Category Archives: Children

Comfort of mother and son

My boys are growing up. And no matter how often I remind myself, slow down, remember to pay attention, I know this will all be over too soon. I often feel I’m being swept away by life. It’s hard work  to pay attention. It’s even harder to remember to pay attention. I’m delighted by them, by our family, and this precious gift called motherhood. It sounds quaint I know, but the truth is, I’m in awe of it. They are people. People I made. And now, as their arms and legs stretch the limits of boyhood, as their minds expand to explore thoughts unknown to me, I sometimes forget that I made them. They are me. But now, they are no longer me. They are them. It’s kind of a mind twist isn’t it?

But when I do look at them and see them for who they are, my heart literally bursts with pride. Wow. They are something.

I just wish they would slow down.

I want to inhale one more deep breath of their baby softness. I want to feel their round thighs and stroke the baby softness of their chubby little fingers. I want to hear the squeals and delight in the joy they feel when they seem after even a short separation. I want to be their centre.

They say this is what we are meant to do, that our job is to help them learn to fly free. And I want what that for them, of course. But I find it hard knowing that they are living lives without me, that things happen to them every day, at school and even under my own roof, to which I am not privy. How can that be? How can I not be part of it all? It’s not fair. I struggle with this. And sometimes the depth of the struggle surprises me. They’ll talk about things I know nothing about and I’ll feel jealous and hurt. It’s silly really, but it’s the honest truth.

I’ll never hold them accountable for this. It’s my pain, the pain of motherhood. But, it’s also the joy. The joy of knowing that they are stretching their wings and learning it’s safe to fly free.

Right now my oldest and I are sitting together companionably. He’s reading. I’m taking a taste of my writing again for the first time in a while and I feel the contentment surrounding us. I feel sure that this will always be available to me. This companionship and deep comfort that is mother and son just being, together.

I think they take me for granted. I hope that they do.

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Learning to find our way back

We’ve been going some through growing pains with my oldest son recently. He’s 5 1/2 and discovering his individuality which is just a nice way of saying he’s testing his limits and our patience along with them. He’s bold, sassy and moody. There have been more battles of will in our house in the past few weeks than I care to admit. I’ll be honest, every once in a while I blow a gasket. It’s not always pretty, and usually ends in tears (his and mine).

In theory I consider myself to be a firm, but reasonable parent. In practice, my husband is far better at setting limits than I am. We don’t spoil our children, far from it. But much like he’s challenging us by reaching for new independence, so too am I testing my parenting limits and exploring my comfort with different kinds of discipline. I’m constantly wondering which behaviour needs to be a “teachable moment,” which is completely unacceptable and which are best left alone? It’s so hard to know. But it’s even harder to translate frustration into positive discipline. Sometimes I just lose my cool. I’ve told him I get as frustrated as him, and sometimes my emotions get the better of me. I’m not sure he understands that yet though.

So you can imagine my contentment when we declared a truce Saturday afternoon. While his younger brother napped, the two of us worked on decorating our Christmas tree. In previous years this has been a bit of a chore, with him eager to put every ornament on the same branch and in a rush to unwrap every ornament with little care for their fragility and me taking deep breaths trying to remember exactly what the joy is.

This year, he was thoroughly engaged. As he unwrapped each one, he joyfully commented that this was his favourite and then thoughtfully place each on the tree. We worked companionably, talking about each ornament, whom it was from and why it was beautiful. Every ornament on my tree has a story, whether purchased on a family adventure near or far, or given as a gift from someone special. I loved sharing all of it with him, hoping that it would inspire him to feel connected to our holiday traditions in the same way that I always have, and to know that the tree has been adorned with love and happiness.

It was just what we both needed, to restore the peace and faith that no matter what we’ll find our way. The two of us just trying to figure out this mother-son, individual-parent relationship as we go. There may be bumpy roads along the way, but we’ll always be able to find our way back to this, this place of love and happy companionship because ultimately that is what it’s all about. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

Pieces of us

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He’s so much like me. His personality. Sometimes it takes my breath away. Sometimes it worries me. He’s intense and emotional. He’s a people-pleaser and sometimes anxious. I see it so clearly.

But he’s also so much is father. He’s filled with kindness and love. He likes to build things and take them apart. He has an acuity for how things work.

My hope is that all the parts of him—the hard parts and the soft parts, the parts from me and the parts from Jay—blend together into a mash-up of magic and serve him the contentment he deserves.

