Posted by: Hannah | 10/24/2014

getting out of the helicopter

I pride myself on not being a helicopter parent.

Ron gets dropped off at art class every Saturday morning and we leave to run other errands.

Harry walks home from the bus by himself because I’ve taught him how to be safe on the road and I have to trust that he has learned those lessons.

George clears his dishes off the table and is allowed to play outside without immediate and direct supervision, as long as he’s in the fenced yard.

My parenting mantra is “I am raising adults, not children”, and I really do try very hard to give them appropriate responsibilities and freedom so that they can develop their self-esteem, learn life skills, and also not exhaust me because holy shit, helicopter parenting has GOT to be tiring.

Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat, is what I’m saying.

But then things happen that make me wonder just how relaxed a parent I actually am. And I don’t know where the line is anymore between “helicopter” and “normal parent in the 21st century”.

Tuesday afternoon, Harry and Ron went to a friend’s house. At 5:30pm I got a call from the mom telling me that Harry had vomited at school. The school hadn’t called, AND they had sent him to another child’s house without checking to see if that was alright. That night at 11PM I got an email from the vice-principal, saying that she’d “meant” to call me, but had forgotten.

Wednesday, Ron spent some time in Harry’s classroom, because Ron’s class has a weekly popcorn and movie day. Kids are allowed to bring in movies from home (Ron took in The Gruffalo last week). A classmate brought in a Spanish movie aimed at tweens called Daddy, I’m a Zombie, and it scared Ron so bad he burst into tears and had to leave the room. The teacher didn’t screen the movie first, it’s rated PG, and he showed it to a roomful of first graders. Again, I heard about this from Ron, at bedtime when he was scared to have the light off, not from his teacher.

Yesterday, Ron came home with a fat lip. Not a little fat, either. Huge. Immense. Swollen to a ridiculous degree. No reasonable person could have missed that he had an injury. His lip looked like Wanda’s from In Living Color.

In case any of you have forgotten “In Living Color”, this is Wanda. My god. How was this on network TV, again?

He didn’t tell the playground monitor about it – apparently he and Arthur had collided, and when skull meets lip the results can be pretty horrible – but no teacher all day noticed it. Not his classroom teacher, not the playground monitor, not the music teacher. By the time he got off the bus he was in quite a bit of pain, and eating his dinner was a struggle. We’ve been applying ice since last night, and I gave him some ibuprofen this morning, but it’s still very puffy and uncomfortable.

Also yesterday, Harry was running around on the playground when his glasses got knocked off his face. And then he stepped on them. It was an accident, there was no ill intent, but apparently someone at the school needed pliers to put his glasses back together (they did a terrible job, too) and one lens is scratched beyond use or repair. He was surprised that I didn’t know about it. “They said they were going to call you!” he said, as he was putting on his alternate pair.

So I checked the voicemail. Nothing. Checked the call log on the phone. There was a call from the school, at just before 9AM. I was out, taking Louis to preschool. They didn’t leave a message. They didn’t try to call back. And no one emailed.

This is my internal dialogue this week:

A phone call would change nothing. The lip would still be fat, the glasses would still be broken, Harry would still have vomited in the bathroom. 

Yeah, but finding out these things in garbled fashion from the kids leaves me with questions.

The school has enough to deal with right now, what with ongoing roof renovations that are causing a logistical nightmare. They are putting out a lot of fires this week.

My kids are as important as the kids who are sensitive about the construction noise.

There is no way the school I went to at that age would have called home for any of these things.

In the 1980s we also thought Lucky Charms were part of a complete breakfast.

I am not comfortable with the kids being shown movies in school that aren’t rated G.

I took all three of my kids to see “Guardians of the Galaxy” – TWICE – so there goes that leg to stand on.

I am so tired of being the parent who calls the school.

I am so tired of being the parent who calls the school.

At least the helicopter and the free-ranger are in agreement about THAT.

Because I do call the school, sometimes. Harry is still on the wait list for a psych ed evaluation – that process began at the end of grade two and he’s now in grade four. He’s had the same kid bullying him since preschool and that’s needed my attention. Those to me are big issues that require a parent’s intervention.

