Tag Archives: lessons my challenging children taught me

Show Up

There is a thing going around with Productivity Experts talking about getting up an hour earlier to do more stuff. They are not commanding me, personally, to do this, which is good because I would feel very targeted if so. At this time in my life I will not be rising any earlier than 5:20. Currently, the alarm goes at 5:20 (by which I mean a clock radio turns on and CBC Radio One starts talking) and I hear the tail end of some story. Sometimes the story inserts itself into my dream, which is always bizarre. At 5:25 they play a ‘wake up song’ with varying success. Then traffic and weather, news, more traffic and weather, and sports. By sports I am pulling on my skull-printed leggings for another day. I sit and point my face at a cup of coffee until the steam of the coffee has motivated me enough to open my mouth for a sip. Then I write down a few things I remember seeing and appreciating from the previous day. If I finished a book the night before, I log it. Usually at this point my right lower back twinges and I remember I should be stretching so I hit the floor and do ten to twenty minutes of stretches and yoga poses. Today I did fewer stretches because I had a yoga class last night and I am writing instead. At 6:15 it’s shower time. Then breakfast, pack food for the day, wrestle my hair into a pleasing sculpture, take five vitamins, brush teeth, bid children good morning and goodbye, and hit the streets.

If I got up at 4 AM, not only would I be a zombie who stopped functioning at all around 2 pm (I know this because currently I shut down mentally at 3 pm) but in order to survive ie: not get on the wrong train and end up in Coquitlam, I’d also have to cut my evenings short by an hour. This would prevent me attending strata council meetings (at the “oh well” end) and writers group (at the “damn!” end). And on the daily, I would miss an entire hour of my family.

Conversations started with the kids often go like this:

How was your day?
What did you do?
Not much.
Favourite part of school today?
Coming home.
Least favourite?
X class.
What didn’t you like about it?

I tried the list of 25 questions your child hasn’t heard before. It went around a couple of years ago. “Try asking THESE questions to get more answers from your children!” And the 12 y/o played along, because he is generally amenable to my quirks, but the 10 y/o withered me with one half-lidded look so I got scared and stopped trying.

But the other day, after the usual “how was your day at school / fine / how was your day at work? / okay I guess” (wait — maybe I should lead by example?) exchange, as I was opening the fridge for something, the 12 y/o said,
Remember Joey (not his real name) from my old basketball team?
I said yes, of course, and he said, well, Joey does this thing where he runs towards Bob (obvs a pseudonym as well) and then Bob crouches down and Joey puts his hands on Bob’s shoulders and then JUMPS OVER HIM!
I KNOW! It’s amazing!
Does Joey do this to anyone else?
Just Bob.

At first I considered what I should be doing with this information. Is he confiding some sort of bizarre bullying ring to me? Is there an internet leapfrogging craze where children jump over things and film it and then try to get famous on the Internet (are we still capitalizing internet, I have been out of blogging so long)?
No, Clara, I said sternly, settle down, he is just sharing an amazing moment from his day. As you have been hassling for, lo these many years.

I accept the story — probably not the weirdest thing that happened at middle school that day, but let’s not dwell – and the lesson. I can’t show up at a prescribed time and expect people to perform their thoughts and feelings for me. I have to be here, as much as I can, and the thoughts and feelings will be shared. Passive language, yes, but in this case, it’s kind of appropriate and I will allow it.

Therefore I REFUSE to rise any earlier on the grounds it will ENDANGER the EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT of my FRAGILE CHILDREN! I’m exactly as productive as I need to be. Tag it: a defence in search of an attack.

In No Particular Order

I saw a crow eating a dead pigeon while I was walking through downtown this afternoon.

A man walking the other direction on the sidewalk, who saw the crow eating the pigeon at the same time as me, met my eyes and we both affected a wide-eyed horror face, and then we both looked at the tour bus that was stopped for the light, but none of the tourists looked out their windows to see the bird carnage.

I continued eating my most delicious falafel sandwich as though I was a crow and my delicious falafel was my pigeon.

When I got back to the office and told my co-worker, let’s call her Laughing Elder, about the birds, she told me about once seeing an eagle steal the food of a crane and the crane losing its mind with anger.

Last night I started reading “H is for Hawk” and it is exactly as good as all the reviews say it is.

Last night I also bought two Foo Fighters albums and finally indulged my love of All Things Rock and Grohl. Yes, I just said that. You are embarrassed for me. I hate puns. Unless I am making them.

