Category Archives: Children

Second Chances

I knew this day was coming.

Image credit: cloudfront.net

Image credit: cloudfront.net

I had already realized that nobody sits their children down in the living room anymore, signaling to them that something important is about to go down when the parent is ready to have “the talk”.

These days, the opportunities are numerous for a parent to be able to start the conversation about the facts of life – and the sooner the better. Despite knowing this however, I completely missed my chance to do so. That’s probably because when the occasion presented itself, it caught me a little off-guard.

My son, in his Social Studies class was discussing the different types of families and the problems that some of them can experience. We’d gone through some of the problems, solutions and the agencies or organizations that could help, for some homework questions.

When the test came, and I was reviewing the results, I saw that he had mentioned teenage pregnancy as one of the issues that young people can face. I guess he got that from the discussion in class, because it was the first time I was hearing about it.

He was asked to suggest a solution that would prevent teenage pregnancy, and his answer to that age-old concern was – well let’s just say it’s something that involved sports. And I blurted out that the best way I could see that teenage pregnancy could be avoided was to not have sex in the first place.

Eeew.

This was not exactly how I figured I would be having my first talk with my children about sex. Or maybe it was a tailor-made opportunity. However, I lobbed it back.

But not before my daughter asked me whether I had ever had sex. And I answered that “I had kids didn’t I?”

Image credit: wordpress.com

Image credit: wordpress.com

What should have followed was talk about penises and procreation, budding breasts and boys, and the fact that some things are a natural part of life, but that they shouldn’t take place before a certain time in life, that certain actions can limit your choices in life, and that I want to give them all the information to make proper decisions in life.

Instead, my son made a mental correction and we moved on to the next question.

And I breathed a sigh of relief, determined to be ready when my second chance came around.

Desperately Seeking Attention

Image credit: extension.org

Image credit: extension.org

When my children were younger, they did what all children do, which is follow their parent (usually the mother) to the bathroom when she has to leave something in there, but they usually don’t.

Now that they’re a little older they’ve graduated from that and moved on to – well they haven’t really moved on. They still seem to gravitate to the bathroom, choosing that particular time to make their requests.

It’s when I’m stepping into the bathroom that’s seen as the ideal time to talk to me about nothing in particular, or to get permission to have the piece of cheese in the fridge that’s calling her name, or deciding that it’s the perfect time to inform me that she has been wronged by her sibling, who didn’t say “sorry”, so she requires me to have a chat with the offender so that she can satisfy herself that a beating will ensue.

It’s when I shut the door that’s seen as the perfect time to ask where his father is even though we came home without him, or to run an idea by me, or to negotiate what he’d like to get for Christmas, or to ask for permission to watch TV or deciding that it’s the perfect time to inform me that he has been wronged by his sibling, who didn’t say “sorry”, so he requires me to have a chat with the offender so that he can satisfy himself that a beating will ensue.

Emergencies like these, as well as others that occur when I’m on the phone happen all the time. So I have to inform about the proper definition of an “emergency”, and warn that unless the house is burning down, except they hear an explosion or save for someone trying to get through the front door without knocking, I’ll need for them to wait until I finish my business – wherever that presently is.

Camping outside the bathroom door, or mouthing their query while I talk on the phone has not gone down well with me, but I think they’re hopeful that I’ll give them what they want just to get them to go away. They don’t realize that I’m counting the number of times I have to repeat what’s already been said and deducting it from their college fund. At the rate they’re going it doesn’t look as if they’ll be going anywhere.

Lately, any conversation between me and my husband is seen as the opportune time for showing us the newest drawing or telling us a joke that’s been running since I was a child. Even a recent episode of their favourite show with dialogue included just must be shared when both of us are seen to be speaking in earnest.

Whatever happened to children being seen and adults not being disturbed?

Holding It In

My daughter has never seen a bathroom that she didn’t like – to enter.

Image credit: sandwplastics.com

Image credit: sandwplastics.com

When I say bathroom, I really mean a restroom. The public ones that I only use at the really-must have-to-go-if-I-don’t-want-to-end-up-embarrassing-myself times. Which happens a lot lately because I just can’t see the point of holding it in anymore. Back in the day, I used to be able to delay the inevitable for hours at a time, leaving my husband to wonder how I managed to do it. I told him that I acquired that useful skill by refusing to get up at three in the morning.