Unchartered territory

Sunday was hot, sticky and humid. We were in the home stretch of a busy weekend celebrating Canada Day with friends that included a couple of late nights and hours of outdoor playtime. Everybody was tired, and feeling low key and mellow. My youngest and husband napped contently. I curled up in a comfortable chair with a book and a tall refreshing glass of homemade ice tea. My oldest, C, wandered, hanging his head low because I had refused him more time with the Wii and the TV. I swear if I let him, he wouldn’t come up for air.

After a short period of sulking and brooding in his bedroom, he decided to join me.

For his birthday he received Bey Blades. They are just a jazzed up version of spinning tops. From what I understand, and as evidenced by his complete devotion to them in the week since his birthday, I gather they are all the rage with boys. He sat cross legged on the floor directly next to me, showing me how they worked. Over and over he would strap in the rip cord, chanting “1 – 2 – 3 – Let rip,” then sending them spinning endlessly, and rhythmically in a red plastic arena we’d given him to go with them. He was eager to demonstrate all the ways he could get them to “rip.” As his father quietly snored on the couch next to us, we quietly chit chated about his technique.

It’s not often that I have quiet time to just be with my boys. They are busy, boisterous, and physical . They jostle for my lap in the name of a cuddle that is often short-lived in favour of climbing, stepping, and kicking and wrestling. Sometimes I have to just stay “STOP.” Their physical nature can be overwhelming, not to mention hazardous.

So I was enjoying this time, playing quietly under the cool breeze from the ceiling fan, in a quiet house.

As we sat there, I took the opportunity to just watch him. To take him all in. I love to do this, to memorize their quirks and quarks, to learn their mannerisms, to reflect on their natural habits. No matter how often I do, I’m always struck by how little I actually know my boys and how highly individual they are. No matter how many moments I take to soak them in, they seem different every day. They’re growing and evolving faster than I can mentally catalogue the changes.

Right now, we’re in a period of difficult change with our oldest. He’s five and becoming more of a grown boy than I am comfortable with. Last week he finished his first year of school, and the transformation we’ve seen in him since September is staggering. Beyond the obvious learning he’s done, he’s become less self-assured, and so much quieter than he was before. He’s anxious in situations he’s not familiar with, and unwilling to try new things. He’s bold, and questioning. Just the other day he took his father by surprise when he challenged, “How come you get to do that and I don’t?”

At five.

This is unchartered territory for us. Though we recognize that it’s all part of his natural development, we also believe it’s proof of the outside influences I worried about at the beginning of the year. This year he learned to think for himself, and he’s shown us he’s willing to test its limits. He’s also reminding us that parenting isn’t for the feint of heart, and that every day we need to reinvent the wheel just to keep up.

So we’re struggling. We’re struggling to get to know this new part of him, to encourage his independence and free-thinking, but to set limits of our own that will help to guide him for years to come. I’m constantly questioning my approach, wondering how strict I should be and what should be let go. It’s like feeling around in the dark, you know the right way is there, but there will bumps and bruises along the way.

Sunday however, was a gift. The quiet, the time to just look at him and to think of all that he has already been and all that he will be. These are important moments for mothers, they help us find balance and to push forward through calmer waters.

Five

Birthday boy

What is five?

Five is snuggles and cuddles, and the sweetest young boy.

Five is finding your voice and becoming your own person.

Five is meeting new friends, friends who are all your own.

Five is testing your limits more than ever before, and struggling to understand the consequences that come with it.

Five is whiny, and impatient, and willful.

Five is bold, and full of attitude.

Five is learning to read, discovering chapter books, and practicing to write letters.

Five is a fondness for building things, taking things apart and getting dirty.

Five is being a big brother, who’s magical and yet so much fun to tease.

Five is being a big brother, and setting an example.

Five is Mario and Donkey Kong and Scooby Doo.

Five is “I’m bored.”

Five is tender and loving and generous and kind.

Five is showing the complexity of your individual character.

Five has come too fast.

Slow down, darling boy, slow down.

Today

X_at2

Who are you today?

At 2 you are full to brimming with life and spirit.

You know what you want and are determined and stubborn enough to get it.

You find your voice, it fills our home and melts my heart.
Your words and expressions, the very sound of your voice delights me.

You call me mom. I correct you.
Two is too young; I’ve earned a few more years of “mommy”.

You are a sportsman.
You sleep snuggly with a ball.  In the day, you chant hockey over and over.
For a 2-year-old, you have an excellent command of the word zamboni.
Your brave, and willing to try anything physical.
It’s bright in your eyes, a passion for sport.

You look up to your big brother, seeking his interest and approval.
I’m trying hard not to interfere, to force him to notice.
Your relationship should be your own.

