One Family, Two Worlds

I stood on the sidewalk between two worlds.

I waved my Bigs goodbye as my Littles waited at home, playing. This is the point of my life now, two worlds within our own little family life. And it hurts, and it is difficult, and it is exciting.

This year I have been home with our youngest son. A few weeks ago, his kindergarten-age brother was home with us due to an appointment. Bearded Husband waited at home with the two youngest while I walked the oldest two up the street to school.

The seven-year-old immediately put his hand in mine, while the nine-year-old was somewhat surprised when I took his hand. “It’s not often I get to walk with just you two,” I said as way of explanation. And I miss it.

Daily I’m torn between the needs of the four.  The youngest two need more practical help and they all crave my attention and time. It is challenging to keep a balance.photo-58

“You don’t have to walk us all the way, we’ll can do it ourselves,” said my firstborn and his brother nodded in agreement. It’s not far, this walk to school, but that day the distance across the field felt like a portal. It was the path leading to independence, self-reliance, and growing up. A world apart from me.

I was glad, and proud, and I was sad. I miss you.

I miss your little hand grabbing mine. I miss you needing me to help you with your zipper. I miss you running and jumping up to squeeze me around my neck.

I need to savor this time while they’re on the cusp of growing up, becoming too big to hold my hand. 

I returned home, opened the front door and immediately was transported into a different world. A world of of booster seats, endless games of Candyland, and snuggling on the couch with a picture book. Piggyback rides, and play doh, and bubbles.

I love that the Bigs start the coffee in the morning for me. I love when they empty the dishwasher without being asked. I love when they offer to push the youngest on the swings. Their sense of humour and the running jokes we’ve developed –  I love it. I love the young men they are becoming

But I miss it. 

I miss their small hands and the smell of baby shampoo. I miss the days when they could fit on my lap. But they are getting older. And so I will let go, but in increments.

That day, the day they decided to walk on their own, I stood on the sidewalk until they reached the school yard, waving every time they turned to check if I was still there. And I was, waving to my boys who were far enough away that they couldn’t see the tears in my eyes.

Tears because I miss it, but I love who they are becoming.

It hurts, and it is difficult, but it is exciting, always exciting.

Advertisements

Phonics Works, I Swear

“Here, I’ll help. Just cover the letters and sound it out.”lower

One brother helping another.

Was this kind gesture part of the school Home Reading program or unsolicited assistance with a favourite book?

Neither.

It’s baseball season and we were watching Daddy’s game when from a distance I heard this literacy coaching. From the park. On the slide.

“Okay, okay, ffff–uh–k.  Fff-uh–k.  FF-UH-K!” chirped our five-year-old.

“I’m pretty sure he’s saying ‘frog’,” my kind-hearted friend said.

Before I even fully turned around, I was quite certain he was not saying “frog”. That’s not typically the word that gets spray painted on a slide. At least I’ve never seen graffiti that reads “Frog U” or “FROG”.

Nope.200

He was definitely reading graffiti and sharing his new found knowledge with his other brothers and random park-goers. And it was definitely not “frog”.

I called my naive son over and asked him what he was saying. Don’t worry, I played it cool. He proudly announced his new word. And no, he’d never heard it before.

So I called over his older brothers, too and we quietly chatted about appropriate vocabulary. I don’t know why I was surprised that they already knew the word, but I was pleased that they have chosen not to use it. I informed them that Daddy and I know all the bad words and we choose not to use them (most of the time) and we hope they would make the same choice. Never mind how many bad words there are, the point is the we don’t say them.

As I was explaining this, I could see the five-year-old quietly sounding it out to himself, so I knew he was not getting the message. That’s when I told him, “you aren’t in trouble for saying it tonight, you didn’t know, but if you say that word at school THEY WILL SEND YOU HOME IT’S A REALLY BIG DEAL.”

There, that should do it.

All is well, he knows that it’s a word we avoid using and that it can hurt people’s feelings. Nicely done, Mom. Go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back. Yup, no kid of yours will be a swearer. 

We drove home separately, the five-year-old excited to have Daddy all to himself.  Later, as we wrapped up the bedtime routine, Bearded Husband casually turned to me and said, “On the ride home, he told me he learned a new word at the park. He was pretty proud of how he sounded it out and demonstrated it to me three times.”

I’m just waiting for the call from the school.