My daughter doesn’t feel the need to hold on to things either, so nothing can stop her from wanting to use the restroom when we visit the supermarket, the shoe store, restaurants, churches, government offices, the drug store, and every conceivable place where she (rightly) deduces that a bathroom should be provided for potential customers or the general public. I’m convinced she wants to go in just to have a look around.

That can be the only explanation, because even though she’s given a chance to empty her bladder before we leave home, she still finds something that she wants to leave in the ladies’ room of wherever it is that we’re going. And my foolish query about why she didn’t do it when she had a chance is met by a look of incredulity when she answers that she “didn’t need to do it then”.

I know one mother who made sure that she trained her daughters to suppress their desire to visit any bathroom other than their own. It’s a matter of pride for her, but I never got around to telling my daughter about all the dangers that lurk in the places that other people visit.

So because of her insistence on visiting the powder room of every place she’s ever been (and dragging me along with her), I suppose the least I can do is teach her the little details – such as the acrobatic skills that will be required when she’s faced with the items found in every bathroom, beginning with that most dubious of surfaces – the public toilet seat.

I remember being in a cubicle and noticing a public service message on the back of the door. I thought the placement was kind of odd, but I suppose they were hoping to provide me with some reading material while I waited – except that there was no way I would be sitting down to do it.

Sometimes fear is a great motivator, but I don’t want my daughter to be one of those people who can’t leave the cubicle she’s in because she doesn’t want to touch the door handle when she needs to get out. So I’ll remind her that toilet paper is also good for opening the door, and for pulling triple duty because when she’s ready for flushing, she can put it on the toilet handle too.

I hope she’ll be inclined to do some gymnastics, because faucets are another hurdle to be overcome. Only God can help her if it’s an old-fashioned model that she’ll have to grasp in order to turn it on. But since elbows are good for pushing, I’ll give her permission to ignore the soap if it requires pressing the dispenser- but she should really be able to do that since she’s still young and reasonably flexible. After that she can move on over to those hand dryers known more for blasting noise than air.

Image credit: commercialrestroomproducts.com

Image credit: commercialrestroomproducts.com

If the bathroom door is open, she’ll be in the clear. Otherwise, she’ll have to keep her just-washed hands up in front of her and back out of the door like a surgeon who’s just scrubbed for an operation, as she makes her way back into the (germ free) world again.

I had resolved to ask my daughter what exactly her fascination was, because I think that when you’ve seen one bathroom you’ve really seen them all. But once while out dining, my husband came back to the table after having visited the restroom at the establishment. As he took his seat he said to me excitedly, “You should see the bathroom”.

Which told me that apparently, all lavatories are not the same.

Selfish or Self-Sacrifice?

Image credit: falconchildren'shome.com

Image credit: falconchildren’shome.com

I recently heard a story about a local woman who was diagnosed with an illness which would eventually take her life. If what schoolchildren say is true, despite this diagnosis, she chose to become pregnant (or carry the baby to term), and at the time of writing this, is close to giving birth.

Some rumours make more sense to the person telling the story than to the person who’s listening, so I took the story with a liberal amount of salt.

Since I don’t like to be seen as judgmental, I tried to put myself in her shoes and determine whether the choice she made would have really been in her best interest or that of the child’s. Most women want to procreate, so I was hoping that this woman wasn’t marking “having a baby” off her bucket list – because carrying a child isn’t quite in the same league as wanting to take that trip to Turkey before you die.

It is awesome to be a mother, but what happens when you’re no longer here? Of course, since none of us is promised tomorrow, one could argue that any of us could very well leave our children motherless through no fault of our own. But therein lies the difference. If we knew that we wouldn’t be around to love and care for the child, would that be considered a tad selfish on our part?

Recently I read a post by fellow blogger, Dani, who writes at bloomingspiders, where she highlighted the story of an American woman who found out about her terminal illness after she had conceived, but who chose to carry the baby as close as possible, to term. By doing so, it meant that she missed out on arresting the spread of the disease because she refused the chemotherapy treatments that were necessary to do so.

The new mother, who had a legitimate reason for ending her pregnancy declined to do it because she saw it as ending a perfectly healthy life to sustain one that wasn’t. She will have at most a year to live, and I’m sure she’ll use the remaining time she has to bond with the child who will probably not remember her.

It’s likely that she will take lots of pictures and leave video montages for her daughter because of this. But the most vivid memory that will be left with the child is the fact that her mother made such a big sacrifice in order for her to be here. Should it matter that this woman will be leaving a 6 year old son behind as well? And a fiancée, with whom I believe she wanted to have this child?

