Thumbs down for 100th Day

I don’t want to freak you out or anything, but 100th Day is tomorrow. If you’ve got a child in elementary school in my neighbourhood and you don’t know about this, or you did know but forgot, or the notice is still in your child’s locker, or you neglected to check the teacher’s blog for the past week, you may as well just put on a pot of coffee. You’ve got plans tonight.

For those who don’t have school-aged children, 100th Day marks (you guessed it) the 100th day of the school year. If you’re thinking, “hey, that’s weird, we didn’t celebrate that when I was a kid,” you’d be right. But then, we also rode bikes without helmets, so now that we know better, we do better.

And what’s better than celebrating the 100th day of school?

I’ll tell you what’s better. Sleep. And that’s something you won’t be getting tonight because tomorrow is 100th Day, and your five year old is expected to participate in the 100th Day fashion show, wearing his unique 100th Day shirt.

Let me just get in on the record that 100th Day is terrible, and was probably devised by a grouchy teacher who just can’t stomach the idea of letting us weary mothers curl up with a cup of tea on a Tuesday night and watch Netflix.

After all, it’s been almost a full week since Valentine’s Day, so we’re probably bored by now, and just rubbing our hands together in anticipation of the next fake holiday.

So, while the rest of the world (dad) is sleeping, you’ll enter motherhood’s Octagon (Pinterest) to come up with an amazing idea for a thrilling 100th Day shirt, despite knowing that your five year old will refuse to wear it anyway.

The goal of the 100th Day shirt is to glue or paint 100 things to it. But trust me, the teacher’s not counting, so if you give up at 60 your child will still pass kindergarten.

And remember, this is supposed to be a learning experience for your child, so it’s important he or she do the bulk of the work.

Ha! This would be possible if we were celebrating Eighth Day, but as delightful as my five year old is, he is not going to glue 100 things to a t-shirt.

You know what my five year old can do 100 times?

He can lose his gloves.

He can say my name 100 times in rapid succession. He does this best when I’m on the phone. With the doctor.

He can come up with 100 reasons why he shouldn’t have to eat his dinner, and he can easily think of another 100 reasons he shouldn’t have to go to sleep.

But glue 100 things to a shirt? Not in the realm of possibility.

So this shirt’s on me, but luckily this isn’t my first rodeo. I have an older child, and we’ve been through this 100th Day bullshit before.

I’ve learned not to glue edibles onto a five-year-olds clothing. Ever. There will be no Goldfish Crackers, or shiny Skittles rainbow. There will be no giant cup of cocoa with 100 marshmallows glued to the top.

Gluing edibles to a five year old and sending him to school is like painting him with honey and introducing him to a bear.

Let’s be honest, if, in a moment of weakness, a colleague walked up to me with a Skittles-covered shirt, I’d pounce. I wouldn’t be proud of myself, I’d apologize, but I’d eat them, glue and all.

A good planner would have collected 100 bottle caps (or 60, as previously mentioned) or the same number of corks. Thankfully, I accidentally mixed up the dates, and thought 100s Day was last week, so I’m a full week ahead of schedule.

As a result, my son will arrive at school tomorrow with 100 fingers painted on his shirt, thumbs down.

Confessions of an overreactor

It happened so fast, and so slowly at the same time…

Seven o’clock in the evening, and he’s fresh from the bath, snug in his Minion pyjamas, and smelling delicious. I grab him and give him a squeeze. He’s partial to aggressive hugs, because it feels like wrestling, and he loves wrestling.

He’s five (“but it’s almost my birthday,” he tells me daily), and he’s clean, and warm, and happy, and just about ready to cuddle up on the couch for a cartoon and a snack before bed, but first he has to show me something. He always has to show me something.

“Watch me, mommy! Watch me, I’ve been practicing!”

I give him a nod of encouragement, and off he goes.

And he spins. He’s a human cyclone. I’ve never seen anything spin so quickly. He’s a Beyblade come to life.

“Wow,” I exclaim, unintentionally encouraging him to continue, and before I can stop him, he launches into his final, glorious spin — the spin to end all spins. It starts with a flying leap; he’s airborne, and it’s beautiful.

But he’s too dizzy. He’s not going to land it, he can’t, he’s coming in too hard, too fast, and much too close to the toy box.

I see it happen in slow motion. I’m on my feet, arms outstretched before I even hear the “CRACK” of his orbital bone hitting the pointed edge of the furniture. I cry out before he does, I grab him before he hits the ground, and push his face into my chest, certain that the pressure of my heart, my hand on the back of his head is the only thing keeping his eye in its socket. I run down the stairs. I’m shouting as if the house is on fire. As if we’re both on fire.

“ICE PACKS! GET SOME ICE PACKS! OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD,” I yell, racing through the house toward the kitchen, toward my husband. When did my house get so big? Why are there so many stairs? Have I been running for hours? I’VE BEEN RUNNING FOR HOURS!

“HIS EYE! IT’S HIS EYE, OH GOD, I CAN’T LOOK,” I shout, frantically pressing my sobbing child into his daddy’s arms, before turning my back on him, shoving my fist in my mouth and bearing down on an anguished scream. I stare at my chest, looking for gore but find nothing, save a few boogers, and some tear splotches — all of which might be my own.

My husband’s calm voice comes to me, breaking through the din of my own spiralling thoughts — thoughts that march right past Band-Aids and straight to white canes, helpful golden retrievers and eye patches. “He’ll never be a pilot,” I sob, inwardly, hiccupping outwardly.

