To my daughter, after your first week of school EVER

Dear AB,

It’s been an important week, your first week of school. Junior Kindergarten. Such a big step, but for you, who were so ready (even though you’re not yet four), the most natural thing in the world.

When you first visited your class in June, you were really proud of how you walked right in, and Mummy went away for the whole hour… “And I was totally fine!” The same was true for your other hour-long visit last Friday, in your real classroom with the senior kindergartners there: you did school like a pro.

Leading up to your first full day, you were nothing but excited. You were counting down: “I can’t believe the day after the day after tomorrow I’ll have my first full day!”, “I can’t believe the day after tomorrow…” and so on.

This past Monday, we had our last official “Mummy Day.” I was entranced listening to you play in your bedroom with a family of hair clips… They are the kind with jaws, so they can talk, hug, exchange fond words. There was a Father clip, two daughters who are tiny clips, and one in two pieces that you dubbed “Little Broken.” We played and had lunch and read stories. We had a lovely, mellow day in which I got all nostalgic (though I kept it mostly to myself).

I’d say you spend at least eighty percent of your time pretending. Sometimes you’re a character (Elsa or a kitty or Hermione or a grownup lady). Sometimes I have to be a dragon for a few seconds so your stuffed unicorn can cure me back to being human. Sometimes you’re busy mitigating the trouble your best imaginary friends (Golla and Sparkles) are getting into. Sometimes it’s your own kids (Asuna, Anuna, Alella, and Sybo) who are up to shenanigans. Sometimes you’re taking business calls on your defunct flip phone. Sometimes you’re singing in your own language. Sometimes I’m your daughter and you’re my mom (and you get to call me “Dinah” in satisfied tones). Sometimes you’re building schools out of MagnaTiles and populating them with your small friend toys (family of fairies, family of monkeys, family of turtles, etc.).

Being bored never even occurs to you. Your imagination keeps you fed. It’s awesome.

On Tuesday, your first full day of JK, I got to accompany you to school, along with both your aunts. You had picked out your outfit in advance, and you were so confident and adorable we could barely stand it.

first day of school

You gave us all hugs, and you let the teacher show you where to line up, and you trooped right in the door with total poise and trust.

first day of school doorway

I’ve seen a lot of small kids at drop-off time, and many, many of them have trouble saying goodbye. I know you’re brave, but I was still impressed – and a little surprised.

Last year, you had quite a few sad drop-offs at day care. And (I hope) I’ll never forget the moment at Family Camp this summer when I was leaving to run an errand… I’d already said goodbye, and as I was getting into the car I waved and called “I love you!” and you called back “I love you!” And then, as you stood there all tiny and strong, that Love jumped up into your throat, and even though you knew I’d be right back, tears sprang to your eyes. You didn’t really cry them, you were bravely watching, but I had to come back for one more hug. Then one of your Family Camp other-mamas swooped you up and I knew you were okay. (But I was teary-eyed. I knew exactly that feeling of when you say goodbye and suddenly Love gets a bit overwhelming.)

In truth, on that first day of school, after you’d hugged Auntie Emi, you wiped one eye, but you were so composed that it might have been a head-cold tear rather than a sad one.

On each of the four days of school, you were happy at drop-off, and happy at the end of the day too. If you’ve had sad moments at school, you’ve never mentioned them (although you have said, on two days, “I missed you today,” but not in a tragic way). I, on the other hand, got all weepy on Wednesday evening, having to admit to myself I was having some withdrawal after so much kid-time this summer – and fully realizing that my baby is in school, and things will never be the same. I miss you already.

There’s no question that you’re tired. There have been lots of meltdowns in the evenings this week, compared to over the summer. Some rebellious behaviours are intensifying as you test boundaries – and as fatigue makes rational decisions more elusive. We try to get you to bed earlier and earlier, but it seems you could always sleep more. I hope we’ll soon find the right groove for you to be rested.

Still, you are eager to go to school. You say, “All I do is sing songs and play and have snacks!” And there are lovely things in your classroom; when we asked you about your second day, you said with delight, “I discovered something that was new to me: a basket with a pegasus inside!” And you’ve made some friends and learned some names. You’re happy. I wish there were a way I could witness you in your new environment.

