Monday, 23 December 2013

You will be six on Christmas Eve

Dear Deaglan,

Early this morning you shouted from your bed, “Mom! Is it time to get up yet?” I didn’t answer even though your loud question woke me from a dead sleep.

Mom!!” this time louder. “Is it time to get up yet????”

“Not even close,” I said turning over, “go back to sleep.”

Then a raucous climb down the ladder of your bunk, a jump from the last step to the floor and then thud, thud into the bathroom.  And then, thud, thud thud toward me. 

“Mom! One more day!” 

This is how we’ve started every morning for the past week. The countdown to your birthday.

To be accurate, it’s how you’ve started every morning for the past six years.  

One second you were tiny, gripping the sides of your crib, fussing eagerly to be picked up. And the next second, bam! All of your pants are too small, your feet are gigantic; and you are sounding out words on the sides of buildings.

On the night you were born, the moment I first held you in the recovery room, the world melted away. I forgot that this kind of thing had happened before. Babies had been born before. Mothers had become mothers. Families finally felt like families. 

I forgot everything.

I forgot about the possibility of separation. I couldn’t imagine a day when we wouldn’t be close. I forgot that kids grow up. Become independent. Disagree with their parents. Learn to want different things. I forgot about families who become estranged from each other.

I forgot grade seven.  

I forgot about elaborately folded secret notes denouncing parents as annoying and downright dumb. I forgot high school where I was sure that if I could just get my own place, I would be free of their tyranny, stay out late, apply all the eye make-up I wanted. I forgot the escape to university where I could finally get my nose pierced without permission, embrace grunge without disapproval. I forgot all those years where phone calls home felt obligatory.

I forgot all of it.

Because that night I first held you, I knew with great clarity that you and I were going to be different. We would reinvent the mother-child dynamic. It would be different for us. You would always want to be with me, always need me, always look to me for the answers.

You, I could tell then, would always be agreeable, always attentive. Always compliant.There would never come a day when we wouldn’t see eye to eye on everything. 

That day did come though.

My fog lifted and there you were, already a whole person, separate from me.  You had opinions on just about everything: Your new winter coat “sucks”, you said, because it takes too long to zip up. You can't wear the waterproof thermal mitts because they don’t allow for proper snow ball formation. You hate plaid. Naveen can sit on your bed only if he takes off his socks, holds in all toots and burps and refrains from coughing on you.

When I was sad, you told me you liked my shirt. And when I was really sad you said "I love everything you're wearing Mom!" And sometimes.  Well sometimes, I noticed that you said things just because it was easier. You appeased me.

This year, you understood the vastness with which your brother adores you. At a birthday party a few weeks ago for one of your mutual friends, I watched as he hid behind you, waited for you to pioneer the way; his shield in this life.

His guide.

You love your family and tell us so all the time. You love school, your teachers and your friends. You love your grandparents, aunts, uncles and all of your cousins too. You love candy and popcorn, hockey and forts. 

Oh and Lego, you love Lego.

And you are itching for adventure every minute of the day. When we tell you about an upcoming trip, you want to go that minute. Time is such a nuisance. Are we there yet? You ask over and over.

Are we there yet?

Well no. We aren't there yet. I don't want to be there yet, is that bad? I want it all to slow down. I want to marinate in the you of today, bask in your light and sparkle. Get caught up in the world through your eyes. 

Happy birthday my big, big boy, thanks for letting me live it all again, through you.

Love Mom.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Jesus isn't the reason for our Christmas*

I took a sick day on Monday.
But because I can’t seem to relax anymore, I poked around under the basement stairs, found some left over paper from last year and wrapped the few gifts I’d bought for Shaune and the kids so far.
Once wrapped, in the very opposite way Martha Stewart might have done it, I laid them neatly under the tree, grouped together by their intended recipients. It was my small attempt to atone for the lack of effort I’d put into bringing the season into our home this year.
A small thrill of excitement lit through me as I imagined the kids running through the door, notice the pile of presents, and then excitedly ask who they were for.
What I hadn’t imagined was Naveen crying for four days straight because I’d had to break it to him that they were not to be opened until Christmas morning.
It stirred in me two things:
The first was sympathy for this three and a half year-old of mine, who had with alarming grace and composure, watched his older brother only a few days earlier, open an enormous pile of birthday gifts and who was now expected to understand that this here pile was not to be opened either.
And the second was a mild sense of guilt that I hadn’t yet discussed the true meaning of Christmas with my boys this year. There’d only been non-stop talk about what each hoped Santa would bring. And on my part a lot of warnings that Santa would bring only socks and underwear if they didn’t behave. What can I say? I like to make the most of an opportunity.
Mixed in with both of these sentiments was that same old malaise I always feel around this time of year: that feeling that I’m not so sure myself what this season is about.
Lately I’ve felt an even greater clarity that for our family at least, Christmas is not about the birth of Jesus Christ. And it’s not because I don’t like the story of Jesus. I like it just fine. I get that’s why we Christians say we celebrate Christmas.  I grew up Catholic after all.  I teach my kids Christian values all the time: be kind to your fellow person; treat others as you’d want them to treat you; give to those who have less than you.
I even own a Nativity set.
I just don’t feel right about making the connection between Christmas and Jesus’ birth.  It doesn’t make sense for our family. We don’t go to church. We don’t talk about any orthodox religions on a regular basis in our home. There’s not a crucifix or religious photo in sight.
The thing is, my God, the one I commune with daily, well, he is very private. He has very little resemblance to anything I’ve read about in the Bible. He’s a higher power I’m not sure can be attributed to religion. I'm not even sure he's a he. A sacred and safe place inside me, for which I feel ill equipped to explain to a six and three year old.
I like the idea of giving as the true meaning of Christmas. But let’s face it, mostly we’re giving gifts to each other and I’m not sure my husband needs another set of tools. And besides, real giving, the kind we’re trying to teach the kids about, well, that’s something we talk about all year long around here.
So it occurs to me that I can tell the kids what Christmas has been about for us and our family. A time to spend more time with their extended family. A time to refresh their toy supply. A time to appreciate each other. A time to decorate the house and feel festive. A time to believe in the magic of Santa. A time to create family traditions.
When I think about it that way, I can relax and enjoy the season.
* I got the idea of the title from one of my favorite bloggers.

