Sunday, October 9, 2011

Open letter to my son on the eve of his third birthday

Golly gee, look who's turning three! You are, my Little Green One, and I still can't quite believe it.

Three years into this Twain-esque sojourn into parenthood, and I can quite honestly and confidently say two things: It's never easy, and it's never dull. 

From the moment that tiny blue plus sign appeared on the litmus, you've brought out the best and worst in me -- from the rock-bottom lows of post-partum depression and colic, through the haze of sleepless nights and seemingly endless teething, tantruming and 'grining', to the exhilirating highs of first words, first steps, and all those unexpected little gifts you've sprung on me along the way. Every delirious kiss and nuzzle never ceases to make me feel like the luckiest woman alive.

From the moment that tiny blue plus sign appeared on the litmus, my life changed forever. Positive. A positive change -- no question. After 9 years spent deliberating, was I positive I wanted to do this parenting thing? Damn straight. It took a while for it to sink in that no one is ever really 'ready' to be a mom. You just do it. It is in the process of parenting that you become a parent.

Being your mother has made me delve deeper into myself, to do my best in spite of my inevitable imperfection. To go on giving even, at times, when it seems there is nothing left of me to give. In spite of everything I've read, before you came along, I never realized I could love so fiercely or heroically. And those revelations just keep on coming...

Like this morning over breakfast when you announced out of the clear blue sky, "Mommy is a really good woman". If I am, my darling, then it is because of you. And it is a privilege and an honour to watch you grow into the "really good man" I know you will one day become.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Shit my preschooler says

Kids see the world with such fresh innocent eyes. It’s no wonder that what comes out of their mouths often vacillates between sheer genius and pure comedy.

Forget P.B. Shelley; our kids are the real poets who don’t know it.

Forget Jim Carrey; our kids come out with the most cracking, side-splitting one-liners.

Their timing is impeccable, the delivery bang on, precisely because they aren’t trying to be funny. They just are...

LGO is no exception.

Click here to read some of the gems he's come up with recently.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The brown diaries -- the final installment

For those of you familiar with my blog, Little Green One, you know the road to toilet independence has been a long one, paved with no shortage of obstacles. After all, there were, I’m sorry to say, not one but a total of three installments – which is proof that when it came to to potty dance, this mom was going at it
all wrong.

Click here to read the full article, as featured at A Mother World.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Who are you and what have you done with my son?

I haven’t been watching Spielberg lately, but I swear some extraterrestrial has come in the night and taken away the Griner (my groan-meets-whining toddler) and replaced him with the most delightful almost-three-year-old you’re likely to meet. Or not. Or maybe his mom finally got a clue. Yes, that’s probably it. Finally.

Click here to read the full article, as featured at A Mother World.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What goes up doesn't necessarily come down

There’s a dangerous trend on the rise among preschoolers. Forget obesity for the time being. Forget bullying. I’m talking about noses. Or nostrils, more precisely. What possesses kids to stick things up their noses, anyway? It’s as though they wake up one day and say, ‘Hey, what are these strange holes doing on my face?’ The answer: to shove things up, obviously. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time…

Click here to read the full article, as featured at Oh Baby! Magazine.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Yummy new job

For those who haven't heard, I got a job writing content for the Yummy Mummy Club, the mom site run by Erica Ehm of Much Music fame. 

Unfortunately this means my own blog posts will be even more sporadic than they have been of late.  But I hope you'll continue to support my work here, there, and everywhere.  I'm obviously biased, but think the "Mummy Buzz" will prove a cool read indeed...

Click here to check out the first installment. The Buzz will be updated daily, bringing you hot mummy news as it happens.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tiger tutor wanted

A-list celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow and her hubby, front man of the rock band Coldplay, Chris Martin, are seeking the services of a private tutorfor their two young children, 8-year-old Apple, and 6-year-old Moses.

According to British newspaper, The Telegraph, the pay is outstanding -- £62,000 (around $100,000) a year for clocking just four hours a day. The package includes star-calibre accommodation, nine weeks’ vacation, and a myriad travel and health care perks.

Now, before you go and polish off your resume, be sure you possess Gwynie’s prerequisite qualifications ad nauseum.

In the ad, which was recently posted on a specialist website,the ideal candidate for the job must meet a long list of must-haves:  a background in classics (including Greek and Latin), fluency in a minimum of three languages (preferably including Mandarinor Japanese).  The applicant must also be able to play at least two instruments, and have a “passion for sailing and tennis, art history or martial arts”.

Is that all, you ask? Apparently not.  In addition to the stringent criteria above, applicants must also be cognizant in “the history of thought from a philosophical perspective”… Looks like Gwynie is giving Amy Chua a run for her money in the Tiger Mom stakes.

