Tuesday, 19 June 2012

On becoming an advocate

On the weekend during a visit with my in-laws, Justin, Shawn and Dave, Shaune’s sisters’ husbands and boyfriends had Deaglan in stitches. In fact he was laughing so hard I thought he might cry. The guys had triggered his four year-old funny bone with the age-old humour of all men.

Toilet talk.

There was nothing sophisticated about their jokes.
No lengthy lead up.
No clever punch lines.
In fact they simply took turns making up scenarios: Hey Deaglan, I ate a poop sandwich the other day. Or I saw a guy pee in a cup and drink it. And when I thought he might spew orange juice through his nose: My name is Sir-Farts-Alot, nice to meet you.

These "jokes' had my son doubled over, holding his stomach with both hands, machine-gun giggling, rendering him almost breathless. I shook my head and wondered not for the first time, at the mystery of the male species. 

Growing up, I had four brothers but our house was crowded with girls too. I was able to ignore my brothers’ antics, focus on the books I was reading, pursue feminine interests or simply escape to friends’ houses that had substantially lower people to living-space ratios.

In my dating years, I rarely sought to understand whoever I was with at the time. Mostly I wondered why they didn’t get me. And even after all these years next to Shaune, I’ve never really wanted to dig deep into the male psyche, figure out how it works. Mostly, I’ve wanted him to identify with me, sometimes even resenting him for not caring enough to get to the bottom of who I was.

These little boys of mine though – well they’ve changed all of that.

I find myself remembering to be brief when lecturing Deaglan, not getting annoyed that he suddenly needs to use the bathroom the instant he’s landed himself in a time-out, knowing it’s likely only occurred to him then.  I try to remember their need for constant movement even when I want to pull my hair out because they’ve made yet another couch-cushion trampoline.

I’ve read books. I’ve spoken with other mothers of boys. I’ve watched quietly the males in this household interact in my quest to learn more about them.

I’ve gotten downright sanctimonious, itchy even, when I’ve heard someone say a child was “good” because he or she was calm and cooperative. I knew without asking in most cases they were likely referring to a girl.

Oh don’t get me wrong, I struggle in small ways all the time; this journey to embrace my testosterone-soaked family is not as anecdotally-sweet as I’m making it out to be.  

A few days ago, I entered the bathroom after Deaglan had used it. I asked him why there was pee on the wall and the floor. In a tone that suggested I’d asked him the colour of the sky, he answered simply this:

Mommy, I don’t have control over my penis, it controls me. (I swear to you that's an exact quote!)

Cold panic gripped me. I shook my head in an effort to dismiss the many disturbing images my mind conjured up of the future.  I wiped up the mess in the bathroom. And I took up, once again, the imaginary decorating of my future bathroom. The one for which only I held the key. 

It was Gramma's birthday.

Riding on Grampa's "tractor" is a highlight of summertime.

This year, Naveen got to drive too!

Joke telling Uncles. Shawn is missing.

Aunt Chrissy, Shaune's youngest sister.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

This place

I hosted a small baby shower for my friend last Saturday afternoon. According to Pinterest, it was technically a “sprinkle” since this will be her second baby. The week leading up to it, I’d divided up cleaning jobs for each evening after work. One night I cleaned out the front foyer closet, put away the bulky winter coats and the overflowing baskets of mittens and hats. Another night I tidied and scrubbed shiny the fridge while Shaune steam cleaned the carpets. A third night I tried to catch up on loads and loads of laundry that never seemed to end.

And all the while I noticed the little imperfections of this house. I noticed the old worn builder-grade wood doors and trim, the archways that were in dire want of paint, the tired tatty carpets. I was acutely aware of the small living space, bins crammed full of toys on one wall, the couches frayed and smudged from small fingers using them as napkins, the cushions covered in patterned blankets, my attempt to save at least a part of them.

I cringed that we didn’t have central air, prayed that the weather would be unseasonably cool that day, not forcing us to install the eyesore of a window unit.

For the hundredth time since we moved here, I wished we’d been more patient in our choosing of this house. Up until then, Shaune and I had always rented, gone from apartment to apartment, renovated spaces in old houses, sometimes with balconies or with a bit of a deck when we were luckier.

