number eight: amy’s first week of school

I promised to write about Amy’s first week of school. I’ve been putting it off partly because of time and partly because I haven’t felt like writing about it. But I feel I should get it down.

First off, she was sick for the first two days. Quite sick. So she missed her first day, which was an hour orientation with a small number of classmates, and she missed her second day, which was her first whole day. Then we had a weekend, and Monday morning rolled around, her actual first day.

So to give some context, this is a girl who has been super excited to start kindergarten. She talked about it enthusiastically throughout summer and she left daycare in July and didn’t really talk about missing it (granted, she was on vacation with me and her brother, so perhaps not surprising). This is also a girl who is emotional and wears here emotions on her sleeve.

I was expecting some tears on her first day, and there were some. She bravely went in to the school, though, and when I picked her up she was very happy. I’m not sure I expected tears on the second day. I guess I wouldn’t have been surprised. But I can honestly say that I did not expect tears on day 15, or 16…or day 22. But here we are, and there are still tears. Well, to be accurate, according to Greg, there were no tears this morning, just a sad face, but Amy insists she cried. So yes, more than four weeks of tears.

We’ve talked about it, and she’s very clear on the fact that she feels very sad saying good bye. And she does. She even cried at daycare sometimes. But it was easier on me then, because I could hand her directly into a caregiver’s arms (which we did), and she got a good cuddle, and 30 seconds later she was ready to roll. At school, while her teacher has been amazing, and holds her hand going into the school, it’s not quite the same. It’s not familiar (for me or her) and it’s not as intimate an environment. There are almost 500 kids at that school. There were 16 at her daycare!

So you’ll notice that “me” cropped up in the previous paragraph. I recognize this is a me issue. SHE is fine after drop off (according to her teacher and to the EA who is in the class some times). SHE is happy when I pick her up, and often does not want to leave after school care. She tells me all the good things about school (her teacher, some of the kids, recess, etc.) and all the not-so-good things about school. The only thing in the latter list is saying good bye. (As an aside, I am pretty sure we’ve heard more about kindergarten from her in one month than we did from Elliot all year.)

After a particularly bad drop off last week, where there was a substitute and I left her in the classroom, hearing her crying for me as I walked down the hall, Greg and I decided that he would do as many drop offs as possible. Amy is still upset when Greg does it, but perhaps not as much, and it doesn’t affect him as much as me. I think he can reassure himself that she’s fine. I can at a theoretical level, but not at an emotional level. That bad drop off had me crying uncontrollably, once I got back to the privacy of my car. Things have been better, mostly because of the Greg plan, but I did take her to school yesterday and we both survived.

I am pretty sure that Elliot felt the same way for the first few weeks (months?) of kindergarten, based on his behaviour. But his response, typical of his personality, was to keep it all in. While it was easier on me, I do appreciate the fact that Amy is so open to talking. About anything. She doesn’t actually stop talking until she’s asleep. So we talk about it a lot. She tells me the times of day she is sad, and when she is happy. Apparently it takes her until lunch time to be happy, but I suspect that’s not entirely accurate. And we tell her how brave she is, and we focus on the fact that she just needs to get through the good bye…and it’s probably sinking in at some level. I do look forward to the day when I can give her a hug, kiss and a good bye, and watch her smile and walk off. Elliot got there, and I know she’ll get there too. One day!

number four: highlighting the differences

Today is the first day of school. Elliot is starting grade 2, and Amy is going into kindergarten. Amy has been quite excited over the last week, asking me lots of questions about school and her schedule for the week (she doesn’t actually have a full day until Friday). Elliot hasn’t said a word about school. Yesterday Amy was so excited she couldn’t sleep. And she’d already planned what she would wear. Elliot had a stomach ache all day.

This morning I’ve been in the basement working, listening to the sounds of everyone getting ready. Amy is currently singing, and has been doing so for the last ten minutes. She is dressed and her teeth are brushed, and we aren’t leaving for another 30 minutes. I haven’t heard a word from Elliot. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was still in bed. I suspect he is having a silent freak out.

I feel so bad for the poor boy. I know what it’s like to be scared of new stuff. I’ve been dealing with similar feelings for over 40 years, and it sucks. I admire those who embrace and get excited by change. I don’t think I’ll ever get there, and I don’t think Elliot will either. I’m hoping we can teach him some coping strategies, and I’m hoping he at least gets to the point I’m at, where I can tell myself that it DOES get better. The new stuff becomes not-so-new.

