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Archives April 2013
We were watching The Empire Strikes Back the other day and I got to thinking: was Yoda the quintessential parent?
Think about it.
Take his opening speech to Luke, for example, and sub out “Jedi” for “Parent.”
“Ready are you? What know you of ready? For eight hundred years have I trained parents. My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained. A parent must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind… Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A parent craves not these things.”
Pretty powerful stuff and definitely better than anything I got in prenatal classes.
Or how about “wars not make one great.”
I think of that every time I argue with the bairn over emptying the dishwasher or picking up the Lego bits and pencil crayons that I incessantly step on.
The way he talks to Luke is always firm, strong and decisive. There’s no backtracking or cute-ing out of or namby-pambying around with Yoda.
“Do, or do not. There is no try.” Take that ambivalence.
“There is no why. Nothing more will I teach you today.” Take that sass mouth.
“Always with you what cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?” Take that discouragement.
“How do you get so big eating food of this kind?” Take that junk food.
“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not.” Take that…oh, actually that one might be best saved for the bedroom…
And he does have a very valid point when he says “When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good, you will not.”
Wonder what kind of moisturizers and facial serums they use on Dagobah….
I happened upon this article yesterday about the top 10 creepiest things kids have said to their parents, and it was pretty funny. And also somewhat unsettling. The number one submission is downright hilarious. And very creepy. I won’t spoil it for you by writing it here.
Sibling rivalry seems to be a good source for creepy candor from the junior set. I can only imagine the stuff that came out of my older sister’s mouth when I was born. She wasn’t exactly happy to meet me.
My daughter is two so the things she says are less creepy right now and more just funny or cute. That is, if we can decipher what she’s saying. She’s not keen on syllables so she often only says the first syllable of many words. The ones we particularly enjoy her shouting in public include:
“I want crack!” That is, crackers.
“Do my butt.” Translation: Do up my buttons. My husband just loves when she screams that one aloud at the local grocery store.
Most recently, she kept asking my sister, “Where’s my neck?” Poor Auntie Irene could only guess: “Um, on your body?” That is, until I translated that she was actually looking for her necklace.
I’m kind of looking forward to what little ditties she will unleash as she learns more words. A friend’s six-year-old daughter has taken to leaving her cryptic notes from her old typewriter with warnings like: “you r in dange”. (See top photo.) All I can say to that is pure awesomeness.
One of the things about being on my second child is that I risk being a know-it-all. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I had 6 kids. I’d probably be self-publishing a guide to raising world leaders.
My friend who shall remain nameless has a beautiful, smart two-and-a-half year old. My friend is convinced, in no particular order, that:
1. Her child’s tantrums resolve easily because of her excellent parenting
2. Her child’s out of this world gifted and about to read
3. Her child’s lack of interest in candy is set for life.
Now I get this because I believed all these things too. When my kid was 3, they asked all the kids at the Mother’s Day Tea why their mom was special. The first child said because she gives me cookies, so all the rest said “because she gives me…” (chocolate, and so on.) My child said: Because she gives me oatmeal. I was proud. If a bit weirded out. (My theory is that’s all he could remember, it having been the last thing I gave him.)
But then my child turned three, and four and so on. Now my experience is not her experience, and what’s more, it is not my job to correct her experience. But here’s what I kind of darkly wish I could say:
It’s really the terrible threes
Kids at this two are toddlers, but they are not expert toddlers. They throw tantrums because they are upset. Shortly, however, they will throw tantrums to upset you. (That’s why Louise Bates Ames’s editor is the greatest writer of parenting book titles ever: Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy.)
Reading is not a straight path
The day my kid could read Cheerios from the wrong (read: Honey Nut) box I thought he was a genius. He was steaming ahead on reading so fast! Until he discovered a scooter and didn’t learn one single more sight word for six months, while everyone else caught up to him.
They get the candy from friends once they’re old enough
And then they ask for more.
But I’m going to be smart and not say anything. Except on this blog. I could passive-aggressive-share on Facebook though…
We’ve all heard that it’s hard trying to be a Supermom. Sure it is. But I decided to take it a different way. If I’ve got to be Supermom, well then, I want parenting advice from superheroes. Here’s the parenting advice I’ve gleaned from superhero movies, and how I’ve applied it lately.
“You’ve got me – who’s got you?”
Lois Lane in Superman
Canadian Margot Kidder provided one of the memorable quotes for the Christopher Reeve 1978 Superman movie. It’s a fun scene where Superman catches Lois, just like we’d all like to catch our kids in time when they fall down on the road to maturity. But her point is well taken: As moms we need our own support networks in place! (Here’s how to find other moms near you.)
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
-Ben Parker in Spider-Man
This is great scene just for the lecture Ben Parker gives Peter Parker on the teen years being the time you decide what kind of person you’re going to become. (And here’s how to be your kids’ courage coach.) But the same can be true in parenting. While my kids are small, at least, I am a big person in their world, and I don’t always have to assert that to get things done.
