Teen Anticipation

“Are you excited?” I asked as we backed out of the driveway.

“I’m terrified,” he replied, rubbing his palms on his thighs.

“You’re awesome either way,” I told him, “and you’ll know tonight.”

“I just want it so bad!” he said, looking over at me. The fluorescent logo on his t-shirt glowed in the morning sun. I merged onto the main road, hoping for traffic slow downs on the way so I could enjoy his company for a few extra minutes.

I looked over at Jack and remembered how, three years earlier, he hadn’t wanted to join the marching band. Now it wasn’t something he would consider not doing. The boy that always says, “let’s just forget it and go home” when things don’t go well is the one who gets up an hour early on the days he has band.

“Aaaahhh! I just wanna know!” he says. Then something catches his eye in oncoming traffic. “Ooo, check out that black Ferrari,” he says, grateful to the break in anxiety.

“Nice,” I reply, and wink at him. Every day we’re on the lookout for super cars.

He switches the radio to the iPod and turns on our favourite driving song. We’re only one song away from school now.

“If I make it into drumline I still get a new drum pad right?”

“Of course. You need something better to practice on.”

He brightens up.

“I’m full of knots!” he says, fidgeting in his seat.

I drop him off and I notice he has a hop in his step. Halfway to the door he stops and turns and runs back to the car with his sunglasses in hand. “I forgot,” he says and hands them to me.

“See you later! I loooove you!” I tease him after seeing that there is no one around to hear me.

On the drive home I put our song on repeat even though I feel like I’m cheating on him in some way. I’m full of nerves too. He’s worked hard but we both know it’s not a given that he gets a drum. I say a prayer of gratitude for what this nervous anticipation is teaching him about patience and perseverance and I thank God for bringing us here. I also pray for patience and for wisdom so I can comfort him if things don’t work out.

The Puker

Jacob was born on the eve of spring
The clouds were dripping and the birds did sing

It didn’t take long for Mum to see
He was the world’s greatest baby

But then came May and he started to puke
The first time Dad thought, “ah it’s a fluke”

But again and again he puked all over
The closet, the fridge, and their dog Rover

But it was the furnace vent that surprised Mum most
He bent over, tossed the grate, and lost his toast

The heat turned on and the house smelled of upchuck
Jake might be the greatest, but he sure was bad luck!

Just when they thought that the worst was over
He puked in the car and they had to pull over

This kid was a machine, he just couldn’t stop
They put a plug in him but out it did pop

Other parents would say, “Oh my kid is so hard”
But Jake’s parents always played the puke card

Someday Jake will marry and have a nice kid
And if he’s lucky, he will come with a lid

Casey’s Birthday Allergy: A Story for Parents, Kids, and Everyone Else

Casey burst through the door, threw her bag on the floor, stomped up the stairs, and slammed her bedroom door.

“I hate birthdays!” she yelled.

Mum and Dad looked at each other and sighed. Dad went up and knocked on Casey’s door.

“I’m not changing my mind! No more birthdays!”

Dad opened the door and sat down on Casey’s bed.

“Tell me what happened,” he said in his serious Dad voice.

“I had to sit outside! They all played some dumb balloon game and I had to sit outside on the front step like a bad dog!” Tears streamed down Casey’s face as she looked down at her Superboy action figure in her hands.

“It’s like at Jason’s when all the kids did funny voices with the balloons, and Ashley’s birthday when they made elastic bracelets. I hate everyone!”

“It’s a bum deal,” Dad said.

“And I never get cake! Ever!” Casey sobbed into Dad’s shoulder.

“I hate allergies! And I hate birthdays!” Dad rubbed Casey’s back while her tears dropped down onto Superboy’s cape.

When they went downstairs, Mum made Casey a super sundae, their special treat after birthday parties. “It’s not fair,” Casey sniffed as she took a spoonful of fudge, “all the other kids get to do everything and I get nothing.”

“It’s no fun having allergies,” Mum told her, “but remember, other kid’s parties are for their special day, and it’s important that we honour their choices.”

“I don’t care, I’m not going to anymore stupid birthdays.”

The next day at school, Casey sat down in her desk and crossed her arms. She glared at Daniel when he handed her an envelope, and she stuffed it in her backpack without opening it. At recess, she heard him talking about his party and how they were going swimming in the backyard and how the cake was going to be amazing. She had to try so hard not to cry that she thought her eyes were on fire.

“I can’t wait until you come to my birthday, Casey,” Daniel told her at lunch, “it’s going to be amazing. It’s going to have Superboy everything.”

“Yeah, sure,” Casey replied.

“Hey, wanna come over after school?” Daniel asked.

“I can’t. I have to go home.” Casey turned away. She ran home from school and threw the envelope in the garbage before going to her room. She looked out her window and saw Daniel in his yard playing in the sprinkler. Casey turned away and sat on her bed.

The next morning, Casey saw the invitation sitting beside her bowl of cereal. She gulped.

“I know Daniel really wants you at his party,” Mum said.