I sure am proud of them both, and I look forward to writing a post when they are both settled into school, and when their mother is feeling a bit more settled herself!

number two: peas from different pods

It struck me recently that one of the main differences between my two children is the behaviour they exhibit when they are upset about something. Amy makes is abundantly (and loudly) clear what is upsetting her. I don’t think I’ve ever had to guess. Elliot shuts off when he’s upset, and does not want to talk. And I often have no clue as to why he’s upset. I can see when he becomes upset, but not why. Saying he doesn’t want to talk isn’t exactly accurate, either. He often says something while he’s crying that is really difficult to understand and I’m fairly certain he does it on purpose. It feels very much like he’s manipulating me when he’s angry.

Tonight was a perfect example. The kids and I were at a BBQ with our neighbours, and I was offered a sparkling fruit juice. I accepted, opened it up and started drinking it. Amy asked me if she could try it and I gave her a sip. Elliot came up a couple of minutes later and asked as well. Both kids don’t tend to like fizzy drinks, so I warned both of them before they tried it. When I gave Elliot his warning he burst into tears and stalked off. When I approached him, he told me to go away (which is common when he’s angry and something I find difficult to deal with).

What followed was typical. I approached him a couple of times, asking him what was wrong, and he would either cry and say something non-intelligible or stalk away from me. Sometimes this really pisses me off, sometimes I can be patient. Tonight it pissed me off and while I managed to keep my cool, I did tell him he had two choices: he could sit and sulk or he could tell me what was wrong and we could talk about it. Then I left him. He spent about 20 minutes pouting, but he eventually came over and joined us. He didn’t join me, he joined our neighbour’s daughter. And a little while later he was fine.

When this happens I have started talking to him about it later, when tempers have cooled. I did that tonight, and when I asked him what was wrong he got a bit weird on me but he did tell me. Apparently he had asked our neighbour for one of the fizzy drinks, and was told he could have one if it was okay with me. When he came over to me when I had the drink, it was to ask if he could have one. But he didn’t ask. He instead asked me if he could try it. And when I told him it was fizzy he interpreted that as a “no” and got upset. While I don’t fully understand his logic, I’m happy he can tell me about it later, as this hasn’t always been the case. I told him that I had had no idea why he was upset, and if he had told me right at the time, my response would have been a yes, and he would have gotten his drink. He changed the subject because he gets uncomfortable talking about this stuff, but before I let him change it, I asked him if he understood. He said yes, and we moved on.

As I said above, I do feel like he tries to manipulate me when he’s angry. Another scenario is when we excuse him from the dinner table for bad behaviour (which doesn’t happen very often) and ask him to go to his room until he’s ready to join us. He then doesn’t come back down, gets very upset, and when we eventually go up to talk to him he turns our words around and says we told him he couldn’t come back down. I’m a bit at a loss as to how to deal with it, but I have started trying to turn it back to him, and telling him that he’s making the choice to hear the words differently. Needless to say, this doesn’t go well in the heat of the moment.

Elliot’s anger has always been his hardest emotion for me to know how to navigate. I want to help him, yet often my own anger gets in the way. I think we may be making progress, but I think we still have a long way to go.

five years

On this night five years ago, Greg and I put Elliot to bed, ordered in some Thai food and watched a really good movie about a pregnant teen. It was a Friday night and I was almost two weeks overdue with “Beet”, as she was called then.

In the early hours of April 5th, I woke up with contractions, and about four hours later Amy was born. She has brightened our lives since the day she arrived, and I am so looking forward to celebrating with her tomorrow.

She’s pretty excited too, as evidenced by this.

these are chores?

The kids have been doing a few jobs around the house for a while now, but it hasn’t been too arduous for them — clearing their dishes from the table, feeding Heart and cleaning their rooms was pretty much the extent of it. Greg and I have talked for a while about giving them more to do, and getting into more of a routine, but as with many conversations we have, we talked but there wasn’t a lot of action. We even talked about it with the kids, and they kept bringing it up with us, asking when they’d have their “chore chart”. That’s some spectacular parental laziness…when your kids are ASKING to do chores and you’re blowing them off.