You challenge us in ways he never did.
Your defiant. Outright sassy.
Because you are only two, it mostly amuses us.
But we’re ever vigilant, it won’t always be funny.

You refuse to eat vegetables. ANY vegetables.
Except for salsa. How odd.
You do, however, love all things sweet. Your favourite word is “Treat.”
Your voice bounces about the walls as you ask, then demand, and practically beg.
“Treat?!”

You have a little round belly and chubby, short legs that don’t seem to ever want to stop.
You run naked around the house, squealing “naked man!”

Your skin is as soft as velvet,
I kiss and kiss and kiss your cheeks.
Savour the exquisiteness of your hand, caressing it in my own.

It’s not his birthday. I’m enjoying his twoness so much that I wanted to capture it here so I don’t forget.

Two

Two. Such a little word. Such a young age. And yet, so much change.

You’ve grown in two years from 7 lbs, 10 oz, to 28 lbs. Your head, which was once so tiny and bald, is now full of wispy, blond sweetness that smells of love itself. You’ve kept the most incredible blue eyes; they mirror your father’s.

Already your legs grow long and lean, even though your tummy is full and round like a baby’s. Your skin is still soft and delicate. It ignites my own when you touch me, or caress my cheek. It’s the same with both you and your brother—since birth, your touch has felt like an electric current that connects us in a primal way.

In your first year, you were calm and cool and weren’t one to show a lot of emotion. It was an effort to entice a smile. We worried a bit, and wondered why you were so neutral. This year you put those worries to rest and truly blossomed. You smile freely, and often. When you do, your face brightens and animates in a way that takes my breath away. But it’s more than just a smile; you’ve become so expressive and freely demonstrate so many thoughts and emotions. This is such a dramatic change from when you were just a little baby and the depth of it has caught us by surprise.

You have a fierce temperament, are strong-willed, and very self-aware. You know what you want, and you make sure everyone else knows it too, particularly your older brother. I hope you keep this quality, it will strengthen and propel you throughout your life.

You are ripe with cunning and intelligence. A scary combination, one we expect will challenge us in the years to come. You know what you should and shouldn’t be doing and freely flaunt that you know, but are quite content to ignore us.

And the words! My goodness, your language is exploding. Big words. Intelligent words. It’s a spectacular thing to experience.

You have a passion for all things hockey. This is no exaggeration, and we find it endlessly entertaining. Just this morning, when we were out celebrating at breakfast, you spotted a television from far across the restaurant and hollered out “hockey!” Hockey is your heart, but you are quite drawn to all sport. You are a physical little boy, and there are days when this quality takes my breath away – literally and figuratively.

You are a force in our lives and yet, you are kind, loving and polite. Every day I thank God for you, and count my blessings that are part of our family. You keep us laughing, and loving. We adore you.

Happy 2nd birthday sweet boy.

With love, Mom.

His own way

My oldest son looks so much like his father, but his personality is a twin of mine. To any who doubt the substance of a zodiac sign, I would argue that there is at least some merit. You see, we share a birthday. We are both cancer, born June 24. Those born under this water sign, ruled by the moon are said to  are loving and emotional, tenacious and strong-willed, nurturing and sensitive, indecisive, moody and intuitive.

C_roar

There is no doubt—he’s an emotional, strong-feeling child. He’s also sweet, sensitive, gentle and kind. He has intense mood swings that can be fierce and volatile, and then just as quickly spill with happiness. He plays hard, and cries hard. He’s just like his mother, intense.

And I’m finding it challenging.

As much as he is like me, he is not me. Because I see so much of myself in him I feel compelled to care for him just how I would like to be nurtured. I over-mother, play comfortably to his sensitivities, fuelling and validating his emotional side. It causes struggle between us, and between him and his father. I recognize that an emotional child, whether boy or girl, presents unique challenges. And while our particular struggle has less to do with raising a boy, and everything to do with inspiring confidence and comfort with his emotional side, I fear I’m not doing a very good job of it. I worry about him every day. I see him taking his first tentative steps forward in school and with friends of his own and I want to provide a safe place to land, I want to ensure that his every experience is positive and without strife.

It’s impractical and unhealthy. I’m living vicariously through him, trying to correct the heartache of my past through how I parent him. I’m protecting him from my hurts, instead of letting him live and learn in his own way.

C_dishes

The painful truth is that I don’t know how else to do it. I see myself in him. I identify with his challenges. I want to inspire his sensitivities so that they stay with him and become a part of the man he will be, making him tender and kind and loving. At the same time, I’m struggling to be firm, to recognize that he is a boy, naturally testing his boundaries, challenging me and his father, but playing to my inconsistencies. He needs boundaries, physical and emotional. He needs to learn what’s acceptable and what’s simply indulgent and inappropriate.