I’m not sure about all these other things. The kids haven’t had any lasting trauma from any of it (although Ron is once again getting nervous about Hallowe’en, but that’s not new – he’s got a pretty severe case of maskophobia and is always a bit jumpy this time of year) and a call wouldn’t change any of it. The calls home are always after the fact, anyway.

I don’t know what the right course of action is here. I’m stressing about it. I shouldn’t be. But it’s been a stressful and difficult week anyway, so my brain is fixating on these small incidents because these are things I can control.

What would you do?

 

Posted by: Hannah | 10/17/2014

fall back

It’s been so long since I posted here that I’ve almost forgotten how.

I have tried, I swear! There are currently 13 blank ‘add new post’ entries on my dashboard marked draft. Some of them have titles and nothing else. This is what WordPress does, you see, when you are forced to shut the screen / laptop / internet / brain down without warning. It creates a draft! How optimistic! Surely this writer-person will be back in no time to continue crafting that little slice of life for her readers!

I need to delete all those aborted posts, probably. They feel like failures even though intellectually I know they shouldn’t.

Where to begin?

Our 10th wedding anniversary was last week. A year ago we had Big Plans for the day. A long weekend away! Maybe Vegas! New York! Toronto sans children! Let’s get our wills done so we can get on a plane without guilt! THIS IS GONNA BE EPIC.

Then our real life reasserted itself. The boys went to my mom’s for an overnight this summer and fell apart totally, all three of them, in a perfect swirling orgy of homesickness. When she brought them back she pretty much said “no more, never again, nope”.

DAMMIT.

Then the car needed some work. Then some more work. Then the van needed two new tires. Then Harry had a chance at a winter-long baseball skills clinic with a Montreal Expos draft pick. Then Ron decided that he wanted to take art classes, and the supply list cost was more than double the registration fee. Then we all needed clothes, and Halloween costumes for the kids, and stuff? Other stuff? Basically we have enough money for our lives as they are right this minuteand putting aside any extra for fanciful trips to honeymoon destinations is just not in the cards right now.

In the end, we decided on an overnight at a hotel in Halifax’s downtown, and my youngest sister is going to come stay with the boys in the hopes that familiar surroundings will be enough to quell their rebellion at missing out on a breakfast buffet and possibly a hot tub.

We also had dinner in a nice restaurant with all three of them. They got all dressed up in button-down shirts and ties – at their request – and we were out past their bedtime. It was special, and since our marriage has been in many ways defined by our children (Harry was born nine months after our wedding, heh) it felt right to include them in the celebration.

Then Thanksgiving, and it was the nicest one we’ve had in a long time. My brother and two of my nieces came for a visit, and it was all very laid-back and relaxed. It was just… really lovely. My brother and I have always been close, but in recent months we’ve really reconnected and it’s been wonderful. Most Friday nights find me in his ‘man-shed’, drinking a beer that he studiously pours into a glass for me because he knows I don’t like drinking it out of cans, listening to the “90s at 9″ mix on the radio and playing Sonic the Hedgehog.  The shed is heated by the small cast iron woodstove from my grandparents’ living room – he even got the set of fire tools I used as a kid. I come home from these evenings filled up with talk and laughing, smelling like wood smoke and cigarettes, tired but happy, restored.

We also squeezed in a quick visit with my parents, just the boys and I. We went with her and my sister to pick out Halloween pumpkins – always a Very Important Part of the October festivities. We selected four good-sized ones, and then George insisted on a tiny little pie pumpkin for himself. He had to be dissuaded from bringing it in the house to stay in his room until the big day, and every time it rains he looks out the front door at our pumpkin family and yells “THEY ARE GETTING A BATH, THOSE PUMPKINS, AND MY PUMPKIN, WHICH IS A LITTLE PIE PUMPKIN THAT IS MINE.” I can already see that November 1st is going to be a challenge, and we will likely need to incorporate a wrinkly rotted pumpkin into our Christmas decor this year.

I feel like there are Pinterest opportunities there that I need to exploit.

 

Posted by: Hannah | 09/22/2014

George, unwound

Talk all you want about the terrible twos – three year olds are actually The. Worst.

YES I SAID IT WHAT.

