Saturday, 30 October 2010

And oh the tantrums

I'd be remiss if I let Deaglan's toddlerhood pass without writing a solid post on tantrums. As much as you hear about all of our special moments, and my ga-ga kind of love for my boys here on this blog, I don't want you to think I'm living in some creepy opposite land where my almost-three-year old doesn't make me want to rip my hair out at least a few times a week and whisper to the infant keep up the good work, you're my favourite.

I wish I could describe in words the screechy banshee-like ugly cry Deaglan goes into when a tantrum overtakes him. It's this nerve-jangling, stomach-lurching kind of shrieking that unites Shaune and me on at least this one thing - we need to either figure out how to make him stop or devise a way to unplug our hearing. And there is NO REASONING with telling him he might wake up the baby, no reminding him that he is no longer a baby, no bribing him with chocolate or money, no kissing, no hugging our way out of it. It stops as mysteriously as it begins and we are forced to just wait it out.

Yesterday, and I don't want to make myself out into a hero or anything, but yesterday, despite that it was near-freezing outside, or that I had slept a total of 30 minutes the night before and the solid truth that the last thing I wanted to do was go outside, I suited us all up and took the kids to the park as I try to do everyday. Deaglan trailing along on his tricycle felt that I was walking too fast for his liking and launched into a tantrum. I wanna go home Mommy!!

After some back and forth:

Me: We're not going home.

Him: Yes mommy, I WANT TO GO HOME!!!!!

I became silent and neutral (I'd read that was the appropriate response to wait a tantrum out) and continued pushing the stroller down the sidewalk towards the park while Deaglan followed me on his trike, crying hysterically, much like the way you would if someone just beat you with a baseball bat. And of course every retired grandma and grandpa within a two mile radius was out walking our route at that exact time, and seemingly having forgotten what this phase of parenthood was like, stopped to ask the kid if he was okay. Lots of AWWWW you poor little sweetiepie, so that his cries, now with an appreciative audience, became louder and more agonized.

He's fine, move it along, I wanted to say.

And later that afternoon when I announced that we were getting into our costumes to go Trick-or-Treating at Mommy's work, you would have thought I said, I'm gonna stick pins in your eyes and serve you a big helping of dog poop for supper.

I don't know. They say things like You need a license to drive a car, but anyone can have kids. I think the saying should be amended to include something about the specialized forensic child psychology graduate degree and nerves of steel needed to ride out these expressions of development.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Red writing hood - The monster never caught

I'm participating in a writing meme from The Red Dress Club. This is a work of fiction. The prompt was to write a character sketch of a villain. I think my piece is a little long.

The invitation to his foster mother's 100th birthday lay on the kitchen table and John had to restrain from crumpling and tossing it. Of course the old witch had outlived everybody - the wicked usually do. Although decades had passed and John was now director of his city's children's aide society and a father of two almost grown boys, not a day went by without remembering the abuses he suffered in that house under her rule.

Today he was recalling one summer day when he was 12 and cooped up in the house looking after four toddlers and his foster brother and sister. He could see some of his pals riding their bikes in the street out front and yearned to be with them, wind in his hair, away from the stifling prison of a home he had grown to hate.

The four toddlers were the kids that made up the "daycare" his foster mother supposedly ran. Little did the kids' parents know that a twelve year old boy was taking care of them while Janice Taggart his foster mother was out selling her Avon beauty products.

At almost noon while he was preparing the children's lunches - a box of Kraft Dinner again - the phone rang. Instructing his six-year-old foster sister Tanya to watch the boiling water, he ran to grab the phone and then wished he hadn't when he heard his foster mother's voice. It was a gruff no-nonsense kind of voice. One that always made John cower because he knew all too well what she was capable of. One wrong peep from any of them and she was quick to whack you with whatever was in her reach.

I forgot to tell you about Joel's earache medication. It's up in the cupboard where the dishes are. Give him a teaspoon full after he eats lunch. Do you understand? Put the phone down and go find the medication and then get back on and tell me you saw it.

John put down the phone, pushed a chair over to the cupboard and saw a small glass medicine bottle. He came back and shakily affirmed that he had found it. Gotta go and she hung up.

Later that day after the daycare kids had been picked up Janice entered the room John shared with his little brother. Is this the medicine you gave Joel? John looked up from his sketchpad - a rare gift from Janice who had surprisingly encouraged his artistic side. He nodded. And then he couldn't explain what happened next. She was on top of him hitting him with the small hard glass bottle, at first on his back and then his head. All the while she was was crying and screeching unintellible things. You stupid little boy, you ungrateful little sissy, God didn't give you the brains of a worm you ungrateful little wormhole. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!