“Red means stop.”
Hellboy in, well, Hellboy
When you set a limit, you have to follow through with it – immediately. This is also known as “get off your butt” parenting. (Here’s how to raise a fearless child – and set limits too.)
“No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again.”
Even being Supermom means messes are going to happen, and books are going to get overdue at the library from time to time, and…you just save the world. Again. And again. (Get organized!)
- Mr. Incredible in The Incredibles
“Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
This describes my toddler when he’s tired out. There is no sense in negotiating, offering distractions, or applying any parenting techniques that involve words. He just needs to be removed from whatever the situation is, held or not-held as his mood strikes, and gotten to bed as soon as possible. (Here’s how to handle the stress of having a toddler!)
- Alfred in The Dark Knight
Also, I want an Alfred to clean up my house and bring me tea.
You may have seen this ad making the rounds recently on Facebook. Created by a Toronto ad agency for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, it certainly has people talking. Moms Demand Action is a newly formed group, which aims to be the Mothers Against Drunk Driving equivalent for gun control.
The “Choose One” campaign contains similar ads with Kinder eggs and a dodge ball, both of which have been banned somewhere in the U.S. along with Little Red Riding Hood. (Yes, Kinder eggs. Apparently the potential choking hazard of these eggs is more dangerous than a rifle.)
I found the ads quite thought provoking, and if nothing else, hopefully it will make Americans at least think about gun control. And maybe rethink Kinder eggs, too.
When I first went back to work full-time after having my eldest son, I was a wreck. It was absolutely the right choice for me, hands down. I love my kids, so very much. But I also love my job and I was really not enjoying trying to do it part-time with cobbled-together daycare. (The nadir was doing a last-minute interview on my cell phone, from a Sears changeroom because I could lock my toddler in with me and he could look in the mirror. And we could both learn there were some pins in the carpet.)
But I’d also bought into the idea that leaving my son with a stranger was basically going to almost-ruin his life — at best, a not-soul-destroying evil necessity. And if you’ve read the New Republic article on “The Hell of American Daycare” (caution: don’t) you’ll know that there is substandard care and it can be really scary. So there certainly were horror stories out there.
However, graced by the ability to fund higher-quality care, the time to do a search, and a friend who referred me to my final choice, I found a really great group care situation, which also happens to be a Montessori environment. This is not for everyone and I am not trying to talk anyone into anything! But I did want to share that it hasn’t been just a compromise for us — it’s been a bonus. Here are 5 things I am so, so happy about with my decision, 5 and a half years later.
1. My son got more people to care about him
Yes, the teachers at my son’s daycare are paid and it is true that unlike his relatives, they would not want to look after him for free. However, they are a warm and caring bunch who really do care about, and even — in the most professional sense of the word — love him. The language around “leaving your child to be cared for by strangers” only rang true for me for about a month. After that, they weren’t strangers. I realize nanny-cam stories abound but…it’s just not our experience.
What my son seemed to learn from the experience is that the world has more people to make sure he’s not hungry or unhappy than just our immediate family. His sense of security, over time, increased rather than decreased.
2. Daycare staff — all different kinds — have really great ideas for my child
One thing our particular daycare is great at is food. They serve a healthy international menu. But the way the catering company does it is interesting – they do a ton of assemble-your-own meals so that the kids have control, putting together tacos and choosing toppings for rice. I was able to take that idea back to our house for some really nice dinners. Not a must-have but really nice to have.
3. My son was ready to learn things I didn’t think of
When my son was three, his daycare did a unit on the human body that included making a huge paper tracing of his body and then sticking construction paper organs on it – stomach, intestines and so forth. I admit that I rolled my eyes a little bit. I thought it was a fun art activity but the idea that my child was learning all the inner workings of the human body seemed just a little overblown to me.
When he came down with appendicitis over a year later, he discussed with the nurses how food is digested and was able to understand why he had to pass gas and so on. I was kind of stunned that he had remembered. At home, I freely admit, I would never, ever have introduced this information into his life at that time.
4. I got a team of consultants about childhood development
I’m an information junkie and I love kids, and had worked with them at camps and even in the public school board, so I really thought that I had a handle on childhood development. But I learned pretty quickly that when it’s your own kid developing, suddenly a lot of experience and information can seem overwhelming if not downright useless.
So when my son hit a roadblock with learning to write, I was so glad to be able to ask his teachers what a normal learning path was, what they’d observed with other kids — and more to the point, what was up with my particular child, whom they had seen learn for the past 2 years. And then I could take their advice and breathe. (At 7, writing is still not his favourite thing, but he is doing just fine in second grade.)
5. Yes, daycare really can be a community
Okay we’ve all heard that daycare helps kids socialize. In our case I’d done a pretty good job at playgroups, but it was different having my child in contact with the same kids every day for weeks. He did learn to do things like take turns a little bit better than he had been at home. What’s more though — our whole family got a group of families at similar stages to get to know through playdates and birthday parties and all the rest. We have been really happy to have that in our lives.