No X-boxes or Transformers in the Paltrow/Martin household, then.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Taking the world by Storm

So a Toronto couple has decided to keep their baby's gender a secret.  Only Storm's immediate family knows what's between Storm's squidgy legs.  Is it any wonder this story recently went viral?  That the baby's name is Storm should tell you all you need to know...  Well-intentioned parents land a truly crackpot idea and decide to run with it.  Their hope is that people will get to know Storm as a person, not a gender.  And while the ideology behind the decision is laudable, the reality of a 'sexless' baby is laughable. 

Click here to read the full article, as featured at A Mother World.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bugaboo: why the new Donkey makes an ass out of you and me

When it comes to decadence and rampant commercialism, I’ll be the first to admit there are a lot of things I don’t get. I’m not a ‘bling’ sort of person. Naturally clumsy, I’ve never been one for heels. So the whole Sex in the City shoe fetish was lost on me. I would sooner spend what little disposable income I have on a family trip or a spa treatment. When it comes to pampering, that’s something I not only understand but wholeheartedly endorse. A timely massage or pedi can do wonders for a mother’s ravaged body and soul.

Needless to say, I’m mystified and more than a little ‘bugged’ by the latest Bugaboo craze. There are cars that go for cheaper than the new stroller, which is the ultimate status symbol of the urban mama and papa.

Click here to read the full article, as featured at A Mother World.

Monday, May 23, 2011

My Rhesus monkey

So, being my progeny, LGO was always bound to be a little strange. But my son is weird in his own inimitable fashion.  Not only does he have a real love affair with numbers (he still recites house numbers all the way down the street -- Rain Man, much?), he becomes attached to the strangest things.  Despite much swaying, he's never been one to cuddle with a teddy bear, though he has many.  Ever wishful, I placed Frank the Frog in his crib, only to find him severely beaten by morning.  Then we moved on to George the Monkey.  No black eyes, yet clearly there is no soft spot for the monkey, either.  LGO never seemed to care one way or another who or what slept in his bed... 

Until recently.  It all started when he made the transition to his Big Boy Bed.  He insisted on reading Goodnight Moon as a prelude to nod land.  Books are fine.  Books are great.  Books are a boy's best friend...  Except he felt asleep clutching the hard cover.  Every night since, it's been the same old lang syne.  'Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere, shhhh...'  Progressively, the objects of his affection have grown weirder.  One night he curled up with a plastic block, #9 being a lucky number and all. Maybe he know more about numerology than his dear ole ma.  The other night, it was a calculator, and tonight: an old cordless phone.

In my day it was a knitted white rabbit called 'Rabbie' that ultimately went gray with age and lovin' abuse.  There was also the satiny rim of a favourite blanket.  Soft, secure.  This is what you want in an attachment object, right?  After all, even the Rhesus monkey had the sense to go for the surrogate made of cloth, not wire.  But nope, this just doesn't fly with my LGO.  What does his choice say about him?  Or more worryingly, what does it say about me as his mother?  Am I as comfy as plastic or as soothing as cardboard?  I must remember to ask him in the morning...

What about you?  Is your kid especially clingy with a strange item?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sleep, interrupted

LGO recently made the dreaded transition to the Big Boy Bed.  I'd been putting it off for months due to my don't-fix-it-if-it-ain't-broken mentality.  Further, my son had made no attempt to climb out of his crib-prison, so I wasn't worried for his safety as much as I was for my own sleep! 

As it goes, I was right to be worried.  We'd just returned from a trip to see The Grandparents, which invariably involves a major blip in his routine.  Since his bedtime had already been disrupted beyond recognition, I figured it was as good a time as any to bring down the bars and convert his crib to a toddler bed.

While some tots admittedly make the transition easily, others, well, are -- shall we say -- more resistant to change.  I had been forewarned.  I knew the slightest adjustment in a little kid's world is a huge deal.  I knew it wouldn't be painless.  Still, I hadn't expected it to be quite so painful, either. 

Usually the trouble with the Big Bed is that it gives the inmate ultimate freedom to roam and wander out of bed at will.  In preparation, I made a few modifications; I removed all the toys from LGO's room, except for books.  Needless to say, he freaked out when bedtime rolled around, yet not once did he try to get out of bed.  Hubby and I scratched our Green heads, then banged them on the wall.  What was the problem?  After all, we reassured LGO, it was the exact same bed, minus the bars.

Keeping with the prisoner analogy for a moment, there is this weird phenomenon that occurs with longtime inmates:  when the bars finally come down, all he wants to do is crawl back inside.  Inside comes to represent security.  There is safety, comfort even, in the enclosure.  So with this in mind I switched on LGO's lullaby machine, armed him with a 'cellmate' (an oversized teddy named Pappadum) and his comfort book of the moment, Goodnight Moon.  I found a nightlight and plugged that in, too.

That night, for the first time in weeks, LGO slept through.  Hands down, it was the best Mother's Day gift I could have asked for.  After all, sleep doesn't make you fat, or wilt and die.  But it can make you a nicer person.  Or in my case, a nonviolent person. 

Sleep -- never, ever underrate it.  Never, ever take it for granted.  You never know when, and for how long, you'll lose it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Art attack: will my child be artistic?