“It’s OK, buddy. There’s just a little blood,” my husband says. “Here, you hold the ice pack I’ll go get a cloth. It’s going to be fine, dude, but it was close. You just about lost an eye,” he adds, setting his son on the couch with his blankie clutched in one hand, ice pack in the other.

Suddenly I realize I’m the only one still breathing hard. I’m the only one still crying. I go to my son and hug him, gently. He hates it.

“Stop it, mommy, I can’t see the TV,” he says over my head, more concerned with what he’s missing on Alvin and the Chipmunks than the fact that two minutes ago, in my imagination, his whole life changed as I clutched him against my chest.

I leave the room to collect myself. My husband passes me in the hall, walking casually, probably thinking about trucks, or football or deadlifts, unaware of the tragedy that’s just played out in my mind.

Unaware that while my son will go to sleep this night with a bit of a bruise, and tiny cut that probably won’t even scar, I’ll be awake imagining how bad it might have been. Tomorrow I’ll wake up and cut up pool noodles and glue them to the furniture edges. It’ll be ugly, dammit, but it’ll be safe.

And spinning? Spinning will be banned.

Some people are calm in a crisis. I am not one of those people.

The fonder heart

It’s been days since I’ve been asked to find his wallet or his keys, his ID badge for work, or his protein shake.

And for that matter, I haven’t washed a single shaker cup this week, nor have I had to carry on a telephone conversation over the sound of the blender as it pulverizes bananas, blueberries, and avocados together with strange powders labeled Mutant, and Freak.

To be truthful, I haven’t watched much Forged in Fire this week or Gold Rush, or sports.

When I was a kid, my dad worked his shift at the mill and was home each night for dinner and the six o’clock news. I can’t recall a single night of my childhood that my parents were apart. That’s just how it was.

But modern marriages aren’t what they once were. Surprisingly few of us have the benefit of a spouse at home, every night, forever.

Living with a spouse who travels for work, or who works ‘in camp’ is the pits. There’s a lot I miss when my husband is away. I miss being the only grown up in the room. I miss having someone else available to make decisions, even if I don’t always agree with them. I miss having someone else reinforce the rules, carry the burdens, and the groceries. I miss having someone else take out the garbage.

I miss physical contact. Certainly, there are plenty of hugs and kisses when daddy’s away, and while the hugs and kisses of children are sweet, there’s something reassuring about the simple shoulder-to-shoulder brush of arms as you stand beside your spouse at the sink doing dishes. There’s intimacy in the hand on the back as you walk out the door.

As I sit here typing, the snow is softly falling, and has been for nearly a week. I miss having someone else shovel.

But it could be worse. Actually, there are some moments in the separation that are quite lovely.

When he’s away, I make tea and drink it in bed, pillows piled all around. I read late into the night without anybody suggesting I go to sleep or turn out the light.

And when I do sleep, I sprawl. Nobody breathes in my direction while I slumber, and there are no audible nose whistles, save my own, which are adorable.

When the kids are in bed, I watch multiple episodes of Dateline on the big couch, and I can stare at my phone the entire time without someone questioning how I can possibly know what’s going on, and whether I can even put the phone down, and what’s so funny anyway, and who are you texting, and what is she up to?

The cat likes me best when he’s away.

Yes, it could be worse. Because let’s face it — some people have their spouse home every night and would give anything for a bit of breathing room. Or a lot of breathing room.

Absence, as they say, makes the heart grow fonder. My heart is fond.

Take me out to the ball game. Or not.

My son is a lot of things.

He’s an artist, a comedian, a reader, and brilliant at making paper airplanes.

He’s a Star Wars aficionado, a Lego-pro, and a video game wizard.

He’s likeable and clever, has great rhythm and a huge heart.

But he can’t whistle. And he’s not athletic.

Tonight at midnight is the deadline to register children into the local house soccer league. All I have to do is open up a web page, log in and enter my credit card number.

There’s still time. I can still make the cutoff.

But I won’t. Not this year.

When he was five it was cute to watch him chase the ball down the field, turn the other way, stop, then summersault for no good reason. It was funny watching him and his buddies hanging off the nets like sweaty, colourful little bugs tangled in a web.

While the summersaults are less frequent, the other kids are playing to win, and he’s playing for orange slices. He’s never scored a goal, and it’s starting to bother him. His friends won’t pass to him, and I get it. They want to win, and he’s far from a sure thing.

He’s taken a ball to the face once or twice, and is now a bit gun shy. He isn’t interested in practicing at home, and when other boys are racing onto the field at recess and lunch, he’s hanging off the monkey bars, swinging, and playing pretend.

That’s where he’s happiest.

There are so many other things that my son is that it seems ridiculous to spend a moment worrying about what he isn’t.  But when you’re raising little boys there’s an expectation that you’ll do your utmost to raise athletes, something that’s reinforced whenever we meet anyone new.

“So, do you play hockey? Basketball?”

He’ll answer, “I’m in karate,” which he is, but his biggest takeway from the dojo to date is learning how to count to 10 in Japanese.

Tomorrow. Maybe he’ll find a sport he’s passionate about, tomorrow. Maybe he’ll be captured by curling, throw his heart and soul into a martial art. Maybe he’ll lace up his skates and opt for ice dancing.

Or maybe he won’t.

Anything’s possible, but I’ll wait and take direction from him. I’m tired of pushing. I’m tired of my own expectations, and I expect he is, too.

So, no, this spring you won’t find us on the ball diamond or the pitch. We’ll be in the front yard, riding bikes, shooting hoops and tossing paper airplanes into the cherry tree. And I’m OK with it, as long as he is.