Somewhere along this crazy path called parenting, our kids have developed a love of reading.
I think it first started when we tricked them into thinking they loved reading by threatening to take away a book if they continued an undesirable behaviour.
If someone was drawing on the floor I would shout, “Stop writing on the floor or I’ll take away your favourite book!”
The child thought to themselves, “I didn’t even know I felt so strongly about my books until this moment but I sure wouldn’t want to lose any if my Mom feels this strongly to incorporate their removal in one of her rants” and the floor graffiti stopped.
“Don’t torment your little sister or I won’t let you read in bed tonight.”
Child thinks, “I hadn’t planned on reading in bed tonight but I sure hate the idea of someone telling me I can’t” and the teasing came to an abrupt halt.
Almost eleven years have passed since we first became parents and Hanna (our oldest) asked me about a month ago if we would consider buying her a very special present for passing grade five.
Everybody passes grade five but that’s a discussion for another day.
When I asked her what this very special gift was I assumed it started with the word Minecraft and ended with the words Minecraft worlds, Minecraft access, more minutes in Minecraft, Minecraft muffins.
She asked if I would buy her the book “The Fault In Our Stars.”
She was very specific, “I don’t mean on my Kobo, I want the real book so I can have the pages and everything. Will you think about it?”
Hanna had a busy weekend at a swim meet and I had some time to check out the book at Chapters and ask if it would be appropriate for a ten year old.
The very helpful sales associate explained that it was beautifully written and a lovely read.
I had the book gift-wrapped (because it was free) and left it on her bed Saturday night as an early “Surprise Graduation!” gift. (The gift was the surprise, not the graduation. As I mentioned, everybody passes today, everybody)
Last night she came to me with tears in her eyes, hugged me and said, “Thanks for the book Mom. I’m done. It was the best book I’ve ever read.”
I’m so happy she’s found this love for reading so young.
It was a pleasant distraction after I had to explain to Chloe that the money I gave her to donate at school was for Diabetes and not Rabies as she had mistakenly told everyone.
Our four year old has been swimming with a floatation device we have always referred to as her dolphins.
It’s a pink vest-type apparatus with even brighter pink dolphins on the front that straps to her arms and around her body, keeps her buoyant and takes the pressure off of us when we’re poolside.
Chloe’s dolphins had become part of our swimming routine. Bathing suit, sunscreen, dolphins, towel.
Her dolphins became just as much a crutch for us as parents as for her. I wondered if having this thing wrapped around her was impeding her ability to swim but it sure made life easy when I wanted to water the surrounding ornamental grasses, knowing I could turn my back for a second and she would be floating happily a few feet away.
When we take her to swimming lessons, there are no dolphins.
She kicks on a flutter board and jumps into the arms of her instructor. She is working hard to learn how to swim unassisted and someone is always within reach.
We have been trying to encourage her to swim without her dolphins at home but like taking away a baby’s soother, she needed some convincing.
We also knew she was going to drop the dolphins when she was ready and no amount of swearing in frustration gentle coercion from our side was going to speed up the process.
Finally Saturday she said, “Mom, I’m ready to get out of the pool, I’m starting to get cold.”
“Okay, why don’t I take off your dolphins and you can swim to the edge and hop out.”
She agreed. This was a great sign.
I realize some of your kids were swimming unassisted at 6 months and doing back-handsprings at 8 months and filing their own taxes at 2 years.
This weekend, our four and a half year old daughter took her first unassisted freestyle/doggy paddle strokes to the edge of our pool.
She squealed with excitement and wanted to do it again and again and again.
I used to read the word butterfly and think of something delicate, something beautiful, symmetrical, unpredictable, a pleasant and welcome surprise.
Today, as a swim parent, when I see the word butterfly, my toes curl, my stomach churns and I fear for my safety when my kids realize they are registered to race the butterfly stroke at a meet.
Two weekends ago, my 8 year old swam the 100m butterfly for the first time.
Surprisingly, she didn’t have as much anxiety as I had anticipated, certainly not nearly as much as I had.
When I realized she was scheduled to race the 100m fly, (“m” standing for metres and not “maybe just as far as you can go”) I followed up on the Coach’s long standing offer, “Please let me know if you think there has been a mistake with the meet entries.”
