Things I thought I would never say but said today before 11:15AM

Before I had children, I had all sorts of ideas about how it would be. I pictured myself as a serene, endlessly patient mother, usually wearing something white and billowy (it was my imagination, I can’t help the cliche!), laughing happily with my babies around me (perfectly behaved, snot and puke free of course!) most likely under a leafy tree or in a meadow.

I didn’t imagine repeating myself endlessly, or giving time outs, or that wearing white would be courting disaster.

Obviously I was disabused of most of my crazy notions within 30 minutes of the birth of my first child and the rest shortly after. But one of the biggest surprises I have had are the things that I hear myself say when I actually stop and listen to the words that come out of my mouth. Words I never thought I would utter. Ever.

For example, here are some things I said today before 11:15AM.

1. “Poor you! You bit your finger? Again?” I am beginning to get concerned about this one. It happens A LOT. And she always reacts like it is the first time…

2. “Do I have to put you to bed right now?” It was 9:45AM and I meant it.

3. “I think I just stepped in scrambled egg.” This is unusual only in that we did not eat scrambled eggs this morning. Or yesterday. Gross. Where did it come from???

As usual, there was no white flowy outfit. No leafy tree.

There was just one kid with a sore finger, another one complaining repeatedly about breakfast, and me with a foot-full of scrambled egg.

Ms Information

My mother had what could be described as a hobby of giving my me and my sister questionable information. The ‘information’ we would get from our mother was often outlandish and completely inaccurate, or, funny but not useful or appropriate.

To this day, I cannot look at Queen Elizabeth without picturing her wearing skin-tight jeans, farting loudly into a microphone, and knocking over a centenarian. Yes, it sounds crazy,  but this came from a conversation that started with me asking my mom about the queen. My mother looked at me seriously and said, ‘Well, she isn’t as nice as she pretends to be. Have I told you what she did last week?’

And though I have since found out that my mother told the truth (sort of) about clergy and hosiery (many wear support hose to help with  all that standing up!), the priest at my school did not care to discuss the subject during a pre-First Communion Q & A session with my class.

I used to think that my mother made things up because she felt like a laugh but have recently started to suspect that at least some of the time, she created bizarre and inappropriate ‘facts’ because she just didn’t have an answer.  I think this because almost every day, I realize, courtesy of my three children, that I am woefully under-informed.

My plan as a mother was to be as honest and accurate as possible with my children but I  had no idea they would ask so many hard questions!

For example, just today it has been revealed that I have no idea:

  • Why sharks are so mean. I am not even sure that they are mean. They are just hungry and everyone gets cranky when they are hungry….
  • How fish sleep. Do they sleep??? I feel like they don’t but then they must be exhausted! And if they do sleep, how do they avoid those mean sharks? 
  • The names of most dinosaurs and how they died. I vaguely remembered this from grade school but had to look it up. I understand that it might have been a massive asteroid that hit Earth. This is the kind of detail that  will lead to all sorts of other questions that will NOT help me at bedtime.  I want to honest but I want them to sleep at night more!

The temptation to make stuff up is strong.

Perhaps I should just send them to visit their grandmother.

The flush of new friendship

Striking new friendships in mid-adulthood can be sort of awkward – kind of like dating – and each interaction will either be the last or lead to the next, slightly more meaningful interaction.

A couple of months ago, the combined forces of a lengthy plane delay (nine hours stuck in Tampa airport!) and our children, caused us to meet a very nice family. The shared situation and the fun our kids had playing for at least five of those nine long hours opened a window to a possible new friendship.

We kept in touch when we were back in Toronto.

They came to our house for muffins. It went well.

A few weeks later, they invited us for an early dinner. We accepted.

It seemed like we were well on our way to making new family friends!

On the evening of the dinner, we arrived at their beautiful home about twenty minutes late (aka about as close to on time as we get). The children all ran off to play right away, leaving the adults in the kitchen to chat.

It was going well. The conversation was just starting to flow with a brief exchange about our mayor, Rob Ford (in Toronto right now, “Can you believe he [insert crazy-deed-of-the-week]??” is the conversational equivalent of: ‘Hi. How are you?’; and “Who on earth voted for that guy?” is like saying: ‘Fine, thanks. How are you?’) Right as we were about to all agree that Rob Ford is definitely unbelievable  (Translation for rest of world: ‘Nice weather we’re having!’) our two year old waddled into the kitchen with a diaper that was ready to explode.

I scooped the kid up, and grabbed my supplies.

I asked if there was a plastic bag I could have to dispose of and seal the load-bearing dipe but our hostess insisted that I must just bring it back and pop it into her compost bin. In the kitchen. Under the sink. Where we were all standing and eating hors d’oeuvres. I headed to the powder room with my smelly spawn.

My daughter instantly tensed up in the tight quarters of a two-piece washroom (unfortunately, we do not have a powder room or any washroom conveniently located on our ground floor, and being in diapers, she has zero appreciation for such things anyway) and refused to lie down with her head under the sink.

“Fine,” I said. “We’ll do this standing up.”

And with the  toilet poking into my back, I wrestled her out of the dirty diaper and into a clean one. It was going well but the used diaper was extremely full. Really, really, really full.