Not being there for any of them probably doesn’t make any sense to most of us. If I was to guess, this woman probably looked at the odds of her long term survival and stacked it up next to that of her unborn child, and figured that she’d prefer to live without regret – for however long she had left.

Image credit: summahealthcare1.org

Image credit: summahealthcare1.org

If my local tale is true, both situations will have the same outcome – so should it matter when each knew of her own physical condition? If both women see giving life to another as the ultimate and best goal, it’s obviously worth it to them – even though they won’t be a part of it.

Smoke Signals

I was watching a video last week via facebook that showed a baby, no more than two years old dancing on a table like there was no tomorrow. Truth be told, he was doing more than I ever could at that age or even now for that matter. He was on the beat, never lost his balance and kept at it for what I thought was an extremely long time.

I enjoyed it, but it reminded me of those old-time West Indian mothers who would look at you and them calmly ask, “You know your school work?” – if they figured that you knew something (which wasn’t your school work), a little too well. And when that question was asked, it wasn’t rhetorical. It was cause for concern – and for action. Meaning, stop whatever it was that you were doing.

Image credit: quotes.poem.com

Image credit: quotes.poem.com

Everybody talks about how much smarter our children are than we used to be, but for children who are supposedly more savvy than we were, some of them don’t read signals well, a number of them don’t know what a hint looks like, and others can’t see what’s coming from two feet away.

It took me a little while but I’ve realized that there are other things that completely go over their heads.

Take for instance the hard stare. This has absolutely no significance for them, because “the look” from back in my day apparently didn’t translate very well across the generations. Most of them probably think that we’re simply searching their faces for the solution to some unanswered question, when we’re really trying to understand how our own children became so daft.

Then there’s the repeated question. The true meaning is completely lost on them, so they don’t know that a parent repeating a question simply means that the first answer that was given wasn’t the correct one and that they need to come up with another one. It’s amazing that it takes them even longer to realize that causing us to repeat ourselves doesn’t buy them any time.

And finally, the silent treatment. They don’t know how to interpret this, so the poor things don’t realize that an unanswered question doesn’t mean that they weren’t heard the first time. So it stands to reason that they would also be clueless to the fact that a continued lack of response means that it won’t ever be answered – because there is no answer for a question that should never have been asked.

But there is yet hope, because some of today’s kids will grow up to be great negotiators. I know this because some kids treat the consequences of inappropriate behaviour as something to be included in a negotiated settlement. As in – am I willing to dispense three spanks instead of the customary six for this infraction?

The only problem I foresee is them knowing how far to push their luck. Because if they can’t understand the smoke signals, they’re not going to be able to read the tea leaves either.

Ask and You Shall Receive

I don’t remember my mother having to do this when I was younger. When I was growing up, snacking was a foreign word, “grazing” didn’t exist, you didn’t consume anything without asking, you ate whatever was put in front of you and you ate it all, because children were starving in Africa back then too.

Image credit: nytimes.com

Image credit: nytimes.com

While at the supermarket some time ago I saw someone I knew, but I was a little afraid to disturb her because she was deep in concentration while she surveyed the items in the refrigerated case that held the dairy products.

When she saw me she volunteered that she was trying to find a flavor of yogurt that her daughter wouldn’t like, as that was the only way that she would actually get to have any. I laughed, but I knew what she was talking about.

I’m familiar with this phenomenon of children running a race with the parents in an attempt to finish the food that’s bought by the parents, before the parents can even get to it. They seem blissfully unaware that there are no medals for winning such an event.

I will admit to having a preference for a child with a healthy appetite as opposed to the fussy eater, but here are some of the things that can go with that territory.

Healthy eaters can go from “not ready to eat” to “famished” in sixty seconds.

Food preparation time will by then take too long and the hunger will be too great, so don’t be surprised if starvation sets in immediately requiring them to consume something else – in the meantime.

Healthy eaters don’t think that anything called food should be off-limits to them.

So you will be required to hide your favourite brand of cheese at the back of the fridge, consume your “secret stash” at an undisclosed location, and bury “their” preferred fruit among the other items that you know they won’t touch.

Healthy eaters require that you take pre-emptive action and warn them ahead of time not to touch what they didn’t put there.