I feel like I should be embarrassed for loving the Foo Fighters as much as I do. Yet, they write the songs that make me pound the table and bang my head while keening to the sound of perfect harmonies, so I guess I will not apologize. Also, Dave Grohl is an excellent writer and drummer, and shouty in all the right places.

That was the first song I heard this morning on my music player on the way to work and yes, I was a little overtired and happy that it’s Friday, but it was more than that. The song in my headphones at 7 am on 8th ave waiting for the bus made me darn near euphoric. I thought I might cry, vomit, become hysterical, and pass out on the sidewalk.

(It is possible I could use a good night’s sleep.)

Things have been at a low ebb for a few weeks; the evening sportsball activities are taking their toll and Eli in particular, being of a slightly dramatic persuasion, has a tendency to complain that he is tired, has only ever been tired, and will continue to be tired until his dying breath. Which will be tired.

Wednesdays are our busiest evenings; baseball starts at 5:45-6, then Arlo does soccer at 7 at a different park, and we don’t get home and into bed (the kids that is) until at least 8:30, sometimes closer to 9. Then up for Thursday at 6:30.

Wednesday I picked up the kids at daycare at 5, as usual.

Eli: Ohhhhh I am so tired.
Me: Gosh you do sound tired.
Eli: I think I should skip baseball practice.
Me: Oh yeah?
Eli: I’m too tired. I just..I just…
Me: We’ll see.

It should be noted that wednesdays are my busiest day at work. On Wednesdays roughly 80% of my day is on my feet, and 60% of my day is talking to clients, and the rest is either going to the bathroom or taking public transit, where I am also standing. Wait, no, I sit down in the bathroom. But stand on public transit. So I was tired too. I did not want to take him to baseball. I wanted to change into sweatpants and drink wine and drool myself to sleep.

Arlo: ..and I don’t have my shin pads.
Me: Hm?
Arlo: Remember I had to have my shin pads or I couldn’t go back to soccer? And I looked for them but I didn’t find them.
Me: Did you look *everywhere*?
Arlo: I think so.
Me: (suspects not)
Arlo: ..anyway I might find them. But if I don’t, we can go shopping.
Me: Pardon?
Arlo: For black pants and a white shirt.
Me: Pardon?
Arlo: Tomorrow is the May Day assembly at school. So we need black pants and a white shirt.
Me: Not for the assembly, surely. For the actual ceremony, next week…
Arlo: My teacher said for tomorrow.
Me: (plots teacher’s demise)
Arlo: So…we can go shopping if we don’t go to soccer.

Yes. Doesn’t that sound fun? Car, mall, kid, evening. No sweat pants. No wine. No drooling. I am DELIGHTED with this counter-proposal, and yet there is SOMETHING missing. What could it be. Could it be..that if I’m not GOING OUT I don’t want to GO OUT.

On we walked, Arlo bouncing along, Eli slouching.

At home, I made them grilled cheese sandwiches and thought about it. It wasn’t a baseball game, just a practice. Was it absolutely necessary that we go? Would it injure anyone’s character? I decided no and texted the team to let them know we wouldn’t be coming. I texted one of the parents from Arlo’s class and asked about the dress clothes for the Thursday assembly. She replied yes, and lol, and ha ha. I looked for Arlo’s shin pads and did not find them. I considered that he might have hidden them, but remembered that he loves soccer. Decided to cancel soccer too. Went to the mall and bought black jeans and a white collared polo shirt and was happy that we have two incomes right now so I could just go to H&M and buy the kid clothes and not worry about it.

Arlo has the right kind of body for H&M, spaghetti-like. The clothes fit him and we moved on quickly. I got to my sweatpants, my wine, and my drool. As Arlo himself is fond of remarking, it was not the end of the world.

Plus he is cute.



Eli got a cheese hat from his uncle who drives a truck and was in Wisconsin.



I was on my feet all day. There had been a power outage overnight and all the computers were buggered. The printer drivers were uninstalled. People were panicking. The magic machine that works with a computer that still runs windows 2000 (!!) did not come back all right from its spontaneous reboot, unsurprisingly. It was kind of like a computer stroke. And now that machine slurs a bit on the left hand side, as it were.

I don’t fix the computers at work, don’t get me wrong. But I sure do use them.