I wish it could always be this way. You are full to the brim of sheer you-ness. You are fierce. You mean business. You’re imperious, eloquent, wise. You possess a degree of empathy that’s unusual even in older children. You also have buckets of snuggly affection to spend on those you care about. Your dancing is of an earthy lyricism that must be seen to be believed. You love to look at yourself (especially when accessorizing) in the mirror; Daddy and I say nothing, because although we hope you won’t obsess about your appearance, we also know there will come a time when you look at yourself and don’t feel the pure pleasure you do today. You are beautiful in so many ways, and right now, you really know it.

Sometimes I involuntarily imagine the things that will bring you down from this place of innocent clarity. I want to cry when I think of the people and the pressures that will make you doubt yourself, or tell you you’re un-beautiful, or bring shame into your self-concept. The world, for all its progress, can still be a cruel place, especially to women and girls. I know you have to be challenged and hurt to grow strong – but I still cringe at the thought. I hope the confidence you have at this moment will survive to get you through the hard times.

Oh, my little girl. In less than two weeks, you’ll be four years old. I could not possibly describe how much, or how ferociously, or how tenderly I love you. Please just remember it’s true.



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#NaBloPoMo, Day 5: My Hubbibi

Whew. Just weathered a Mammoth Meltdown (one of many in the last three years, but this was definitely in the top ten), courtesy of my three-year-old. The better part of an hour of screaming/crying, along with intermittent hitting/kicking. All this – at least initially – because I wouldn’t let her put the cap back on her toothpaste. (Actually, I did let her, and then when she took it off again so she could lick the inside of it, she lost her chance.)

MAN, it’s hard work, sticking to your guns. But the worse things get, the more you have to stick, because otherwise you’re telling the child this works – this gets you what you want.

I don’t really want to talk or write about it. But I do want to mention my gratitude for my Hubbibi today. For being level-headed, for being my tag-team, for being a good sport, for being a great story reader, for being willing to listen and improve, for helping me improve, for being straight with me, for taking straight talk from me, and for giving the best hugs in the world. Oh, and for cleaning the eavestroughs today.

You’re an amazing guy, honey. I love you.



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Mommy’s in the Doghouse

“Mo-om.” (In the whiny voice, unsurprisingly.) “Why do you just make me cry all the time?”

I had to laugh. “Dude, I have no idea.” For the past few days, any time I get a little stern with E, he says something like, “Mommy, you’re scaring me!” or “But now you’re really making me cry!” as he dissolves onto the floor.

Usually, this is followed by a tragic “I just want Daddy!”

At the moment, Mommy is simply not the cool one. Unlike Daddy, she is ALWAYS here, which is boring. She is more strict with treats and screen time and pretty much all the fun things. She raises her voice more than she means to, because she never gets proper sleep and is often (for multiple reasons) unable to nap. She is the one likely to silently say Screw it when there’s a meltdown and just scoop up her beloved firstborn and stick him in his room because she can’t listen to more crying. Most of all*, she is constantly saying things like

“I would love to play dinosaurs with you, but I’m changing the baby’s diaper,”** or

“I can read you one story, but then I have to get the laundry started,” or

“You know what, buddy? I’m very, very tired and I would not make a very good monster for the monster game,” or

“Sweetie, I only have the energy for ONE galloping contest right now, okay?” or

“You may not crash your cars right outside the bedroom where the baby’s napping,” or

“How many times do I have to tell you to be gentle with your sister??”

(When I say things he doesn’t like, he’ll fill with wretched indignation: “But… you’re just… INTERRUPTING me!” or “You just don’t UNDERSTAND me!!” Sometimes I’m pretty sure he’s fourteen.)

Anyway, you get the idea. Daddy makes a great monster. He is an expert at car-playing, dinosaur-roaring, tickling, you name it. When he’s working days and can put E to bed, he doesn’t have to keep interrupting things (like Mommy does) to deal with THAT BABY. When Daddy comes home, there’s a sitcom-worthy ecstatic run to the door: “Daddy, Daddy! Finally, you’re home!”

It’s no wonder that the last time E loaded up his Lego car with passengers, he included Daddy, himself, baby sister, and someone called “The Mayor” (WTF?), but there was no room for Mommy.

It’s not that I’m evil. So far, I have not been locked out of E’s room:

Left: “People who are nice can come in.” (Couple of false starts on the S in “NIS”.)
Right: “Locked for bad people.” (Can you tell which is the bad person?)