What Cup?

Eight days.

EIGHT DAYS.

I thought perhaps they were playing a game of chicken with me or had colluded to see how long I could stand it. But I was wrong.

After eight days every male in this household said, “what cup?”

But I’m getting ahead of myself, especially if you weren’t following along during the whole debacle.

What Cup? I don’t see any cup

One morning as I tidied up the breakfast mess I noticed a blue plastic cup under the slight overhang of kitchen cupboard. This also happens to be the highest traffic area in our house. My first instinct was to pick it up and return it to its home with the other colourful kids dishes (after a wash, of course, rest easy, it’s safe to eat here). But then I thought, “No.”

“No, I’m tired of picking up random things the boys leave around. No, I have gathered up enough dirty socks left on the coffee table, Lego on the bathroom counters, hoodies on the steps. Enough. The boys have walked by that spot no less than six times already without bothering to pick it up, so I won’t either. Because principles.”

And there it sat.

One full day.

Two days. That’s when I started to document and fully committed not to pick up that cup.

Clearly visible to the naked eye.
Clearly visible to the naked eye.

It hurt. Trust me. It took all my self-restraint not to pick it up. BUT I HELD ON.

Walking by like there isn't a cup RIGHT AT HIS FEET.
Walking by like there isn’t a cup RIGHT AT HIS FEET.

My Facebook community started chiming in, with some asking for my home address to take care of this business themselves. But I WOULD NOT BE MOVED.

And there it sat, collecting dust and missing its cup friends.

Day Three

Day Four

Day Five

photo 5-2
They were all within ten feet of me when I set up this shot.

Day Six my friend was over for coffee and in less than ten minutes of being here she said, “hey, this was on the floor” and had the cup in hand. To which I gently replied, “PUT THAT CUP BACK I AM DOING SOME SERIOUS SOCIAL SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH.” She may or may not return.

By Day Seven I decided to change things up a bit. So I added a Hershey Kiss. I thought this way I would know if the males in this house truly didn’t see the cup or were choosing to ignore it. And it was American Hershey, so you know I meant business.

Here, boys, come and get the shiny chocolate.
Here, boys, come and get the shiny chocolate.

Nothing.

The cup remained.

Some friends on social media suggested upping the ante, perhaps with cash. My plan was to add something every day until it was discovered. So on Day Eight I included a loonie (that’s Canadian for dollar). Once again, I did this within the presence of my family. We left for the walk to school and then – EVERYTHING CHANGED.

Plot Twist

I returned home with Little who said he was thirsty. As we took our shoes off I said I’d get him a drink in a second. He was only steps ahead of me. “That’s ok. I found a cup right here!” he chirped and held up The Cup.

“Where did you get that?” I asked him, playing it cool.

“On the floor,” he replied.

“Was there anything else on the floor?” I inquired.

“Nope.”

Oh, the game had changed. Who could have removed the candy and money, but left the cup? My number one suspect was Bearded Husband. I determined I would not give him the satisfaction of a text asking him, oh, no, two could play it this way. I would Wait. Him. Out.

And then the game changed again. My friend texted to tell me that a coworker strode into the staff room, walked up to BH and said, “JUST PICK UP THE CUP ALREADY” and then walked out. BH was perplexed and our friend told him I was doing a social experiment and not to worry about it. “Was I supposed to ask her about her hair or something?” he asked.

No.

So it was not Oblivious Bearded Husband. The mystery prevailed. I thought I’d have to give up, but not before interrogating all the other males in the house first. Denials and confusion abounded.

Cup Resolution

Finally at dinner time we brought our various stories together and I explained what had been going on. “What cup?” all five of them asked. ALL FIVE OF THE PEOPLE WHO WALKED BY THAT CUP FOR EIGHT DAYS. Except Little changed his story and said, “Oh, yeah, the blue cup on the floor that had the money and the New Work chocolate.”

Hold on, New Work chocolate? Coin? This kid knew more than he was saying.

“Did you see those things in the cup?”

“Yup.”

“Where are they?”

“I don’t know. Where are they?” he replied. Then he seemed to have a flash of memory and started opening kitchen drawers. After a few minutes of baffling conversation where he repeatedly asked me where he had put them, we concluded that he snagged the treats, hid them, then forgot their location before he even asked me for that fateful drink. All because he wanted to eat the chocolate himself.