There was also a lot of: people and talking and being in charge and being okay with that but by the end of the day starting to be kind of sick of it. Someone else be in charge, please.

Sidenote: I was thinking today about the special value that I bring to the workplace because I’m a parent: initiative. There are step-up people at work who are not parents, and there are hang-back people at work who are parents, to be sure, but speaking for me only I can say that I am definitely more step-up than hang-back since having kids. I spent six years in charge of children. Who’s going to clean that vomit? I am! Who’s going to make a plan for the day/week/month? *half-hearted-hoorah* I am! Who has to just hold her nose and do the thing because there are no other adults around and children can’t do this particular thing. I am! Why not. This translates well to an office environment. Well, this particular office environment.

Of course we all draw the line at washing peoples’ dishes, you know that staple workplace sign “Your mother doesn’t work here: clean up your own dishes!” we have one of those at work. But if something not dishes or pest-control needs doing, I’ll do it. Even if I hate it. Because it’s probably better than vomit.

Then I hopped the train, then bus, then home, got the car, got the kids, bought them Wendy’s for dinner (best mom ever!) made them cry because no time to play Plants Vs. Zombies 2 (worst mom ever!) hustled us all off to baseball at 6*, sat on the field for 90 minutes while Arlo alternately did his homework, ran laps around the field, and hassled me about playing Plants Vs. Zombies 2, came home and hustled them into pyjamas, made Eli cry again because I refused to sleep with him (??) and Arlo started referring to himself as a bad kid because he keeps asking me the same thing over and over so I had to explain he’s not a bad kid, he just makes bad decisions sometimes, as do we all, and he said, with a cocked brow, well, I AM bad sometimes…and I realized he wants to be a little bit bad, so that’s fine I guess I can call him bad. Not a problem. My blond boy with blue eyes who resembles a 70s Wayne Gretsky right now. You so bad.


Go to bed, bad kid, I said, and now it’s 8:20 and I have some wine and my feet hurt from standing all day, and my butt hurts from sitting on the fake turf field for 90 minutes and you could be forgiven for thinking I’m never happy. Ah but I am.

I said to Arlo when he told me he was a bad kid, what we are doesn’t define who we are. Sometimes I’m happy, sometimes I’m sad, sometimes I’m mean, sometimes I’m irritating. Sometimes you’re bad, but that doesn’t make you a bad person. The only thing I can say with certainty about you is you’re human.

All of us mostly happy, a little bit mean, totally imperfect. Everything is okay.

* Working full time with kids in daycare and doing an organized sport that demands two evenings a week is as challenging as I thought it would be.

PS: Go Yankees.


Just Like the Fantasies

When I was considering full time employment and fretting about the children having to leave the house at 7:35 instead of 8:40, coming home at 5 instead of 3 pm, I consoled myself by thinking about how nice it would be to walk the ten minutes home with them, downhill, as it happens, chatting about our days and regrouping before hitting the house for dinner/video games/wrestling etc.

We’ve been blessed with extraordinary dry, sunny weather since January; only a few terrible rainy days, so the walking-down-the-hill part has come true. But the conversations often veer more towards Pokemon, whether I can go to ebay with my credit card and buy them (OK, Eli) rare Pokemon, how tired our legs are, how we wish we had gum or snacks or licorice in my purse (also Eli) –in other words the kind of grousing that happens when children are tired, hungry and out of their routine.

I get it. I sympathize. I often sit on the bus before I get off at their daycare, and think Well, I could just stay on the bus and go home and leave them at daycare until 6. Technically. But I don’t. I pick them up.

The last two days Arlo has asked me very complex questions. Yesterday it was about tax. Today it was about wages. These conversations carry us all the way home. Trying to explain adult life to a child is this heart-rending event, where I want to explain it just right so he’ll have the Right Idea about things, but in terms he can understand, while still imparting my values.

YES I overthink everything always. Yes.

Today, he mentioned vacations. “I only get so many days,” I explained. “People only get so many days for vacation. It’s a trade-off. We work, make money, get vacation days, have money to pay for vacations…”

“Well,” he said. “You could work at Subway!”
“But I wouldn’t make as much money.”
“Why not.”
“Because Subway pays .. not very much money.”
“Because it’s not a very hard job. And you don’t need to know anything special to work there.”
“You have to know how to make change. That’s hard.”

Eli interrupted to mention how much he would like to take more vacations. I started following that train of thought but Arlo said, “Anyway, go on. How much money do YOU make? And what are YOUR qualifications?”

Indeed. How did I end up where I am? Luck; some good, some bad.

We ended the conversation when we arrived home. I told him that I started out working for minimum wage in the cheese shop, slicing meats and cheeses.
“Where you cut your finger almost off!*” said Eli.
“I’ll probably do that someday,” Arlo said.
“Oh yeah?” I’m not arguing. The child is … inattentive.
“Well most people do, injure themselves somehow, at some point.”
“Like a broken arm, or a gushing wound!” crowed Eli.
“Yes like those,” I said.

And then we shut the door behind us, and started in on dinner, video games, and wrestling.

*meat slicer, meet pointer finger, 1994? she said, tentatively?

Today I Found Myself Admiring A Magnolia Tree

I would love to pull something pithy out from between my buttocks right now but there are three children in my face talking about Pokemon. It is Spring Break. Spring Break means nothing. The children are going to daycare every day but two; one they will spend with their grandparents and one they will spend with me. They were crushed when I told them Spring Break actually meant nothing. And they’ve never even seen a Spring Break! movie.

The children are not in my face because they need my attention, never fear, I am not neglecting them. We are waiting for pizza to arrive and they just ate goldfish crackers and peanut butter and lollipops and everything is very exciting. The neighbour, who waits for us to come home every day, is excited too. He is talking at breakneck speed.

I have a co-worker who is a lot like a hummingbird. She is rail thin and very short and she walks so fast I run to keep up. She also is allergic to things and the other day she had an allergic reaction so today she was all doped up on super fly drugs. It was weird listening to her talk, like listening to a record album slowed down to 33 rpm. I guess if I started doing uppers it would be like me on 78.

The kids at work, and they are all kids except for three of us, were comparing birth years today. The ones born in the 80s were making fun of the ones born in the 90s. I just kept my grey head down and thought about typewriter ribbons and boozy Christmas parties aka the past. The temptation is to join in and pretend to be current but I take more pleasure, sometimes, from being invisible and listening in on the juicy gossip.

You can do this with little kids, like actual children, too. Just sit quietly in their midst, as though on safari. They are used to being ignored or managed; if you’re not managing them you must be ignoring them, and then they’ll go on about all kinds of things. Opinions about the houses of pop singers. What Joey did on the playground and who saw him do it. Who has a crush on whom. Who knows how to divide with decimals.

Sometimes the things are dead boring. Like Pokemon. So now I must go to another room.

This Summer Vacation Has Headlines AND Details

Summer Vacation, Two Weeks Early

We were all holding out hope that the teachers and government would come to an agreement over the weekend, but then we heard nothing all weekend and well, the Monday news was: No deal, strike NOT averted, it’s the other guy’s fault, Summer Vacation HAS BEGUN. START YOUR ENGINES.

I’m not going to comment further on the labour dispute because I feel like it’s hopeless and I’m sick of listening to bafflegabbing spokespeople say empty, political things and nothing changing ever. Let’s go to the beach.

No, wait, it’s kind of showery, so instead I went to the dentist and the kids played at my parents’ house and then we came home and Eli had a friend over and everyone scootered for ages and then we had burgers for dinner.

Here’s a Recipe

I made my own burger buns because I didn’t want to interrupt the scootering to go to the grocery store. Pace yourself, stay-at-home-mom! Don’t do it all in one day! Groceries will wait until tomorrow.

I used this recipe . If you make these buns, know that my child with the sweet tooth declared them “too sweet” and just ate the burger. Cut the sugar accordingly. Otherwise, they were delicious and ever so easy and way more fun than going to Safeway at 4:45 pm with two children of any age or designation.

Co-operative Play Without Injury!

Here is what children can demonstrate if you deny them cool toys and fun adventures:

This morning, Arlo found some swim googles and put them on his eyes backwards, so they were pressing into the eyeball. Then he instructed Eli to lead him around the house in a strange sort of trust game that I thought was going to go terribly wrong at any moment, but it did not! Then, Arlo removed the goggles and blinked his weird, squished-up eyes and said, “Everything is animated!” Then of course Eli wanted to do it too so they reversed the roles. They played this game for a good twenty minutes. And no one got pushed down the stairs! There is hope for all humanity.

