March 14, 2017

I have a high energy child. There I said it. When I hear The Ramones song “I Want to be Sedated” I think of her.

Now I know that most kids have a lot of energy but I have to say that my kids seems to have been given an extra shot of whatever kids get. I have often wondered what her teachers do to keep her in her seat at school all day.

Do they know something I don’t?

And yes, you judgey moms, I do have her in a lot of activities. There’s a good reason for that. She needs them.  And frankly, so do I.

Look, every kid is different. Some kids are okay with less activity. Some kids are okay with more activity. They are all different. That’s what makes them so great. Unique. Interesting.

So I’m going to keep letting her be as active as she likes. Well, within our budget that is.

The Best Thing in Life is knowing your own child and allowing them to be that child.

January 9, 2017

We come into this world woefully unqualified for what life has to throw at us. It’s not our fault. It’s just the way it happens.

But never have I felt so ridiculously unqualified as I have as a parent.

People have been doing this for how many years? And yet……nobody has put together a comprehensive ” how to” guide. Yes, many have written self help books on parenting and I have read them all (mostly) but none of them have really resonated with me as being authentic.

I feel like at this point in my life I should have enough life experience to be able to handle this. So how do I take my experiences and the knowledge that I have gained from them and pass it on to my kids in a relevant manner?

This is not going to be a post with a smart, well written, Best Things in Life ending. This is a real question.

How do I take my life experiences and pass them on to my kids in a meaningful, educational way that will benefit them?  Without driving them crazy.

February 3, 2017

Every other week I drive my daughter and three other kids from their school to an afternoon program at another local school. At the beginning of the year I didn’t really know the other three kids very well.

Over the past months I’ve come to realize what great kids they are. Ranging in age from nine to eleven, one might expect them to be, well, kids. And they are,  but they are also engaged, talkative inquisitive and grateful for me driving them each week.

The drive is only about five minutes. Today we talked about how to successfully navigate slippery roads. The merits of snow tires and why busses aren’t necessarily built for snowy days like today. One boy was pretty specific about the tire size to bus length ratio not being conducive to good traction.

Then we talked about skiing versus snowboarding and it was generally agreed that snowboarding was fun but that you needed to practice more than once a year to be any good. Astute observations.

And when I say we talked I mean we ALL talked.

When we arrive at our destination they all (without exception) thanked me for the ride and headed into the school.

Happy good kids. The Best Thing in Life.

January 23, 2017

How much of life is smoke and mirrors?

Over the last few days it seems that a lot of what has been going on in the media is just that. People saying and doing things to make you think one thing while they are actually going to do another.

Today my daughter tried to convince me that she was too sick to stay at school. We’ve all had that call. Tiny voice in the end of the line asking to come home *cough cough*.

“Okay I’ll come and pick you up but that means you won’t be going to dance this afternoon.”

Miraculously she overcame and decided that she could tough it it for the hour and a half left in the school day. Smoke and mirrors?

While I am by no means comparing my daughter to a certain politician…..okay, maybe I am.  Maybe that’s the problem.  Maybe nobody ever called him on his smoke and mirrors as a child.  Maybe somebody should have.

The Best Thing in Life is solving the days issues in 150 words.

January 3, 2017

This is my second favorite day of the year. The first is the Tuesday after Labor Day when the kids go back to school. Two weeks is a looooooong time to spend with a nine year old when it’s cold and snowy out. I mean really, how many games on Uno can one play?

When I dropped her off at the curb I gave her a quick air kiss and with great glee realized that I had the next six hours to do whatever I wanted. You know, fun stuff like groceries, laundry and cleaning the bathrooms.

Back at home I got into a tense conversation with my twenty year old son over the fact that he had not paid us for his portion of the cell phone bill for six months. The resulting accumulated payment was not well received.

“I didn’t expect to have to pay out that much money today.”
“Well I didn’t expect to find a two inch layer of scum in your bathroom so I guess we’re both disappointed with today.”

Life is hard people and that is just a cold hard, slightly scummy fact.

We haven’t spoken since that conversation. According to the “books” it is actually a good thing if your kid is mad at you occasionally. Apparently it means that you are doing your job.

All of a sudden I am counting down the minutes until I can pick up my daughter from school. On days like this the Best Thing in Life is having two kids.

When I Was Your Age

snow

We all know that times have changed.  It is no longer normal, or sometimes even possible,  for kids to walk 10 miles to school, in the snow, uphill, both ways.  Yet we’ve all done it.  When our kids are whining about some insignificant first world problem that could mean the end of their world we’ve pulled out the “when I was your age” story.

Say perhaps the Japanese restaurant that we are ordering dinner from online is *gasp* out of ahi tuna.  We might say….when I was your age we ate whatever grandma put on the table and we liked it.