“Dear Coach, um, er, uh, Ellie is scheduled to swim the 100m fly in the next meet. I’m assuming this is a mistake?”
“Dear Liz, this isn’t a mistake. We’re going to give it a try.”
I learned so much about the 100m fly that weekend.
For starters, my eight year old swam the race and placed 64th out of 64 swimmers.
The strange thing is, I would rank that moment high on my list of proud parenting moments and I’ve got a child who outsmarted head lice.
Ellie was disappointed in her last place finish. I was elated that my kid, (anyone I knew for that matter) had the courage to tackle something that scared her so much and that was so physically demanding.
I explained to Ellie, as a parent, there are moments when our kids will not only surpass our expectations but they will do something we have never been able to do ourselves and will never be able to do in our lifetime. The 100m butterfly was that moment for me.
If there was a ribbon for 64th place I would hang it proudly on her bulletin board with a picture of a butterfly and a great big smile.
What’s your butterfly moment?
Do you let your kids play at someone’s house you have never met?
Years ago (or was it last week?) one of our kids was invited to play at a friend’s house and we excitedly accepted the invitation and sped over to the house.
Someone else wants to have our kid over to play giving us hours of freedom to sit and stare at the floor? (because that’s what parents do when the kids aren’t around)
We were elated.
We asked on the way over to repeat the name of the child as it wasn’t someone we had heard anything about.
In fact, this was the first mention of this particular friend or wanting to have a play date.
Still, our interest in floor staring outweighed all other options but as we arrived at the host’s home, something didn’t feel right.
It wasn’t any one thing, it was everything.
It was the angry dogs barking as we approached the walk-way. They were hunting us in a pack and their bite looked like it was going to be a lot worse than their bark. One of them growled, (in Kiefer Sutherland’s voice) “Get back in your mini-van….it’s really dirty by the way.”
It was the smell of someone smoking pot lingering in the air and while I didn’t actually see anyone in the act, it felt as though they were walking one pace behind me, just a split-second faster, trailing us while giving the dogs attack commands.
It was the broken glass on the lawn, the torn screens on the windows.
It was the make-shift bomb-shelter and the muffled screaming I could hear trying to escape. (Okay, I made up the part about the screaming but I’m not ready to rule out the possibility).
I know what you’re thinking, potato/patattah, tomato/tomata. (That works so much better when you say it)
Our gut instinct was to make up an excuse and leave which is exactly what we did.
What would you do?
I was taking Chloe to visit a friend and reminded her in the car, “Remember to use your best manners today Chloe.”
She said, “Why, are you leaving?”
It made me wonder if kids really do act differently when we aren’t around.
Chloe, our four year old often says unthinkable things when we’re within ear shot. I recently heard her ask an adult she barely knew, “Did you fart because your breath smells really bad?”
She says the kinds of things that make me want to crawl under the nearest rug, curl into a ball and tunnel myself to the closest exit.
But I’m not convinced she does any of these things when I’m not around.
Teachers, coaches and caregivers tell us, “Your J-Lo was a delight to teach” or “Pitbull is such a pleasure to have in class.”
Do your kids have an on/off switch?
So yesterday morning Chloe handed me a form and when I asked her what it was she said, “Oh, this is a paper you have to write your name on because it’s for people who don’t work very hard who can take our class to a dance.”
It was a permission form to go on a field trip.
Translation: What do you do all day anyway?
I guess it’s tough for the kids to get their heads around the idea of a parent who works from home (Dad) and a parent who works for home (Mom).
They see Dad get dressed in a suit with a phone in his hand and another wrapped around his ear. They hear him having heated debates and video conference calls and one day soon they might even hear the Caramilk secret slip out.
They see a Mom driving them to school and picking them, grateful not to be pressing “work pants” and puffy shirts, with no clue how to use the latest phone earpiece and possible traces of that same Caramilk bar lingering on her lips.
There are days when I think there simply isn’t enough time to get everything done I need to do and how on earth do women who work do it all? Then there are days when I ask myself, what the hell am I going to do all day?
I think the end result is a positive one for our family.
I am available to take the kids to their various activities. I can always go on class trips and volunteer at school when they’ll have me. I have time to plan meals and execute on some quinoa-infused (shhhh) recipes.
