I checked the news when I woke up this morning and this headline blared out:
As we in North America go about our Christmas preparations, worrying about presents and parking spots, Taliban militants stormed a school in Peshwar, Pakistan.
According to Pakistani military spokesman, Asim Bajwa, it was “an assault that seemed designed purely to terrorize the children rather than take anyone hostage to further the militant group’s aims. Their sole purpose, it seems, was to kill those innocent kids. That’s what they did.”
Two years ago, almost to the day, Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, waving semi-automatic weapons and shooting 20 children dead.
Two completely unrelated incidents, yet both targeting the most vulnerable and precious of a community.
When I was a little kid, a part of me looked forward to being an adult. A real idealist, I naively assumed that once everyone grew up physically, they would grow up mentally and emotionally too. I thought that once people were in their 20s, or at least in their 30s, they would act like grown-ups: throw out their selfishness and put others first.
Maturity and kindness have nothing to do with age. Today on the news, I see grown men raging around with machine guns throwing tantrums and killing children. Yesterday I saw my 6-year-old son showing true bravery and kindness by standing between his little friend and a bully, taking hits so his friend wouldn’t get hurt.
As a mother, I ache for the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and grandparents in Pakistan whose lives are shattered by the loss of so many children.
As a mother, I say leave the kids out of it. Get your battles out of the schools and off the playgrounds.
As a believer, at this time of year, I say, Come O Come Emmanuel.
In Developmental psychology, the age of reason is the age when a child is capable of carrying on complex conversation with an adult, usually around seven or eight years old. My BA was full of psychology courses but all the textbook reading and expert opinion comes alive as I actually watch my own children go through the different stages.
My son is turning six this week and I can see glimpses of the age of reason popping up all over the place. Suddenly we are having conversations about death, about right and wrong, about why some daddies don’t live in the same house as the mommies and kids. I watch my son thinking about the things he overhears me saying to my husband and I’m more careful when I talk, knowing that he misses nothing.
The sweet filter of innocence is starting to fray around the edges as my son realizes that not everyone is kind and good and not every story ends the way he thinks it should. I’m torn as to how I feel about his approach to this new age and stage.
On one hand, I adore finally having more in-depth conversations with him; conversations that go beyond, “Can I have some juice?” and “Mom! My sister broke my Lego!” It’s been almost six years of baby and little-kid conversations and it’s nice to change things up. It’s exciting to see my son maturing and taking on little bits of responsibility all by himself. “It’s okay, little sis, I’ll get your dolly for you.” and “Mom, today I took my friend to the office because someone hit him in the face.” I wonder, is this stage a reward for a mom who’s talked about only snacks, toys, sleep and bodily functions for six years?
On the other hand, it breaks my heart. Walking up the hill from kindergarten the other day we had our first conversation about death. “You mean everybody dies, Momma? But I don’t want to die!” The look on his face almost finished me off then and there and I realized that this was just the beginning of the tough discussions. Ready or not, they are here. I hope that the listening and responding I do now will be good practice for when he is a teenager and the questions get even harder.
I saw the best quote on Facebook last year that has stuck with me:
While roaming the aisles of a big-box toy store the other day, I realized that my 18 month old daughter could care less about 99% of the stuff for sale. I know what she wants for Christmas and it’s not a dolly that sits on the toilet or a pink plastic household appliance. Here’s a list of what every toddler really wants to see under the tree:
- A Kleenex box. The biggest one you can find, with the cardboard piece already ripped off the top. Free reign to pull the tissues out when she pleases, shred into tiny pieces and fling around the house.
- A box of Christmas oranges to dump, line up and move in and out of the box to her heart’s content.
- A toothbrush to chew as much as she wants, swirl in the toilet and poke her big brother with.
- Her own roll of tape. She can rip the tape out over and over with no one saying, “Give it back to mommy, please. Give it back to mommy” and prying it out of her tiny hands. A roll of wrapping paper from the dollar store will also go over well.
- A family sized box of rice to spread over every room of the house, just for fun. She already knows how to do this. She learned it last week in Sunday School.
- A Lego set for her to step on and throw against the wall while laughing with glee.