“I’m not going.” Casey left without eating.

When Casey got home from school, Mum was on the phone. She made herself a snack and went to her room. Mum was excited when she got off the phone but she wouldn’t tell Casey anything about the call. The invitation sat on the kitchen table until the day of the party. Every time Daniel asked Casey about it, she just shrugged. On the afternoon of the party, Casey sat in her room looking out the window and watching all the kids arrive at Daniel’s house. She imagined the backyard filled with balloons up to the sky and everyone pushing her away.

Mum called from downstairs, “Casey, come down please.”

Casey wiped her cheeks and sulked down the stairs.

“I need to go out for a couple hours, can you go help Dad in the shed?”

“Fine.”

Dad was in his greasy shirt and big work gloves that Casey loved to wear. She liked to pretend she was Superboy, fixed the supership in preparation for the next mission.

“I need your help. I’ve borrowed all these from Daniel’s Dad and I need to take them back.”

Casey looked at the tools. “Can’t you go by yourself? Can’t we go somewhere else?”

But Dad said no. They walked across the street and into Daniel’s yard. Casey saw Daniel and all the kids from class.

“Casey!” they all yelled. Casey turned red like a beet and hid her face in her shirt. Daniel took her hand and led her inside.

“I didn’t know if you’d come!”

He showed her that Mum had made a cake safe from all the bad stuff. Casey saw her Mum in the kitchen, and Mum gave her a wink.

“And there are no balloons here!” Daniel shouted and showed her the whole house and yard, balloon free.

“Balloons are for babies anyway,” he told her.

“I’ll be right back,” she told Daniel and ran home. She came back in her bathing suit and she was carrying a bag, which she handed to Daniel.

“This is for you.”

He opened the bag, and inside was Casey’s favourite Superboy action figure that Daniel had wanted since forever.

“You… are you sure?” Daniel asked, staring at Superboy.

“Yes, anything for my best friend. Happy birthday.”

the story of a young mother

I thought I would tell you the story of a young mother that used to yell at her kids so loudly that she wouldn’t be able to talk for hours afterwards. Her throat would burn and her head would throb like a beating drum. She would put her children in their rooms and sit in the hallway sobbing as she forced herself to not go in and throw them against the wall, over and over again. She would shiver and shake and cry until her clothes were soaked through, all the while visioning the violence. When she went to classes to get help, either no one believed her or they told her it was all her fault and she should just stop. Everywhere she went people said that anyone who hurts a child was a monster and should be locked up forever. But she didn’t feel like a monster all the time, just some of the time. The rest of the time she was a fun and caring mother that would take her kids to the park and make Thomas the Tank Engine characters out of construction paper. She didn’t know if she was really a monster inside or if she was really good inside; which was her true self?

If I was telling you this story I would tell you that one Tuesday afternoon this young mother put her kids down for a nap and turned on CityLine. There was a therapist on, Joe Rich, talking to Marilyn Denis about perfectionism and what it looks like and how harmful it is. It looked like drawings of her were coming out of his mouth, swirling around the stage, the TV, and then around her. She called her husband and her parents and asked if it was true.

“Of course you are.”

“You’ve always been that way.”

“It’s just the way you are.”

The young mother sat on the cold tile floor in the kitchen and cried. It was a different cry than her usual sobbing. Finally she understood why she was so awful. Finally she had hope that maybe the monster wasn’t her true self. She wanted to change forever right then but change is much harder than that. But day by day she worked on it. And day by day she got a little bit better. And one day she went to bed and realized that she hadn’t been angry at all that day. Another day she was able to be compassionate instead of angry when something spilled on the floor. And slowly she shrunk the monster. It will always be there, but thanks to that one Tuesday afternoon, the monster only comes out once in a while. At least that’s the way it would end if I was telling you the story.

the twinges of having teens

I wasn’t expecting to be emotional when my oldest got a job. He already had a driver’s license and he’d been away several times without us (I was emotional then too). He had looked for a job for a couple of months, sending out more than a dozen resumes, and then when he got the job I was quite excited for him. It’s such a big life moment! It was when he got the call from his boss with the starting date that I suddenly wanted to cry. I don’t even know why! I don’t know if it was just an emotional week or the clutter in the house from the renovations but I wanted to cry for his first two days. It was probably good that he worked five days straight for his training.

There was this ridiculous part of me that felt like he was leaving. Like he’d chosen the job over me. It’s so stupid, and I knew that it was stupid of me to feel that way, so I worked to get over it and not express that nonsense to him. It’s not like I really feel that way, it’s just some bizarre perversion of feelings that I had on his first two days. It’s so much fun to hear about his day and get to hear all his stories and I am so thrilled that he is enjoying it. He’s now on his fourth day and I’m not emotional about it anymore, although it does feel like the clock is ticking to the day when they’ll both be gone. And that’s okay too. [Insert deep breath here]

The whole point of parenting is to raise your kids to be successful, independent adults. Keeping them dependent is not the goal at all, yet sometimes my emotions make me want to keep him here forever. Maybe my emotions were pride too, I’m so very proud of him and how cool he is. I was not like that at all when I was a teenager. He’s so mature and awesome.

