Friday, 30 May 2014

We laugh, we sigh, and we shake our heads

Dear Naveen,

A few weeks ago on our way to Daycare, a ten minute drive after we drop Deaglan off, a motorcycle passed us. “Momma,” you said, “I wish I was a moto-cycle dwiver.”

“Oh yeah?” I asked, “how come?”
“Because they’re weally, weally cool.”

Several hours later, that same day, on our way home, you told me that 
Adam*, a boy in your preschool room, had slapped you in the face.

“Did you tell Ms. Katie or Sarah?” I asked.
“No, but I wish I could have @*#$ him.”  You replied.
“NA-VEEEEN,” I said, “when someone hurts you, you need to tell a teacher.You don’t wish ____”

That night when I had a few minutes alone with your Dad, I told him the two stories.  His response and I hope you’re reading this as a grown man, sitting behind a mahogany desk, taking a well deserved break from the stacks of blueprints for your next skyscraper, or relaxing after deposing a very rich client’s husband, was to put into words what I’d feared all along:

“I told you” he said, “that kid’s gonna be a Hell’s Angel one day.”

Here’s the thing.

Your brother ruined “normal” for you.  He was a pretty predictable as three year olds go. He had the odd tantrum but on the whole was generally good natured and went with the flow. I feel often that this has not been the case with you.  

I mean this in the most loving-but-I’m–your-mom-so-I-can-say-this kind of way.

For instance you hate mornings. I think you would like them if you weren’t expected to eat breakfast or get dressed. You hate eggs and socks.  And most styles of pants.

You also hate public declarations of love.

From the time he learned to speak, your brother has told me at least a dozen times every day that he loves me. You however, could care less about my desperate need for validation.

On the drive home from school, if I adjust the rear-view mirror to see your little face, you scowl and tell me to stop looking at you. If I bump into you on the way to the kitchen, you accuse me of hitting you on purpose.  And lately, when you feel put out by one of my demands you’ve added the phrase “stinkin’ old” to whatever it is you’re protesting:

“I don’t want to lift the stinkin’ old toilet seat, Momma!”
“I hate stinkin’ old fish. I’m not eating!”
“I’m not wearing stinkin’ old shorts to school. I don’t care if it’s hot!”

You’re a grumpy old curmudgeon in a Preschooler’s body.  

And yet.

You're never far from me.  If we’re in the same room, you need to be in my arms or on my lap. If I’m in the basement doing laundry, you’re waiting for me at the top of the stairs. If I’m inside while you’re playing out back, you come in every few minutes and demand a hug.

“Let’s pretend I’m a baby,” you often say and insist we talk about the old days when you used to nurse. You ask me again and again what you used to call breast milk and are convinced that if I just tried, I could produce it for you even now. You have no intention of growing older you tell me all the time.

You adore your brother. When you draw pictures at school, they’re mostly for Deaglan. You mimic his speech, want the same toys and tell me secretly that your favorite colour is blue “just like Dekwen’s.” This past Saturday morning, I came downstairs to find the two of you sitting on the couch, his arm around you, watching cartoons.

I had no words.

You’ll be four tomorrow and I can’t help but mourn a little. Your chubby toddler legs have gotten lean and strong.  Your smooth little forehead is no longer adorably disproportioned to the rest of your face. You’ve grown into those gloriously abundant ears and you only sometimes sound like a native Bostonian – sadly, you’re learning to say your R’s.

This year you developed a fondness for video games, swear words and grilled salmon. The first two made me uneasy and anxious while the third was bittersweet because it was short-lived. Lately you sustain yourself on anything sugary and anything that resembles a pork chop. You hardly ever mention the vacuum cleaner anymore but you often wish out loud that you could drive a real car.

Don't worry, much to my dismay, that time will come soon enough my sweetheart. But for now, I want you to know that your Dad and I wouldn’t change a single thing about you; we laugh, we sigh, and we shake our heads daily, watching you unfold. I hope you’ll always be your own quirky, delightful, weird and wonderful self.

Unapologetic. Unconventional. Unpredictable.

And if you do end up joining a biker gang when you're older, then I hope you always stay Under the radar

Happy Birthday my sweet baby!

Love always,

Your old lady.

*The names and events in this scenario were changed to protect you from implication in any future crimes.

Some pictures of you from this past year.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Before the deep sadness

Last night I had a dream about Matthew.

I was at a crowded bar when I bumped into him. My heart leapt. He smiled and asked me if I was sticking around. He said he’d be hitting the stage around 7 and I should stick around. I was so glad to see him that I didn’t think to ask questions.

Of course, I said. He told me to make sure I stayed late because the fun stuff didn’t start happening till after 11. 

