What-my-kid-said Wednesday: marriage, according to Bean

After helping me make cookies, Bean sat at the dining room table, enjoying the fruits of his labours* with a glass of milk. He looked over at my rings, which sat on the table where I’d put them down before shaping the cookie dough.

“Mama, you should put your earrings on!”

“You’re right, I should put my rings back on.”

As I put each one on, I told him what it was. “This is the ring your Daddy gave me when he asked me to marry him. This is the ring your Daddy gave me on the day we were married, when we became husband and wife. And he gave me this ring when we had been married for five years.”

“I wish I was married.”

“Maybe you will be married one day. Would you like to be married one day, and maybe have kids of your own?”

“I think I will be married when Alex gets married.”

“Who do you think you’d like to marry?”

“Alex is gonna be a fireman marry, and Cooper’s gonna be a ‘struction** marry, and I’m gonna be… a ammamance*** marry! And Cooper’s gonna be a police marry.”

“Okay then, sounds good.”

“Cock-a-doodle-doo! Flying chicken spaceman!!”

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* labours = switching the mixer onandoffandonandoffandonandoff, not-so-sneakily sneaking chocolate chips from the bag, and asking to smell the vanilla extract.

** ‘struction = construction (of course)

*** ammamance = ambulance

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A letter to Bean, who is three

Airplane and cloud cake

Dear Bean,

Last weekend you turned three. Three! Just yesterday you were two; last week you were tottering around speaking your own language; last month you were a wrinkly, squirmy, squishy bundle in a too-big sleeper. And now, while I’ve been sleeping I think, you’ve transformed from baby into boy. Your round cheeks have lost some of their chub. Your squeaky baby voice has matured into an even tone. Your wispy baby hair is coarser now, with a cowlick that sticks straight up in the back. You’re still so little, but you’re trying so hard to be big.

I’ll tell you a secret, my Bean. I sneak into your room most nights before I go to bed, just to see you sleeping. I carefully open the door, just enough so that a slice of light from the hallway spills into your room. I tiptoe in, avoiding the creaky spots on the floor. I listen to you breathe. Still in your crib, some nights you look so big, stretched out on your back with your hands up behind your head. And some nights I am reminded of the baby still in you as you sleep on your tummy, knees tucked up under you and your bum up in the air.

Some days I miss the baby you. Mostly though, I’m proud of the person you are becoming.

Bean, you are strong-willed. Once you have a plan, nothing can distract you from it, and you always have a reason. If I ask you to please put the spoon back on the counter where you found it, you are likely to inform me that it is actually a robot shark, and it has to rescue the elephant (a cookie cutter also pulled from the counter), who is stuck in a deep, deep pit. I have learned that, while it may be more time-consuming, it is best to go along with this initial gravely important task. Once I’ve gone along with the first bit, I’m better able to persuade you that the garbage truck on fire portion of today’s adventure is best completed with actual toys, not sticky kitchen implements. You are becoming a master negotiator.

You love stories. Reading stories, listening to my made-up stories, telling stories of your own. I love to listen to your stories, full of pirates and robots and trees and dogs and boys and fire trucks and garbage trucks. I hope with all my heart that this never changes; that this spark of imagination grows as you get older. That nothing and no one can ever stifle your creativity, or stifle you.

Our days together are filled with action. Complicated rescues with every truck in your possession are frequent. There is always a hero, and as a recent development, there is often a bad guy (you typically play both roles). The trucks all talk to each other, and you make a different voice for each one. It cracks me up.

When we go to the park or a playgroup, you usually pick another adult, often a stranger, to be your “person.” You take them by the hand, show off for them, tell them your stories. Usually you have good taste – it’s a grandmother who is delighted with the funny little boy at her feet, or a young man happy enough to play along. But on the odd occasion that you pick someone who isn’t as enthused to be your person, my heart breaks for you a little. You keep trying. You don’t understand rejection, not yet.

A couple of months ago, we went to drop-in kindergym at the local rec centre. As soon as you’d entered the room you started running. In a constant loop, you went from one ride-on toy to another, to the mini trampoline, the music toys, the slide, the pirate ship play structure, and then back again for another round. And another. And another. Always running, usually yelling, a wild man having the time of your life. I noticed other parents noticing you.