As John rolled around on the bed covering his head trying to fend off her blows, it dawned on him that it must have been the wrong medicine. She then pinned him down, a knee on each of his arms, her madness spilling out of her, drool hitting his forehead. Her fists rained down on his face. The pain was threatening his sense of consciousness and he thought he might pass out or die.
He remembered thinking that she was pretty five years earlier when he had first come to live there. She had shoulder length blonde hair, small blue eyes, a thin little mouth and always dressed well. Her glasses were the frameless kind and together she had a look of pleasant intelligence. But few people knew about the monster that lurked within her. A monster strong and swift with physical retribution for the tiniest infraction. She saved the bloodiest beatings for the summer time when menacing teachers couldn't nose their way into her business. During the school year, her punishments were equally gruesome, just more subtle. In fifth grade she had taken away John's bathroom privileges for a full week because he had forgotten to tell her about parent teacher interviews. He relieved himself in the bushes behind the Circle K every morning on his way to school praying no one from his class would see.

John was black and blue, with a split lip from that particular beating. It was a Friday evening so that the next day he didn't have to face the daycare kids, just spend his entire day cleaning the house from top to bottom as he did every Saturday. Back then it never occurred to him to tell anyone or call the police or even run away. Thinking back to this always made John sick with rage that that abusive hag gotten away with it.

Saturday, 23 October 2010


I wonder sometimes what the kids will think when they realize that I keep/have kept a blog where I've put them front and centre. It could go either way. I mean they could shatter my daydream that one day they will be grateful that I recorded their childhood in such a personal and public way by becoming angry that I would expose them in such a way. They could find it one of those irritating things they can't stand about their parents. I don't know. It is a different day from when I was a kid, that's for sure.

I wonder how Deaglan will feel at age 17 that I wrote a post about his love of sticking his hand in his mother's armpit for comfort when he was a toddler. That I told anyone in the free world who cared to know that almost everytime I came into a room, he looked for his beloved choo-choo (soother) and announced the word Armpit implying that he wanted me to sit on the couch beside him and put my arm around him so that he could access the warmth of my armpit while sucking on his soother.

I wonder if he'll roll his eyes that I wrote this post and even included the history of Armpit. That he always, from the day he was born, needed to let me know that he needed comfort, by pinching my arms in the beginning with his pudgy baby hands and then throughout the process of weaning him from my breast , developing the habit of slipping his hand into my armpit to continue our closeness.

I wonder what he'll think about the fact that I loved Armpit and it was just as much a security blanket for me as it was for him. That when I stopped nursing him, I was the saddest I'd ever been in my life because I missed his baby suckling, his need for me in that way. That he substituted this special bond we had with something new, something else just for us. That when I came home from the hospital with Naveen, I cried out of his earshot that I couldn't do Armpit as often first because I was inept at trying to juggle both of their needs.

I wonder if he will ever understand how much I treasured Armpit and the thought of its inevitable ending always reduced me to near-tears. I wonder if he'll understand that keeping this blog helped me remember and savour these treats of motherhood before they slipped through my grasp so mercilessly.

I wonder.
The picture is of Deaglan in the backpack on our wedding day as Shaune and I raced around to get the backyard ready for our guests. It's hard to believe he was that small.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Just because I still need to write about it

Yesterday I felt this sense of impending doom. I felt sad and unaccomplished and it wouldn't have taken much to make me cry. I dismissed it as severe lack of sleep and carried on throughout my day.

Later in the afternoon in a rare few moments to myself, I saw a chunk of an interview with Michael Jackson's former wife and she was speaking to his death and whether she felt there was anything she could have done to change what happened.

I was riveted, not so much because I was so interested in what she thought but because I realized it was five months to the day that my brother had died. And on this show I was watching, the people were discussing things like addiction, abuse and other contributing factors to the King of Pop's death.

Sometimes it just sneaks up on me like that - the comprehension that he's really not here anymore, that no matter how hard I look for him while I'm driving even if I see a gold Ford Focus exactly like the one he drove, I will not find him.

And later in the evening, when Shaune and I were unwinding from our days, I was grateful that he asked me why I looked so sad. I told him about the interview and the day today marked. It was all that was necessary to release my tears. We spoke, as we always did when Matt's death came up, about the senselessness of it.