I’m no Tiger Mom, but lately I’m beginning to think there is a little bit of Tiger in all of us… We all want the best for our kids. And most of us, whether we admit it or not, have a pretty firm idea of what that best comprises — usually to see some trait or talent from our youth revisited in our children. If you were the Paula Abdul of your heyday, then maybe you harbor secret hopes of raising your own Laker Girl. Or say, for the sake of Canadianism, you have fond memories of cheering from the chilly sidelines of the old Forum, you fantasize about your son being drafted to play for the Habs. 

Click here to read the full article, as featured at A Mother World.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Little Green dancing machine (or this is how we two-year-olds roll)

Most new parents will tell you their social lives died a sudden, tragic death the moment they had children. Not so for me. Ever since my son turned two, he’s been a regular party animal. The life and soul of every play date.

Once upon a time my social calendar looked bleak; I lamented the absence of dinner party invitations and the dearth of little black dress events. But these days I'm a veritable butterfly. And guess what? I have only my two-year-old son to thank.

Click here to read the full article, which won second place in the Voices of Motherhood contest run by Canadian Family and Yummy Mummy Club.

Friday, April 29, 2011

I kissed a girl... and I liked it

In light of all the swooning going on over a certain Wedding -- and even though I personally couldn't give a rat's ass about the bride's dress -- I thought I'd inject some romance into your day, Little Green style... 
I was a mere bystander watching the scene unfold before me: how they stood so close together. Her eyes met his, and he held her there for a moment. Everyone else around them falling away, as if they were all alone in that vast gymnasium. His hands brushed hers, and held hers for a moment... She moved closer, dangerously close. She teased him with her proximity. He waited until he couldn't stand it any longer. 
Sensing what he had to do, what he had been wanting to do all along, he pushed closer. All at once his lips pressed against hers. All that feeling, and it was over in a fleeting second. 
She backed away swiftly, and stared at him. She wiped her mouth with her sleeve. In a fleeting second, his heart shattered. He'd been sloppy. A little heavy on the saliva, maybe.  He had disappointed her. He wasn't what she'd wanted, after all. Had he misunderstood? Or had she led him on? 
One thing was for sure. He was two-and-a-half-years-old, and from now on love would never be the same.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Recharging the energizer mummy

I don’t know about you, and while I wouldn’t have had it any other way, I feel like my life post birth has changed much more radically than my husband’s has. And I’m not sure whether that’s because I carried my son in my body for nine-and-a-bit months, or because I never returned to the office after my maternity leave expired… Whatever the reason, there comes a time when the balance needs to be redressed.

Click here to read the rest of the article, as featured at Oh Baby! Magazine.

Friday, April 22, 2011

From the archives...

I’ve never really thought of myself as green, per se. In high school I belonged to a local group called the ‘Green Team’ but only because a couple of my friends were in it, and at the time REM was all the rage.

My parents aren’t exactly eco warriors, although they ‘composted’ and ‘blue boxed’ long before either became a household term. During the brief interlude that is the Canadian Summer, they keep a decent veg patch — nothing posh, just some green and yellow beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers to rival any superstore produce, both in terms of aesthetics and taste. All of this is passé, of course. It was nothing they did consciously, or even conscientiously. It was just the way they lived. There was no sacrifice or smug labour involved.

But things on the green front have moved on considerably. And I fear, for my son’s sake, that I am getting left behind. Put simply: the Little Green Household is not doing enough. It occurred to me the other day as my toddler was helping ‘recycle’ a fistful of flyers. We — and here I also mean the collective me-and-you we — could really be doing more, couldn’t we? The question is, what?

Click here to read the rest of the article, as previously featured on A Mother World.  Happy Earth Day and Easter, everybunny!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Word to your mutha

My son is the unacknowledged king of the simile. He is a poet, and he don't know it. Like a lot of his compadres, he comes up with the most startlingly astute observations when I least expect it. For instance, the other day he was wearing a pair of undersized army pants. (Don't ask: I instantly regretted buying them, although, it has to be said, they do look unbearably cute on him.) He glances down, all thoughtful, points to the motif and says, 'It's like puzzle pieces'. And another time: pointing to a tag on his top. 'It's like a flag'. And so on.

But my ultimate favourite bit of toddler lyricism came earlier this week. Allow me to set the scene: for some reason I always let LGO jump on my bed in the morning. Don't know why -- possibly because I was never allowed to as a kid, and really, it seems like a fairly harmless release right now. Who knows, maybe I'll think differently when he's 12 and cracks the box spring... Anyway, this whole bed-jumping routine also serves one incredibly vital purpose: it allows me to get dressed and ready. So the other day he pauses mid-jump and spies a white, modestly padded bra on the bed. Without a moment's hesitation, he holds the cup and declares, 'It's like an igloo'. Why, yes, I thought, it is exactly like an igloo -- a very, very small igloo. Still, leaves me wondering whether it's too early to sign him up to his first creative writing workshop. Bet he'd blow away all those Emo undergrads.