We knew we were ready to break free from the shackles of landlord living, but we didn’t do our homework. We were in a rush to escape, have no one to answer to. We were thrilled with anything we saw because all we could think of was how we wouldn’t be sharing it with a crack-dealing neighbour, or be constantly intruded upon by a drunken lunatic landlord who had a penchant for setting off fireworks mid-afternoon for no apparent reason except that he enjoyed the loud bang which never failed to upset our aging blind diabetic dog for hours afterward.

But just as easily I reprimanded myself for feeling so ungrateful.

After all this is the place that welcomed my babies home from the hospital, the one I’ve been watching them grow from tiny cherubic infants to chattering wild sun-kissed boys. This house has allowed me to stay unruffled when they’ve used my couches to wipe their sticky fingers, practice their writing skills on walls I knew could be covered later with a coat of paint.  

This house has crept into the deepest places of my being. It has helped shape me into a mother and wife.

This is the house I married my best friend in, transforming its tiny backyard into both church and reception hall. This house with its plain features, and non-descript floor plan. I’ve developed my writing here, dreamt of a day when the boys were older and I could eke out regular time to write uninterrupted.

This house has been my first real home.

I can’t remember how long we stayed in each place in Bangladesh but I know that since arriving here in Canada when I was seven, I’ve never lived in one home longer than a few years. It’s the place Deaglan refers to when we are on a trip and he yearns to go home. The place he understands to hold comfort and all of his treasured things. It’s the place where he had Shaune and me all to himself and also where he learned to be someone’s big brother.  

It’s the place I will miss when we move one day.

This is Deaglan four years ago in a backpack helping Daddy water the flowers.

Here he is yesterday doing the same.

Naveen snuggled on my chest just minutes after he was born.

Yesterday enjoying the kiddie pool and sunshine.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Three mornings

This morning when Deaglan told me he was feeling sick and needed to stay home, I stopped ironing my shirt, crouched down to look him in the eye,  and said this,

“You’re not sick, you're going to school.”

When he insisted that his tummy hurt, I told him it would pass. After a little back and forth, he reluctantly climbed back downstairs. A few minutes later when I could hear him all chirpy and fine, I ran down to confront him. “See? You feel fine now don’t you?” As if caught red-handed, he admitted that yes he did feel better but his tummy really did hurt a few minutes before.

“Okay, well this is how it will work at school today,” I explained, “you’ll have a tummy ache for a few minutes and when you do you’ll have to tell yourself, I’m going to feel better soon – you might even have to take a break in the Quiet Cubby. And before you know it, you’ll feel better again. Okay?”

Sadly, this is what a winter filled with work-from-home days to tend to my sick kids has come to. 
Tough love. 
Psychological affirmations. You are not sick. You can go to school.

Last Friday morning at the last minute before heading to work, I realized that I was leaving Shaune's folks without wipes for the entire day they'd be looking after the kids. I ran to Shopper's Drugmart despite Shaune's Mom's insistence that she'd be fine without them, could use a washcloth if need be. I grabbed an umbrella too since it was downpouring - I didn't want to leave my inlaws without one should they take the kids out.

In line, the cashier rang up the man in front of me. Made pleasant conversation about the weather. Asked him if he'd like a bag - most places around here charge for bags now in an effort to save on plastic.

When it was my turn, the cashier's tone changed. She didn't respond to my sing-song hi, bluntly asked me if I was buying two umbrellas. Confused I looked at the packaged one in my basket and the soaking wet one in my hand.

"Just one," I answered.

She took the baby wipes and umbrella, placed them in a bag and curtly told me my total. Without any further communication we finished the transaction. I hesitated at the door to hear the exchange with the next customer, resisted the urge to confront her for charging me for a bag without asking.  Again she was cheerful as she'd been with the man in front of me. She asked the young woman how her morning was going, if she'd like a bag for her purchases and made idle chit chat while waiting for the debit machine to approve the transaction.

I thought about the man that had been in front of me. Looked back at the young woman finishing up behind me. It was hard not to notice the only difference between them and me was the colour of my skin.

Lately when I get to work in the mornings I can't remember locking the house or the van. A few times last month I had to drive home after dropping Deaglan off at school to make sure I locked the front door. Last Thursday I had to turn around and battle the downtown traffic all the way back home to double check that I'd turned the oven off. I had.

This kid will not stay off the kitchen table. He often has to be coaxed down. When all else fails and I have to get firm, this is what I get. He's lucky he's beyond adorable still.

I fiddled around with the spacing on this post for a good 15 minutes. I couldn't get it quite right - I'm blaming Blogger.