I took this picture of my son with his stuffie a few years ago and it remains one of my very favorites. Rather than explain the relationship between a boy and his dog, I will re-post what I wrote about it last year:
B got Dogga for Valentine’s Day when he was 14 months old. It was love at first sight. Dogga became B’s “lovey“. Dogga came on the airplane, into the bathroom, to the park, to the beach, to playgroups, in the car and in the stroller. Dogga saw every first and many lasts. I’m a bit of a wild driver and once when B was barely two I had to slam on the brakes. B yelled, “hold on, Dogga!” from the backseat. I’m surprised he doesn’t have his own car seat.
Dogga has the power to heal cuts, dry tears, scare away monsters and cure loneliness. Dogga is magic. Dogga is practically alive.
Once we realized how important Dogga was we started looking for an extra, just in case. Fast forward a few years and now there are six. The original Dogga had his nose chewed off so “went to keep Grandpa’s dog company” on the farm. Now we’ve got Present Dogga (he appeared under the Christmas tree with a red bow), Girl Dog, Daddy Dog, Mad Dog (the way the fur goes over his eyes makes him look mad, according to B), Scottie Dog and Other Dog.
I’ve noticed the dogs are sometimes left behind now. They always come out for morning snuggles and quiet time. They always go outside for trampolining. They come on long car trips. They don’t come to the store anymore. They don’t come to the beach in the bike basket. They didn’t go to daycamp.
A year from now, B will be heading off to full-day kindergarten and the long, crazy days with two tiny ones at home will be over. Now that a change is approaching I understand what the kind grandmas in the grocery store mean when they say, “Treasure the moments. This is the best time in your life.” Even though some days are like a long, uphill (whining, screaming, chaotic) marathon, this time is fleeting. The tough parts fade away and what is left is beautiful.
Another blogger was kind enough to nominate me for a Top 25 list at Circle of Moms. If you’d like, click the link below, scroll down to Murphy Must Have Had Kids and vote each day until February 13th. 🙂
My little guy had his first swimming lesson in the big pool this afternoon. Until now, he’s been in the kiddie pool, in swimming groups named after water animals. He hated Starfish, goofed around in Duck and really mastered Salamander. I knew things may change a little when I registered him for the official-sounding Swim Kids One. He turned five this week so it seemed fitting that things might get slightly more serious.
He wore his red Lightening McQueen bathing suit, little knees knocking together and tiny goosebumps marching down his arms as we walked to the pool deck and scanned the list for his name. A chipper teen named Alix was the teacher. Two shivering, bouncing five-year-old boys were already there, water up to their necks. My brave guy jumped in and radiated that unleashed, uninhibited joy that only children in the water have.
I sat on the wooden bench and watched. Within moments, he was gliding away from the wall, fully submerged for a few metres until his blonde head popped up, revealing a sputtering, mile-wide grin. I got a little sentimental and felt maybe a fraction of what I’ll feel when he heads off to school in the fall: so delighted that he is independent and confident but a tiny bit sad that I’m not needed quite so much.
I looked away for a few minutes and enjoyed a moment of not being responsible. When I looked up his blissful smile was gone and his lower lip was out in a full-on quiver, his blue eyes fighting tears. The teacher mouthed to me, “He’s got a stomach ache” as my boy reached out his arms, wanting me to wrap him up in his brand-new shark towel and hug away the pain. We walked together to the family change room. He sat on my knee and I rocked him as I had rocked him for hours and hours in the years before, the water soaking through the towel and staining my jeans. We sat for ten minutes like that, he and I.
I’ve never raised a five-year-old before. I’ve taught many of them, but having my own is a different experience all together. It’s like a tug-of-war, a constant pushing away and pulling back. Mommy, I need you. Mommy, I don’t.
This must be the beginning of the letting go. Some days I’m desperate to let go a little. The endless “Mommy, mommy!” The steady rivalry with his tiny sister. Other days, days like today, I savour those long, soaking-wet hugs in the change room.
