As Parents, We All Do It

IMG_20170825_085941_671The kids and I stopped at the park on the way home from our bike ride yesterday.  My younger son had some bubbles in his pocket, so he pulled the bottle out and slowly began to fill the sky with happiness.  His brother and sister ran, jumped and clapped the bubbles between their hands.  As the kids laughed and played, I sat contentedly on a nearby bench letting the warm afternoon sun wash over me.

A little boy who had been playing on the nearby slide came barreling over to join in the fun.  My son showed him how to blow through the bubble wand, and soon the boy was scattering bubbles across the park.  A few moments later his mom appeared and began apologizing on behalf of her son.

“I’m so sorry!” she gushed.  “He’s only two.  I hope you don’t mind that he came over!”

I shaded my eyes with my hand, and looked up at her.  “No worries,” I smiled.  “They’re all having fun together.  Bubbles are like the ultimate olive branch among kids.”

“I have so much to learn,” she sighed, plopping down onto the bench beside me.  “I didn’t bring any bubbles or toys with us.  I have a seven month old as well, and she doesn’t need any toys, so I always forget.  I guess I’ll know better for next time.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” I said gently.  “There’s no right or wrong way to go to the park.  Most kids are happy with some sand and a stick.”

“I guess you’re right.”  She paused, thoughtful for a moment, then said, “Your kids are really well behaved.  They’re sharing so nicely with my son, and they’re really happy and polite!  How do you do it with three?  You make it look easy, and I’m here struggling with only two!”

I was so surprised by her comments that it took me a moment to answer.  How and when did I become that mom that other people look at and think, “Wow, she’s really got her shit together!”  I could remember not that long ago being a new mom myself and looking at all the other moms at the park who seemed so at ease, their kids playing perfectly without the need for constant supervision.  I remembered feeling so overwhelmed and discouraged, thinking maybe I was doing something wrong, and wondering if it was ever going to get any easier.

“I struggle every day,” I finally admitted.  “My kids scream and fight, and they often hold each other’s toys hostage.  Sometimes they play nicely together, but sometimes I feel like I’m raising a pack of wild animals.  It’s hard, and sometimes I cry, but every day I learn a little bit more, I become a little bit wiser and a tiny bit more confident.  I used to compare myself to other parents, but after a while I realized that I was never going to be anyone other than me, so I stopped caring about what everyone else did.”

The kids came running up to me then, and I took a moment to tousle their sand filled hair before continuing.   “It will be the same for you,” I said, wiping a streak of dirt off my youngest’s cheek.  “As your kids get older, you’ll gain more experience, you will develop your skills as a mom, and before you know it, you’ll be right here where I am, sitting casually on a bench watching your kids play.”

I paused to sip on some water, and to let that sink in.  “Don’t get me wrong,”  I continued.  “You’ll still be slightly stressed, pretty damn tired, and you may drink a little more wine some days than you should, but you’ll have mastered being able to look totally chill when you take your kids to the park.”

The other mom laughed, then said, “No one has ever been that honest with me before.  You’ve given me more hope than you’ll ever know.  Thank you for that.”

“My pleasure,” I said, and I meant it.  Too often we avoid talking about how hard parenting actually is.  We are all in this together, and it’s okay to share our stories, and to reach out and ask for help.  We all struggle and feel like a failure from time to time, and that is completely normal and perfectly okay.  It’s how we learn and grow, and it’s how we become better parents.

 

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Class Field Trips Are Not For the Faint Of Heart

Earlier this week I went with my son and his grade 1 class on an outdoor field trip.  I had visions of us spending wholesome, quality time together, bonding over insects, kicking rocks and gathering sticks.  What I didn’t count on was the fact that the bus ride there would leave me feeling about as perky as a white trash Tinkerbell after a bottle of lukewarm Jack Daniels.  I also failed to realize that when you assemble a gaggle of 6 and 7 year olds, they are about as loud as a cyclone, and twice as destructive.

There were three classes there in total, several parent volunteers and four instructors ready to lead us on our adventure in Forest Exploration.  Not long after we arrived, they separated us into two very large groups and dragged us off into the trees without a moment’s hesitation.  (I contemplated crawling while I recovered from my bus hangover, but since I was expected to do some adulting while I was there, I settled for leaning on my son’s head while we walked).

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Although it has officially been spring here for just over two weeks now, there is still plenty of snow and ice on the ground.  Normally this isn’t of any concern (we live in Canada, so we are used to riding moose through snowstorms in order to get a Tim Horton’s coffee before heading over to the local pond to play a game of hockey), but this meant that there was lots of water and ice next to the bridges and boardwalks along our paths.  We were told to stay as far away from the icy death traps as possible, but for some of the children, this served as more of a suggestion than a warning.  One boy in particular stepped right off the boardwalk and onto a thin patch of ice.  I lunged, with ninja-like reflexes, and yanked him back to safety.  My heroic rescue left me feeling slightly strung out and breathless, and since cursing and ranting under my breath were likely going to get me kicked out of the group, I opted instead for a heavy-browed scowl for the remainder of the walk.

Eventually we found ourselves in a small clearing, and the children were encouraged to explore and become one with nature.  While they busied themselves digging in the snow and leaves, I found myself wondering if anyone would notice if I started a small fire to thaw out my toes.  I never did have the chance to find out though, because suddenly there was a loud yelp, and two boys came barreling out of the trees toward me.  One of them was hitting the other over the head with a large stick, and screaming something about a bear.  I snatched the stick out of his hands, then turned to the other boy to see if he was alright.  He mumbled something about me ruining his game, then flipped me off and disappeared behind a tree.  I rolled my eyes at this so hard that my left may now be my right.

Eventually we made our way out of the forest and back to the main building where we ate lunch, fought over the washrooms, then bundled back up to head out for the next installment of our forest adventure.  The second half of the day passed without any casualties, and was surprisingly enjoyable.  I wondered if maybe I hadn’t eaten enough lunch, and was subsequently suffering from low-blood sugar hallucinations.

The bus ride home left me a little green around the edges, and I wondered, not for the first time, if it was a city wide policy that all buses smell like onions.  When we arrived back at the school, the other parents were glancing curiously in my direction.  I suppose I must have looked suspiciously like an escapee from a preschool production of Peter Pan.  I think it’s fair to say that this is probably a standard look for me at the end of all the class field trips I volunteer on.

 

Still Waiting For The Party

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You know that special time of the day when young kids come home after school and they morph into hungry, snapping, snarling, fire breathing dragons? What is that? Is that some kind of hazing ritual inflicted on innocent, unsuspecting parents? Is that our initiation into a secret sorority for all the moms who survive? All I can say is that there had better be some kick ass parties once I’m accepted!