Or…..when we wanted to talk to our friends we went into the kitchen and called them on the phone.  That was attached to the wall.  And if they weren’t home we called back.  Because nobody had voice mail. And no, we couldn’t just text them.

Or….when we wanted to see a movie we took the bus to the theatre.  If the movie we wanted to see was no longer playing?  We were out of luck.  Yes, there was only one theatre, not eight.  No, Netflix was not a thing back then.

Or….when we had a research paper to write we had three options.  Got to the library and look up the book on the little cards in the file drawers.  Use the Encyclopedia Britannica that lined the walls of our dad’s study.  Find a Time magazine in the magazine rack that had something relevant in it.  Yes, that’s right.  Books.  Made of paper.

But then last weekend my daughter had the opportunity to dance in the West Vancouver Days celebration.  As we drove down the hill towards Ambleside I remembered when I was nine and had participated in the May Day Parade.  (The 1973 equivalent of West Van Days.). I found myself saying….. “when  I was your age”.  But this time it was different.

When I danced at Ambleside I wore a dress my mom had made for me.  Apparently in 1973 pink eyelet, high collars and long sleeves leg-o-mutton sleeves were all the rage.  I loved it!

may day dress
Olivia in my May Day dress

When we performed our special May Day for the May Queen and her court we did it on the grass and not on a stage.  The West Van Marching Band played our music and we had ribbons and everybody stopped and watched.

When the festivities were over we went for ice cream at Dairy Queen.  (Yes, they had Dairy Queen back then). Granny let me have a root beer float.

froyo
Olivia getting froyo after her dance

Yes, thing are different and sometime the “when I was your age” story gives our kids some perspective.  But it doesn’t have to be a “my life was harder than yours” kind of thing.  It can be a “we are both so lucky” kind of thing.

Sometimes the Best Thing in Life is watching your kids have the same amazing experiences you had.  Only different.

Why Is My Kid Such A Punk?

bratty girl

More than once this past week I have asked myself this question. Why is my kid such a punk?

No really, she is.  She’s behaved in a way that I would expect from a two-year old.  Only with better language skills.  I’ve truly been trying to stay calm and respectful and not lower myself to her level by responding in an immature way, but I have to admit that I have flipped her the bird behind her back more than once. I don’t like to do it, but sometime it’s really the only appropriate response.

I’ve read all the parenting books (there are a lot) and followed their instructions so I wonder how this could have happened.  We’re a pretty normal family.  No major issues or problems.  And I’m not a mean parent.  Although, I’m pretty sure she thinks I am.  Usually after I’ve said something like.

“No. For the tenth time, we can’t go to the park because I’m tired and it’s cold.  End of discussion.”

That’s not really mean is it?  I see it more as establishing my dominance .

When it comes to dealing with an eight year old with attitude I am not alone.  Last night I had an enlightening text discussions with some very savvy moms.  When asked about their girls of the same age, they all responded quickly and enthusiastically.  I was a bit overwhelmed actually.  Aside from the usual “I hate you” and “you’re ruining my life” I got this list of recent altercations.

  • This may take me a while to rank all the bad stuff to find the worst
  • “Yuk, I hate that” to literally every meal, for as long as I can remember
  • She told me that I should move out
  • She face washed her little sister with peanut butter and jelly toast then proceeded to tell me it was an “accident”.  I hid under the stairs
  • Every day about the damn crop tops.  No, it’s not appropriate
  • She yelled at me “You’re just a little piece of poop”.  I’m assuming she wanted to say shit but knew that she wasn’t allowed to swear
  • She told her little brother that everybody in the family had super powers except him
  • She said “I’m not trying to be rude.”  Holy crap can you imagine what it would be like if she was TRYING to be rude

One mom described them as “a bunch of cheeky little shits who are testing the boundaries”.  Yup, she hit the nail on the head.

So what to do with these little punks that won’t be moving out for another ten to twelve years?  Someone suggested an air horn.

airhorn

“Every time they start their crap we just blow it in their ear.”

That got a lot of support.  Others suggested a good supply of wine and tequila and regularly scheduled girl’s weekends in Whistler.  Lots of support for that one too.  Waiting it out was brought up, but wasn’t well received.

After an hour or so of laughter and commiserating I realized that what we had just done was really the only solution.  We had vented our frustrations and come to the conclusion that we are all in the same boat.  Doing our damnedest and trying not to kill them.

At the end of the day they are good kids and we are good parents. So next time your kids being a punk….grab a glass of wine and call a friend.  It’s The Best Thing in Life.

Conundrum

kids shoes

I have two kids. My son is nineteen and my daughter is eight. Yes, you counted right, that’s an eleven year gap.  No, it was not a happy mistake.  Early in our marriage my husband and I made a decision not to have any more kids.  But life changes and feelings change and we both knew our family wasn’t quite complete yet.