Maybe at times I envy these other parents their placid kids; maybe I would like a few minutes of calm once in a while. But, as wild as you are, you are also the boy who spontaneously decided to give hugs to each of the adults in the room. (We will have a conversation about hugging strangers another time.) When you knocked down another boy’s blocks and saw that he was sad, you ran up on your own and said sorry, and you meant it. Yes, you are wild, but you’re also sweet and kind.

I’ve learned so much from you, Bean. Patience, flexibility, presence, love. You are the boy who made me a mother. Before you came into this world, I suppose I had an idea of what parenting would be like, and what my kids would be like. I believed that you would conform to my expectations, simply because I had them. Because I willed it. But here is what I’ve learned. You have your own will. You are your own person. You are not particularly pliable. But you’re sweet, and underneath the stubbornness you are eager to please; with love and space and security, you come around on your own time. You’ve taught me that in shaping your behaviour and guiding your path, my love is a thousand times more powerful than my will could ever be.

Bean, I won’t lie; it can be challenging to be your mama. But it’s also thrilling. Belly laughs are a daily occurrence. My heart bursts with love and pride every day.

Happy third birthday, sweet Bean.

Love and hugs and ten thousand kisses,

Mummy

Happiness

What does it mean to be happy? Are you happy now? How do you know?

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Happiness is what we all want. A happy family, a happy home, happy children. A happy life.

I’ve struggled with happiness this year. I’ve searched for it. I’ve found it where I least expected it, and lost it where I was sure it would be safe. I’ve misunderstood it. And I’ve learned about what happiness means, at least for me.

Right now, in my life, I am happy. And here is what I know: happiness isn’t a permanent state of being. It’s not an overall glow that brings smiles to my lips and infuses my life with light, just because. Happiness doesn’t just happen. It’s a choice. It’s waiting in the everyday moments for me to grasp it and hold on. And so I’m doing that, or trying to. I’m choosing to notice and celebrate the good and beautiful that occurs in the midst of the ordinary, and I am happy.

Here is where I’ve found happiness today:

The way Bean wrapped his lanky arms and legs so tightly around me this morning, so that as I carried him downstairs for breakfast he seemed weightless in my arms.

Listening to D and Monkey in a dad-baby conversation, imitating each other’s sounds and laughing.

Pushing my body through a hard workout and feeling sweaty, drained, and satisfied at the end.

Finally booking a long-overdue date with D.

Wearing my favourite scarf, for the gazillionth day in a row, because who cares if I wear the same thing every day? It’s my favourite.

What makes you happy?

What-my-kid-said Wednesday: the baddest story and the saddest supper

I made pancakes for breakfast the other day. Bean was excited, but on his way to the table he bumped his elbow.

“Oh, Mommy! This is gonna be the saddest supper in all the land.”

Bean loves stories. For the past month or so, he’s been begging me to tell him stories several times a day: every time he sits on the toilet (charming), and when he goes to bed. I’ve become a pro at thinking up riveting plots on the spot. But my favourite part of this new story-telling phase is that he’s starting to tell his own stories. Usually they are very sweet. Yes… usually.

Picture the following, told at high volume, with great enthusiasm. Also, Bean is a close talker, so he was right up in my face.

Mama I’m gonna tell you a story. This is gonna be the baddest story in all the land. It’s a… pushing down story! Okay. Okay okay.

Once upon a time there was… A GUY!! And another guy. Aaaaand… he PUSHED him down into the deep… dark… HOLE! And then he…. threw all the sand and dirt and trucks in and rode away on a horse and NEVER came back forever. And then he went to a windmill and [insert intense toddler sound effects and hand gestures] …. and… ate him all up!

Me: Um, okay. Wait. Who ate what?

Bean: The horse!

Me: I… I’m not sure…

Bean: It’s a bad story. It’s a pushing down hitting story.

Should I be worried?

Facial injuries: the unofficial badge of the bad mother?

For my son, it’s a moment of pain soon forgotten. For me, it’s a visible outward sign of my failings as a mother. Too dramatic? Probably.

My kids don’t hurt themselves all that often, but when they do, it’s usually in the face, which is just super great. There was the time that 10 month-old Bean fell forward and caught the corner of the coffee table right between the eyes. He has a thin white scar. A few months later as he was learning to walk, he tripped over the edge of a mat at baby boot camp* and landed on his cheek, on my stainless steel water bottle. The bruise added some colour to the vacation photos from our  friends’ wedding in Mexico the next week. Monkey has suffered a couple of truck-to-face injuries, courtesy of Bean. And, if I put off trimming their fingernails one day too long, both boys will invariably seize the opportunity to give themselves a gash on the cheek or nose during the night.