I think the emotional upheaval will be the norm for a while. Everything they do without me gives me that little twinge and I remember the days when I got to carry them on my hip and help them with everything. It’s so great for them though, to be out on their own without me, doing things that they want to do. I listen to parents of little ones and they are so busy with all the little things that come up every day that they can’t wait for their babies to be independent. I want to tell them it will come far too fast and they will long for these baby days but I don’t say anything. I remember hearing that when I had little ones and I hated it because it seemed so hard at the time. And I didn’t believe it until it happened to me. So now I enjoy the old memories and create new, different ones. There are great and wonderful things about each stage of growing up, including our growing as parents.

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Late Readers

It seems like every parent I talk to that is considering homeschooling the early grades is worried about reading. So much stress is placed on us, as parents, to get our children reading well as young as possible. I have two kids, one that read novels at 6 and another that didn’t read picture books until 11. Both are raised in a home where I read to them every day, where they see me read on my own, and where reading is fun and useful without being forced. I refused from the beginning to force reading upon my children, believing instead that it would come when they were ready. That gets incredibly difficult when your homeschooled child is still not reading at 10. Other homeschoolers made comments, extended family offered advice, and I even had a lady at the library tell me that my son couldn’t read (she was surprised that I didn’t know!).

Our son started getting a bit self-conscious about not being able to read when he was 10 so we started doing some reading lessons. We tried a dozen different “methods” and the best one for us was The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Reading. It was suitable for an older child and had him reading sentences in the first lesson. We never did more than one lesson in a day and only did a lesson when he was willing. It still took almost a year for him to get comfortable reading but neither of us felt any rush. My early reader learned to read by memorizing picture books that were read to him over and over again, by reading comic books, and by giving me random letters of the alphabet and asking me how it they sounded. My late reader does not like reading (or being read) anything that he’s heard before and his only interest in the alphabet was when he made a book of the letters. He may never love books the way his brother does but he never has; he has always been more interested in Lego and action figures. While his brother sits at his computer writing a novel, he makes stop-motion Lego movies and draws in his notebook. Forcing him to be an early reader would not have made him love books but it would have guaranteed that he never would like books. That was not a risk we were willing to take.

My early reader has a beautiful vocabulary and loves to read and write. My late reader has an incredible memory and an eye for detail. He’s the one we ask when we can’t remember where we saw something or which movie a certain song was in. There are advantages to reading late – you have to develop a strong memory because you don’t have the advantage of reading something repeatedly. My kids played Monopoly together long before the younger one could read, and while the oldest read the cards each time he played, the younger knew the names of all the properties by memory. I’ve had people tell me that those skills don’t translate into useful career skills but they’re wrong – how many of us struggle to remember someone’s name? Or see someone at a party and stare at them trying to figure out where we first met? Any salesperson will tell you that memory is a huge part of being successful.

The second advantage of reading late is that readers will see words before anything else. My youngest still doesn’t see the words first – he will see colours, design, spacial relationships, and pictures before his eye is drawn to words, whether he is in a car or reading a comic book. Perhaps he will always see those things first but even if he doesn’t, it will be easier for him to notice them. It also means that out of all of us, he would have the most success if he moved to a different country where he doesn’t speak the language. While the rest of us will struggle to read signs, he will use other cues to get what he needs.

In the end, it doesn’t matter whether your child learns to read at 3 or 13. They are who they are. What matters is that they are loved and encouraged to be the best version of themselves that they can be.

Zero to Hero: Blogging Event

Manic Mondays Blogging Event

It was all planned out. The day before, I went to Toys R’Us and bought Play-Doh, enough so no one had to share. We had rolling pins, cookie cutters, and the hair salon was clean and ready for its Play-Doh customers. The table had a plastic tablecloth, left over from last month’s birthday party. I could hear the boys yelling at each other about who got to be Anakin while they fought with light sabers made out of Nerf swords.

“You got to be Anakin last time!”

“You always get to be Anakin!”

“You think you’re better cause you’re older but you’re NOT!”

“I hate you!”

“Boys,” I called from the kitchen. “Time for Play-Doh!”

“Slam!” The door closed with one child still inside the bedroom. Storming footsteps ensued.

With a too-happy tone in my voice, I invited them to sit down and play. I could be a good Mum, I could just sit and let them play without intervention and let them take out their frustrations with art. As the dough went all over the floor, and their hair, and the chairs, I had to breathe deeply and try to just keep quiet. It felt as if bugs were crawling up the back of my shirt. I looked away, trying desperately to calm down before freaking out.

“Mum, are you all right?” my oldest asked.

“Um, yeah, I’m fine. Thanks sweetie.”

“He handed me a Play-Doh cookie. This will make you feel better.”

And it did. But then I had to clean up. Thoroughly. They invented TV precisely for these moments.

This is my 50th blog post!! Hooray for Zero to Hero!

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