I thought about how I might wrap it in a way that would  somehow make it appropriate to place it in the middle of a dinner party. Nothing reasonable came to mind. I decided that it would be best (for everyone!) to flush the contents first.

I emptied the diaper into the toilet then wrapped it into a tight, tidy ball for the green bin, feeling sure I had done the right thing.

Until I flushed.

The water splashed around but not everything disappeared and the water didn’t really go down.

Crap!

“Poo!” shouted my daughter.

I flushed again and the water rose higher to just an inch below the rim.

Crap! Crap!! Crap!!!

I admit that a few crazy thoughts went through my head including:

  • leaving and never looking back (I would take the kid and just walk out the door, the rest of our family would catch up with us eventually at home)
  • closing the lid and hoping that it wouldn’t be discovered for a few days
  • flushing again and hoping for the best despite the odds
  • starting a small fire that could adequately distract from the situation.

But realistically none of the ‘solutions’ would work:

  • I would have to live with an angry family
  • our hosts would almost certainly know it was us that had left the ‘gift’ in their toilet
  • another flush would ratchet this problem up to disaster level almost instantly
  • no matches.

I called out to my husband, Michael, who is great with this sort of thing (his ability to handle gross situations is a quality that I could never have known he possessed or imagined how much I would value prior to having children). He recognized my emergency tone and came right away.

“Can you secretly ransack this house and sneak us a plunger?” I asked through the cracked open door while simultaneously thwarting my toddler’s attempts to re-flush and flood the entire ground floor.  She was getting a little crusty about being trapped in the washroom with me.

“What?” He looked confused.

Our child, never one to miss an opportunity, pushed her way through the open bathroom door, tights still around her ankles, and tottered towards the kitchen and our hosts.

“We need a plunger,” I repeated, opening the door the rest of the way so he could see for himself.

“Shit!” he said, stating the obvious. “Okay, I’ll be right back.” He headed for the kitchen where he (to my horror even though realistically there was no way we were going to be able to locate a plunger without them knowing and they had to have  already figured out that something was wrong) requested a plunger.

Unpleasantly shocked or not, they were quick to provide the necessary equipment and Michael de-clogged the toilet.

It felt longer but we had been there all of twenty-five minutes at this point. Dinner was in another twenty and we were all back in the kitchen again trying to move forward with the evening.

I don’t think that there is ever a time in a relationship (any kind of relationship) when it is ideal to clog someone’s toilet and doing so on your third ‘date’ probably does not bode well for the future. But we actually had a nice time and shit really does happen and maybe we will see them again.

You never know.

Stop wrecking my kids!

I know you mean well and it’s just a little treat. A small toy. A few bucks. Nothing. Except it isn’t nothing. Too many gifts and treats are wrecking my kids. I am begging you, please stop wrecking my kids!

When I was a child, treats were sort of special, and gifts came on just a few occasions. In my family, those were Christmas and birthdays, with very rare exceptions. This has changed and gift giving to kids, any time and all the time is now the norm.

The problem is, that this is more of an adult indulgence than a kid one. It is fun to give stuff to little kids and now more than ever, it is monetarily cheap, and easy. But it is costing our children dearly.

Here is why constant gift giving  is bad for kids:

1. It takes away wishing and hoping.

Think back to being a kid when you wanted something very badly. I remember the first thing I really wanted –  a Baby Alive. I wrote to Santa. I told everyone. I memorized Baby Alive’s information (Wets her pants! Batteries not included!). I thought about Baby Alive a lot! And I hoped that I would get one for Christmas. When I got my Baby Alive, it was a VERY big deal and this remains a happy memory for me to this day. Kids deserve a big deal too.

2. It reduces creativity.

Kids do not need a toy for everything. There are few things more amazing than watching kids with something as basic as a yoga mat or a wooden spoon or an empty yogurt container, making up some crazy scenario and working through it. It helps them learn and create and problem solve. It is fun!! I am not saying that kids shouldn’t have toys but too many actually can slow the fun down.

3. It creates entitlement.

My kids, who actually have very nice manners and are (usually) very nice children cannot help but expect mountains of crap when they see certain relatives and friends. They expect (and get) junk food, stickers, small plastic toys pretty much every time.  They consume the food, play with (and usually break or lose) the toys, and the plastic pile in our basement grows. None of this makes their life any better. It doesn’t make them especially grateful – it isn’t special after all – nor does it make them any happier or nicer to be around.

3. It commodifies love.

Children are pretty literal. They absorb all  the information available to them to build their understanding and knowledge of the world. Constant gift giving sends a message about love. That it must come with stuff. I know some adults that feel this way and they are not happy people with fabulous relationships. They tend to be disappointed and not very nice to be around.

4. It’s gross.

This is last but not least. Most of the toys that kids get are cheap plastic junk that will become cheap plastic landfill. North American children have too much and it is not sustainable. It really is gross!

I am not suggesting the end of fun or gifts but I am suggesting a return to thoughtful, less frequent gifts that are appropriate to the occasion. Will your gift (note no ‘s’ at the end of ‘gift’) be special or meaningful to the child? Or will it become  flotsam in their home?

Please. It is the only way to stop wrecking the kids.