a parent with two young children, I have recently witnessed something miraculous. My 3 year old has started to write her letters in a fast and furious way. Over the course of a weekend she tackled the task of writing her own name AND those of her closest family members including aunts, uncles and cousins. It was a actually a little overwhelming to have confirmed what I already suspected – she’s brilliant! But proud mother joking aside, the determination, resolve and even self-criticism I have been witnessing as she starts to form her world into words has been surprising. I’ve seen a new side and shift to her learning. She has an interest in the personal gain and accomplishment from the process that is different from her earlier learning stages of watching, doing and carrying on. When she was learning to walk, she just did it. Now she understands the link between learning her letters and the broader world of reading and more writing and more writing. Because pizza and fun are important words and if she can write it, she will, with a bit of guidance of course. Excuse me while I have a mommy moment: my little girl K-A-I-Y-A is growing up.

Socks Knocked Off – A Reflection on Development

“It will knock your socks off” my husband innocently said to my daughter. “But dad, my socks are already off,” she replied. Despite my husband’s effort to talk up a yummy desert, my daughter interpreted the expression, word for word. I suppose in her mind she imagined said desert traipse across the kitchen and remove her Hello Kitty socks. A few days later we had a similar exchange. I was explaining that the snake she was imagining was not big and scary, but timid and probably ‘about two feet’. She replied, “Mom, snake don’t have feet.” When you have a preschooler who seemingly never stops talking and who can adeptly communicate his or her needs, the fact that they are still figuring language and communication out can be forgotten. But, as our family conversations illustrate, and according to kidspot.com, pre-schoolers are literal thinkers, meaning abstract concepts and sayings are still beyond their language and cognitive skills.

I’m not the type of parent that hoards parenting books and keeps checklists of developmental progress. But I find value in doing a ‘developmental spot check’ every once and a while. Looking into expected developmental milestones not only serves to determine if there are any areas of concern but it also can serve to readjust your expectations of your child’s capabilities. It can be a relief to read that an inability to fully express needs (aka tantrum city) or a difficulty pronouncing certain consonants is common. If your child has behaviours that are hard to understand, it calms questions like “Is something wrong with my kid?”. The Best Chance and babycentre websites are great resource with brief overviews of developmental milestones according to age.

Another valuable part of checking up on your child’s development is it opens your eyes to all of the small changes that are happening under the surface. As parents we are often so caught up in addressing the issues of the moment, be it toilet training or teething, that we don’t have time to look back on what was and to acknowledge how far our children have come. They accomplish so much, big and small, in such a finite period of time. In witnessing that, it’s easy to disregard any unrealistic expectations and to feel proud of and amazed by our kids. In other words, they will knock your socks off!

 

Hello Sleep, Hello Brain

Returning to the World After a Year Without Sleep

My youngest Myles has just started sleeping through the night. This development is entirely attributed to his father who spent three months cuddling him through night nursing withdrawal.  It’s not until you are out of the haze of intense sleep deprivation that you realize just how rough you really were. I suppose I should have taken the hints; putting the telephone in the refrigerator; just escaping salt in the coffee; and the constant companion, word loss. Blank, totally blank. Oh sleep, thank you for giving me my brain back. After a couple of weeks of eight (count them!, eight!) hour sleeps, I am starting to feel human again. Suddenly I can hold a straight thought and I am not a scattered mess. My creative energy is creeping back in and I am excited!

But as all parents know, this development doesn’t mean I’m entirely out of the clear. There are those nights when the baby wakes up, then the toddler wakes up, then the toddler wakes up again, then I am lying awake in the middle of the night and the baby wakes up again. And somehow, we get out of bed (aka dragged out of bed by hungry children) and we get through the day. On those days, on top of the usual coffee, I find water, music and fresh air are my friends. Also playdates and keeping the kids occupied brings some relief throughout the day. If you are looking for more tips for coping with sleep deprivation, read an article from BabyCentre here.

Otherwise, this new development of brain power should bring more regular blog posts for your enjoyment. Until then, sweet dreams!

“I know I am Kaiya”

My three year old daughter recently said to me, “I know I am Kaiya.” I was struck by the significance of her words. She understands that she is her own individual person and she now knows that she is playing a role in her interactions with the world around her. As a parent, I’ve always tried to encourage choice and to allow Kaiya the freedom to express her unique self. It’s undeniable that my own values and way of being influence her approach to the world, but there are characteristics of her personality that have been with her since birth that I try to acknowledge and encourage. But as we head into the independent streaks and testing stage of a three year old toddler, it can be easy to get wrapped up in correcting behaviour. So in a way these words were a reminder of the importance of acknowledging her as an individual. To nurture the values of respect and compassion while being aware of my parenting practices to ensure I’m not trying to squash her nature. Because after all, many of us feel we are trying to get back to who we “really are”. So the less my parenting interferes with her innate qualities, perhaps the less questioning and seeking she’ll face down the road as she further defines herself in the world.