So…we finally said we’d start them after Christmas, so in early January I finally sat down and put together a chore chart. It’s a thing of beauty, I must say. It has a green (Elliot’s favourite colour) and pink (depending on the day, Amy’s favourite) border, green and pink tags to identify each child, graphics to identify the job, and it lists what jobs each child has to do on each day of the week. The chart hangs on our fridge, and it’s a thing of beauty from another perspective as well. The kids (Elliot especially), actually look at the chart each day, figure out what they need to do…and do it. We’ve had a little complaining from Amy when she has to clean her room, but previously we had a LOT of complaining in this department, and from Elliot we are getting no complaining whatsoever. He really seems to enjoy checking what he needs to do and getting it done.

The amount of work they have to do hasn’t gone up all that much: they alternate days setting and clearing the table, Elliot feeds Heart, Amy feeds Aphro, and they clean their rooms/put their laundry away two days a week (or more if asked). The fact that it’s running so smoothly has surprised me, but the other thing that’s surprised me is how much it helps me. Having the table set for dinner is a really nice bonus, and not putting their laundry away is just plain awesome. Plus, because they have set days for putting laundry away, it means I’ve put myself on a regular schedule for doing laundry and I no longer feel like I’m doing it every day.

And the other pleasant surprise has been the table setting…the first night Elliot did it he put stuff in all the “wrong” places and it looked messy. I was going to teach him how to set a table properly, but I got sidetracked (and I think in the back of my mind I realized it wasn’t that important). Then at some point during that first week, both kids started to get creative with their table setting, and each night it’s been something different. And I’m loving it. Who cares if my table isn’t set “properly”? Each night is a work of art created by one of my children.

I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

what to say?

Usually when I sit down to write a blog post I have a pretty solid idea of what I’m going to say. I’ve usually crafted parts of the post in my head (this is one of the things I do when I run, write blog posts in my head), and I sometimes have a catchy title as well. And I certainly know what I’m going to write about…

I have not done that tonight. And no, this is NOT going to be a post about how little I’ve been posting, since that would be one of my blogging pet peeves. But I am going to break my mould and write about more than one topic. Because tonight I actually have time and energy to post something, but I don’t know what exactly I want to write. So I’m just going to spew.

First, the training is going well. I ran for an hour and 45 minutes on Saturday morning (we won’t talk about how far that actually was because I am still way short of 21.1 km) and rode for just under two hours on Sunday afternoon (after much procrastination, and I *will* talk about how far the ride was because it was almost 40 km, I did some hills, and I averaged 20 km/h…not bad for riding alone late on a Sunday afternoon, tired from a busy weekend). I’m so far injury free, which isn’t all that surprising because I haven’t been injury prone, but I am a good seven years older than I was the last time I ran a half marathon, so you never know what might happen.

On the not-so-bright side, there is a good chance that I will be out of the continent for the half marathon, as my next Saudi trip is planned for May 15 – May 31st. Plans change weekly on this front, so I’m still holding out some hope, however they have started my visa application process again, and this usually means things are a bit more concrete. I’ve had a lot of time to get used to this idea so I’m not as bummed as you might think. Actually, that’s not true. I’m very bummed about missing a weekend away with my hubby, no children and six good friends. But run-wise I think I will try to find another run to do. Either that or totally bail on it. Interestingly enough, that second option is not very appealing. I am quite excited about this challenge of training for a half AND the Tour de Victoria, so I think another run is what’s in store for me.

Second up. Amy. She’s turning four in nine days. FOUR. Four was a big one for me with Elliot. It seems so much older than three. I feel the same way with Amy. She’s turned into a big girl. Yesterday she started a set of swim lessons at the rec centre. She’s done lessons recently through daycare, but it’s the first time I’ve been at her lessons when I’m not going in the pool with her. She got right into it and was glowing through the whole lesson. She looked like she was having a ball…with a teacher she’d never met and four other kids she’d never met. Whose kid is this? Has she always been so brave?

She continues to have her own sense of style and it’s one of the many things I love about her. I still remember the one day, long ago when she was two, when she had just mastered dressing herself, and I cringed at what she’d chosen to wear, but decidedly kept my mouth shut. That day, I remember making it clear to her care providers that she’d dressed herself. I remember talking to friends at work about how hard it was for me to keep my mouth shut. But I did, and I’m so happy I did, because we are constantly entertained by her choice of outfits, and now it doesn’t ever cross my mind that I should explain her outfit to anyone else. This is Amy, pure and simple. Layers, stripes-with-flowers, socks-on-the-outside-of-her-pants, skirts-with-dresses, sun-hat-with-a-winter-coat, five-outfits-a-day Amy.

