Sturm und Mom

The Storm & Stress (& Joy) of Motherhood

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Career Choice: Polar Bear!!

“What’s work? What do you do there?” Big Boy, who’s 3, asked me.

Casting my mind back over my Husband’s latest comments on “consumption testing”, “project deliverable spreadsheets” and “Go Live! dates”, I thought I should simplify.

“At Daddy’s work he types all day.”

Desperate to salvage the young man’s idea of labour, I asked, “What do you want to be when you grown up, Dude?”

He stopped. Scrunched up his eyes and then said, enunciating every syllable, “Polar Bear.”

“Polar Bear? How do you do that?”

“Weeelll…I’m going to borrow Dad’s tools and build, build, build, and then I’ll go inside it and be a Polar Bear. See? I’m done.”

I thought it was an another example of Why Children Should Not Have the Vote, but my Man was way more impressed.

“Military applications. Metal working skills. Carpentry skills. Tool and die making. Animatronics. He could rent himself out as a team mascot, or to parties sponsored by beer companies. Sure the hell beats the pants off the job prospects of my Poli Sci major.”

I am constantly running into people — in person and online — who in 2001 were dutifully stuffing RESP (education savings accounts) with everything they could find under the sofa cushions, and yet today are trying to get their kids to seriously consider other options. My moment of uttering the words I never thought I’d say came two Saturdays ago, when I told my uber-smart daughter, no less, that she didn’t have to go to University. Even she was shocked.

“If you do go, get some kind of practical degree like Nursing, or Engineering. Just stay away from Law and Education. And for God’s sake, if you enter Gender Studies we’re kidnapping you and hiring a deprogrammer!!”

When I met my fellow first-time Mommies in the park 11 years ago, all of would have included “got into University” as a one of our parenting benchmarks. But now it seems criminal to insist that your kids take out thousands in debt — when they don’t even have a job yet — just to satisfy some vague notion of success you had 18 years prior. Student loan debt is like the bad of an arranged marriage, without the good of a marriage. It’s going to take you years to get out of it, determine where you live, work and travel, and never, ever, make you breakfast in bed or be your date to your cousin’s wedding.

Plus, when’s the last time you read “History Degree Essential” in a help wanted ad? I’ve also increasingly run into lawyers and even doctors my age, living in houses smaller than the starter house we bought 14 years ago on our office worker salaries. Then there are the Ph.D. holders I know of who can only land part-time teaching gigs at community colleges.   (Oh, did I mention their degrees were in Physics?)  All the while the stay-at-home wives of tradesmen drop their kids of at Tae Kwon Do in an Escalade.

Yet, I still feel like a dirty heretic for even admitting this all.  Even this post took me over a day to write.  Why, in the era of pushing condoms on 16 year olds “because we shouldn’t judge their choices,” is declining to attend a degree granting institution seen as in some way shameful?  Shouldn’t purchasing something, which is what tuition is, be judged on its economic merits?  Am I the one in need of a deprogrammer?

University used to be an achievement worth the cost, but increasingly it’s becoming an expensive, four year social club pursued out of tradition and convention. Of course, we will support our girls in whatever they decide.  But, it’s is nice to have a boy who’s since decided to devote his workaday life to a career as Batman.  All he needs is a Class 5 Driver’s Licence for the Batmobile and some safety gloves for that huge spot light. No degree required.


Hope, Terror Haze and Old German Tourists

Guess who’s too old to make Superhero poses? (Hint: Look for the Aviators…)

We went Fall camping, which is awesome if you can get two days off work, live 3½ hours from Jasper National Park, the daytime highs are 27°C and you have a tent trailer with a furnace.  Yes, that’s right.  Not a backbacking tent which is enveloped with condensation by 4 AM, but a nice cozy tent trailer with a kick-butt furnace pumping out the BTU’s all night.  This is necessary in the Rocky Mountains because, no matter how warm it is mid-day, come breakfast time it’s going to be hovering around 5°C.  From toques, to shorts, to fleece, to toques all in 16 hour period.  Nature is not that forgiving, especially to your wardrobe.