How do I balance the two? How do I raise a boy who is confident enough to be gentle and kind, but strong enough to be confident and self-aware? And how do I do that without emotional baggage so that he can live and learn from the breadth of his own experience, rather than the pain of my own?

c_family

School shouldn’t be scary

When I was 12 I was the victim of tween bullying. It happened over the course of an entire school year and reached a rather frightening climax. I’ve managed to forget most of what happened, and the well of anxiety that came with going to school each day. But there are a handful of vivid memories that remind me how hard it was. I can still recall the fear and panic I felt. The actions of one immature and misguided girl marked me forever. To this day, more than 20 years later, I struggle with issues of self-confidence because of it.

I was in grade 7. She was in grade 8. She was popular and from a privileged family. I didn’t have a very good opinion of myself, but I projected an air of confidence. I remember how that made me easy prey. She had a circle of friends to fortify her torment. I was afraid to greet her and her posse in the stairwell. The words and her jeering cut to the quick.

I attended the grade 8 graduation dance. It was tradition that the grade 7 students be invited. I always enjoyed dancing and celebrating with my friends, so of course I attended. We donned our party dresses and kicked it up laughing and twirling to party tunes on the gymnasium floor. As the evening wore one, the crowd seemed to balloon. I remember there were kids coming in who shouldn’t have been there, kids from other schools. There was a rather large group congregating around this girl at one point. They seemed to be egging her on.

I was sitting taking a break on  a bench at the side of the gym when she decided to approach. It was dark and she had dozens of friends following her. I remember feeling a sense of doom and fear that I could almost taste. The words that were said were cruel and instigating. I tried to retort with indifference, to deflate her boldness and not show my fear. But she was fueled by the crowd’s energy. It escalated to pushing and shoving and I started shaking. And crying. I was overcome with despair and embarrassment. I remember wondering vaguely where the teachers were, why they hadn’t come to help. Eventually they came, our parents were phoned and I was left feeling somehow like it had been my fault.

As an adult, I’ve gained the perspective to know what she was really about, how terribly insecure she must have been and how keen her need to impress her friends. I now know that it really had little to do with me, and was all about her. Nonetheless her actions changed me.

So you can imagine my worry when my 4-year-old came home from school recently and told us that a boy in his class had kicked and hit him. It cut like a knife. I tried not to panic and decided to give it a day, to see if it continued, if perhaps it was just boys play out of hand. The next day he said it had happened again, and in the morning he declared he had a sore tummy and didn’t want to go to school. And I knew, I just knew.

I called the school and spoke to the principal. He assured me he would follow up immediately. Within an hour he called me back. You won’t believe this, he said, I went to the classroom to speak to the teacher and she said how interesting. The little boy was being punished at that moment for having had his hands on my son.

In some ways, that was the best thing that could have happened. It confirmed there was a problem to everyone immediately. The school took charge,and after a couple of additional minor incidents and a few phone calls back and forth, my son has settled happily back into his routine. It was just a blip, and yet how I know how important a blip it was.

Through his experience, and because of my own, I know that I have to equip my son with the confidence he needs to cope with these kind of challenges. I won’t always be there and I want him to feel secure. Always. His confidence will come from trusting adults to handle the situation swiftly and fairly. It will come from his own ability to stand up for himself and feel comfortable saying no when a situation is hurtful or unfair. He has to learn that no one has the right to hurt him ever. Important lessons, big lessons for a 4-year-old.

It’s unfortunate that we live in a world where people gain power from being mean to others. Where children as young as 4 and 5 already know fear and how to hurt. I hope for different. I think we can change this one family at a time. I wrote this post to raise awareness. As mothers, as parents, we have an obligation to teach our children how to treat others, and to give them the skills they need to be able to cope in a competitive world. A flawed world. A world where real life isn’t always easy, but where we can make a difference.

Image: ‘bullyingDM2810_468x720‘ via a Creative Commons license.

Try and try again

AMotherWorld

I’m so pleased to be a guest once again at AMotherWorld.  When I put my son on the bus for the very first time this fall, I was reminded of some important lessons from Christine Carter’s in her book Raising Happiness .  In Try and try again I reflect on the importance of teaching our children that it’s okay to sometimes fail, while teaching them the skills they need to cope with the challenges and mistakes they make in their life.

 Please join me there for the discussion, I’m eager to read your thoughts.