My Monkey

Monkey

There is something sweet and slightly painful about the babyhood of my second child. Maybe it’s that my memory of my first baby is slightly foggy and coloured by my knowledge of him as a toddler; maybe it’s that Monkey will likely be our last baby. I don’t remember the same sense of mine with Bean as I have with Monkey. Maybe it’s that I’ve learned to savour it, because as he grows he will not be just mine anymore. Maybe it’s that I’m beginning to know firsthand what all the elderly ladies who stop me in the grocery store say – it goes by so fast.

Monkey’s smiles are still mostly for me. He looks into my eyes and his face lights up. I imitate his sounds and he chuckles. I enter the room and he looks for me. I sit down on the floor and he crawls over to me. At 8 months old, he is still mine. And I am selfish. I don’t want to share him, yet.

His older brother is a part of the world. He has friends. He smiles and laughs and talks to other people. Bean is his own little person, and it is wonderful and beautiful to see him developing relationships and friendships and opinions and independence. But Monkey is still mine. I am his world. He is my baby. He fits on my hip; he belongs under my chin. His little body was so recently a part of mine, and our bond is still physical.

What is it that changes this bond? It loosens and stretches without us being conscious of it, exactly. As our babies grow up and grow in independence, they grow away from us, bit by bit. Bean still needs me, and will always need me in some way, I hope. We will always be bonded, but nothing is the same as the elemental, physical bond of a mother and baby.

As I gaze into my Monkey’s sweet, smiling face and open, trusting eyes, I am struck by the gift that babyhood is. I am privileged to hold and nurture and protect a life that is pure and innocent. There is nothing dishonest in a baby – his smiles mean happiness, and his cries mean sadness, discomfort, or need. There is no guile, only instinct. And this baby stage is so fleeting.

So I will hold onto my Monkey for as long as I can. One day I will have to share him, I know. As his small world expands day by day, I will explore it with him. Gradually my tight hold will loosen, and one day I will let him go. But not just yet. For now, he is still mine.

Confessions, again

confessions

It feels good to get things off your chest, doesn’t it? Well, my online friends, it’s time for me to unburden my parenting shame onto you. To follow up on my last confessions post, here’s another collection of my bad parenting moments and habits. Enjoy!

1. At a solemn Remembrance Day ceremony with my boys, my mother, and my brother’s family, I was standing next to my three year-old niece. She sweetly put her hand in mine. I looked around, realizing that it would be easy for strangers to assume that she was my child, and that wild, loud Bean was my brother’s. I discreetly edged myself and my niece away from my brother and Bean and muttered “some people’s kids” while looking disapprovingly at them.

2. My kid eats frozen peas. Frozen. And I think he swallows them whole.

3. I’m starting to look forward to going back to work in March, because it’s easier than being a full-time mum at home.

4. I can’t remember what Bean’s first word was.

5. I sort of wish I didn’t have to get Monkey any Christmas presents. We don’t need any more toys. He has all the clothes he needs. He wouldn’t know the difference. But Bean would.

6. If you looked in my Google search history (please don’t), you would see the phrase “boarding school for toddlers.”

7. When D is home, I sometimes pretend I can’t hear Monkey crying, or Bean calling, because if he hears them first, he has to go deal with them. I call this game “good parent chicken.”

8. I really, really love it when kids who are usually well behaved are bad.

9. I swept dirt under the rug. Literally. My in-laws were coming over and instead of bothering with the dustpan I lifted up a corner of the entrance mat and swept all the debris under it. And it’s still there.

Your turn! What’s your confession?

What-my-kid-said Wednesday: kidding

D: We should drive around and see Christmas lights one of these nights.

Me: Should we go to the scary Christmas house again this year?

D: Scary? It’s not scary – it’s just… a lot of stuff.

Me: Are you kidding me? It’s where Christmas nightmares are made.*

Bean: Mummy! Daddy’s not kidding you. He’s kidding he’s self.

Me & D: (laughter)

Bean: I not kidding myself.

Me: No, you’re very serious, aren’t you?

Bean: I not serious, I a happy boy.

Me: Oh. You’re not kidding, you’re not serious, you’re happy.

Bean: Yeah. And Mummy, when I grow so big I can go in a truck.