And today, he even invited me to an even specialer place:

“Mom, you wanna come live with me in my clubhouse and sit on my crazy contraption-chair?” Um, YES.

But I had to say no because I was cleaning the effing kitchen. {This kitchen is a giant rock, and I am Sisyphus. It feels like I do dishes ALL THE TIME and somehow my counters are still never clean.}

I can still kiss the hurt places. I can still invoke smiles by making silly rhymes. I can still help with colouring, as long as I use the approved colours. I’m hoping these are the things that stick with him in life, the times when Mommy was fun and full of love.

If not, maybe he can at least remember things like searching for his sunglasses with Daddy and observing, “If only I’d hit something with them, then Mama would’ve put them on the shelf, and I’d know where they were.” Chalk one up for consistent confiscation.

Sometimes Mommy is helpful, even when she’s not fun.


*E is loving the phrase “Most of all” right now. One day he and Daddy came home from the grocery store and he showed me each item in turn: “Most of all, we got all these cashews! And most of all, there’s triangle crackers! But most of ALL, look! Shreddies!!” It puts pizzazz into the humdrum.

**A friend of mine who also has a little boy and a baby girl once admitted on Facebook that their family was getting a dishwasher so that she wouldn’t be that mom who’s always saying, “Sorry, kiddo, I can’t play with you, I have to do the dishes.” I think of it often because I AM TOTALLY THAT MOM. Sigh.



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First World Problems – preschooler edition

My son was so sweet as a young toddler. Happy, affectionate, compliant, funny. You could just eat him up.

Then he turned two, and indeed became a two-year-old.

Now he’s three-and-a-half, and I thought the “terrible twos” baloney was supposed to end. Instead, we’ve got a throbbing case of threeyearoldism.

It’s a rare day he doesn’t melt down half-a-dozen times. Some days we get that many meltdowns before noon, and we just want to throw in the towel and send him back to the manufacturers. (Wait. We ARE the manufacturers. Sh*t.)

Of course, he’ll cry if he “stubs” his head or knee or toe or finger or whatever. That’s understandable, even if he’s rather over-wussy about it. We get it: he’s got a baby sister and needs some reassuring attention.

Also, he has to cry over spilt milk. It’s, like, the law.

Other potential reasons for using the piercing whine and/or collapsing in a weeping pile of limbs, with possible bonus screeching:

  • he doesn’t want to go to the babysitter’s
  • he doesn’t want to go swimming
  • he doesn’t want to get dressed
  • his iPad time is up
  • the Lego came apart
  • the person he drew doesn’t look right
  • I gave him a kiss
  • he can’t find Mater
  • it’s not time for lunch yet
  • it’s time for lunch
  • I messed up his hair
  • his boot isn’t on all the way
  • he can’t watch Cars twice in a row
  • he doesn’t want to wear socks
  • I helped him with the step-stool
  • I didn’t help him with the step-stool
  • he needs to pee
  • his nose is running
  • he needs a kiss
  • it’s too hard to put the lid on the marker
  • it’s too hard to pull the Hot Wheels track apart
  • it’s too hard to get his shirt off
  • he doesn’t like cheese
  • he wants more cheese
  • it’s bedtime

On some days, the simple act of waking up in the morning can be too much for his little psyche, so he’ll start whining pre-emptively right off the bat.

How did we get here? Where did we go wrong?

I mean, I understand. I’m grumpy too sometimes. I have days where I’m all, “Boo hoo, poor me, life is hard. My son is melting down for the eleventeenth time today, and I don’t have the patience to deal with him because my baby daughter is up a jillion times a night with hunger/teething pain. And she won’t take a bottle so I can’t go to the movies and I’m tired and my neck and shoulders are all full of knots from night-nursing but when will I ever have time for a massage?”

Classic first-world problems.

I know they’re relatively shallow and preferable to an infinite number of other problems I could have. I try to keep things in perspective. My son is healthy, smart, and, underneath the angst, still very sweet. My daughter is alive and well and adorable, and honestly, she grins way more than she fusses. And if I think I’ll go crazy because my hair is coming out in handfuls in the shower, I remind myself that it’s post-natal shedding, not chemo. Suck it up.

And then I think about E’s list of problems, and it gives me perspective in the other direction. At least I’m not as shallow as my preschooler.

kid in a blanket
He looks cute, right? Ha.



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