On occasion, however, his powers of perception -- though right on the money -- aren't quite so welcome. The truth hurts. And trust me, no one does truth like a preschooler. Because preschoolers haven't yet got that inner censorship button. In other words, they don't yet know how to lie, or grasp the social function that lying sometimes serves. That particular talent comes with age and years of experience; just ask anyone in public office... And anyway, we've all heard the stories -- the kid in the mall who practically shouts, 'Hey, mommy, that lady over there is really fat!' or 'Hey, mommy, why doesn't that man have any hair on his head?' Well, I guess the honesty-at-all-costs game starts at home.
Recently, my son has discovered the art of playing pretend. Needless to say, we never know who's going to show up at the dinner table each night. Will it be a rooster, a cat, or a sheep? Or, as was the case the other evening, will the anthropomorphic target become yours truly? 'Mommy,' he declares upon seeing me wolf down a second helping, 'is being like a pig...' Errr, honesty? From where I'm sitting: not always the best policy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

S.O.S. S.V.P.

If you're anything like me, help is a four-letter word.  Don't worry, I'm here to... er, help.  What is it about today's moms, anyway?  Why is it that most of us would gladly undergo root canal than ask for a hand with our domestic load?  It seems to me the equivalent of male bravado to shoulder more than we can at any given time, to pretend we can cope when we clearly can't, and like the proud mare, to never, ever admit when we feel overburdened, even when we reach the point of collapse. 

Asking for help wasn't my strong suit when my son was first born.  And judging by last week, it's still something of a sore point.  First, understand that this past winter has kicked my butt like Chu Yer Own Fat, and then kicked me again while I was already down.  The other day, instead of saying mea culpa to my beaten body, I did what I do best:  ignored its cries and plodded on with the 101 tasks I had to do before shut-eye time.  I forced myself to engage in some face time with the laptop.  I drank (yet another) cup of coffee, drugging myself against reality. 

Then, just as my preschooler woke up from his nap, my body lashed out.  I literally couldn't muster the wherewithal to attend to him.  In desperation, I called my next-door neighbour, a busy but for the grace of God retired woman.  Luckily for me, she was at home and available to rescue me from the fruit of my own doing. She came over and duly sat with my son for an hour while I crawled into bed and closed my eyes.  Bliss.  See, I told myself, that wasn't so hard, was it?  Oh, but it was. Even as I lay there, inert and ughhhh, some remote part of me felt ashamed to have called her.  Ashamed to have got myself to the point where I needed to call her. 

Somehow I had become a helpless and pathetic damsel up in her tower.  Not at all the hyper organized, control-is-my-middle-name ubermom that usually gets projected to the rest of the world.  I felt weak, and yet at the time I was so conked out I couldn't stop myself from reaching out and begging for assistance.  No doubt I'll cringe (and blog) over the Lose Face episode later, I told myself, when I feel well enough to tend to my bruised pride.

How about you?  Have you ever 'cracked' and asked for help.  When and what drove you to such a ghastly act of dependency?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mommy: the really useful engine

It was the nicest compliment I’d received in a long time. Not foxy. Not clever. Not kind, even. But really useful. For those of you unfamiliar with Thomas the Tank Engine, allow me to enlighten your poor sheltered lives for a moment. Thomas, based on a series of old books by Rev. W Awdry, tells the tale of a little blue steam engine from a little island remarkably like Britain, only sunny. For some odd reason, Thomas and his ‘steamie’ friends are positively revered by the under-four set. And my two-and-a-bit-year-old is no exception to this enduring trainspotting obsession. He knows every engine by heart according to its colour and number. He asks to watch Misty Island Rescue at least five times a day and, I’m slightly loathe to admit, can recite whole sections of the film verbatim. If you have a girl, count yourself lucky. But then, I guess payback comes with puberty…

Click here to read the full post, as featured at A Mother World.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

How deep is your blog?

Just how much information on the WWW is TMI?  (No more acronyms going forward, promise.)  After reading the latest blog horror story -- in which a mom outlandishly admits to the world at large that she prefers her son over her daughter, and then some -- I've been thinking about the big reveal and wondering if honesty really is always the best policy, at least insofar as it relates to the Internet. 

While Twitter and Facebook have arguably tightened the e-community, the social networking twins, no doubt about it, have brought out the narcissist in all of us, from the constant shameless plugs to the most mundane minutia. (Seriously, I know you've all witnessed the cringe worthy I'm Eating This status updates, too.)  I'm as guilty of navel gazing as the next person, possibly even more so.  I've often ran off at the mouth about things I probably shouldn't have, or wouldn't have, in a saner moment. 

Countless times I've opened the closet on my dark materials and talked about just how effing tough motherhood has been for me so far.  I've talked about depression and colic and many more ugly-as-sin topics on LGO.  Mainly, I'm proud to do so because I feel it's not only therapeutic for me to give those demons a good run every now and then, but because it's equally therapeutic for you to read it and occasionally nod that you really do 'get it'. 