I would say that I was tough, but that would be a lie.  Hardy, in that I can take all the frosted breath and brisk hikes to the ladies’ washroom.   Dear Husband convinced me to take all the kids — including the small ones — up the Jasper Tramway, which can best be described as a tiny, metal box which zooms up the side of a rock face attached to a tiny, metal cable, all while your children press their oblivious faces to the window screaming, “Look how far doooowwn it is!”   Now I, sans kids, had hiked up this rock face and I thought it was quite tame.  However I had never considered what a sheer drop of 2400 odd feet combined with progeny with no common sense and slow reflexes would do to my adrenaline level.  We’re talking about a 3 year old who runs to the side of a cliff, starts jumping up and down, yelling:  “If you jumped off this cliff, you would be DEEEAAAAD!!!  Right Mommy?!!”  Or nearly crashes into the sliding glass doors that open onto the tram when it isn’t there, just an elevator shaft straight into Hell, to, yet again, demonstrate what one should NOT do in the name of safety.  When we finally touched down, unharmed, on God’s sweet Earth at the bottom, Dear Husband asked me if I was okay.

“A haze of terror.  That’s all I remember.  Children running to their death and sheer, unadulterated terror.”

He agreed not to take me back up there again.

Jasper, like all the Rocky Mountains, attracts visitors from all over the world.  English, Australians, Japanese (less and less), Chinese (more and more), Americans (varies from year to year), and always, Germans.   It wouldn’t feel like you hit the mountains unless you heard “ich bin…” or “Stimmt!” at some point when walking around town.  If the Parks are open, there’s a German somewhere in it.  Including all over our campground.  Which was the weirdest part of our trip.  All the sites in this campground are extremely open, including ours which was smack-dab next to a walking path to the showers.  All the nice Commonwealth types would walk by with a friendly greeting and smile at the children.  The Germans though, would return my hello, and immediately look away.  As soon as our gaze was averted, they would then start staring at our children.  When I caught them, they would immediately look away, and pretend to be really interested in a tree.  This happened over, and over, and over again.

Our way too young to be driving a rented RV site neighbours, were the worst.  This young couple could barely mutter a word to us, but would stand there — when they thought we didn’t see them — and gawk at us.  I couldn’t understand why they just didn’t come up and ask us where the kids were from.   But then it I caught one facial expression that I was not meant to see.  Embarrassment.  They were staring because they felt it was obscene to see a family with so many children.  They were watching a freak show, and they didn’t want to admit it.  No, these folks had no shame in driving around in a Granny-mobile in their 30’s, wearing uber-expensive mountaineering clothes to walk around handicap accessible groomed trails, and leaving their empty wine bottles at the entrance to the campsites for the “forest fairies” to collect for recycling, but were ashamed for us that we had too many children for their tastes.  Huh.  Auf Wiedersehen right back at you, Sweetheart.  (Did I mention the Australians were really nice?)

I have children because I have hope.  At one point I had no hope, and I had no children.  I do not believe that life is pointless, I do not believe that God will fail, and I do not believe that things will ever get so bad that I will wish that the human race would disappear in favour of the Dominion of Slugs.  There’s a trite expression, “Children are God’s way of saying the world should go on.”  They are also people’s way of saying that they should go on.  But if you have no hope, and then why should you go on?  Waste your money and time travelling around foreign countries, trying to fill your days with some pleasure and diversion, before it all comes to its meaningless end.  Staring at big families when they’re not looking.  Like I said, Auf Wiedersehen Sweetheart.

(Sorry for the rant.  Did I mention the Australians were really, really nice?)

Don’t Call Your Kids Rude Names, Even Though They Earned It

You have a problem with me, Mom?

“Be careful when you open that pop,” I warned Dear Husband.  “They kids were in the pantry shaking it up today.”