I surrender.

If you need me, I’ll be sobbing quietly as I pick up random game pieces and underwear off the basement floor.

Baseball Pledge

It’s here.

Welcome back, baseball season!

Sure, I’ll take you boys to watch Dad’s games, but first…

Please raise your right hand and repeat after me
You ate a full meal, stop asking for snacks.
You ate a full meal, stop asking for snacks.

I do solemnly swear to refrain from begging for snacks, especially right after I ate one.

Bleachers are for sitting. Not climbing. Not racing, not drumming. On or off, I will choose one.

If I must pee against a tree, I will do so discreetly and without spraying bystanders.

I’ll do my best to let Mommy watch the game.

I will not heckle my father mid-throw.

I will not heckle my father while he’s at bat.

I will not heckle in general.

All small toys I bring to the ball diamond are my sole responsibility.

I will refrain from using the following words: butt, butt crack, penis. I recognize that additional words may be included at the whim of either parent.

I vow not to give my brothers wedgies.

I will do my best to let Mommy watch parts of the game.

Again, I vow not to harass my mother for additional snacks.

Any and all clothing I choose to remove is as mentioned above, my sole responsibility.

I will let Mommy catch a few glimpses of the game.

This is my promise.

Play Ball!

Swing batter, batter!
Batter up!

 

Affection Journey

When I was a kid, my dad would intermittently pop little notes in my lunch bag. “Daaaad. That’s so embarrassing” I would moan after finding one of his I love you, Princess! post-its. (He also liked to torment me by cutting my sandwiches into 8 or more pieces, but that’s a story for another day).

Confession: I acted like it bothered me to discover these written displays of affection, but I secretly liked it. You’re never too old to be surprised at lunch time. Who doesn’t appreciate an unexpected note of encouragement?

Recently I realized that although I occasionally send similar notes to my boys, I could improve my performance in this area. Pinterest will tell you that you should use hand-crafted paper, calligraphy, and flowery rhymes to create odes of love to your offspring, but I’m here to tell you that any gesture is valued. I’ve recommitted to speak love into the lives of my children on a more frequent basis. Won’t you join me?

Here are a few samples, to inspire you on your Affection Journey.

photo 1-24

photo 2-21

photo 3-14

I like to have a theme, but it’s not essential. You be you.

photo 4-5

photo 2-22

The direct approach is always in style.

photo 3-15

Above all, be specific.

photo 1-25

Are you with me? Let’s do this.

Have an inspired note you’ve sent with your little angel? Share it over on my Facebook page and help inspire other like-minded parents. Alright, alright, commiserate, we can commiserate together.

House Rules for a House Full of Boys

Nothing prepares you for being a parent of a house full of boys. You can read a multitude of online posts or buy all the parenting books you like, but reality is the best teacher (and she’s merciless). Since I’m in the midst of raising four boys aged ten and under, I will try to help you out a bit and share a few of our house rules. Shake your head and dismiss them if you like, but one day you’ll discover your son cleaning his penis with a toothbrush and you’ll whisper, “She was right, about all the things.”

House Rules for a House Full of Boys

1. Pants are not optional. Ok, they are, but there are conditions. For instance, when we have company. If the doorbell rings, you find those pants and put them on as quickly as possible. Also, you are not permitted to suggest pants removal to any of your friends. Mommy doesn’t want to get arrested. And no matter how much you enjoy the “comfort” and “freedom” of wearing just your skivvies, pants must be worn for any and all meals. Especially in the dining room. Yes, even if it’s just pizza.

2. Change your underwear. Every day. Clean ones. They might look clean, they might smell clean, but no. It’s non-negotiable.

Clever, but seriously, stop it.
Clever, but seriously, stop it.

3. Potty Talk: There’s a Time and a Place. I get it, farts are funny. I can appreciate a well-executed burp, I’ll even join in. But you have to know when and where this is okay. Hanging out in our basement? Sure. But the grocery store line is not the place to announce that your “penis is sticky.” If you do let a silent and deadly one rip, don’t feel the need to announce it, especially in the middle of a restaurant…with your grandparents. Randomly tossing out phrases like “butt crack” and “poop” are only hilarious to you and your brothers, move on.

4. We only lick food. Preferably your own. Doorknobs, seat backs, and other people are not recommended. And please refrain from telling your brother he will get super powers if he licks the bottom of his shoe.