My sweet baby George, my funny wee man, has in recent weeks turned on me in a big way. During our vacation I was already starting to see signs of the dreaded three year old behaviours: the pointless defiance, the rampant lack of logic, the roaring tantrums. Then school started, taking his beloved brothers (he calls them “my boys”) away from him for most of the day. The arrival of New Baby – christened “Charlie” in recognition of his giant round hairless noggin – has ramped everything up to eleven. George is jealous, and fearful of the amount of hands-on attention Charlie needs, so naturally he’s reacting by pointing all of those negative emotions at me.

At 1AM he woke me up by screaming “MOM MOM MOMMMMYYYYYY MOMMY I NEEEEEED YOUUUUU!” – the way he always wakes up, by the way, regardless of what time it is or how much sleep he’s had – and so once again I stumbled out of bed in a fog to see what the problem was. I’ll take this moment to point out that I’ve had one night in the past month? maybe? when he didn’t get me out of bed at least once (and frequently twice) to yell at me about things.

Anyway. I went into the room he now shares with Ron and crouched down by his bed. It took actual focused effort to keep my voice modulated because goddammit child, every night every night EVERY NIGHT YOU ARE NOT A BABY ANYMORE WHY DON’T YOU JUST SLEEP I AM SO TIRED. I leaned over and whispered “I’m here, kiddo. What is it?”

“I need a drink of waaaaater,” he whined, loudly. “In the green cup. With the orange lid.”

Now, it’s 1AM. There is a torrential downpour outside. Heavy winds are lashing the house and because I’m an idiot, I forgot to take down my wind chimes before the storm started, so what is normally a gentle tinkling outside my window is an alarming clanging that the neighbours will probably hate me for. We went camping on Saturday night so I’m already running on a sleep deficit. Things have been tense around the house lately and for a whole host of reasons there is no bloody way I’m going to stagger around the house looking for one particular cup that I haven’t seen in a few days when all I want is a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.

I go to the kitchen and put an inch of water in a cup. Back to the bedroom. “Sit up, buddy, here’s your water,” I whisper. He grabs his blankie and whips it hard at me, splashing the water all over me in the process. “THAT WILL MAKE ME PEE THE BED!!!” he roared, as if the fucking water wasn’t his idea in the first place. I heard Ron in the upper bunk starting to stir because while he’s a heavy sleeper, there are limits.

And this, my friends, is not an unusual story, lately. He asks for milk and doesn’t drink it. He insists on second helpings and then whines that he’s full before taking even one bite. He requests oatmeal for breakfast and then roars in rage when I start cooking it because NO I DON’T WANT MY OATMEAL COOKED. He gets up every morning between 6 and 6:30 – if I’m lucky – and demands stuff all day, then goes to bed and continues demanding stuff all night. While half-asleep.

I hate it, and I’m tired of it, and tired of him, and then I feel like a monster because I know. I know his world’s been turned upside-down. I know he senses the emotional undercurrents between Mom & Dad and that upsets him. I know that he was used to having his brothers around all the time, and now he doesn’t, and that bothers him. Even at swimming lessons last night, when a new session started and he didn’t get his beloved Emily for a teacher – even that is another change, and I was mostly sympathetic to his disappointment & sadness.

But I wasn’t completely on his side, you know? My internal monologue went something like but you love swimming now, and here I am in the pool even though I’m having a day where I feel like a giant fat hairy blob, and you’re not an orangutan you’re a human child who is nearly three years old, so if you could unwind your arms from around my neck and sing “The Wheels on the Bus” with the rest of us right now that would be awesome, OK? Because mostly what I want to be doing right now is lying in bed with a book and a cup of tea.

The only thing that’s keeping me (slightly) sane is that I remember these same feelings of sadness, anger, and ambivalence when Ron was this age. And Harry, although to a lesser extent, honestly. (Four was the bad year for Harry. Oy.) This is a stage. A stage that will pass. We still have our moments where I just have to hug him tight because he’s such a dear. He makes me laugh. He has a tender heart. We will get through this, and one day I’ll realize that I can’t remember the last time a child woke me in the night, or the last time someone screamed at me because I gave them the wrong colour cup.

It will happen. But in the meantime, sweet lord. Pass the wine and the earplugs.

 

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