But let's face it, some thoughts are just too dark, even for the web.  Some dirty laundry is best left to fester in the basement, or at the least, aired out where it belongs: between the four walls of a psychotherapist's office.  Will I live to regret some of the confessions made in the public domain under this domain name?  Possibly.  No, probably.  Still, I would hope there has never been any doubt about how much I love my son, ever. 

Writing for the web, though, somehow doesn't feel as real as writing for the printed page.  Don't know about you, but paper just feels more indelible and final.  Yet I know I'm kidding myself, and that the Internet may be even more dangerous due to the sheer numbers.  Once those words are released, there is no catching or retracting them.  The end result is instant, occasionally incendiary and nothing short of pandemic -- think Tiger Mom.  Rather than feeling the need to write a follow-up 'justification post', perhaps the aforementioned horror story mom (and any blogger for that matter) would do well asking herself the following questions:  Am I ok with my kids reading this now or in years to come? And my parents? My third-grade teacher? My neighbour from three doors down? before pressing PUBLISH.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why it doesn't make sense to have kids (but we do it anyway)

In fact, all logical arguments point to the fact that having kids in this day and age is positively bonkers.  That's not to say, however, that having kids isn't worthwhile.  It is.

As an interesting, albeit junk study recently indicated, the argument for having kids for emotional kudos is based on pure delusion.  The 'evidence' suggests that if we remained childless, we'd not only be richer as a species, but happier, too.  (Though admittedly, we'd also, after quite a while, be extinct, too, but I digress...) Apparently the greater the perceived sacrifices made in raising children, the greater satisfaction parents report feeling.  Masochist, moi?  Well, the lot of us, it would seem. 

But such studies about parenting are tautological by nature and on a personal note, a real pain in the ass.  Data of the heart isn't readily quantifiable, regardless of how solid your control group.  Sure, parenthood doesn't make fiscal sense.  I mean, duh -- of course it doesn't.  But the emotional payback must range somewhere in the gazillions.  Ok, so some days this home truth isn't exactly apparent, and some days we're tempted to throttle our kids and risk capital punishment.  Some days we secretly lament the loss of freedom and pension fund; we daydream of a parallel, Sliding Doors kind of universe in which we are barren yet fancy free.  But then we blink, and the moment passes...

Besides, how can you put a value on your child's smile or any time he looks you in the eye and says, 'I love you, Mommy'?  That's right; you can't.  What pseudoscience tends to forget is that those moments, though admittedly few and far between, are priceless.  Likewise with marriage.  It's a bitch, and sometimes we want to throttle our spouse and risk aforementioned capital punishment.  But that doesn't put us off searching for a soul mate, and tying the knot again and again and again...  Our desire to bond with other human beings runs deeper than mere primordial urge.  (Well, perhaps excepting Charlie Sheen.)

Before I had children, my mother struggled --and failed-- to articulate the joys of motherhood to me.  It was much like trying to describe sex to a virgin.  'You'll understand once you have one,' she said enigmatically.  But you know what?  She was exactly right. On both counts.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How the F-word changed motherhood (or not)

IWD may sound like a disease, but it actually stands for International Women's Day.  A lot has changed since our foremothers were roughing it in the trenches.  Feminism has brought us better cloth diapers, with velcro fastenings, no more 'safety' pin-pricked fingers, thank you very much.  We are now --more or less-- free to work as many (or as few) hours as we want to, wherever we want to.  We are free to have as many (or as few) children as our little hearts desire, thanks to some modern miracles known as contraception and IVF**.  Another pint-sized but no less wondrous invention: tampons. (Don't know about you but the idea of waddling around in bunched-up, Sumo-style fabric isn't my idea of enlightened.)

So we women in the West have our foremothers' sacrifices to thank for our current freedom.  All those brassieres weren't charred in vain.  That said, I'm not sure being a mother these days is any easier than it was in the 'oldendays'.  Certainly we have more conveniences at our fingertips.  However, sometimes the sheer number of options available to us seems limitless.  Choice may be synonymous with freedom, but all that choice can also cause guilt, inertia, even, paradoxically, indecision.  Because we try to wear so many hats at once, and play so many of the roles now open to us, we bear the strains of extra responsibilities and self-imposed metaphorical schizophrenia.  Being superwoman day in, day out inevitably takes its toll.  In the main, we are stressed, sometimes resentful, confused, and chronically exhausted. 

But in spite of all the above, as mothers, are we happier today?  What would our daughters strive to change in our place?  Only time will tell...

** I was going to add that we no longer have to give birth at home with nothing but a Popsicle stick to bite on.  But apparently this isn't so, as my good friend N will attest.  N gave birth, sans Popsicle, to a bouncing 7lbs boy yesterday, mere minutes before the paramedics arrived!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The brown diaries -- vol 3

Can there really be a third instalment? I never intended for a trilogy. After a long hiatus, we've made some terrific progress, though. LGO now has a potty wall of fame -- yes, we've adopted the dreaded sticker chart. He likes it, and given his appetite, I figure it's a better incentive than the carcinogenic Smarties. Of course he is showered with praise, too. And he often declares proudly, 'I did a HUGE poop!' so there is certain pride in the act of expunging, and of course, as with all things male and bravado, size is everything.