Some of them don’t do denial too well, but you’ll actually find the look of shock on their faces quite amusing AFTER you get over the annoyance of being asked the same question fifteen hundred times.

Healthy eaters ask for what they already know they can’t get, while others ask for something that isn’t even there.

These are the ones asking for items that have long since been consumed (by them), or that were never even purchased (certainly not by them) – but are probably expecting them to now magically appear.

Healthy eaters stand in front of the open door like they’re doing their supermarket shopping in the fridge.

They’re not trying to cool down the whole street at all, but it’s really the only way they’ll know what isn’t there so that they can (politely) ask for it.

 

The Boy With The Teardrop Tattoo

Image credit: tatoodesigns.com

Image credit: tatoodesigns.com

Do you remember when the quickest way your mother could bring you down when you were busy singing the latest pop song was to ask whether you knew your schoolwork?

And if you didn’t quit the singing, the dancing or whatever she considered to be inappropriate behaviour quickly enough, you’d be asked to recite your 9 times table or some innocuous fact from last week’s homework that you didn’t think she remembered – just so that you could prove it to her.

Back then, parents were quick to nip in the bud, whatever they considered to be troubling issues or unsuitable conduct.

These days I wonder if some parents are paying any attention.

Take tattoos for instance.

I’ve been on my soapbox with this before. I’m not a big fan of them even on people who have been around the block more than a few times, have all their wits about them and have clearly thought the whole thing through.

Not that tattoos are a sign of deviant behaviour or proof that your child is on her way to hell, but when I hear that a teenager who is still in school is showing off her tattoo on Facebook, I realize that times certainly have changed.

The parent who was telling the story wondered what kind of relationship this daughter had with her mother where something like that was acceptable in her house, but maybe that’s because it was perfectly acceptable in her house. Not all parents see things the same way.

Truth be told, there probably are a lot of these expressions hiding underneath the collars and cuffs of more school uniforms than we think. So now we know where all the money from those chores is being spent.

But there are some kids who are obviously running the show where they live.

My husband told me that last week he saw a boy riding a bike. He was surprised not by the wheelies he was executing, but by the fact that plain as day, were two teardrops tattooed on the teenager’s face.

Now I don’t know if these tears were designed to be an everlasting reminder from his mother of the butt-whipping he got when he had put a tattoo somewhere else. Or if like the basketball player Amar’e Stoudemire, they were placed there to show that he’s always crying inside.

Maybe his tattooed tears represent the number of people that he’s killed so he’s silently telling us to stay away before he’s forced to add another tear. Maybe he wants to erase the stigma associated with that particular tattoo. Maybe he thought it just looked nice.

I’m not sure his mom is any the wiser either, because this school-aged boy has been missing quite a few lessons – and not just the type that we get in class, either.

teardrop

Good Guys Finish First or “What did you just say to me”?

I didn’t watch the Super Bowl again this year – not even the half-time show (sorry Bruno Mars), so I also didn’t see the commercials that air whenever there’s a break from the action. But as usual, the commercials that stood out because they were funny, touching or smart were highlighted the day after.

I happened to see the makers of two commercials – ordinary people whom we later learned have a desire to be in the entertainment business – who got a foot in the door when Doritos continued their commercial-making contest which promises the winner and the runner-up one million dollars and five hundred thousand dollars respectively. And of course, visibility beyond their wildest dreams.

As I’m sure we’ve all seen by now, the winning ad showed a boy fooling off an adult with a time machine that looks like it was built from the box that your refrigerator comes in. We think he’s just playing along until the jig is up and we realize that adult really wasn’t acting the fool – he was one.

But I loved it. That kid obviously picked the right back yard to play in.

And then I saw the ad that won second place. The mother arrives home and her arms are full with two bags of groceries. Her two boys are playing in the front yard. She asks whether she can get some help to carry the bags. And one of the boys, busy relaxing on a recliner involved in a video game, says, “I don’t know. Can you?”

Well Lord. Look at trouble. Had I done that then, I wouldn’t be writing this now. And even though I will admit to being a more lenient parent than the ones I grew up with, even I know that such a response would mean that somebody had better start running – away from home. If, my mother went into the house without saying anything to me, I know that she’d be coming back out with something else that would have me speaking in tongues.

However, the minute that the mother tries a quick bribe by letting him know that a taste of Doritos is off the table, the little ingrate finds his feet and is running towards the vehicle to claim the bag.