I wished I could have made him see that things always got better. That I felt lonely and directionless in my twenties but life changed. And that it didn't take much to alter things. A decision. A small step. A change of habit. But then I realized that this was my formula - it might not have worked for him.

I know that a day will come when I will accept that there was nothing I could have done to change the outcome. And it's not that I am twisting in the wind, blaming myself for his death. I just feel cheated.

I was so looking forward to the rest of his story.

Deaglan was sitting beside me while I wrote this post. He saw this picture of himself and said Mommy that's me and I look so sad. What was happening to my truck to make me so sad??? He said it with such sympathy and perspective I almost exchanged the picture for one of him looking happy.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Second child syndrome?

I'm not sure how I know this story but I've always known it and I can even visualize the entire scene as if I watched it from a distance.

When I was born in a little mud hut my father was so upset that I was a girl that he took me from my mother's arms and threw me into a ditch. After some hysterical begging and pleading on my mother's part, my father decided to be congenial, walked into the ditch and picked me up announcing that he would keep me. Who could have told such a grim tale in detail enough that remembering it feels viscerally accurate to me? I've always wondered.

As our second child, Naveen's birth was not nearly so dramatic, but I have thought much on the topic of birth order lately. The inevitabilities that come with being the second child sometimes have me concerned. I often find myself heralding Naveen's cuteness almost defensively as if by not doing this, people will only notice how captivating Deaglan is these days.

Don't get me wrong, I am just as taken by Deaglan. He's funny, articulate, creative and just plain astonishing so that Shaune and I are constantly looking at each other after something the toddler has said or done, asking Is this normal for a two year old? I'm sure it is perfectly normal behaviour but you know how doting parents are - they want to hear that their kid is some sort of prodigy.

And in contrast to all of Deaglan's abilities, Naveen's pale in comparison. He's only four months old after all, and to the untrained eye, does little more than gurgle, smile and kind-of roll over. It's hard to interact with someone like that for longer than ten minutes before you start feeling self-conscious about the gibberish baby-talk coming out of your mouth. Unless you are the mother of course. Then gibberish like Are you my little stinker-oo? Hmmm, are you mommy's little stinkerson? is the meat of most of the conversations you have throughout your days.

Anyway, I'm positive people will give Naveen just as much attention soon enough. I feel certain I won't have to remind Shaune to greet Naveen also when he walks in the door for much longer or plug my infant everytime someone remarks how smart Deaglan is.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

My brown skin

I'm aware of my skin colour almost every minute of every day. When I told a friend this recently she was genuinely surprised. She said that it was something she never thought about. When you are not a visible minority, it probably isn't on your mind.

Being brown is something I've had to grow into accepting.

When I was seven I left Bangladesh and quickly began the process of adapting to life in Canada - life in white Canada. Because my sister and I were adopted by a caucasian family, we lost our language, our customs, our religion - our ethnicity so that eventually the only trace of that other place you could see on us was our brown skin. Slowly we learned the new ways so we could function in our new family and society.

There was no one to teach us how to make a scrumptious daal or tuck in a gorgeous sari. No passages from the Koran were read to us, no Tagore ever quoted. Even our names were replaced by new more acceptable ones. I remember thinking years after it happened that the kids were simply wrong when they used to taunt us with Hey Paki you stink! We were clean and curry-free. We smelled the same as they did.

In my dating years I often had to do the asking out. Guys (the ones I wanted to go out with) simply were not all that interested in me because I looked like I was from a different culture. The complicated thing for me was that they looked like they were from my culture, the culture I had spent the past ten years acclimating to. I wasn't interested in dating Asian Hispanic or African men only because they weren't familiar to me.There were lots of years spent feeling envious of the attention my white friends received from boys. It's not that I was ostracized because of my skin tone - not at all. But it seemed to me that blondes really did have more fun, that a peaches and cream complexion came with it the freedom to never have to prove how smart and fun you were.

And it always made me wonder how I would treat my heritage, my background, and my skin colour with my kids. What could I offer them that they couldn't read in a book or online themselves? After all, it was how I learned about the country of my origin. I read about the war which forced my parents to carry two tiny babies (my sister and me) through rice fields, hiding by day and fleeing by night until the issue of territory was forcibly decided. I read about the ceremonies and practices, the language and art, the authors and poets and I even read the holiest book of that place in the quest to know what I might have known had I stayed.

For years I felt disconnected - looking a certain way but sounding and acting another. Even though there are thousands and most likely millions of immigrants who are forced to get Canadianized, most still have ties to their cultures through family and friends. What would I give to my children of where I'd come from, who I was?