Inspirational Claptrap

Tonight I met my good friend at the coffee shop and we were talking about library summer reading club, where you read 50 books over the summer, take your little passbook thing to the library and get a sticker, and at the end of summer you get a medal? With Oprah (a poster of Oprah, technically) regarding us with the benevolence of a thousand angels, we decided we would form summer writing club, where the rules are:

Write 15 minutes a day
For 50 days
Get yourself a medal, or just steal your kid’s old Summer Reading Club medal.

You can join if you want. Fifty days. Fifteen minutes a day. Summer Writing Club.

Santa, etc.

Last year our neighbour, who was then 7, received an iPad from Santa, which totally fucking wrecks it for the rest of us. This year, Arlo has decided he wants an iPhone for Christmas, a black one, and I have, of course, decided to be logical at him, repeatedly. Thus, we have had the following conversation several times in the past weeks:

Arlo: I wonder if I really WILL get an iPhone 5 for Christmas. [smiles to himself]
Me: Hmmmm, do you think so?
Arlo: Well, it is pretty much the ONLY thing I want.
Me: Yeah..
Arlo: And Santa can do anything. And
Me: But expensive electronics are really not for kids.
Arlo: But NEIGHBOUR KID got an iPad last year from Santa
Me: I think his whole family got the iPad, actually..
Arlo: But mostly HE plays with it *
Me: Anyway, there are so many toys that are appropriate for children. There’s a whole Toys R Us store full of toys. I think those are the kinds of gifts Santa likes to give.
Arlo: I guess. But I really want an iPhone 5. A black one. [smiles dreamily]

*if most of your sentences start with “but” it’s probably not a productive conversation.

We have talked about what in god’s name he would do with a smart phone, how he’d have to pay for a data plan, which he could never afford on the one dollar per week he gets in allowance, especially since he always ends up spending his spending money on candy or to pay for things like the half a tube of toothpaste he squeezed out of the tube just to see what would happen, this last just the other day. (seriously dude wtf.) We have discussed how much they cost and how fragile they are (this child drops at least four things a day). We have even discussed the angle of proprietary software, thanks to Saint Aardvark’s personal bug up the ass, er, interests.

It isn’t the point. He doesn’t care about, or even hear, arguments against. Arlo thinks Santa is real. Arlo thinks Santa is magic. Arlo thinks Santa is going to give him what he most desires, because Santa wants Arlo to be happy and the iPhone 5 (in black) will make him happy.

Or possibly, Arlo knows Santa isn’t real and this is just a massive test.

Either way, this issue has been pushing my buttons, which of course makes it super fun for the kids. Push the buttons again! Again! iPhones for children are NOT part of our family value package. $500 gifts of any kind are not how we roll. You’ve been around enough Christmases and watched me shop, you should KNOW this. Want some damn Lego. You’re SEVEN. Ask for a pogo stick.

But you want what you want, because you want it. I’ve been so sensible for so long (about material things) I forgot what it is to just want something because you want it. Yes, because other people want it, because it’s a status symbol, because of what it represents. Still. Because you want it.

These examples of how my child is different from me sneak up on me. We all joke about stuff like “oh my kid is going to be an accountant because I’m a poet..but I’ll love him anyway,” but it’s sneakier than that. It’s a kid’s job to test his parent’s values, to assert his individuality. As soon as he can figure out a way to do it. So here I am, trucking along smug as a bug about my book-reading, music-loving kind-hearted child and then he says something that makes him sound like he’s a greedy, materialistic, value-less, status-seeking brat. Is he getting it, all the stuff I’m showing and telling? Is he going to join a frat someday? How will I handle it?

Except he’s a kid, just yacking on about stuff he doesn’t understand.

(For an entertaining/infuriating time, try talking to kids under 8 about gigabytes. Hilarious. Or precious metals. Everything that sparkles is a precious metal.)

It’s all part of separation. Letting go. I can’t make him value the things I value, and I don’t value the things he values, and all of this is as it should be. He can want an iPhone and he won’t get one, and the disappointment will be hard to watch, but he’ll take it and deal with it and it will help form him. He’s himself, not a clone of me. I spend so much time looking for the similarities between us I sometimes forget to appreciate and marvel at the differences.

Postscript, several days later.

Today the kids wanted to go shopping for Christmas presents. Arlo asked me for a list of things I wanted for Christmas yesterday and then he took it upstairs. I’m going to look at it and decide what to get you, he said.

