It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Watching your kids grow

Sentimentality. A little sentiment can be a sweet addition to your life: the ability to conjure up the whole lovely vacation when you look at a single pretty pebble picked up from a hiking trail; a fond remembrance, a wave of affection, a wisp of nostalgia. Nothing wrong with any of that, in fact, an enrichment to a contented life.

If you can’t find your dressing table because of the trinkets, if your kitchen is buried under kid art, if your dining room a mere tunnel through stacks of treasured mementos… You have a problem.

It’s about balance and perspective.

It’s September, and with it the wave of back-to-school posts. Among them, the “my baby just went to school for the first time” posts. And among them, among the sweet posts filled with anticipation, excitement, and a little wistfulness, were the FULL-ON PANIC posts.

“My baybeeeee! My baby is leeeeeeaving me! My baby is — heaven forbid! — GROWING UP.”

Goodness, ladies. Get a grip.

Wistfulness is understandable. It’s a rite of passage, a demarcation of the end of one thing and the beginning of the next. So you pack their lunch with special care, you dress them carefully, and maybe even take a few pictures. Wistfulness and possibly some fear. You watch them pass through the doors of the school (or the school bus), and hope that the institution that is swallowing them is kind, that their time there is happy. Not everyone has a happy time there. So yes, wistfulness and some level of anxiety and protectiveness, certainly.

But full-on panic? Reams of words deploring the child’s absence, wondering how mum is going to cope, and mostly, always, consistently, ruing, decrying, resisting, mourning the fact that their baby is growing up.

Um. Growing up. Well, yes. Isn’t that the point? The idea of having a baby my whole life long fills me with horror (and also immense respect for parents of handicapped children, for whom that may be their practical life reality.) Do you really want to be the parent of a baby for the rest of your life?

School is an obvious example right now, but you see this all the time, mothers (have yet to see a dad write one of these posts) writing about all sorts of stages in their children’s lives, and every time the reaction is fear, resistance, regret, and denial that their baby could be growing up, changing. (And ultimately leaving them? Is that the root fear?)

Wistfulness is fine. A little sentimental nostalgia, recalling that moment you held their sticky body for the first time… knowing that is gone, never to return. Who wouldn’t sigh a little sigh for that? There is nothing as soft as a baby’s skin, nothing as delightful as the bubbling river of baby giggles. The fat little thighs! The dimples instead of knuckles on pudgy fists! Awwwww… So sure, a little gentle wistfulness for the speed of life. But why choose to get stuck there?

So, savour the wistfulness… and also, here’s a thought… how about excitement? Anticipation? Optimism? Sure, with each stage there are things you leave behind. (Not always a bad thing, say I, as not-so-wistful memories of a screaming colicky baby and months of bleary-eyed exhaustion swim through my head.)

But along with the things you leave behind, there are things you’re gaining. Always. With every stage come new things to treasure and savour. The Panic Moms seem oblivious to that. All the phases and stages, all the passages… they’re just bad. Bad, points of regret and sorrow and grieving.

And really, if that’s how you see it, if your child’s growth is one long chain of points of mourning for the things lost… why on earth did you have a child?

Thing about kids, see, is that they GROW.

They grow up, they learn to do stuff, they move on. It never stops. One thing after another. One accomplishment after another. One new discovery, another broadening of their capabilities, an enrichment of their worlds. It never stops.

Another, and another, and another thing…
to marvel in.
To take pride in.
To CELEBRATE!

You mourning mummies? I suggest a paradigm shift. You, and possibly your children, will be much happier for it.

September 26, 2011 Posted by | Developmental stuff, parenting | , , , , , | 11 Comments

On your marks…


September! For those of us in Canada, THIS is the New Year. For some odd reason, we delay celebrating it until January 1, smack dab in the worst throes of the bleak mid-winter, weirdest damned thing I can think of, but everyone knows that the Tuesday after Labour Day is the beginning of the real new year.

The seasons are changing. It’s definitely early fall around here. A few rogue leaves lay about on the ground. The rest will follow in a while. It’s dark when I wake in the mornings, and dark again when I go to bed. The air is fresh, and though we’ve had a rainy couple of days recently, when the sun shines, it has that gorgeous autumn glow. Lovely.

And the kids? They are Back to School. My eldest has been out of school from some years now, of course, but my younger two are starting today! And, for the first time in their educational history, they will be attending the same school! Yup. Both of them start classes at the University of Ottawa today, Emma in nursing, and Adam in bio-pharmacology. (Aren’t you impressed? I sure as heck am. At the end of the day, I will have produced an anthropologist, a nurse, and a … um… something impressively medical…)

That’s exciting!

And me? Back to work today. Before my time off, I was starting to drag a bit. I was tired too often, physically, mentally, mostly trudging through my days. This morning? I am psyched and ready! The theme for the month is fall (but of course!), and I have my plans. Oh, do I have plans! Plans for outings, plans for crafts fancy and simple, plans for indoor activities and out. We’ll be doing a tree for our wall as we do most years (only this time I have ideas involving fingerpaint paper and printing for that trunk), making leaf belts, leaf prints, seed coasters, and applesauce. I have compiled my first sensory bin. (Even if the kids don’t enjoy it, I had fun assembling it! In fact, given how tactile I am, if they’re rotten, maybe I just won’t share… neener, neener…) I have the menu for the week posted. We’ll be heading to the library for fun fall-theme books.