I may not work very hard but I can’t think of anything I would rather do than take my four year old to a dance.
Chloe is deathly afraid of the car wash.
I had no choice today. Nobody could see my license plate, I couldn’t tell if my lights were working and still, that old Ally McBeal episode plays in the back of my mind.
I took Chloe through the car wash, unbuckled her five point harness thinking she would end up in my lap as I tried to sooth her as the rainbow coloured foam pelted the windows.
As we pulled in and the wheel wells started to get sprayed, Chloe said, “Don’t worry Mommy, I’m not scared of the car wash anymore. I’m wearing my bear hat.” (pink, fleece hat with ears)
“Guess who’s doing the scaring now?”
The older my kids get, the more involved they are in activities outside of just school.
Not that it’s “just school.” School is a priority (the priority) and sometimes we have to remind ourselves of that when we are being pulled away from the final bell towards stop watches and mesh netting.
I’m still surprised when I talk to other parents about activities their kids are in, hearing about different coaching techniques even though, there seems to be a recurring theme.
The coach who benches kids for missing a practice.
I’m not a coach, #I’mNotACoach, #IrepeatI’mNotACoach so I have no authority to even speak about the pros and cons of riding the pine, (even though I had a rather lengthy and intimate relationship with my high school volleyball bench. Ozzy and I still have our initials carved in it somewhere). I guess I just don’t know how benching a kid for enjoying different activities benefits anyone.
I know of a young girl who had a gymnastics competition on the same day as a hockey practice.
The hockey coach sat the girl for the entire next game as punishment for missing the practice.
I understand being benched if you are playing piano (because you’re already sitting on one) but public humiliation in front of your peers for participating in another sport on the same day doesn’t sit well with me.
Aren’t we all working together to raise well-rounded kids, keeping the doors open to try new things, learn new tricks and even play sports that compliment each other?
Doesn’t the threat of being benched also encourage kids to come to practice with tuberculosis?
I think we need to take a step back. We wouldn’t go into our place of work with the stomach flu for fear our employer would make us sit out of the next important meeting. If anything, missing work would result in more work.
Why not apply the same logic to sports? If you miss a practice, you have a little extra work to make-up.
No humiliation, no missing the game, just 3000 burpees for the athlete and their parents and everyone’s on the same page.
But I’m not a coach.
I had a conversation with a friend the other day that made me very aware of how I treat my kids and visiting friend’s kids when people are at our house.
I am guilty of sending the kids to “run along and play” after our guests have arrived, when I feel ample time has passed, we’ve all had a few nibblers, some light conversation and then I think it’s great for both the adults and the kids to spread out so I can display my collection of nude self portraits.
The kids can explore the house, the toys and the adults can engage in some meaningful conversation about how a bill becomes law while we show off our finest plastic trays.
But am I taking the kid’s feelings into account? They are part of this family aren’t they? They do live in this house with us. Why should they feel as though they’re not good enough or smart enough or gifted with the basket weaving skills required to hang out with the big peeps?
It’s a slippery slope. This weekend for example, I got the sense that a visiting child might have enjoyed playing in any other room with the kids her age so they could just be kids without the watchful eyes of all of the parents looming overhead.
I suggested to my kids they show their friend the dollhouse. The response was lukewarm at best. The kids preferred to have all-out access to the bowl of tortilla chips and guacamole that is usually closely monitored (pencil markings on the side of the bowl) and portions rationed. The rules related to all-things-avocado just fly out the window the minute guests arrive.
After a few minutes and a lot less chips, I told the kids to go down and play with all of the toys in the basement and show their friend around.
I think the kids ran away for three minutes and were back to lick the salt from the chip bowl before we started getting ready for our first course.
Gone are the days where the living room is roped off. Kids have all access passes to every room in the house. It’s part of being a family.
When I hear someone say, “The last thing I want when someone comes into my front entrance is to know kids live here,” it breaks my heart.
Times have changed.
I remember a family friend coming over when I was a kid and being politely nudged out of the room.
As much as we think the kids aren’t aware of how or why they are being banished, they’re smarter than we think.
Do you tell your kids to leave the room when friends come over?