For a while we would read books with him on the john. After the millionth reading of The Purple Snerd and Munsch's Mortimer, however, we splurged on a LeapFrog 'notepad', which comfortably fits on his lap. Now he'll doodle while doing his business. It seems to work. And yet, with all this triumph, it's a wonder we don't have the training in the bag yet.

We sit him down after each meal, like clockwork. More often than not, he produces. After he peed in the big toilet yesterday, I figured it was time to introduce the big boy underwear. Within a half hour: carnage. He not only did No. 1, a No. 2 also greased his fancy tank engines. The worst part -- not only didn't he announce his intention but he didn't seem to mind going in his pants in the least. Just sort of hobbled around, a la John Wayne, with the chocolate parcel in his drawers. Never once said 'boo', not so much as an 'uh-oh's', no declarations of the sort.

So, after cleaning him up, we put on new pants and new undies (Y-fronts this time, Old Navy). Another half hour, and another trickle. Still isn't fazed. No comments from the peanut gallery. Unlike one of his female friends, who screams and cries when she wets her panties, with LGO it's business as usual. Does this mean he isn't ready? Still? How can I get him to care about where he shits? Is he doomed to be one of those guys who pees against brick walls in alleyways when perfectly good toilets abound? Say it ain't so...

Monday, February 14, 2011

For better or whatever (redux)

Chocolates or a dozen roses? Yes, it's that time again, when your significant other indulges in a (banal) attempt to show you just how much you mean to him/her. Singletons aren't the only ones who want to vomit pink on the 14 day of February; they're not the only ones who'd love to tell Cupid where to stick his freaking arrow.

With the divorce rate being what it is, makes you wonder why so many people continue to buy into 'happily ever after'. If monogamy really is dead as the cynics would have us believe, then why are people still getting married and remarried ad infinitum? Romance after marriage may be a rarity, yet death-do-you-part is a dream that we as a society still cling to for dear life. Despite our shoddy track record, we desperately want monogamy to work.

I have been with my significant other for nearly half of my life now. Scary to think of it in those terms, if only because it's a stark reminder of how quickly the years stack up. Twelve, to be precise. That is no small feat these days. Some of my friends are already well into their second marriages. I'm not sure what our particular secret is. There isn't some elixir when it comes to staying with the same person, no magic bunny hiding underneath the marital bed. Marriage, to me, is a lot like writing: 99 per cent perspiration, 1 per cent inspiration. In this age there is so much competing for our limited attention -- children, work, friends, even hobbies. The real work of marriage is to stay connected in spite of all those conflicting demands on our time. After all, no relationship is unsinkable, and complacency is the iceberg no one saw coming...

For some reason many couples are reluctant to carve out time for each other. Children certainly complicate the issue, but babysitters are significantly cheaper than divorce lawyers! Blame 14 February, I say. It doesn't have to be Moët and Chandon. It doesn't even have to be heart-shaped or velvet to be heartfelt. A simple walk or chai latte together can act as a crucial reminder of why you enjoy spending time together. Defer that connection for too long, and you'll roll over one day and hardly recognize the person beside you.

Sex is nice, but what's icing without cake? You have to lay the groundwork, so to speak. A wise friend once introduced me to the Six Second Rule. No matter what's happening around you -- deadlines, tantrums -- wrap your arms around your partner, and make those seconds count. Sounds silly and overly simplistic, but it works. Intimacy is all about being present in the moment, otherwise sex risks becoming yet another thing to strike off the To Do list.

So rather than plunk down in front of Glee, why not share a bubble bath or snuggle together with a glass of red? BlackBerries and televisions are the sworn enemies of romance and, ironically, of true communication. You know this; I know this. If it's artificial glow you want, then go light some candles.

At the end of a long day, I still feel blessed to fall into my hubby’s arms, even if it is only for six seconds. To me, evolving through the various stages of life with the same person is the biggest turn-on. Personally, I love how our plot keeps thickening, twisting in unexpected directions. Becoming parents was just another chapter in our saga (an exhilarating, sometimes arduous chapter), and already I find myself looking forward to the next chapter, and the next after that.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

On bullying a bully

They say there’s no such thing as a bad child, only bad behavior. Recently I’ve had the misfortune of experiencing up close and extremely personally this so-called bad behavior. When I enrolled my two-year-old son in a program named (wishfully, ironically) Terrific Twos, I was excited. The aim of the class is just to give tots a taste of preschool life, with its structured activities ranging from crafts to stories and singsong. Beyond that the big draw for me is the chance to drop off my son and eventually leave the room for a while...