D: It’s always about the truck in the end.

Bean: When I grow up so big I can go in Santa’s sled.

 

*Seriously it is the craziest, over-stimulating-est thing you’ve ever seen. Giant inflatables loom overhead. Lights blink everywhere.  Every inch of the property is covered with wooden cutouts and figurines of every cartoon and fictional character imaginable, dressed in Christmas garb and Santa hats (from Alf to Mickey Mouse). They whirl around on miniature ferris wheels, go back and forth on slow-motion swings, slide around ice skating rinks, all to the eery tune of tinny Christmas carols and the creaking of rusty machinery.

Balancing act

Balance. Work-life balance. Leading a balanced life. A life is hanging in the balance. This cereal is part of a balanced breakfast. We hear advice about balance all the time, particularly in this balance-challenged holiday-crammed time of year. It’s everywhere. So why is achieving balance so hard?

December is affectionately known in my family as the Great Never-Ending Month of Birthdays and Also Christmas. Along with several aunts, uncles, and cousins, my parents’ birthdays are in December – the 21st and 30th, to be exact. (Fun fact – my mother and my husband’s mother share a birthday, which leads to a yearly awkward dance of who’s planned what first.)

This year my parents will turn 60 and 65. They also celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary, and my dad retired – all momentous occasions that deserve celebration. So, at the beginning of the year, I thought about planning a surprise party for them. Midway through the year, I thought about planning a surprise party for them. In October, with the prodding of some relatives, my procrastinating self was thrown into full party-planning mode. Being the dutiful daughter, I called together my siblings and an aunt and uncle and we got to work. Except that I assigned nearly all of the tasks to myself. Evite? I’ve got it. We’ll do potluck – I’ll coordinate it. Decorations? I’ve got the time. Dishes? My in-laws have a rental company. Cakes? I like to bake, so I’ve got it.

I sent the Evite. I managed the RSVPs. I fielded questions. I organized potluck menu and sign-up. I ordered the dishes, silverware, glasses, mugs, and chairs. I planned out a beautiful banner to make. I searched out the best cake recipes – cherry cake for dad, and gluten-and-dairy-free chocolate for mum, and cupcakes for extras. I thought up fun ideas for cake decorations. I planned the extra dishes that I would make in case it seemed like there wouldn’t be enough food. Then, the beginning of last week found me knocked out with a bad cold and a bad case of anxiety. I’d forgotten to get to my doctor to refill my prescription. My postpartum depression symptoms were dragging me down. I was low.

And I thought, where’s the balance in this?

So I asked for help. And, what do you know, people were there to help me. One of my younger brothers and his wife made an amazing banner and an extra appetizer. My aunt brought two kid-friendly main dishes. My two other brothers drove to the party location with me to unload all of the dishes, cakes, balloons, and chairs. My amazing husband, a true Renaissance Man, iced chocolate cupcakes on the morning of the party as I whipped up the vanilla icing. (And then, because he did such a good job, he did the vanilla ones too.)

cupcakes

So, what does it mean to have balance?

It means letting go of the responsibility for everything and sharing the load.

It means not having to be perfect.

It means whipping up cake toppers out of scrapbook paper and cardstock, because you forgot to get the numbered candles at the store.

It means enjoying the party so much that you don’t worry about getting the Pinterest-worthy shot of the two cakes and two batches of cupcakes that you worked so hard on.

It means being okay with the fact that your toddler ate exactly 1.5 white buns and the icing off of one cupcake, because you can get some better food into him tomorrow.

It means letting your kids stay up until 10:30 (when your in-laws take them home to bed) because it’s a party, and it doesn’t happen every day, and the experience of tonight is more important than the potential meltdown tomorrow.

It means having a drink and visiting with friends and family, because enjoying the party to honour your parents is way better than doing dishes. Dishes can wait.

It means enjoying the things that are going right, instead of worrying about the things that aren’t.

In the end, the complete shock on my parents’ faces as they walked in the door, the delight when they realized all these people were there for them, the huge smiles as they recognized guests who had travelled, and the tears in my mum’s eyes as she spotted her dearest friends – these things were more than enough to balance out any of the hard stuff.

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What does balance mean to you?