But the smaller boy, dressed as a cowboy decides that this impolite behaviour on the part of his older brother cannot go unchecked. So he calls his dog, mounts him and lassoes the bag of chips right out of his hands, ties the brother up and eats the damn chips himself. Because rudeness should get you nowhere in this life.

And for that alone, the mother who designed this commercial should have won first place.

Night and Day

It never ceases to amaze me how two individuals (children) who come from the same place (your body), can be so absolutely different from each other. Which shouldn’t really surprise me because they do say it takes all kinds to make up the world. In my universe, my two children are as different as night and day.

But I should have had a pretty early clue that their personalities would have been different. My eldest, the boy, was the most easy-going baby you could find. My sister-in-law always complains about the fact that he was easily comforted by any one or two stuffed animals that he was given. This didn’t sit well with her, as she fought to keep her young ones from fidgeting during a too-long church service.

He would eat anything. He didn’t mind peppery foods and was a lover of olive tapenade. But he was also the child who my husband and I took with us when we went to restaurants, so his palate was well developed before he left his high chair. Maybe that’s why he claims that he wants to be a skateboarder and a chef.

He seemed adventurous back then

He seemed adventurous back then

It’s not that we didn’t want to expose our daughter to different culinary experiences too, but by the time she came along, it became apparent that everything costs more for a family of four than it does for a family of three. So she’s the one who is less willing to try foods that she isn’t familiar with – and inexplicably, she doesn’t like corn. Who doesn’t like corn?

This unwillingness to try things new, however, relates only to food. She will be the one wanting to go on the roller coaster ride even though she’s nowhere near the required height. She’ll be the one to go into the store to buy the newspaper on her own. She wasn’t one of the kids crying when I left on the first day of pre-school. And I had to sign her up for lessons early because she was adamant that she already knew how to swim.

Her brother will hem and haw, and say that he’ll need a week to wrap his mind around doing something new. Then he’ll say he’s too shy and could we ask him again next year. He’s grown even more reticent as he’s gotten older, and we have to tell him that the word “can’t”, shouldn’t ever be a part of his vocabulary. But he’s developing a kind of wit that may serve him well if he decides to be a comedian too.

When she was a baby, my youngest reminded me of a cat. She could really take you or leave you. She’d accept a cuddle if you gave it, but if you didn’t give one, that was fine too. Sometimes her expression seemed to say that she really didn’t know what all the fuss was about. And isn’t it your job to carry her around?

"So what if I'm carrying a little extra weight in my face???"

“So what if I’m carrying a little extra weight in my face???”

She’s a little young to know what she wants to do for a living, but her choices so far are influenced by whatever her father and I are doing, so I won’t take her word for it, yet. But her fearless nature tells me that I may have my hands full when she gets to the teenage years.

I’ll keep you posted.

Liam & Iman on beach

The Tooth Fairy is Broke

I think it’s time that my son knew the truth. I’m sure he suspects it, and since I’m going to reveal the hard fact that even the tooth fairy has some financial constraints, maybe I should just go further and tell him that she really doesn’t exist.

If you read my blog, you know that I’ve written about this topic before. Thankfully, the teeth for both of my kids have been leaving their mouths less often, so I have actually been able to save some money. But two weeks ago, my son lost another tooth. It stayed on the dresser for days – ignored by its former owner and ignored by its new one – that is, until he decided that he needed a sizeable deposit to his piggy bank account for a potential purchase.

So last night, his sister (bless her heart), reminded him about putting the tooth under the pillow, and even though he had already retired for the night, he leapt out of bed to get it. I’ll admit. I said to myself that I would find some money to put under there, but being out of practice, I completely forgot.

When he awoke this morning to the same old tooth and no money, he remarked that the tooth fairy had not visited. I almost slapped my head at my forgetfulness. What I did instead was inform him that the tooth fairy was probably broke – just like the rest of us.

I didn’t see what he did with the unclaimed tooth. But I’m thinking that this is the perfect time to tell him, as we say locally, “how barley grow”. That there really is no tooth fairy, because who has five dollars to give away in exchange for one tooth out of somebody’s mouth? And I’ll broaden the discussion and ask whether he thinks that it’s even a fair exchange.

Given the fact that (unlike his sister), he’s realized that not all people who marry have children, and he’s querying exactly how both he and his sister got into my belly in the first place, I dare say that pretty soon, the tooth fairy isn’t the only thing with wings that we’ll be having a conversation about.