The answer came to me after I lost Matthew. I thought about his life, how difficult it was for him as a gay teen, how after coming out he felt the need to move to Toronto to be around people of the same culture. I remember some of the things people said - even people in our own family - some of the terrible hurtful things. And I always felt the pain of it as if it was being said to me. I realized that I always felt the hurt when others were being condemned for their race, creed, colour, size or orientation. I became conscious of the fact that I could not tolerate intolerance! And this was what I must give to my boys.

An intolerance of intolerance.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Between now and happiness

I had a dream last night that we lived in an old black steam train and that Shaune and I had begun to leave the kids alone for up two hours at a time while we went to run errands. On one of my outings I returned to the station and boarded a train but had the nagging feeling it was the wrong one. Once the train started moving, I realized the kids weren't there and I was in a panic. STOP THE TRAIN!!! I yelled but no one seemed to hear me. Then trying to get the conductor's attention, I started kicking the side of the old train while crying and screaming that my kids were on a different train. Just then Naveen stirred beside me and I woke up realizing it was a dream. Relief washed over me. What did it all mean? I don't know and I'm pretty sure dreams are just subconscious fears or yearnings and this was definitely the former. And if you ask anyone who really knows me they'd roll their eyes because they know it took forever before I would even leave Deaglan with his own grandparents to run a few errands. But what it made me think about (and I'm not sure how it's connected) was how we all forego the feeling of happiness until some imaginary goal is accomplished. I do it all the time. It goes like this: Once the baby is born I'll feel better. Once Naveen sleeps through the night, things will improve. Once I lose this pregnancy weight, I'll feel better about my body. When we get through this next eight months we can breathe easy again. And on and on.

I don't know why I wish my life away like this.

I stopped myself a few weeks ago when I saw this thinking. I've been feeling terrible about my body not so much because I have about 15 pounds to go before reaching my pre-pregnancy weight but because I have no non-maternity clothes that fit me. I've been walking around in either my maternity jeans or pants that are cutting off all my circulation because they're too small, telling myself that I'll only go shopping as a reward for losing all the weight.

After everything that this beautiful body has done for me, I couldn't believe that I could be so relentless. I thought about that for a while. My body has been unwavering in its reliability, not only growing two beautiful kids, but putting up with years of mediocre diets, lapses in regular excercise, a ten year period of smoking and so many years of other minor abuses without so much as two days of sickness. And here I was refusing to accept it in this postpartum state and denying it the dignity it deserves to be housed properly.

So I went shopping. I bought jeans that fit and tops that were sizes that made me uncomfortable. I did it in a quest to be happy today. And I asked Shaune to watch the kids while I was gone.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

These small boys

Last night at the park the big kids were monopolizing the playscape. As we came up the path, Naveen in the backpack, Deaglan on his trike, my older boy stopped pedalling and staring worriedly at the 20 or so 12 year old boys, said Mommy I don't want to go to the park. When I asked him why, he replied I don't want them to ride my bike. I assured him that the big boys wouldn't want to ride his trike and he continued riding but I found myself staring at the boys with worry and wonder. We live near a hockey rink with a park out back and these kids were blowing off some steam before their evening game. I looked at my two tiny boys and back at the near teenagers. They were running and yelling, some with deep voices, taking the stairs up to the slides in one or two long strides. A decade passed in the blink of an eye and I could see my precious two playing like this. Would they still need me? Would I know how to talk to them - would they want to talk to me? A shiver came over me.

On our way back a man looked up from raking his lawn. He shook his head and laughed one of those gentle knowing laughs. You're bringing back memories, he said. I used to have one in the back pack and one out front in the snugli. We have twin boys and I remember those days so well. It was the best time...they didn't talk back then! Enjoy these days, they go fast!

Providence? I'm not sure what you'd call it but while I was reading bedtime stories I found myself looking at them and wanting to freeze frame the moment.

The top picture is of Deaglan in the pile of 'snow' behind the arena. An added bonus of going to this park has been spotting the Zamboni that cleans the ice. Deaglan is consumed with the goings-on within the arena wanting to know exactly what the Zamboni is doing at any given time, why it dumps snow out back, why the man sits where he does when driving the Zamboni.

I had to take the laptop over to where Naveen was bouncing on the jumperoo. I wanted to show you one of his beautiful easy smiles but everytime the flash on the camera goes off, his smile changes to surprise. So I thought the camera on the laptop would be better - unfortunately the picture is really grainy.