My husband went back to work this week after a 10 day vacation. Aside from missing him (because he’s a wonderful guy) I realized I felt a little edgy for the first few days he was back to work. Suddenly I was outnumbered again! A few things made me realize our vacation was over:
- No more sleeping in and nap trade-offs each day. On vacations I take the mornings and hubbie takes the afternoons. We both get actual sleep and are both happier to boot. When vacations are over, this luxury is kaput and we are back to maybe five or six hours/day of sleep each.
- I actually have to think about supper before 4:55pm each day. When two adults are in the house, one wrangles children while one cooks, cleans & does laundry. When it’s just me I actually have to (sort of) plan these things out in advance. We can’t have waffles for supper every night, as much as my kids would love it.
- I have an audience in the bathroom again. When my husband is home I can go to the bathroom alone. When he is at work, the bathroom is a public place with inquiring eyes and poking fingers. The genius who lived in our house before us decided to rig all the doorknobs so that no door actually latches. If I want privacy in the bathroom I have to contort myself so one leg is pushing against the door at all times.
- Showering isn’t guaranteed. I managed to get in a quick shower and an even quicker blow-dry today. No chance of using a straightening iron, that’s for sure. Living on the west coast, most days I can rival Monica in that Friends episode where she goes to Barbados. 🙂
- Getting out of the house in the morning takes two hours. Wrangling my beautiful 18 month old daughter into her clothing takes a team of people. She doesn’t mind that her diaper is lopsided, clothes mismatched and hair a puffy cloud that matches her Mommy’s. When her Daddy is around she gets colour-coordinated outfits and (an attempt at) pigtails.
At 5:15pm the magical sound of my husband’s key rattles in the lock. I breathe a sigh of relief. Back-up has arrived!
p.s. If you are a single parent or your partner works away from home a lot, I bow down to you.
p.p.s. If you have more than two children I bow down to you too. I’m not sure I could handle being chronically outnumbered. 😉
Driving to and from the grandparents’ house for Christmas vacation got me thinking: It should be illegal to travel with small children in the backseat of a car.
The distractions caused by children far outnumber any minor diversions caused by cellphone use, hair brushing or newspaper reading while driving. I cringe when I think back to some of the journeys I took while running on three hours of sleep in the months after each child’s birth. The police should stop wasting time ticketing speeders and phone-talkers. Sleep-deprived mommas are where the real money is.
Murphy’s Laws of driving with little kids:
- Even though you have purposely played only non-toddler music in your car for two years, Murphy’s Law says that the day you have a long journey to take is the day you accidentally put in a Raffi CD. Your children will sing Baby Beluga at the top of their lungs on every car trip you take for the next three years.
- Before you start the car, each child has a favorite toy in hand. As you back away from the house someone flings a toy across the car and needs you to reach back and pick it up.
- Before you back out of the driveway, the old DVD player is dusted off and plugged in.* The light in the cigarette-lighter-plug shines bright red as you start Toy Story 3. Once you’re on the highway a child kicks the DVD player, loosens the plug and makes the red light turn off, causing you to swerve all over the mountain road (*shudder*) to try to re-start it.
- There will be vomit involved. Just please, please don’t do what a friend of mine did. A dad I know was cleaning up a stinky mess and ended up shirtless, with a naked toddler, in a parking lot at night. Yikes.
- Don’t even tempt yourself with the idea that your children will sleep the whole way. If they do fall asleep, it will happen fifteen minutes before you arrive at your destination, thus nixing any possibility of a real nap that day.
- Before the car is in reverse, each child has a snack within reach. As you drive away, one child drops a snack and needs you to stop the car to retrieve it. Every time you pass a snack to the backseat someone will complain, “Why did she get more Mini Wheats than me?” or “Why did he get his banana first?”
- At the beginning of your journey each child has a sippy cup in hand. Just as you are merging onto the highway, your toddler flips her cup upside down, gleefully shouting “Shower! Shower!” while drenching herself with milk.
- It goes without saying that you will stop for a bathroom break. If possible, have a boy before a girl. When you are travelling without backup (i.e. a husband or grandparent) and your firstborn needs to relieve himself, you can simply pull over to the side of the road; no need to drag a sleeping baby sister into a nasty truck stop bathroom.
- Just when everyone settles down and you relax a little with your coffee, the steady refrain of “ARE WE THERE YET?” starts. You are not even a sixteenth of the way there yet.