- An extra $10 to put towards the water bill so she can play at the kitchen sink and yell, “water! water!” as she pours, stirs and splashes joyfully.
- An expensive fabric angel decoration to hug and kiss with spaghetti-sauce-stained hands & face.
- An old plate to take to the cement floor in the garage, lift high over her head, and smash to smithereens.
Ah…the perfect Christmas.
*If you’ve been following me for over a year, you will recognize this post from last Christmas. I can’t resist posting it again this week.
The minute I saw the subject for this week’s weekly photo challenge I knew I had just taken a perfect picture for it. It’s a little blurry but captures the excitement that’s going on in our house now. Ages 2 and 5, my children are at the ideal age to revel in the magic of Christmas. Our neighbours had their lights up early this year, in mid-November, and my son insisted we follow suit ASAP. Of course one string of lights wasn’t enough; we had to stretch out all the lights we could find all around our family room. My daughter (almost 2.5) was right in on it this year. My son is the perfect teacher, bringing her up to snuff on all that is important about preparing for Christmas.
Late at night when the house is still enough to hear the whirring of the refrigerator and the buzz of the odd car on the road beyond the high trees, there is a stirring. The groaning of a mattress spring, the creak of small feet on hardwood and the click of a door are hardly noticeable to anyone unfortunate enough to be awake in the late, late hours of the night.
The hasty thump thump of small steps on the carpeted hallway flee the horrendous monsters under the bed; monsters now locked in the bedroom with no one to frighten.
The door pushes open and a small shadowy pyjama-clad figure bursts in quietly. He is stealthy. His heart is racing. He is holding his breath. The monsters have lost their power with his arrival. He is safe.
He creeps up on the Big Bed, his stuffed doggie clutched in his right hand. He climbs up to the special pillow in the middle. Momma on one side, Daddy on the other, he slides his feet down into the comforting warmth of his safe place. His small hand reaches over to rest on my cheek and his doggie tucks under his chin. He exhales and shuts his eyes, asleep in seconds.
We followed all the rules when he was a baby. “Train him to sleep in his crib, in his own room” the book said. “Don’t let him get used to sleeping with you” the expert warned. He slept like a darn by himself and loved his own bed dearly, until he turned three and the monsters of his vivid imagination took over. The bedtime wails of his newborn sister didn’t help.
Now he is five and a half and eyebrows rise when I mention our little visitor who enters in the darkest hours of the night. A few years of parenting under my belt and I don’t care what others think. He is young and he is afraid. He is my boy and I am his momma.
I’m sure our nighttime ninja will be gone as swiftly as he came, older and stronger and independent. I won’t miss the odd kick in my side, arm flung across my ear and 5:30 wake ups. I know I’ll miss the running steps in the hall and the quiet, grateful hand on my cheek.
There is no quicker cure for crabby children on a rainy day than a blanket fort. If I really want to have happy kids all I need to do is start tossing the couch cushions onto the floor. My son starts dragging stuffed animals, blankets & pillows to the living room from all over the house. My daughter bounces around with glee knowing that it’s time to play. So many times when the kids ask to build a fort I say no; it makes such a disaster out of the house, is a pain to clean up, etc. But once in a while I like to say yes. This kind of smile is what it happens:
This week we are moving for the fourth time in four years. You can imagine how that’s going. Just for fun, I wanted to update and re-post some Murphy’s laws I wrote last year about packing with young children. When I wrote the original post I had about 17 followers for my blog. Now I have a few more than that so here goes:
1. Unless you immediately seal up a box, your toddler and preschooler will unpack as fast as you pack.
2.You’ll pack up the rarely-played-with toys first. The very next day your child will demand to see those toys, even though he or she hasn’t touched them since last Christmas.
3. As you prepare your old house for a showing, your 4-year-old will spill a box of Cheerios and half a jug of milk on the kitchen floor. Your toddler will walk through all of this, slip, fall and start screaming just as you hear the realtor’s key in the front door.