Click here to read the full article, as featured at Real Zest.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My cunning linguist

Capacity for grining aside, LGO is an unusually articulate and comical 2-and-3-month-old, as evidenced this week.  You never know what he's gonna come up with.  It's kinda what I imagine living with Jim Carrey must be like (although I'm sure his ex-wives would beg to differ).  Lately I wake up to the sounds of him crooning in the next room.  He's got quite the repertoire, must be gearing up for Vegas:  These Boots are Made for Walkin', Jumpin' Jack Flash, I am the Walrus, as well as the usual kiddie fare (mainly, if I have anything to do with it, Sesame Street and Co.)  And his new favourite -- after he received a Spidey watch for Christmas, and I made the fatal mistake of playing the original cartoon theme song for him via You Tube -- 'Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can...'  He can sing most of the song, note for note, bar for bar.  Rote repetition, sure, but so unbearably cute.  Of course now, after countless viewings, I also know the words by heart, too.  We all have our crosses to bear.

Guess it spells the end of an era
We're leaving behind In the Night Garden, et al.  Everything has a time and a place, after all.  It's just funny to think how quickly these little people grow and evolve.  They are in such a race to move on.  You want to tell them to slow down already, take in the view, lap it up. You'll be wanting botox before you know it...  Even though I'm clinging to the crib for as long as my sanity will allow (and for as long as it takes for him to plan a break-out, Shawshank-style), I did convert his room recently.  It was high time to banish the babyishness in favour of a total Thomas & Friends fest.  (Yes, anyone with a similarly aged male is overly familiar with the toddler trainspotting fetish.)  Got some great wall stickers, a poster, fleece and bedding.  We are officially Thomased to the hilt. 

My baby is gone
He's graduated to the next level.  I'm not too broken up about it, because that phase was very painful for me, in the main.  I'm glad to turn a new leaf, even though, as recent posts will attest, this stage isn't always a peach, either.  But because LGO is increasingly articulate, it is getting easier to understand and communicate with him every day.  And that is a great relief, even as part of me recognizes what is lost, the innocence that gets chipped away, bit by bit...  We are progressing on the potty front (stickers notwithstanding).  And he can count to 100, knows his colours, alphabet, shapes, and body parts inside out.  And lately, without preempting, he has startled us by counting to ten, and now 20, in French.  Guess I'd better start pulling out my finger in the bilingualism department.  Clearly, my son has a knack for tongues -- just like his madre, it seems.  Well, I'm all for that, provided he doesn't want to be A Writer. 

He's also something of a yoga bunny...
Spending a fair bit of time in downward dog, then throwing his arms back in a practice headstand, which is more than his mother can manage.  And on the (kitchen) dancefloor he has been known to bust a few original moves.  Unlike his mother, though, he isn't much for arts and crafts.  Can take or leave drawing and painting.  He likes play dough, but only if I'm the one doing the doughing.  (And we've had some recent successes: a Bert with a fetching unibrow, and a good likeness of the Blue the dog from Blue's Clues.)

Children really do say the darndest things
Eating out at restaurants is still a highly skilled military operation, yet we Greens try to manage it once a weekend.  It's nice for us to dine out as a family, and a welcome break for mom.  This past weekend we tried out the Gourmet Burger Company.  No burgies for junior, but a pretty nice-looking grilled cheese.  A woman waiting for her order turned around and said hello.  Not only did he say hello back, our little one piped up: 'Hey my man! Hey my buddy!'  Where did this come from?  His grandfather we suspect.  Sometimes out of the blue, LGO will also say in all seriousness to his father: 'Philip, come here, Philip' or 'Whatcha doin', Philip?' in a voice uncannily like my own.  Cheap entertainment, in the privacy of our own home.  Watch out Mr Carrey, at age two LGO is already perfecting his stand-up routine, impersonations and all.

What uproarious/surprising things has your little one done lately?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The mother of all meltdowns

What's the only thing worse than your child having the mother of all meltdowns?  His mother having one too.  Enter the terrible *ahem* terrific twos.  The Griner, as he's affectionately and sometimes not-so-affectionately known around these parts, is back among us.  All hell bent on making 2011 the year of socialization, I enrolled him in a music class as well as a play group that fosters independence by letting the caregiver 'disappear' for part of the session.  The perfect antidote, said I, to the stay-at-home preschooler afflicted with separation anxiety.  Recently it had gotten to the point some nights whereby my son will cry for 'mommy' when he is going to have his bath (with daddy, I might add).  I can be in the next room, but if I'm not in the bathroom with him, look out. Still, it's not the separation anxiety that I mind so much; frankly, it's nice to feel wanted.  And along with it comes a lot of affection, 'pucker ups' and mommy-love. No complaints there. However...

Socialization is a hard nut
I'm told it's 'a phase' and that 'it too shall pass', but my LGO still cracks when there are loud noises, when other children invade his personal space. (Seriously, and here I thought personal space was something that only came about after you'd worked with the office lech).  But today, throughout his play group -- where, for the record, no one shoved him or so much as grabbed a toy from him -- he just freaked.  Whined, screamed, threw things.  Generally didn't want to be there, and no wonder:  what a hellhole it was, with so many of his little munchkins friends happily ensconced in crafts, songs, stories, and all around kid FUN.  So why couldn't my munchkin get stuck in?  Why couldn't he just enjoy himself like the others? 