What choices have you made for your kids that have delighted you beyond what you originally expected?
We all make mistakes but boy, when it comes to my kids, anyway, I wish I didn’t. Here are three parenting mistakes I wish I had not made, so you don’t have to.
1. I thought I could “break the baby.”
For my eldest son’s first several years, I lived in absolute fear of doing the wrong thing. I read way too much on the Internet and off, and drove myself insane in various ways, including several months of not sleeping more than 45 minutes at a stretch because my son was not a good sleeper and I did not want him to feel abandoned…hungry…cold–lonely…or stressed out. (I did hand him over to his father eventually and…he cried on him a lot. Then he got several nights’ good sleep.) I rarely handed him over to friends or family for a break. I sweated over every new food. And even when he was almost two when we made the leap, I thought sending him to full-time daycare would ruin his life.
As it turns out, being stressed out about every little thing is not good for one’s family. With my second I have been a bit more laid back and not only is he fine, I find our family laughs a lot more together. That has to be good for everyone.
2. I didn’t advocate early enough
When my son transitioned to public school I really didn’t want to be “that mother.” I don’t want to get into his entire year but…I wish I had been “that mother.” Sometimes we do need to hang back and let our kids adjust and struggle. And sometimes they need us to speak up for them. (Here’s how to talk to your kid’s teacher.) I think we have some remedial work to do with making sure he is comfortable with school ahead still.
3. I haven’t always disciplined myself
It’s a truism that you can’t give your kids what you don’t have. One of my weaknesses (it is actually a professional hazard) is that I am continually distracted by what I’ll characterize as “really cool stuff on the Internet.” I have been known to go grab a laptop during dinner to show off a funny or heartwarming video like this “People are Awesome” one. And now my seven year old not only thinks it’s fine to pull out an iPod Touch at dinner (we are working on this…both of us) but he’s also into doing his own YouTube searches. Which is resulting in a whole lot of discipline, his and ours.
Which parenting mistakes have you made? Spill in the comments so that future parents can make whole new ones!
It’s that time of year again and I’m trying to figure out what I can and cannot write off when it comes to the bairn.
Of course I know there are sports and arts credits for extracurricular activities, but what about the other “essentials”?
For example, can I write off all the Tylenol and bottles of wine used to combat stress and headaches caused by sibling spats?
How about the workshop on conflict resolution which also lead to the need of mass amounts of pain killers and Pinot?
Are replacement business clothes damaged by neighbour’s newborn baby spew covered?
What about my sister’s Jimmy Choo’s that got run over by a jogging stroller?
Then there are manicures wrecked from washing out persnickety crevices in lunch bags and reusable snack containers, hair that’s gone unnaturally grey from trying to complete on-line registration forms without the system crashing, oh and grocery bills going up exponentially in direct relation to the wee one’s growth spurts.
I think it’s time for the Canada Revenue Agency to re-evaluate…
Kate Middleton has been receiving kudos (believe it or not) for her maternity style. And why not? She’s kept the signature coats and added in pieces that keep her looking like the Duchess of Cambridge we’re coming to know. Chances are good she’s had a button or two moved, which is a great strategy while you’re still small.
The real takeaway lesson? Just because you’re pregnant and your body shape is changing (and trust me, it will change) doesn’t mean you need to give up your own personal style. In my first pregnancy I didn’t want to invest in too many maternity clothes, because of the expense. I accepted a lot of hand-me-downs. And while I am still grateful (and frugal), I also spent months feeling like an imposter in a tent-like pink shirt circa 1984. Pregnancy, even when not bearing a royal heir and being chased by paparazzi, is enough of an experience of feeling alien in one’s own body. It is worth investing in a few things that really make you smile getting dressed.
If you’re pregnant right now, you are in luck. It’s spring. It’s mostly not too hot. And there are great dresses. Yes, for pregnant bellies too. Here are three I love:
Front tie shirt dress by Maternal America, available at Seven Women
Short sleeve empire waist dress from Motherhood Maternity
Drape-neck maternity shift from Thyme Maternity:
During my morning walk around the pond this weekend, I felt grateful for this little piece of nature so close to my house.
Over the past 14 years, it has been my go-to place….
It’s been my thinking spot over the years.
It’s the place where the combination of stale bread and ducks can bring forth the sweetest of giggles from our children.
It’s been host to our winter Sunday afternoon pond hockey games.
It’s seen competitive races along it’s path on our family bike rides.
It’s the place where I catch up with friends on crisp morning walks after the kids are off too school.
As the kids have grown up, it’s also become their place…
My son and his friends disappear for hours.
They come back home with muddy bikes, dirty clothes and great stories…stories of climbing trees and forest hikes and exploring all that nature has to offer.
My daughter laces up her running shoes and heads out the door to take advantage of the running trail around the pond on her evening runs.
And one time, we spotted this…
So, on this Earth Day, I want to say thank you to our very own little piece of nature.
I am in awe of it.
See you down at the pond!