- If your baby starts the trip happily sucking on a soother, it will eventually be flung to the muddy, Cheerio-covered floor. First option: Stop the car, pick up the soother and wash it with a baby wipe. Second option: Drive with one hand and crane the other arm backwards to hold the soother in the wailing child’s mouth. For five months my daughter screamed from the moment the car started until the moment it stopped. I did what I had to do to survive.
These laws apply only to one or two-hour trips to grandma’s house. For longer trips, take a plane.
*No, I do not have a minivan with built-in DVD players. I will never own a minivan.
My heart is aching for the families affected by the shooting in Connecticut this week. I find myself slowing down and just loving my children, breathing them in, if you will…taking time to embrace them. My image of “delicate” is this picture of my daughter, her tiny fingers exploring the lights and her tiny face lit up with happiness.
I saw a wonderful idea on a friend’s Facebook page. During the month of December, she is doing some Random Acts of Christmas Kindness (RACK) with her children. What a great way to teach young children that the Christmas season is about more than Santa and presents.
My son is almost five. He is at such a curious, open-minded age that I knew he would probably be receptive to trying some RACK. Our first try was to buy our Wal-Mart cashier a chocolate bear. His first reaction when I suggested putting it in the cart was “Why? Why, Mommy? Why can’t I have one too?” I was actually pleasantly surprised when he didn’t argue for very long and realized how happy he could make someone else by giving instead of getting.
When we got to the check-out, B eyed the cashier and asked, “Mommy, is that who we are giving the bear to?” When I said yes he was all excited. I thought he may get shy when it was time to give her the bear, but he stretched out his little arm, gave a big smile and said, “Here! We bought this for you!” She was so surprised and grateful. She said it was a change from what she usually sees happening in the check-out line. We’ve had plenty of days in line where B is asking for things so it was pretty awesome for me to see.
In the car on the way home we had an amazing conversation about thinking of other ways to help other people when they are least expecting it.
My next challenge is to encourage B to spend all of our Shopper’s Drug Mart points to buy toys for children who use the Mustard Seed ministry in our city. We shall see what that brings.
My challenge to you is to try a few RACK with your children. If you don’t have children, do it on your own. Share this post if you’d like to spread more Christmas cheer around!
- Building Traditions of Kindness In Kinders (teacherlingo.com)
Spring 2010. Shopper’s Drug Mart. My 2-year-old. He wants Smarties. I say no. Tantrum hits. Naturally, we are in the lineup and there are about 57 people behind us. Of course it is 5:00, the busiest time of day. We leave.
Last summer. At the park with friends. Our friend’s 4-year-old throws the worst tantrum ever. He sits in the car, about 100 feet away, windows open, screaming for 20 minutes. “He never does this at home,” the mom is quick to remind anyone within earshot.
Last night. A 3-year-old boy sits on the sidewalk near the beach. He is wailing. His mom is waiting by her car. She is exhausted. She refuses to give in and pick up her miserable boy. He refuses to give in and go to the car. The Italian tourists watching the sunset are gossiping furiously (in Italian) about how terrible Canadian mothers are.
Why are the worst tantrums always in public? Maybe because as parents, we know we are being watched (and judged) so we don’t handle it the way we would at home. I’d love to hear your best (worst!) tantrum stories.
Little A has been “walking” for months by holding onto hands. Anyone’s hands will do: mine, D’s, Brother B’s (which is adorable!). Around Mother’s Day she gathered up her courage and walked from person to person. This week she got brave. D’s parents are visiting and everyone was sitting in the living room. I was banging and crashing in the kitchen by myself when I heard “Mah-Mah? Mahhhhh-Mah?” Then, “thump, thump, thump, thump” as her tiny body and delighted face peeked around the corner. She ran to me with that look that people have when they’ve returned from a long journey and first see a loved one. It was the longest journey she had ever taken. Her shining eyes said, “You are everything to me. Thank you. Thank you for being up in the night with me for months and months. Thank you for putting me first. Thank you for being my Mah-mah.”
If you are struggling with a new baby and trying to find yourself in the crazy new world of motherhood, hang on. Your reward is coming, sooner than you think. Blessings.