This morning he wrote a list of stocking presents he would like, for Eli to peruse, and Eli wrote a list for him. Then Arlo came over and whispered in my ear:

Today can we go to a toy store, so I can look for something for Eli’s stocking?


He went upstairs and gathered his money. He had five dollars.

More whispering:

I want to get him a stuffed dog. Or maybe a Lego minifigure.

OK, I said. We can find those.

After much negotiation — you really don’t want to know how much or the nature of, just be aware that in real life there were more than two line breaks between the previous paragraph and this one — Arlo and I ended up at Toys R Us while Eli and SA went to Value Village because Eli of course also wanted to get a present for Arlo for HIS stocking but only had one dollar to his name, plus of course we couldn’t be at the same store at the same time because SECRETS.

Arlo went right over to the stuffed animal department and picked up a stuffed golden retriever puppy.

This one, he said.
How much is it? I said.
Uh, I don’t know, he said.

It was eight dollars. I fronted him the extra three.

In case you haven’t seen it, this account of a 7 year old’s Christmas list is dead on and the annotations are everything I have been thinking for the past two months.

Ninety-Six — She’s Prone to Metaphor

Five year olds playing soccer is the most adorable and maddening thing. They get distracted by birds and trees, enjoy taking huge, dramatic tumbles, and often break into dance routines mid-game.

I remember when Arlo played two years ago, he would mostly run around huffing and puffing and feeling like he was really working hard, which he was, but he never touched the ball. And before you tell me it’s five year old soccer, they just need to be running and they’re learning important skills about teamwork, yes. I know this. But there are other five year olds who touch the ball, a lot, with their feet, and even move it from point a to point b. Sometimes? They get it in a NET, which is a GOAL and all the parents go wooooooooooh. There are a couple of boys like that on Eli’s team this year and we have played against many teams full of players who just seem to GET IT more than certain others.

At the time I chalked Arlo’s not-getting-it of soccer up to, well, Arlo. He’s a generally thoughtful kid who likes to take in his surroundings before committing to them. He enjoyed the heck out of soccer because he had friends and they were a team and he likes running. That’s like 70% of soccer right there.

At the same time, three-year-old Eli was running around kicking balls like a real ball kicker and I thought welp, he’ll really nail soccer someday I reckon.

Turns out not so far. Eli also loves that he has friends and they are a team and he LOVES running. Loves it. Would run all the time if he could. However. There is another 30% to soccer and that is moving the ball.

Watching Eli at practice yesterday I realized he moves WITH the ball. He moves AROUND the ball. He chases the ball to and fro and he knows where the ball IS at any given moment. But he doesn’t actually go up to the ball, claim it, and move it, either by kicking or dribbling. And Arlo did the same thing. They both kind of hover at the edge of the action.

I watched him and started to see some commonalities between his (and Arlo’s) approach to soccer and my approach to life, new experiences, things I am not totally confident about. I have this tendency, to start and stop things, just a bit too afraid to get right up to the ball and own it, dominate it, take it and run WITH it, not next to it or just behind it.

(It sometimes can be seen in my overuse of commas. Just break the sentence! Break it! Move on.)

I’m going to work on amplifying my inner soccer parent voice — oh yes, there is one, it tries to come out every time I watch a soccer game played by five year olds — and when I see myself hanging about the edges of the action, waiting meekly for a good moment to step in, I will tell myself to get the fucking ball already.

Ninety-One — Variety

It started with food; my kids are picky eaters and we are constantly changing the way we ‘do’ dinner to try to unlock their magic eating powers. I tried the ‘here is an assortment of fine foods, please enjoy any/all of them!’ approach for a while and they ate peanut butter sandwiches or the closest thing to that on the table, so now I am trying the ‘eat a bite before you get anything else’ approach and they are eating a bite and THEN eating peanut butter sandwiches so I declare the Hunger Games OVER because peanut butter.

Wait! Except Eli. Eli refuses to eat anything but the things he wants to eat. So on butter chicken night, he ate nothing for dinner. And on omelette night, he ate apple. On the bright side, he is eating a MUCH more robust breakfast these days because by 7 am he is sta-r-fuck-ving.

I know. It doesn’t scan, but I needed to put the word fuck in there because fuck. It is hard to make your children embrace variety. They fear what they don’t know. It’s a self-preservation thing.