4. The biggest box will become a spaceship (last year) or a pirate ship (this year).
5. Your children will each try out the tape gun and permanent marker. Hide the utility knife or they will try that too.*
6. At least once, you will leave a pink bra and some Buzz Lightyear underwear on the bathroom floor during a showing.
*Update: Yesterday my husband set up our big white screen (from our movie projector) to sell to a guy. Quick as a wink, my two-year-old daughter grabbed the black marker and scribbled a beautiful picture… ALL OVER THE WHITE SCREEN.
I promise you, I don’t make this stuff up. Stay tuned for an updated “Moving With Young Children” later this week.
I forgot my camera today.
I watched two sets of chubby little-kid hands thrust out to get stamped by the lady at the petting zoo admission desk.
I stretched back into the cool grass beside my daughter and marvelled at four nests full of squabbling herons.
I forgot my camera today.
I heard my son’s giggles as he flung broken fish crackers and Baby Mum-Mums into the beaks of greedy ducks because we forgot the duck food.
I played hide and seek behind majestic trees, laughing because my little boy had his bright red hat on the whole time and was so easy to find.
I forgot my camera today.
I saw my daughter’s delight as she brushed old goats, pet baby mice and laughed at squirming piglets.
I smiled as my son argued with another five-year old; both trying to be captain of the playground ship.
I forgot my camera today.
I laughed and laughed when my tiny daughter repeated “doggie poop! doggie poop!” over and over.
I watched my two babies crouch together beside a pond, my son reaching into the murky waters to pass his sister a feather.
My boy and my girl and their two little backs, little arms, side by side, best buds in this fleeting moment.
I forgot my camera today.
- A Murder Of Crows. (flyingonemptythoughts.wordpress.com)
- Weekly photo challenge : fleeting (timetobeinspired.ca)
- Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting (thepanamaadventure.com)
- Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting (momentsinyourlife.wordpress.com)
- Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Fleeting (woollymuses.wordpress.com)
- Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting (livonne.com.au)
Last month we began house-hunting with our two young children. Our first look around the homes available in our neighbourhood was with a 60 year-old, quite serious, very important realtor. Upon meeting him, I sensed we could be in some trouble.
We arrived at the first house a few minutes early (which in itself, was quite impressive). The kiddies were full of energy so immediately sprinted to the soccer park across the street while we waited for the realtor. Rather than taking the sidewalk they ran down and up a grass drainage ditch to get to the park. Of course, the ditch had half a foot of water hiding under the grass. Of course, both kids got soaking wet socks and shoes, just in time to enter the house. By the time the realtor arrived (approximately three minutes later) my son had grass stains on both knees and my daughter had fallen into the ditch. Surprise, surprise!
Our realtor arrived and eyed our wet (but joyful) children warily. He shook our hands and halfheartedly said hello to the kids and led us into the house. I immediately discounted the place because it had no entryway. When my son violently kicked off his black rubber boots they flew straight into the realtor’s stylish dress pants. Oops. Not a way to start things off on the right foot.
All morning my husband and I made a valiant effort to look at shag carpets, harvest gold appliances, sea green kitchen tiling and classic 70’s wood panelling. A snapshot of a few minutes of our morning sounded like this:
Me: “I like this kitchen. It has a…”
My son: “MOM! Come and find the toys! Where are the toys?”
My husband: “Check out this family room! We could put the projector on this…”
My daughter: “Wahhhhh! Find soovie! Where’s dolly? Want a drink! Wanna go home!”
You get the drift.
Our children had one mission: FIND TOYS. It was quite amazing actually. In one house owned by a very elderly man, my son managed to rummage around and find the one toy in 2000 square feet: a cardboard, turquoise model of a Cadillac car.
In another house, my almost-two-year-old daughter found a teddy bear on a bed and picked it up. The realtor immediately panicked and snapped, “Quick! Put that back where you found it!” My daughter was pretty surprised. I was ticked off. * My daughter started screaming and the realtor was visibly upset.
Our story has a happy ending. We found two kind and easygoing realtors to show us around the next time. We found a lovely house for our family right where we wanted to be for less than we thought we’d have to spend.
A word of advice: When you look at houses, leave the kids with grandma. 🙂
*Whenever we’ve sold a house, I think it’s cute when visiting children play with whatever toys are lying around. If the kids are happy (and occupied!) the parents are calmer and more likely to take a closer look at a home.