5. If the bathroom door is shut, walk away. I get it, you know I’m trapped and you’ll get my undivided attention, but your request for “more Netflix” or the need to tell me your pants “feel weird” will be better received once I’m done. Same goes for tattles about your siblings. I’m not willing to play Judge, Jury, and Executioner from behind a closed door. Go away. And while you’re at it, ignore any sounds that resemble candy wrappers being opened, that’s strictly your imagination.

6. Mommy’s appearance is off limits. Unless of course, it’s a compliment. Please refrain from observing that my arms are “floppy” or my bum is “fluffy”. I don’t need confirmation that I look tired or that my legs are “scratchy”. I have a mirror, I’m self-aware. Please resist pointing out my gray hairs or a new wrinkle. Those are your fault anyways. I’d like to blame you for stray chin whiskers, but let’s at least pretend they aren’t visible. And my tummy is squishy because of you and your brothers (possibly from apathy and chocolate consumption, but mostly from you.)

7. Outside Stays Outside. Water guns do not get used indoors. I don’t care how much you love and cherish the cricket you found in the garden, it’s not a pet you’re keeping in your room. Baseball equipment was specially designed for outdoor use, act accordingly. Snowball fights in the front hall would be amazing. No.

8. Listen to Your Mother. I might not have pinched my penis in a dresser drawer, but I have life experience on my side. If you drop a bouncy ball in the toilet, I recommend you just throw it out, but at the very least do not put it in your mouth. If you breakdance naked, you will get carpet burns. Just because you “tried it with Daddy and no one got hurt” does not mean it’s a good idea.

Parting words of advice: It helps, but saying “voila!” after you do something naughty will not get you off the hook.

Blue Day

Look! It's Blue Day again, but not "Style Your Hair and Put Make-up On" Day
Look! It’s Blue Day again, but not “Style Your Hair and Put Make-up On” Day

It was a typical morning. The beds were made, boys were dressed, I got myself ready and headed to the kitchen to join the family for breakfast. That’s when it all changed. One simple, seemingly harmless observation was all it took.

“Hey! You’re wearing a blue shirt and so is Daddy – did you guys plan that?” I asked Son #3 who was busy eating his cereal.

He paused, mid-shovel, looked down at his clothes, then gasped, “I’m wearing blue, too!”

“Yes, that’s what I just said.”

“I’m wearing blue and Daddy is wearing blue!”

(do I not get credit for stating that very observation ten seconds ago? Nothing? Not even a nod?)

“I’m wearing blue, Daddy is wearing blue and so are you!” and he pointed to Son #4.

“Yes, it’s almost like you planned it. Is today Blue Day?”

“So, Daddy is wearing blue, I am wearing blue, that brother is, but NOT THAT BROTHER.”

“Right, like I said, lots of us are wearing blue today.”

“I have blue on my shirt, see?!” piped up Son #1, clamouring to be included in this momentous occasion.

“But it’s not ALL blue, like Daddy and me,” retorted #3.

“It’s blue. Right. Here,” #1 shot back.

“That means one, two, three, THREE of are wearing blue.”

“And me,” #1 angry-whispered, not willing to back down.

Me: “I’m wearing a blue shirt today, too, but it’s not the same shade.” (What? Why was I still engaging in this conversation? Somebody stop me).

#3 glances at me and shouts, “Hey! You’re wearing blue, too. That means, one, two, three, FOUR of us are wearing blue.”

Are you even hearing me? Maybe they can’t see me. Wait, Bearded Husband just rolled his eyes at me, so I’m definitely visible.

#2 Son strolls into the kitchen.

“Wait, that brother has blue on his shirt so that means, one, two, three, four FIVE of us have blue on. But only me and Daddy are wearing the same blue. ACTUALLY, he has some blue on, too. So that means, one, two, three, four, five SIX of us are wearing blue today. But only me and Daddy are wearing the same blue.”

#2 shrugs and exits kitchen.

#4 randomly shouts out, “NooooooOOOO,” just to be controversial, then struts out of the room.

This will not do. #3 throws his arms up in the air in exasperation, “But it ISN’T.

I’ve lost track, what were we debating? Is it hot day? Did I put pants on? I’m so confused.

#3, “We all have blue on, it’s like it’s Blue Day.”

Yes, yes it is.

———


giphy