It will be one lovely, creative, happy, heady round of fun, fun, fun!!!!

I am READY! TO! GO!

(Here’s hoping it lasts more than a week…)

September 6, 2011 Posted by | crafts, my kids | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Craftiness, Day 1

I have been woefully absent this month, I know. I have been taking some time off both work and blogging. But never fear! I have abandoned neither!

My children are growing older, leaving the nest, flying the coop. Early in August, I flew to St. Louis for a few days with my eldest daughter, who will be living there for the next five years. Now, she’s been living on her own for some years, so her move didn’t change the constitution of Mary’s house, but it sure does feel like I have an Adult Child when that child is living in an entirely different country!

My son and middle child has been living with a bunch of college compatriots in a townhouse across town for two years now. Various stepchildren have begun college, and even gotten themselves married.

What does all this growing up and taking flight mean to Mary? It means that, for the first time in DECADES, an empty room in my house. A room that is not required to house one of the hordes of children. A spare room!

But not a guest bedroom, oh no. Guests can fend for themselves. This room? Is MINE.

This room is a craft room.

It is furnished with our old dining room table, and enormous rectangle perfect for sewing machine and work space. (Given that we no longer need to regularly seat ten, we now have a smaller, round table. With a leaf, just in case!) My ironing board sits there. There are shelves in the closet filled with fabric and plastic bins. It’s not done yet — I’m envisioning a warm cream and deep red colour scheme, and lots more sewing-specific storage — but it’s MINE.

I have my very own room, a space just for me, for the first time in… goodness, could it be thirty years?

I think it could.

Good lord.

And in that wonderful (though teeny) space, I have been sitting and CREATING.

Emma asked me to make her a pencil case for school. No sweat!! Because, hey, I have a fabric stash, and now I can actually get at it! Her pencil case is made from leftover fabric from the blind I made for the dining room a couple of years back, and the zipper from a pair of jeans. It’s lined with denim from the same jeans. (Yes, they were pink jeans. No, I never wore them.)

When he saw it, youngest stepson also wanted one. His is a nice, understated blue denim, also from the fabric stash. In fact, the only thing I needed to purchase was the zipper for the second case.

(Update: Youngest stepson has requested that his blog name be “Cloud”.

“Cloud?”
“Yeah, it’s my favourite video game character.”

Okay, then. ‘Cloud’ it is.)

(That pink thing is a bit of fluff from the pink denim, which I noticed only when I uploaded the pictures.)

I’m so pleased. More importantly, so are the kids. Which pleases me. 🙂

August 30, 2010 Posted by | crafts, my kids | , , , , | 7 Comments

Tap, tap, tap

That’s me, knocking wood.

I am not a superstitious person. Which is why I had NO HESITATION, none at all, nuh-uh, to tell you that little Noah had the SECOND-EVER BEST FIRST DAY EVER. tap, tap, tap (What does that mean? It was a tied-for-first-place best first day. I’ve had one other — ONE! In twelve years! — that was as good. The other was nine years ago.)

I’m not worried about jinxing myself. No concerns from me that in telling you about this amazing event, I’ve just painted a bulls-eye on my butt for the fates to come kick my ass. I “pfft!” at the very notion of an evil eye. Tempting fate? Ha!

taptaptap

Little Noah — the one who visited for a few hours a couple of weeks ago? — his first day was yesterday. A year old.

When I start a new child, I expect tears at the parent’s departure followed by intermittent (please God, not continuous) wailing throughout the day, interspersed with bouts of very solemn staring. I expect trouble with naps. I expect the child will reject food, possibly even bottles. It is quite likely that the child who is experiencing all this distress will reject comfort from me, at least for the first half of the day.

It is all quite pathetic. Poor little mites.

It is possible that I will see the occasional smile. The child might sit on my lap during circle time, or at least be fascinated by watching. They might watch the antics of the other children with some evidence of pleasure. They might take comfort in their food, they might snuggle in to me as I feed them a bottle. They might even laugh. Any or none of this might happen. I certainly don’t expect anything like this.

And I certainly don’t expect a child to not notice when his mother leaves, to play happily all day, to eat all of every food provided with gusto, to grin continuously, to toddle away from me at the park then come laughing back, to shriek with delight at the antics of the other children… and then nap for two and a half hours. And greet his dad with a crow of delight at the end of the day.

On his first day.

But that is was Noah did, every last bit of it. He was not just calm, he was outright cheerful. He was interested, happy, interactive, friendly, responsive… In short, he was a short little ton of fun. I cannot conceive of a way in which his day could have been improved upon.

It. Was. AMAZING!

There! I (tap) did it (tap, tap)! You now (tap, tap, tap) all know that Noah (tap) had a PERFECT FIRST DAY (taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap).

And if Day #2 is hell on earth, we all know why.

September 2, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments