February 19, 2011

The Big 0-3

My daughter just turned 3 last week. For some reason, I've been feeling sentimental and have been looking back at pictures of her from when she was born, and her first few months. Then at 6, 9 months, her first birthday, second birthday, that time she got chocolate ice cream all over herself...

My baby.

Though I know she is the same girl throughout, it's so hard to reconcile that newborn and my bright, brilliant, funny, warm-hearted girl with SO much personality. I was there, I know it's her. I remember all the transitions, all the developments.

But, it's almost, in my head, like these past few years have been lumped into a few major phases and as each passed through, my baby girl was traded in for a new model, which walked and talked, talked more in later versions, was increasingly cognitively advanced and dexterous. It's Just. Too. Hard. ...to believe that they are all the same person.

My memories of each of those big lumps of my girl's time thus far in this world are tangible. So much that I can relive the feelings I had, things I saw, smelled, sensed during those phases. How did she slip from one to the next without fanfare? I look at her one day and realize she has completely morphed.

I don't bemoan the loss of her younger self (though am certain I will one day soon) as I am enjoying her now so much, more so every day as she gets more and more communicative and aware of her world. But I will say that the raging, untouchable passion I felt for her at 18 months, even 2 years old, and before... It's ... Well, it's hard to explain. It's different.

I'm scared because it feels somehow diluted, though my love for her continues to grow every day. I *think* what has happened involves the introduction of a new child 9 months ago, like my passion and attention had to subdivide and the urgency of a newborn had to be addressed and quelled first. When I no longer could focus solely on my daughter, and be completely consumed by her, my infatuation seemed to take a back burner.

Don't get me wrong, my love has remained steadfast and is ever more fierce. But that wonder and amazement had to be dimmed somewhat. I don't know why. I feel guilty, and maybe ashamed. But I don't understand why. I am feeling those flutterings of pride and rapture start to return, but I think I needed to both adjust to having #2, and to this new phase of my daughter.... The one where she says "Cool!" and shuts the door at ballet class so I can't watch, and who is strongly independent and fiercely resolute when she makes up her mind. Not in a bad way... She just knows what she wants and politely accepts nothing less.

In short, she knows enough about the world that I am no longer her everything (and I mean my husband and I). She can challenge us with her behavior occasionally, and she gets this look where we know we're beyond reasoning and the M-O-O-D will be around for a few hours. We are lucky, though, as she is a great kid, polite and respectful of others, but she will challenge us just like any three-year-old.

I feel her slipping through my fingers. We are close as a family and physically affectionate. She loves us and we love her. But I see shades of the future and she's just going to keep going down her own path of growth, i am sure, and that will increasingly be including less of us and more of her peers. We have a few years to go yet, but I see it already.

My little one, how I wish I could wrap you up like a baby bonsai and just preserve you at this age, where you will cuddle me on demand and say funny things like "Mommy, are you fat?" or "Mommy, Daddy is sleeping at a friend's house tonight!" (still need to discuss that one with him).

But then I would miss watching you grow and flourish. I wouldn't be able to answer the questions I have now, like how will you handle public school? Or, will you keep dancing or swimming or playing soccer or riding your bike?

I shouldn't muse. I should live in my existential presence, where every day is something new, and that is terribly fulfilling. I know I love my kids more than anything, hands down. Whether I did things right or felt the right way, no one could ever say, not even me. As long as I can course correct when needed and reinforce when needed, that should be enough, right?

While Version 2.0 steamrolls through his infant days (and I mean that literally - he's become an animal!), my daughter is on her own course correction and is preparing a metamorphosis once again. Maybe this time I will recognize it for what it is and be less surprised when I suddenly realize I've got the new version, complete with updates, and will spend more time just engaging and less time musing.

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December 9, 2010

Have a Little Faith...?

Version 1.0 has her first Christmas concert next week. The preschool sent home a notice telling us that the kids would all be dressed as angels and would each carry an LED tealight and march in procession at the Catholic church. I felt uneasy with this.

First, we are not Catholic, nor are we committed to any particular faith or denomination. In fact, we do not subscribe to organised religion in any way. That's our choice, for better or worse. While I fully respect anyone's right to choose, I don't want my daughter or son indoctrinated in any direction until they are old enough to understand what they are hearing and can make informed choices one way or the other. I understand we are all influenced by the way we are brought up and can never be completely impartial, but this is the way we have chosen and that's just that (read: I'm not interested in a debate here around whether we should or should not be following any prescribed faith, so save that for somewhere else).

While the preschool is a Montessori, and Maria Montessori was Catholic and built Catholic teachings into her framework for education, it's at the discretion of the teacher as to how much is built into the curriculum  or the practices. Our particular school's teacher is indeed Catholic but does not introduce religion into the teachings, other than when she is explaining a Christian (or other) holiday, and to say thanks when they have snack. I have asked for Version 1.0 to be allowed to do something else when anything faith-based is introduced, and the school has been absolutely fine with that.

The point is, my daughter is not even three years old yet. Anything she hears, particularly in a structured environment such as her preschool, she takes as (mind the pun) gospel. She's not old enough to think critically about what she hears and make decisions about it. So, if she comes home praying and talking about Jesus, I'm going to have a hard time helping her unlearn that. Regardless of how you may feel about that, it is our choice not to have our children indoctrinated. This should be completely acceptable. She may choose later in life to adopt a faith and that is her prerogative. But I won't teach her something I don't believe in.

So, the Christmas concert. Yes, it's just Christmas carols and tealights and I am sure it's going to be really damned cute. But upon further investigation, I have learned there will be readings of scripture and some other activities lead by the church. I feel like a fraud staying to hear these words but I also don't want to rob my daughter of the experience to participate in these events. I just can't kick the uneasy feeling I have of total misalignment with what we believe.

I have had friends who have stated that they participated in faith-based activities when young and their own beliefs weren't affected, and I guess that is true, but isn't it kind of wrong to have one foot in each camp? Can I really show up at a church when I feel such discomfort with my daughter listening to all the things that are just not part of our own family culture when she's too young to understand the bigger picture? She's just old enough to absorb everything but the explanations may be too confusing for her if and when she asks.

Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Blowing up the issue? All I know is it's got my stomach in knots and I need someone to set me straight and suggest an approach. I guess it's all about allowing her to have experiences?

November 20, 2010

Reach For The Stars

IMG_0823 Version 1.0 had her first ballet class today. It was beyond adorable, and ripped my heart out at the same time. I just cannot deal with her getting older, and more mature, and less dependant, and more extroverted and more experienced, and… oh for chrissake, she’s only 2. What’s wrong with me?

Anyway, today was priceless. She started talking about taking ballet class many weeks ago, before I was aware she even knew what ballet was. I would have to say I was a bit surprised as she’s always been a rok’em-sok’em kind of gal, into soccer and her bike and WWF knee drops onto Daddy’s cheekbone in the middle of the night. I couldn’t picture her in this epitome of feminine.

However, she prevailed, as she does (the child has a one-track mind once she formulates an idea of what.must.be) and I enquired at the local dance studio. Sure enough, amid their largely restricted admission past September, they found a way to include her in their November intake. So, we got registered and started reading all the rules for the school, picked up the correct attire, and waited excitedly for the week and then day and then hour when ballet class started.

We arrived earlier than the teacher today, and of course we were having gale force winds plus more, so we had to wait outside the school in misery for a few minutes, but once we got in, we suited Version 1.0 up in her doll-like ensemble and she looked just like a little toy. And such a big girl at the same time, it took my breath away.

IMG_0811She did really well, for her first time, and skipped and galloped (when she was supposed to be bunny hopping, but at least it resembled a forest creature of sorts), and pointed her toes and plied with the most serious expression on her face as if she was up for her Royal Conservatory examination already.

What is particularly interesting is that she did take a few pit-stops to come over and sit on my lap for a few minutes to recharge her uncertainty batteries before joining back in with enthusiasm. However, all the girls began doing the same and soon it was just the teachers dancing by themselves in front of the mirror. So they closed the doors, and the kids went back to full concentration. What is it about Mommy and Daddy being there that makes them less likely to join in? Logically, it should be the opposite. We should be giving them the confidence to continue in the group, but it seems to have the converse affect.

Anyway, after finishing class and gathering stickers Version 1.0 wanted desperately to stay and watch the teachers dance during their practice sessions. She seems to be right into it, as also evidenced by the 852 times we have watched the newly-discovered Angelina Ballerina and the Youtube video of a preschool class dancing to the Toy Story 3 theme song (her absolute most favourite movie right now… hence the title of this post).

I wonder if kids find their inclinations this early, or if by next ballet class there will be a new order of the day and she will refuse to participate as she did last year with skating? I’d hate to pay the money now if she may not want to continue after the initial toe in the water. I suspect we just wait and see, but damn she’s cute in that tutu and I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t push for her to stay in.

October 24, 2010

A House is Not A Home

I picked up the latest edition of House & Home in the check-out line the other day. Or maybe it was Modern Living, or Expensive Houses You'll Never Have ... I don't know, I can't remember. Anyway, it had lots of nice pictures of beautiful rooms decorated to suite the style du jour. Curiously, they didn't list 'Toys R Us' as one of the style categories raging to the forefront in the lives of the wealthy and stylish.

Too bad. I could use an update.

Last year, we built a significant addition onto our home. Before you decide this makes me sound like I'm oozing money, our home is a half duplex from the disco era and we did it because it was the most cost-effective way to increase our living space - to say my husband is handy is like saying Mother Teresa did a couple of good deeds... He built everything himself and to code.

Anyways, we built this awesome addition in anticipation of Version 2.0 coming along one day (in the last month of the reno while we were living in a trailer in our driveway). We finally had all this space and we were going to find a place for everything, Version 1.0 would have storage places for all her stuff, we'd have a real living room where we could entertain... Yeah, that was a great daydream.

Today, we have toy store chic. There are toys and games and play dough and bloody ride-ons in every damn corner. My fancy bathroom is currently overridden with stuffies, squirty toys, three of today's wardrobe changes and a bench.

We clean up Every. Single. Night.

Its really amazing how this kid can make a mess. I mean she literally swoops through a room and pulls crap from every shelf, plays for a minute then on to something else. By afternoon you can barely walk through my much bigger new living room.

I want my daughter to enjoy herself and I also want her to take responsibility for her mess. We do clean-up time every night complete with a ridiculous song, and she will play along but to initiate it herself just doesn't happen.

Clearly she doesn't know how utopian life can be with those postmodern lines and nary a coloring book lying in the arterial route through the house.

But, really, that's not what I want. I don't want to exist in someone else's ideal of perfect. I'm ok with a bit of clutter and a well-intentioned mess. I just... want a bit of house that can be organized, and represents the guardians that now get steered by those short tyrants.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

October 6, 2010

What Happened To The Witches?

I was in the drug store with my daughter the other day and they had a whole assortment of random Halloween paraphernalia on display already. Some was amusing and some was frightening and some was a little bit of both.

Last year, she wanted nothing to do with it. She was freaked out by the scary faces and didn't get the concept of a costume - in fact, she fought me like a demon trying to get it on her... Until she stepped through the whole process and discovered that it ended in a contribution of candy in her little orange bucket. It didn't matter that she didn't get to eat any of it (that's what Mommy and Daddy are here for, as evidenced my Mommy's large size jeans), just the idea of the colorful sweets got her so excited.

We walked around for hours and knocked on every door and she turned to me and said "Mommy, Halloween is FUN!". She was not even two at the time so I can understand her initial hesitation but what a difference a year makes.

This year, she started reading her Halloween books a month early and is already planning her trick or treat route.

And, she chose her costume: Buzz Lightyear. If there is anything my daughter is not, it is girly. She wavered on her decision for not even a moment, bypassed all the frilly tutus and princess fairies and zeroed in on Buzz. Mommy is happy cause it's simple and one piece and will keep her warm throughout the inevitably rainy night. Plus, she looks damn cute in it.

But what the what has our costume selection come to? Call me an old biddy but every costume marked "girl" from say age 4 and up was some kind of sexy version of an old classic. Sexy witch, sexy nurse, sexy Frankenstein. Not kidding! A freaking short skirt, fishnets and heels for size 4! Unreal. I mean, I did my time dressing as a whore vampiress before but I was 23! Not 4! Do parents really buy those for their kids because they think it's ok for a 4-year-old to be sexy? Ick.

I guess on the boys' side the gore and violence emulated in their costumes would be a reasonable contrast but somehow it doesn't seem to quite leave your kid looking so... Pathetic and vulnerable.