“You know that comedian you don’t approve of, who calls his kid a that name?”

“I just don’t think you should call your kids that.”

“You have to admit he has a point.  People who take your favourite drink, shake it for no reason so it loses all it’s fizz and  sprays all over you when you open it, and then puts it right back so you don’t know, well, let’s be honest. That person is an ass    .”

In response, I just looked at him and pursed my lips, which means, Yeah, maybe you’re right, but push it and you’ll find yourself in all kinds of wrong.  But he does have a point. If your children keep acting like children once they reach adulthood, they would correctly called all sorts of nasty names.

Like this kid:  She comes home and tells me that she won’t use the school bathroom stalls, because she is sure that the lock will fail and she will never get out.  This, of course, is crazy.  I try to role play asking for new pants from the Lost and Found, when she runs upstairs to use the — you guessed it — bathroom, knocking the humungous package of toilet paper off the stairs from which it was to be carried to the — guess again — upstairs bathroom, leaving it in the middle of the room.  She comes back 5 minutes later, interrupting me to shout, “WHERE’S THE TOILET PAPER?”   I pointed to the floor, and I went back to making supper.  Imagine my surprise when I found that package lying right where it fell, with just one roll clawed out of the package.  If you do that when you’re 35, there’s a name for you.

Oh, and remember sweet, little Princess?  After playing with her for nearly an hour, I tried to sit down and listen to an interesting audio clip posted on the Dumb Old Housewives blog.  She walks over, squeezes onto my lap, and asks all these questions about the stock photos that are playing, so I can’t hear.  Finally, “How looong is this?  It’s sooooo boring.”  Meaning:  You are welcome to entertain yourself, as long as it also entertains me.  Again, if you’re pulling this stunt anytime after the 3rd decade of your life, it’s not going win you a nice nickname.

But, they aren’t bad kids, just kids.  This is childish behaviour.  Immature.  Juvenile.  They aren’t doing this because they have decided the world should revolve around them.  It’s just that no one has taught them any better.   The teaching being my job, the job of a parent.

I would like to say I always treat my kids with respect because I am such a morally developed person.  But really, if I call them a jerk, they’d probably just look me in the eye and ask, “Oh?  It must be how I was raised.”  I have enough trouble with these kids without being shown up by the under 11 set.

Mom’s First Day Jitters and Reassuring Slime

I have a bone to pick with you Kindergarten Teachers:  Stop taking our children away!  I just let another one go.  Little, tiny, adorable Princess couldn’t wait to climb on board the bus for her First Day.  She didn’t even want to turn around and wave good-bye.  I had to shout at her!  She was all, “It’s a new day and change is good and I can’t wait to get going.”  The only other people who talk like have just lost their jobs, and even they don’t really mean it.  But apparently my five year old does.

AND THEN, she sits on the opposite side of the bus from our house, so she can’t stare out the window and watch me waving frantically.   Just go on and forgot all about your poor Mother, sitting at home, counting the minutes until she can come and pick you up.  It’s not like I have a heart to break, or anything.  <Sigh>

Big Boy understood.  As soon as Princess was gone, he tucked his chin into his chest, and said in a soft, low voice, “I miss her so, so much.”  No more wallowing for me, now I had to buck up and buck him up, too.  I couldn’t take him to McDonald’s for the traditional too-little-for-the-beginning-of-school treat, (he was still coughing up his lungs.)  Instead, we made slime.

Slime, in case you had any doubt in your mind, works best with boys, though girls dig it, too.  There is something about mixing Borax into blue goo with your hands that provides a necessary comfort and distraction.  Perfect activity for not missing someone.   Big Boy was smitten with his blue gunk.  It was slapped, stretched, punched, poked, ripped apart and then put back together.  I showed him how to hide small toys inside, and suddenly, a monster emerged on the kitchen table, eating an entire parking lots of Hot Wheels, before being subdued with a toy pistol.  He was giggling and wiggling, and I was wondering how I was going to survive doing this again when he goes off to school next year.  I have a little less than 12 months to say start to say good-bye.