More often than not when I tell people about the age difference they say,  “Wow, really? That’s quite a gap. Is it difficult?”

It actually hasn’t been all that difficult.  My son was pretty close to being self sufficient by the time my daughter was born.  Well, as self sufficient as an eleven year old can be.  The first couple of years were a bit challenging but once he was in high school things got easier.  The hardest single thing has been planning vacations.  How many things do teenagers and toddlers both want to do?  Not very many.

But for me, the most problematic thing is that it creates a bit of a time warp.

time warp

The friends I made when my son was little are still very much in my life.  Over the years we’ve been through so many things with our now young adults.  Without activities to bring us together our connections are now more about us, than our kids.  Many of these friends are now starting to think about retiring.  Not next year, but maybe in the next five or ten years?

Their kids are in university or working and some are already empty nesters if their kids have chosen to go to school back east or in the US.  No more early morning soccer practices, no need for babysitters, no late night pick ups from parties.  They have more free time and less day to day responsibility.  They can travel or even take up a hobby.  They have moved into the next stage or their lives and it’s pretty sweet.

My daughter is eight and the friends that I have made in these past few years are who I spend most of my time with.  Hanging out at the dance studio (for hours), commiserating over school yard politics at the park or escaping to the pub occasionally after bed time.

These friends are still in the small children stage of life and considerable work is still involved on a daily basis.  Some are new home owners or starting new businesses with their future stretching out ahead of them.  Job opportunities and career changes are still top of mind options.  The concept of retiring is a distant goal. Most are still planning their fortieth birthdays.  (My fortieth was…..a while ago).

The fact is I feel a bit torn?  No, that’s not right.  I think confused would be a better word for it.  In some ways it is contributing to my ambiguity on Finding my Thing.

Half of me feels should I SHOULD be getting ready for the next next chapter of my life.  Investing, getting my shit together.  You know, getting organized for getting older.  And enjoying the fruit of many years of parental labour.  The other half of me feels like I’m still a Spring chicken whose got loads of time to do anything BUT worry about RRSPs.

To be honest, I’m  not sure what The Best Thing in Life is about this conundrum.  Maybe it’s simply the fact that I got to use the word conundrum.

Silver Linings

silver linings

Do you ever have a thought, feeling or emotion that rattles around in your head for, oh, let’s say, weeks?  Maybe months?  The problem is your not sure how to express it.  Or even if you should?  Here’s mine.

This year my son will turn twenty and I’ve missed half of his life.

Let me explain.  If I can.

I left my first husband when our son was three months old.  Within the first year I agreed (begrudgingly) to a custody arrangement that was a 50/50 split of time.  Over the years that has meant alternating house every three days, four days or seven days.  At times it was confusing (mostly for other people) but it seemed to work.  Bottom line, my son has spent half of his twenty years living away from me.

There’s no blame here.  No looking back in anger.  It was what it was and its history.

But here’s the thing.  It’s a weird feeling knowing that so many things that your child has experienced were not with you.  That during those days away you had idea where he was, who he was with or what he was thinking.  There are so many experiences, emotions and moments that I have no history of.  No pictures, no memories, no knowledge what so ever.

I’m not wallowing in pity either.  I know that he grew up loved by so many people and so far has had an amazing life.  It’s just an observation I’ve made in the past while.  I was struck one day by the fact that for days at a time I had no contact of any kind with him.

The hardest thing to do every week was not to pepper him with questions the minute he walked through the door.  Sometimes I was successful and sometimes not so much.  I just wanted to know what he had done.  What had he eaten.  How had he felt.  Had he been happy?  Had he had a hard week?

at school

Boys, as some of you may know, can be….um….lacking in details when it comes to what they’ve been doing.

“How was school?”

“Good”

“What did you do?”

“Stuff”

“Who were you with”

“Dunno”

Sound familiar?

I’m not sure if it is despite of or because of our arrangements that he has grown up to be a smart, caring, happy young man.  There have been trying times for him but I believe the same could be said for other boys his age who have grown up in a more conventional setting.

He’s not home much anymore.  Between work, school, friends and having his own car we are lucky to get a dinner once a week.  Oh and the odd “what can I eat?” at 1:00 pm after rolling out of bed.  Again, not judging, just observing.

I also know that going forward there won’t be as many family vacations, day trips or ski days and that’s okay.  I’m happy that he is happy and moving on into his adult years.  A parents job is to ready their children to make it on their own in the world and I am confident that he will do just that.  I’m hoping that when that happens there will be the odd phone call home to say, ask how long to roast a chicken?

walking away

It’s so hard to put these feelings into words.  The feeling that I’ve missed a lot but have still been given so much.

I suppose in some ways it has prepared me for the next stage of our lives.  I’m not that worried about him not being around all the time.

The Best Thing in Life is silver linings.