Third. Elliot. I said on his birthday that I would write more about Elliot at six. Since I talked about clothing and Amy, and since clothing has been an issue with Elliot, I’ll talk about Elliot’s current relationship with clothing. In short, it’s much better than it was. He now has about five pairs of pants that he’ll happily wear, and not all of them are blue. They are all still sweatpants, but he’s broadened his horizons a little bit colour-wise. As for t-shirts, he’ll pretty much wear anything now. We had a bunch of hand-me-down t-shirts that he wouldn’t touch last year, and about four months ago both Greg and I subtly tried getting him to wear them by putting them at the top of his shirt drawer. Without a word, he started wearing them. All of them. We haven’t had a clothing battle in months and it’s awesome. That said, he’d still rather live in his pj’s, but I’ll take what I can get.

He has a great sense of humour, and he’s able to use his body and facial expressions as part of his humour. He’s reading more and more every day, and he’s loving the French. He’s also an anxious kid and he complains of stomach aches at school. That’s a whole other post that might not get written. For now we are supporting him as much as we can, and if it becomes something we can’t handle, we’ll get help. I’m not nearly as at peace with it as that statement sounds, but I’m trying not to project into the future regarding what this means for him as he navigates through life. I also need to remember that I was an anxious child, am still an anxious adult, and one of the most important things to teach Elliot is coping mechanisms.

He still rages, however not as often as he used to, and he recovers more quickly. It still worries me, especially when we’re in the middle of it. He has such a tumultuous personality and he’s not always the easiest person to live with. I’ve learned that walking away is not helpful at all, although I still do it at times if his behaviour is making me angry. Because yelling at him when he’s in the middle of it is useless. I can also talk to him more about it afterwards, and he seems to listen to what I say, and often can explain how he was feeling, once he’s calmed down.

Finally, me. I have been thinking a lot lately about parenting, more than I have since Elliot was three and on a hitting rampage. As siblings the two of them often have extremely endearing moments together (like tonight when Elliot was the mum, Amy was the baby and Elliot was reading — really reading — to her). They also often have moments where they are hitting, kicking and sitting on each other. I say Elliot has a tumultuous personality, but Amy does too, she just recovers much more quickly. So together they ride a roller coaster. I have lost my patience with them too many times to count, and every time I yell at them I feel terrible afterwards. I am trying not to yell as much. I’m trying to remember the mantra I thought up a few months ago, “parent like somebody’s watching”. But I question my methods, I question whether what I say to them is getting through to them, I question whether I’m royally screwing them up (although as my good friend Hillary pointed out to me this past weekend, what kid doesn’t get screwed up by their parents…good advice, and I should lower my expectations).

I have moments where I feel I’m the queen of all mothers, and other moments where I feel like a truly suck. It’s a bit unsettling.

But all that said, I had the best day I’ve had with them for a long time this past Wednesday, and I think it renewed my faith in myself a bit, and faith in the fact that they truly are great kids, fighting, bickering and meltdowns aside. I will endeavour to not lose sight of that.

god love her vocabulary

I was in Delicado’s this morning and while I was waiting for my food, I browsed through some knitted products and jewellery they had for sale. I saw a pair of purple leg warmers with a fluffy white cuff that I knew Amy would love, and so I bought them. Greg helped her put them on tonight and she enthusiastically told me they were great, and thanked me for them. I knew they’d be a hit, but it was still nice to hear such an enthusiastic reaction.

Tonight, of course, she is sleeping in them, and she just walked to the bathroom and asked us to check out her “warm leggers”.

the ultimate sacrifice

Let me preface this post by saying (for those of you who don’t know) that “bopp” is Amy’s blanket, and she loves it dearly.

I didn’t have the greatest day yesterday, and right before dinner Amy and I took a quick trip down to the grocery store to pick up something we needed for dinner. As I was backing out of our parking spot I heard and felt a loud crash, and I realized I’d hit a concrete light post that I had parked beside. That’s never a good thing, but it was the last thing I needed yesterday. I took a peek and for some odd reason I couldn’t see any damage, which was great, but I was shaken.

As I drove home I explained to Amy that I might cry when I told Daddy about hitting the post. I was near tears at that point and I knew telling him would be my turning point. I was trying to reassure her that I was fine, but just feeling a bit sad. There was a pause, and the next thing I heard from the back seat was: Mummy, you can borrow my bopp, but I’ll need it back before bedtime.

It’s nice to get reminders of what matters in this life, and the fact that my daughter was aware of my feelings and willing to lend me her most prized possession to help me feel better matters a lot to me.