When I was four, I wore a ghost costume with red lights for eyes and carried a large battery around under the sheet so my eyes would glow red all night. I suppose I could reintroduce that costume now for my daughter, provided it hugs all her curves in just the right way?

I just threw up a bit in my mouth.

Can we please have the witches and goblins and ghosts and Ronald Reagan back for our little ones? Maybe a dollop of creativity instead of skank? I'd like my kids' friends to say "Oooo!" and not "Ewwww!".

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

September 24, 2010

Regression Testing

My daughter is awesome. Not only is she super clever, but she's empathetic, happy and - best of all - she has a very mature sense of humour. She loves to make you laugh and will go to great lengths to make sure everyone watches her comedy routines.

Since Version 2.0 came home, she has been quite interested doing all the things she used to do when she was an infant. She spends many hours of her playtime diapering her stuffies (and attempted the cat), or wrapping herself in a blanket while drinking from a bottle.

More interestingly, she has insisted on following in her brother's footsteps when he is being transported or is hanging out with us. Like the time she insisted on being carried in the Baby Bjorn while my husband vacuumed:

Or yesterday when she decided she needed to hang out in the Jolly Jumper. Or today when she sat in the exersaucer for an hour watching her cousin session some vids:

I'm not sure how long this phase will last or if it is just part of the adjustment process to having a new little brother. Nor do I know how I really feel about having two babies at once, but she gets a kick out of it and she makes us laugh. What else really matters?

If she starts wanting to wear diapers again I am drawing the line.

September 16, 2010

I'm In A Chair

This post is brought to you by my betrayal of my working self, the one with deadlines and insanity these last few weeks... Or rather months. I sit now, still rocking my infant son on my lap (even though he fell asleep an hour ago) because I'm in a deficit of my children. I leave early, come home late, and have little else than their morning drowsy eyes and evening droopy smiles to carry with me throughout the day.

Heard this story before? A bit of a rerun, no? Man, I've got to get some new material. But before I move on, someone direct me to another working mom with a fresh newborn that I can connect with. Really! I totally want to exchange stories. Am I the only lunatic out there who goes back to work right away? I wish I had the choice but we just don't.

Anyway, yadda yadda I miss my kids right now.

So I'm cuddling and rocking and blogging from my phone for the first time ever. This has promise! Half the reason I'm so behind on my posts has been because I'm too distracted by work while at my computer.

This leads me to Topic 2 tonight - technology and parenting. My family is techie. We love technology (and love to hate it). I work with technology and for me information technologies are substantial enablers.

Contrast our access to information to 30 years ago - the, uh, decade in which I was born. No WAY did we have access to as much information that we have now. Doctors were silos and you were lucky to get a second opinion if you even knew enough to feel you needed one. Parents flew blind, particularly throughout the pregnancy phase, and all those things we take for granted now and consider absolutely imperative (ultrasounds, car seats, prenatal vitamins, etc) were only a twinkle in a midwife's eye back then. Yet somehow we made it through being born and thrived just fine for the most part.

So I wonder now whether our baseline for knowledge actually rivals that of the experts 30 years ago and whether all our self-proclaimed experts have taken on a sense of entitlement because our online communities are so empowering. Further, then, does this entitlement cause everyone to be more brave, or opinionated or even hurtful?

I experienced another online battle a couple of weeks ago and am ashamed I got involved in a moment of weakness and passion. I know better. So many people live for that crap because it embodies the only place and time they can feel like they identify with something and can be passionate and brave without consequence.

I realize this isn't news that people behave this way online but my concern is that we've become so critical and judgmental about issues that are so fragile and so important to get right that we're actually emotionally paralyzing new or experienced moms and dads who have any shade of doubt about these issues.

I kept thinking about this debate for days afterwards as it raged in cyber war and realized how stupid we would sound if we were behaving the same way IRL. We would look like a bunch of stereotypical fighting cats with all the mudslinging underway, and we would have lost credibility for seeming so evangelical.

Much worse, I think: most of these issues are *none of our business*. Who are we to try and influence someone else's choices or situation? What right do we have to marginalize women who haven't gone the same route we did? What service exactly do you think you are providing to new parents other than to help them on to the battlefield in one camp or the other?

Listen, if you feel passionate about something, do something productive or effective to really solve a problem. But for the love of pete, don't hide behind technology to justify your bad behavior.

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