My Kids Learned to Fend for Themselves While I Cleaned the Bathroom
I squeezed my hands into yellow rubber gloves and headed for the toilet. Glamorous.
After leaving this gruesome chore for far too many
weeks months, I shut myself in the basement bathroom and told the kids I wasn’t coming out until it was clean.
I avoid rubber gloves, raw meat and cleaning toilets. The minute my hands are inaccessible is the exact moment that my children need me. (You know, Murphy’s Law again.)
In the newborn years and especially in the newborn-AND-a-toddler years, time is of the essence.
In the newborn-AND-a-toddler years, Momma is always watching. Always on high alert. Ready to jump up and fly across the room to catch a falling child, grab an angry kid-hand before it strikes, catch a falling plate of spaghetti or grab a cup of milk before it splashes all over the kitchen.
Society scoffs at helicopter parents. We judge them and think, “Ha…they should be giving their kids more space.” and “How are their children ever going be independent?”
It’s a different story when the kids are tiny and you are the one responsible all day long, all night long and all week long.
The moment a new momma is handed her first baby she is responsible. The feeding, sleeping, safety, emotional well-being and intellectual development of a teeny tiny person are her responsibility. Hopefully Dad is there to help but Mom is usually the one bearing the emotional weight of it around the clock.
When my son was born the heaviness of the responsibility hit me full-on. I would tell myself “Women do this all the time all over the world. Suck it up. You’re the mother now. Relax.” When my daughter came along I revved up into an even higher gear, this time bouncing back and forth between the two like a ping-pong ball, trying (often failing) to meet their pressing needs simultaneously.
When my arms were elbow-deep in the toilet this morning, I realized something.
The kids called: “Momma, can you please get me a snack?” “Mommy, find my soother!” I kept saying, “You can do it! I’ll help you in a second!” After a few minutes of this, they stopped asking. It got very, very quiet. I peeked out of the bathroom.
My 2-year-old daughter was helping my 5-year-old son do up the zipper on his Superman costume.
My son found his own shiny red cape and velcro belt in the costume basket.
My daughter dug around under the blanket and popped her own soother in her mouth.
My son was at the sink, washing strawberries and cutting off the green parts with a kitchen knife for his little sister.
They were just fine. They were a little more independent than they had been the day before.
Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the day to day-ness of parenting that I don’t notice when things shift a little. Difficult behaviours or patterns that drive me crazy for weeks or months mysteriously disappear overnight and replace themselves with something new.
The changes come a bit at a time, maybe even when I’m just cleaning the bathroom.
*This story was first posted on The Purple Fig.
6 laws on packing with children (Murphy’s Law #10)
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.
Nostalgia (Weekly Photo Challenge)
I still remember that hazy, summer Prairie smell that you don’t know unless you’ve lived it; a mix of gravel-road dust, ripening barley and canola, lush poplar leaves and the sun baking everything together.
Our farm was a kid’s paradise. My mom and dad planted each little stick of a tree before I was born. By the time I was a little girl there were row upon row of willows and spruce joined by vast expanses of soft grass.
The summer I was six we built a deck on the back of our house. The builder left a space open to crawl underneath, the best hiding spot ever for a couple of kids on summer break. The lush grass was our carpet and we shimmied ourselves under the fresh boards to play, our dog Rosie following us in to see what all the fuss was about. We’d look for dropped nails in the grass, triumphantly holding up the ones that could be saved for fixing our tree forts. Usually a cat would wander under the deck too, sliding up and cuddling in, grateful for the company down at her own level.
My Barbie pyjamas and my brother’s Star Wars ones had permanent grass stains melded into the knees that summer.
As the shadows got longer and bedtime approached we’d blend into the yard and not create too much of a fuss so my mom would “forget” we were still awake. Sneaking into the garden to crack open fresh pea pods and graze through the raspberry bushes was the perfect bedtime snack. That summer and the ones around it are the ones I remember as cementing my relationship with my brother. We fought like the wild kittens that hid in the wood pile but we were usually buddies when no one was watching.
My daughter is barely two but I can already see an us-against-the-world attitude forming between my children. “Come on, little baby sister! Let’s run in the sprinkler!” or “Where’d my big bruver go?” The sibling rivalry is here too…the fights, the screaming and yelling over the same toy. The pulling and pushing and hurting that are all a part of it; practice sessions for the school playground when I’m not there to jump in and rescue.
It’s a whole new perspective, being the parent and not the kid; the one enforcing the rules instead of the one pushing against them. The haziness of summer blurs the line a little between parent and child. The sprinklers are on and faces are sticky with ice cream as the warm sun drifts down and the clock ticks past bedtime.