He looked 19: skinny as a pole, shy smile, a dusting of brown freckles sprinkled across his nose. Handsome as ever. After I promised to stick around he tapped me lightly on the back and walked away. When I looked again, he’d been swallowed  up by the crowd. 

I woke up then. And missed him like crazy. I realized it had been a dream.
I walked to the kids’ room where they were sound asleep and watched them for a few minutes. Sometimes when I miss my brother it helps me to be near my kids.

Even though they’re not related by blood, Deaglan reminds me of Matthew. I think it’s because my favourite memories of my brother, the parts I hold nearest to me, are the memories of him as a small boy. He had a great laugh and I hear it every time Deaglan laughs. Back then he was pure, honest and in awe of life, the way Deaglan is these days.
It was before he felt the deep sadness.

Eckhart Tolle says this of suffering: Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could spare them [your children] from all suffering? No, it wouldn't. They would not evolve as human beings and would remain shallow, identified with the external form of things. Suffering drives you deeper.

I find this prospect of parenting the hardest to accept. 

I forgot about the dream when I woke up this morning. I shuffled downstairs, made coffee, got lunch stuff together, watched the news, showered, dressed and got us all out the door.  On the way to the Daycare, Tom Power played this and the dream came flooding back.

That song always stops me dead in my tracks.

I don't know what the dream was about. Next Wednesday will mark four years that Matthew's been gone. Maybe he just wanted to say hi. Tell me he's happy.

Whatever it was, it feels good to know he's on stage somewhere.

This was the last picture of us together. I was six months pregnant with Naveen. I'll always be sad that they missed each other by ten days.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Grade one reading: a job aide

A few years ago if you asked me what the hardest part of motherhood was I’d answer without hesitation, “the lack of sleep.” These days I’d like to say I’d take no sleep over teaching a six-year old boy to read but that wouldn’t be completely true either; well, because nothing would be worse than having to teach a six-year old boy to read on no sleep.

It’s likely not a very parenty thing to say, right? Grade one reading? What’s so hard about that?

Well first there’s the tiresome negotiation that must ensue to get said six-year old boy to the kitchen table after your long day at work when the only thing you'd rather be doing is sipping wine while scrolling through Pinterest.
Often this means prying whatever toys he’s holding out of his death grip, swearing an oath on anything resembling a bible to give them back once the homework is done. It also means telling that six year old boy to sit still  a total of 57 times.

“On your bum, please.”


“Please, on your bum.”


“Sit still.”




Then 38 reminders to put his finger under the words he’s reading. And just as many times bringing him back to the right sentence. When suddenly you are forced to focus on the noise in the periphery and find it’s the six year old’s younger brother in your armpit literally diverting your attention, small hand on your face, “Momma, you ahn’t   listening, can I watch anothoe show?”

This is when you are forced to say very loudly in hopes your husband, who actually is in the living room in plain view of the TV tapping away the next day’s lesson plans without a care in the world, will hear you: “YOU NEED TO ASK DADDY TO PUT ANOTHER SHOW ON.” Often this must be said loudly one or two more times with the addition, “BECAUSE MOMMY’S DOING HOMEWORK WITH YOUR BROTHER” to get its intended effect.

And all the while you are holding back the urge to say: “You just read that word 25 times!!! Why the hell are you acting like you don’t know what it says???” This is about the same time you realize you just aren't cut out for this parenting gig.

But then you remember to practice deep breathing and remind yourself that he’s just learning. You must remember this every time he pronounces the word “like” as “lik” even though you know with certainty you’ve explained the function of e at the end of a sentence something like two hundred times.

You pat yourself on the back each time you bite your tongue recalling how far you’ve come. You can’t remember the last time you put words to the near rage that “said” is not pronounced “sss-ahhh-iii-duh” even though it’s a sight word we’ve been memorizing for the better part of two years.


How hard is that?

Instead you cheer him for every small victory. You give him a bear hug after every book and tell him how proud you are. Because you are fairly sure he will eventually get it. You convince yourself of this by remembering that most adults you know can read. To be sure you mentally list all the people you know and try to remember if you'd ever heard them read out loud.

Then you get to that glass of wine that’s been practically begging you to drink it while Googling Google because you'd heard somewhere that most of their meetings are done while their workers are walking around. You take a few sips of the wine and relax, imagining your fidgety son with a perfectly successful career at a place where everyone can read and hardly any meetings require a person to sit still.

This year the kids got new bikes for Easter. I know, I know, gifts at Easter now???

Also, my birthday fell on Easter Sunday. I try not to get too worried that the sidewalk message below says: Happy birthday Mom.

 As always, there was an awesome Easter egg hunt at Gramma and Grampas. This year I had to gently remind Deaglan that he was not to plow past the younger kids and find all the eggs himself.

And I had to encourage Naveen several dozen times to keep looking for more eggs even though he was content with the first one he found.

 Good times with Grampa.