I'm not a conformist, usually
But when it comes to your child, you want so desperately for them to blend.  Now, I haven't had him tested yet because he's so articulate and bright in many respects, but what if there genuinely is something wrong? I don't think there is.  I don't want to think there is.  But I also can't find any earthly explanation for this perplexing behaviour of his.  Has anyone else out there encountered a Griner?  Is this really typical of 2yos?  From what I've seen, not quite.  They all have their foibles, for sure.  And I hate to keep up with the Joneses.  Yet as mothers, we can't quite help ourselves, can we?  Isn't it always the way that when your child seems at his most demonic, others seem at their most angelic?  And they will tell you, 'Oh, they all have their moments;' it's just that you don't remember ever seeing any of theirs even come close to what you've been dealing with for, well, always.  Even at snack time (a perennial favourite of my tot's) the Griner was still at it. 

Then.  I lost it
I couldn't help the tears, the pent-up frustration that was like a dam breaking the levee.  I took a deep breath, but it was like once I started I couldn't stop.  All that trying to be such a great mother.  And that added salt to the wound because here I am, writing publicly about what it means to be a great mother and about all things mothering... And here I couldn't get my shit together.  And my kid had turned into a Tasmanian devil.  All the friendly words meant nothing.  They fell on deaf ears, for when your kid acts up, you're on your own raft, mate.  You are that shipwrecked Tom Hanks kind of alone. 

And it feels like...
No other kid in the history of the world acted up like yours, ever. And that rare golden moment when your child dons his halo (like no other kid in the history of the world, of course), oh, don't you just lap it up?  Smug as anything.  So today I'm having a devil day, but hopefully tomorrow will bring with it a halo.  Then I can forget and lap up all that golden cherubness and tell some other poor mam that 'we all go through it'.  Not that she'd believe me for a second.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Are Chinese mothers superior?

In her book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother", recently excerpted in The Wall Street Journal, Yale Professor Amy Chua boasts about all the things her daughters were not allowed to do, ever. The list --by no means exhaustive, I’m sure-- includes having a sleepover or play date, being in a school play, watching TV or playing computer games, choosing their own extracurricular activities, getting any grade less than an A, not being the top student in every subject (except, mercifully, gym and drama), playing any instrument besides the piano or violin.

Chua claims her strict and regimented 'Chinese-style' parenting is more successful than that of most (permissive) Westerners, who stress individual happiness over achievement. So, who’s right? Who’s wrong? While I don’t doubt that Chua’s daughters are hugely talented, highly precocious youngsters, I feel sorry for the means by which they became so. I find Chua’s methods questionable at best. She claims to love her children so much that she doesn't expect less than perfection from them. But I wonder whether she hasn't raised the bar impossibly high.

Rote repetition may well be underrated here in America, as Chua claims. Perhaps as parents we let our children off the hook too easily at times. Perhaps we allow them give up without first putting up a good fight. After all, what’s most worthwhile in life rarely comes on a silver platter. It’s a question of balance, however, and this is where Chua gets it horribly wrong. Practice and effort are right to be applauded, but not at all costs. There are circumstances in which failure is, and should be, an option, and one for which children are not rebuked or humiliated. (At one point Chua fondly recalls how her own father once accused her of 'disgracing' him when she came second place in a contest.)

When loved for her abilities rather than for her intrinsic worth, a child’s emotional and mental welfare is compromised. A child should not have to earn a parent’s pride through achievement alone. Chua claims she drives her children to succeed because she loves them too much to watch them fail. But isn't failure a crucial lesson in and of itself? How much is too much to expect from our children? In Chua's vision, parental love isn’t a given; it has to be earned through blood, sweat, and tears – not merely through valiant effort but through overachievement. In my understanding, parenting shouldn't be based on a points system. A child should be loved, first and foremost, for himself, not for what he can or can’t do.

If a Chinese child came home with a B grade (not a likely scenario, according to Chua), therein would follow ‘a screaming, hair-tearing explosion’, followed by the most intensive, grueling regime until a 'B' became 'A'. It goes without saying that this failure-is-not-an-option model creates unbearable pressure on children, and though the results may be close to perfection, innocence and fun are sacrificed just so the parent gets to play the brag card. The children learn discipline, sure, but they also learn less favorable lessons, too.

And what happens down the line when the classically trained pianist or figure skating champion burns out at age 15, or ends up 'dissing' the prodigious talent his entire young life has been based upon? What happens when the student grows to resent his parents and rebels against their influence? Or, in extreme cases, ultimately cracks and commits suicide?

I may never have made it through high school calculus, or even chemistry for that matter. And I’ve never so much as picked up a guitar, let alone a violin. By Chua's standards, I’m a worthless loser. But more importantly, I’m a happy and deeply loved loser. And that is far more precious to me than being able to play a sonata in b minor or to work out the value of x.