I don’t know which summer moments will stick in my children’s memories. I’m blessed to watch their own stories unfold, as mine did years ago under the deck in the soft grass.
Weekly Photo Challenge: Companions
My blog has been quiet. My son finished preschool last week so I have two very constant, very busy companions with me all the time. Funny how just nine hours a week of preschool gave me a slight amount of sanity. 😉
The good news is that my kiddies are suddenly realizing that they have a constant companion and a built-in buddy who is always ready to play. I’ve found myself actually watching from the sidelines a few times, enjoying being the observer instead of the referee (for a few minutes, anyway).
I didn’t really get what a sibling would do for my son. It’s only now, that my daughter is two, that I am seeing the life-altering impact of siblings, the way they carve and shape each other’s personalities. Another post for another day.
- Weekly Photo Challenge: Companionable (ryanphotography.co.uk)
- Weekly Photo Challenge: Companionable (joyandwoe.wordpress.com)
This is Two
“I love you, Mommy.”
Her voice, so new and fresh, whispers in my ear.
Tiny, silky-smooth arms grasp my neck, pulling me closer so we are cheek to cheek.
The early morning sun splashing on our faces as the coffee gurgles and steams and milk pours into an orange plastic sippy cup.
This deepening, mother-daughter love that
overwhelms and calms
amazes and exhausts
This love is two years new.
I forgot my camera today (Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting)
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)
House Hunting With Young Children (Murphy’s Law #16)
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.
My grandpa Harry was the kind of guy who would say hi to the kids before the adults and then drop right down on the floor to give us bear rides. He had a drum set in the basement we could bang on. He could instantly become “Igor” and scare us silly until we collapsed with giggles. Once I caught him red-handed sneaking around and stealing my Easter chocolate out of a drawer in my room. He sent us mixed tapes at Christmas time with his voice recorded over the carols, wishing us Merry Christmas from Eastern Canada.
Every since I can remember, his name for me was Beautiful One. He had six children of his own and lots of grandchildren so it was special to have a nickname. When I’d walk in his front door he’d embrace me with his Marks and Spencer sweater-clad arms in a big bear hug and announce “It’s the beautiful one!” When I called on the phone he always asked “Is that my beautiful one?”
One March break I flew out alone to visit my grandparents. I was in that awkward phase of life…about 13 years old, with a too-tight spiral perm (it was 1990) and not very comfortable in my skin. As I came through the doors at the airport, my grandpa and grandma rushed towards me and I heard it again, “It’s the beautiful one!” Sweet healing balm to the ears of a girl who hadn’t yet been noticed by the cute boys.
I was delighted when my son came along five years ago and my grandpa was here to know him. At 80+ years, my grandpa was down on the floor playing cars and outside giving my son rides in the golf cart.
When my little guy was three I became pregnant and we moved closer to my grandparents. It thrilled me that my second child would likely get to know his or her great-grandfather too. I secretly thought that if he was a boy we would name him Harry. My grandpa was the kind of guy that deserves a namesake.
He never met my daughter. He died when I was 36 weeks pregnant. We hauled my 3-year-old son to the graveside and the memorial service to say goodbye. As we sang Jesus Loves Me and ate goldfish crackers my daughter kicked and danced along in utero, not knowing the importance of the day.
When she was born a month later she was a bright spot in our family. My grandpa would swoon over her if he were here to see her in all of her almost-two-year-old glory. I can just imagine the goofy look he’d have on his face as he chased her around wearing his worn, brown, polka-dotted house coat.
Last week, a few days before the second anniversary of my grandpa’s death and right around Mother’s day, I came out of the bathroom, fresh from the shower. I had a ratty old T-shirt on and a blue towel wrapped around my wet hair, turban style. My daughter was waiting for me in my bedroom. She giggled when she looked up and saw the towel on my head. She ran in for a hug and I picked her up and sat her down on my bed.
She reached up to touch the towel, got very quiet and then the words came out of her mouth quietly and reverently: “Beautiful one, Mommy. Beautiful one.” My grandpa’s familiar, love-drenched words echoing through my tiny daughter’s brand-new voice.
The people who really, really love us don’t just ignore our scars, wrinkles, bad hair or whatever it is about ourselves we scrutinize in the mirror.
They don’t even see them. They are too busy loving us.
Guess what my daughter’s new nickname is? Beautiful one.
I will say it to her over and over, when she’s little and when she’s grown, if she’s thin or if she’s chubby, when she’s cute and when she’s in that awkward phase.