I picked Princess up from school.  They tried to put her on the bus on the way home, but luckily, the School Board’s procedures caught the mistake.  I ran out front with her teacher to grab her, and she was standing with the Monitor, holding a big person’s hand.  She looked so small there, her blonde pigtails barely reaching the adult’s waist.  We walked back into the school atrium where the rest where waiting.  My entire brood was there, and they, too, looked so small squashed together by the couch, as then entire 10 grades flowed past out the door.  All the people I to miss when they leave.

Tall Girl kept making comments all day about what I should do when all the kids are grown and have left home.  “What brings this up?  You thinking about when you move out one day?”

“Well…I don’t really want to learn how to drive, so…No.  I think I’ll stay here.  Is that okay?”

Two weeks ago I would have launched into a lecture about responsibility and adulthood, and making your own path.  But that was before I had to kiss another soft, little cheek, and watch her walk up the steps of the bus.

“Of course it’s okay, Sweetheart.  You can stay as long with us as long as you like.”

Carnivals Make My Kids Scream and Cry

You call this fun?

Today, we had a fundraising carnival to fund the playground at our kids’ school.  They told them all about it during class on Friday.  “Bouncy castle!  Fire trucks!  Popcorn!  Fancy cars!  Fun fun fun!”

Of course, we went.  How awesome all these folks in our community took time out to put this on for the kids.  We’re so thankful to everyone.   However, when we say carnival around here we pronounce it:

Carni-Vale of Tears

When kids hear “carnival” they think Best Day of My Life with rides, life sized Hello Kitties handing our candy, a self-serve ice cream buffet, and a seven story bouncy tower with a water slide that magically dries you off by the bottom.  What they get is one bouncy house, hot dogs covered in barbecue sauce and some Tootsie Rolls.  Nice, but where’s Santa with the Piñata?

So the disappointed bawling begins.

The gigantic Penguin is SCARY!  And he didn’t give me a lollipop!  He’s never coming back!  But if he does, don’t let him get too close, because he’s too SCARY!  Why didn’t I get a tattoo?  Who has my Fireman Hat?  You touched my drink.  Yes, you did, and you drank it all.  Now, I’m  dying of thirst  AND IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.  Can we buy this Playhouse?  What’s a raffle?  Well, can we buy all the tickets?  Just get more money at the bank.  WAIT WE FORGOT TO GO TO MCDONALD’S AND GET OUR FREE ICE CREAMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We found a spot for to eat our burgers and dogs, that is, after we cleared up about six families’ worth trash left on the tables.  (Life tip, folks:  Just because you are at an event for children doesn’t mean you get to act like children.  That includes opening up the doors to the $80K custom car on display and letting your kids clamber in.)  Dear Dad, who forgot to eat breakfast, or lunch, or stop for a snack, is swooning in the mid-day heat and talking really low through his teeth.  “Dear God the next kid who….”

“Lowered Expectations!” I sing under my breath.  Because that’s 90% of parenting sometimes, managing your kids expectations of reality, and making sure they know your expectation of their behaviour.  Or lack thereof.

Some poor, lonely librarians managed to get the kids to sit down for a Robert Munsch story, but by the time they were on to a round of Shake the Sillies Out, the plot was lost beyond recognition.  I joined in and tried to drum out some excitement for “jumping my jollies out”, but Princess holding back tears.  She just stood there shaking her head, muttering “I will not wiggle my waggle anymore, no sir, no more waggle.”  Into the truck, and over the bridge, and we back to the house we went.

The take away was that the kids thought this was the best time ever.   They had zero memory of crying or screaming or dropping their sucker on the tarmac.  Total bad-time amnesia.  Now, Mom and Dad get their bad-time amnesia.  It’s called “Bedtime and White Wine.”  Cheers!

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