In some respects, it’s not so hard. Music, for example. Since they were wee/born/fetal, they have enjoyed all the music I have to offer, all the music SA has to offer, all the music off the radio, some kids’ stuff, etc. In the car I stab at the radio buttons madly to find a song I don’t hate and then I leave it there for a while. Arlo loves SONIC HITS NOW which plays, well, all the hits, and Eli likes SONIC HITS NOW too but also ROCK AND ROLL and sometimes THE CBC / THE NEWS. Sometimes I override them, because I am driving and I get to choose.

They pick their own clothes. They pick their friends. They pick their own books at the library. I don’t like all of it, and they don’t like all the things I like, but variety. I am starting to think that the key to life is variety; understanding it, embracing it. Seeing, or even better, assuming that all the people you meet have different ideas of what is THE BEST EVER and it’s okay. It’s even great! It’s okay to not love Star Wars (that’s me) or not like Joni Mitchell (both kids) or hate sauces in general (Eli) or not be fond of carrots, because it’s a big world and just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean you get to tell other people to like it or not.

Sometimes social media acts like that kid who tells you what’s cool, what t-shirt you should be wearing, how you’re never going to have friends because you don’t like Lego Star Wars or you don’t like it the right way. If you only hang out there, you can forget what you actually think. Sometimes I get so wrapped up reading what other people have written on the Internet, I don’t get around to writing my own stuff.

Twitter is a wonderful thing sometimes; it is full of people who might get you, people you get. It is funny and sympathetic and sometimes exactly what you need. At the beginning, after a year of Twitter I thought it was cutting into my productivity. I was right! But the solution in these modern times is not to quit The Internet. The solution is to moderate one’s own intake. The solution is variety.

Luckily there are books and notebooks and real-life conversations with people. There is always something to clean or throw away in this house. There is always meal preparation and the fitting of my tongue with a steel sleeve so that when I have to bite it during dinnertime while the kids pick pick pick at their delicious food I don’t bleed all over my plate. There is always something else I could be doing, other than following a trail of links to the bottom of an internet pile-on. The world is big and wonderful and full of things.


Eighty — Show Your Work

With all this free time staring me in the face, I have to be ever diligent and defend against Time Waste. I could drop the kids at school, come home and just sit clicking links on the ol’ Internet for six hours. But I must instead seize every moment of each day, because who knows when another illness will befall us and I’ll lose my time again.

See, I am already calling it MY TIME. With all MY TIME I came up with a great (horrible) statement this morning: It’s easy to be happy as a stay-at-home parent. Just keep the kids out of the house. I get so much done. I am so relaxed. I am happy to see them at the end of the day. And at the beginning of the day.

Why did I have children if I didn’t want to, you know, HAVE children? Well, I did spend five solid years with them. You’d need a break too, imaginary childless critic who is wondering about my motives.

I am also facing a possible return to work in the next *handwave* months, so in theory this lovely time off is but a vacation from my old life, not a real new life and as such I intend to enjoy it, not settle into it and have it become more drudgery and routine. Excitement! Verve! That is what I am talking about.

This morning I was running along a trail at Burnaby Lake Regional Park. My feet fell on the cushioned dirt path, sometimes on slugs, sometimes not on slugs. I had been listening to music but then I listened to the park instead; it’s full of birds and frogs and apparently bears though I did not see any, and that was more pleasant.

As I put one foot in front of the other over and over again for half an hour, I thought about how with kids we don’t really see the work that goes into their growth and development. It starts when they begin to exist without our knowledge and carries on pretty much forever? Babies go crazy and make no sense and then figure out how to talk and in retrospect we get it — baby goes crazy? Baby is making a developmental leap — but it’s still hard to see ahead of time.

It still surprises me when my kids make a leap or suddenly start doing something they haven’t done before. When I see them over here and they used to be over there it feels like they sprouted wings and flew to this new place. But really, the steps were all there. They built the steps and put them in place and followed them. Who knows how long ago that was, how long they’ve been working toward this goal in their own, precious, weird way. It only looks like magic.

From inside me, someone who is trying to figure out what to do with her life and accomplish much with what she’s been given, it feels more like I built the steps and put them in place and am slowly trudging along and holy cow it totally did NOT look this far when I started. How am I not there* yet? And yet, when I do arrive, perhaps to someone else it will look like I just sprouted wings and flew.

* the meditation book would say there is no there and you are here and I acknowledge this but I mean more in a goal-achieving sort of sense, not a self-achieving sense. I have achieved self.**

** or have I? ***

*** yes. For the most part.