As I am pretty much a walking guilt factory, until those bruises or cuts heal they’re ongoing reminders of how I somehow let my boys down – even if the injury wasn’t preventable, isn’t serious, or didn’t happen on my watch.

Yesterday I was on my way out the door when my cell rang. It was daycare. Bean had tipped over in his chair and hit his mouth against the table. He was bleeding a lot, and very upset, and I should come get him.

I rushed to daycare and found all the kids sitting at the table, Bean whimpering in the teacher’s lap. He had blood around his mouth and on his hands. He reached for me and I picked him up, only to realize that he had just wet his pants. He hasn’t done that in ages. I took him downstairs and changed him, as he sobbed that his tooth and his mouth hurt and begged me to make it better.

I am a feeler. And strong emotions make me cry, whether it’s sadness, anger, fear, or happiness. When I see another person’s genuine tears, there is a 97% chance that I will tear up too. And it’s only gotten worse with age. Now that I’m a mother, I can pretty much forget the possibility that I’ll get through a day without crying at least once. At first I blamed the pregnancy hormones. Then I blamed the new mother hormones. Then the pregnancy hormones again. Then I tried blaming my postpartum depression. But whatever the reason, all the blame-throwing in the world can’t change the simple fact that I am a huge, sappy sap.

Yesterday with my own child, I was helpless. On the drive home as he cried in his car seat, I cried too. Because he was in pain, and because I was worried. Because his tooth might be damaged, might turn grey and fall out. Because it was my fault. Because I was the one who put him in daycare, even if it was just one day a week. He didn’t need to be there – I’m on maternity leave. He could have been home with me. He might not have gotten hurt.

Thankfully, he couldn’t see my tears, and I had them under control by the time we got home. But it was still a struggle. (Side note – at least my inner empathy sensors can distinguish the difference between legitimate and not-so-legitimate toddler trauma. Otherwise I would be facing some serious dehydration.) Bean spent the afternoon with cuddles and movies, and was feeling better by evening. Still, his gums are bruised and puffy, and I’ll be on dead-tooth-watch for a few days. (We called the dentist and he said there was nothing to do but wait.)

So here are my questions to the other mothers and feelers out there. Am I as ridiculous as I feel to be so torn up over a tooth injury? How do you keep it in when you feel your kids’ pain? And do you feel the guilt too? Do you beat yourselves up over the bumps and bruises?

* Despite the name, baby boot camp is for the mums, not the babies. But hey, boot camp for babies could be great too! Teach them some discipline right from the start. Am I right? Anyone?

What-my-kid-said Wednesday: keeping a record

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“I hope you’re writing this all down somewhere.”

My husband’s aunt said this to me this weekend at the last of the never-ending family Christmas gatherings, after listening to Bean say something particularly hilarious. I nodded, then realized that an unexpected impact of not writing so much over the past couple of months has been that I haven’t remembered to jot down the strange and wonderful things that come out of my son’s mouth.

I’ve never been a good keeper of records. And I have a terrible memory. Hopefully, when I’m old and creaky and sentimental and Bean and Monkey are grown, I’ll be able to look back at these Wednesday posts and remember a little bit of what my kids were like when they were tiny. So this one’s for future-me – not a specific conversation or anecdote, but a collection of common Bean-isms from this moment in time.

“I’m so incited!!” He says “incited” instead of “excited,” and I can’t bring myself to correct him.

“Tell me a pirate story…” Once upon a time I sat on the edge of the tub and told Bean a story about a pirate as he pooped. Now he asks for a pirate story every time he has some business to take care of on the toilet.

“Tomato down!” When something falls on the ground. I don’t know where this comes from.

“Everyone!” to get our attention.

“Hey guys!” to get our attention.

“I’m just a little sad.” Pronounced “yittle saaa-yaaad,” this one comes out every time he hears the word no, or is hungry, or bored.

“Oh man. Oh maaa-yaaan!” Said while crying, through his tears. This is his expression of real emotional anguish. You know, like if I said he couldn’t have a cookie, or something equally earth-shattering.