 I don't think I'm going to get a chance to do Christmas cards this year. If I change my mind, these pictures might be contenders.

 Poor Shaune's been sick as can be for the last two weeks. He put the tree up even though he could could barely stand.

Most of the ornaments are this low on our tree. Like so many moms in the same predicament, I fight my urge to spread them out.            

As usual we had Deaglan's birthday party early since his real birthday is Christmas Eve. Here we are at Adventures on Wonderland.

Poor little cousin Leo - "Stop pushing on my bloody face Naveen" is what I imagine he'd say if he could talk.

As usual, Shaune kept me humble with his photography.  In the photo above please note the extra roll around my hip area.

In this one I like that I look like I'm listening to my sister-in-law Chrissy while actually just stuffing my face. 

And finally, just in case you didn't know that I don't have a flat's a reminder.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

That post I always write

I’ve been writing this post for a few weeks now. Sometimes in my head. Sometimes on the screen. And I’ve stopped every time at about precisely this point. Because the only post I seem to want to write is the same old one I’ve been writing for the past six years. The same old one you’ve learned to expect from me. The one that tells you how busy life is. The one that admits I don’t know what work-life balance looks like or even if there is such a thing.

It’s essentially the one I’ve written over and over; sometimes laced with guilt, often tinged with feelings of failure. The one that calculates the ratio of time the kids spend in the company of others versus us, making me question, once again, what we first world  societies really value.

It’s also the post where I tell you that I simply cannot find any time to do some of the things that nurture that Me I really like. The Me of my dreams. The one who threatens to take the reins more often. The one who has big plans for me, for no reason whatsoever. She yearns to chip away at those writing projects. She has a hundred posts she’s dying to share with you. She insists I bring back my Saturday morning runs because she misses the serene and rhythm of feet on pavement, small hills and valleys, and the music.

In some ways it’s the post I’ve been writing since that November right before Deaglan was born, six years ago.  

The one where I reflect on motherhood: the little people who amaze and frustrate me every single day, compelling me to share it with you, here in this little corner of the internet I’ve carved out for myself.

A continuation of the story of Deaglan. Deaglan who lately shines with the wonder and magic of grade one. He can’t wait to get to school every morning and some mornings even insists I put gel in his hair. Most of the time he has just the right outfit in mind and won’t accept any suggestions from me. And it won’t surprise you to know (if you know me at all), that it secretly swells me with pride that just about every outfit is dead-on.

A story that includes how a few weeks ago he stopped me mid-swipe through a fashion blog; a tall thin blonde 20 something.

“You like her outfit?”
“You like her?”
“Yeah,” he looked away. Shy smile and that dimple of his. “She has the same yellow hair as Elizabeth in my class.”

It left me fascinated and heartbroken.

And Naveen.
Yes. It’s a continuing of the story on the marvelous yet rascally ways of the three year old. Always a study in heart-melting enchantment and nerve-jangling frustration.  A bittersweet constant where I find myself refusing to correct mispronunced words: “Mum, I want Santa to bwing me a Tweenage Mutick Inja Tuhtul ShellWaiso” (A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Shellraiser –their vehicle).  Or refusing to resist the urge to scoop him into my arms any time he’ll allow it, this last bit of lush baby-hood I want to capture somewhow.  But also a study in restraint where on an hourly basis I am on the verge of insanity because this three year old of mine is a sneaky naughty imp of a boy.

It's the same post I’ve written so many times before.

Deaglan did his first Science project. He chose the Little brown bat. It was a lot of hard work for (ahem) him. He was graded on the detailed poster and his presentation of it. I was tempted to call his teacher when I read through the "Grading Rubrick", and remind her, "Uhhh, you do know he was literally in my womb only five years ago, right?"
Shaune's sister asked us to join them at the Sloan Christmas Tree Village yesterday. It's a great place. There were a ton of activities for the kids including a giant stack of hay, a miniature train, a zipline, horses and bonfires. The kind of thing people like us get into.
 Here's Naveen and cousin Layton on the giant stack of hay.
Deaglan would have set up camp on the giant stack of hay if we let him. It's the only thing he wanted to do all day, climb it and run through its secret mazes.

 You'll want to bundle up.
 Here's Grampa Bill looking on as Deaglan ziplines.
 And Gramma Fran feeding the goats with Naveen and Layton.
 Oh, I forgot to mention, you can also wander the tree farm and pick the tree you want then cut it down. Here's the one we picked.

 Shaune sawing.