The guilt of pandemic parenting

The guilt of parenting during a pandemic is heavier than any weighted blanket available on Amazon, and unlike a weighted blanket which is designed to reduce anxiety and improve sleep, it ratchets it up, and gives your brain more to consider as you lay awake, completely aware of how badly you’re failing at just about everything you’re doing right now.

Where I live, we’re in Week 3 of pandemic parenting, meaning while mom and dad work full time from home, we’re also providing full-time care to our children, which includes some educational instruction.

(I’d like to pause here and acknowledge that our pandemic situation is privileged. Privilege, in this case, looks like general good health, two parents, two pay cheques (for now), food in the fridge, an ample (but not excessive) amount of toilet paper, a bit of a backyard, and more sunny days than rainy ones. There’s even an uncertified therapy dog who is happy to absorb all of the angst and fear that comes from being locked up with your loved ones for days on end.)

I always wanted children, but I also knew that stay-at-home parenting was not my jam. I love grown-ups, and swearing, and solving grown-up problems. I love leaving behind my dirty laundry and mismatched socks in favour of a quiet office that I share with a five-year old orchid that blooms semi-annually. I love the sound of the office HVAC system, and I love my other office mate, a tiny blue space heater that only sees use in summer because the HVAC system lives in Opposite Land. I love going to work, I love being at work, and I love coming home from work to see faces I would die for — faces that I’ve missed so much and thought about so many times during the day. I love the car ride home from daycare because I get to hear all of their ridiculous stories. I love sharing adventures and kid gossip at the dinner table. I love weekends because it means I can stay home with my people because I miss them so much.

I always wanted children, but I also knew that teaching was not my jam. My mother is a teacher, my sister, too. I watch both and shake my head. Where they excel, I would flounder. Judging by my parenting style, if you put me in charge of a class full of 7-year-olds I would take turns bribing them with Dino-Sours and threatening to cancel Christmas. Adults, with their manners and passive-aggressive side-eyes, don’t scare me, but children are wise and cunning. Eventually they’d figure out that my threats are as empty as the bag of Dino-Sours that I inhaled in the cloak room. At which point I’d probably just run behind a plant and hide because 1. children are terrifying, 2. I have zero teaching tools and no desire to acquire them, and 3. unlike my sister and my mother, I lack the ultimate secret weapon: A teacher voice.

I always loved the routine provided by school, daycare and work, and the thrill I got from stacking all those perfect little glass jars so they balanced so perfectly and shone so beautifully that even the stiffest wind couldn’t knock them over. And yet here we are, in the midst of a pandemic, my glass jars of routine and sanity shattered on the driveway, and I am stuck in my house, working full time, parenting full time, and teaching, too.

I’ve got to say, I’m not a huge fan.

Screen Shot 2020-04-03 at 7.39.19 AMPandemic parenting means that I never get to miss my children, and they never get to miss each other. They are always here, always in my business and in each other’s. They wrestle constantly, stopping only when someone gets a bloody nose or a knee to the nuts, and when I suggest a directed drawing, some Reflex Math, or a visit to the Cincinnati Zoo (online, obviously), I’m met with a deep sigh and a “no thanks, I already know about hippos.”

Knees to the nuts it is, then.

And despite how much I joke about my lack of parenting skills, I always secretly thought I was pretty good at it. Until yesterday.

During my oldest child’s first Zoom videoconference with his class he opened up: “I miss everyone so much. I only ever get to talk to my little brother who argues all the time, or my mom and dad, and they’re always working.”

I overheard his comment while up in my office. Working.

And that, dear friends, is what parenting in a pandemic feels like — a heavy, weighted blanket of guilt — guilt that is bottomless and causes breathlessness even as I write it down.

 

Lifelong learner

It has been 20 years since I graduated from university, ready to take a swing at journalism.

I thought about going back to school the moment my newspaper closed its doors, but then I got a job offer and shelved the idea. I was busy. I had two kids, a career, a partner. School was expensive, and unnecessary. And it would take time that I simply didn’t have.

And then it happened — life became complicated — and within that mad mess, there was a crushing moment that compelled me to look into the mirror and look really hard at the woman staring back.

What I saw was a woman who had been rushing around supporting and uplifting others for over a decade, gradually being crushed by the weight of it.

What I saw was a woman carrying around an empty bucket, having used everything she had to fill up the buckets of those around her. There was nothing left, and a sizeable crack in the bottom.

I’m alone more now than I have been in a decade. My children are outside, or they’re at their friend’s houses. They’re reading in their rooms, or playing independently.

Having a moment to catch my breath should be exciting, but it’s terrifying.

I’d been using the labels of “mother,” and “wife,” as an excuse. Those labels precluded “professional,” and made “student” seem impossible.

Days later, I voiced my idea outloud for the first time.

“I think I’d like to go back to school and get my masters degree,” I told my husband.

He nodded, said it was a great idea.

So I tried it out with my best friend.

“I think I’d like to go back to school.”

She sighed deeply through the phone: “Thank God! I’m so glad. Where are you going to go? What are you going to do it in? When do you need to apply? How many reference letters will you need? When does it start? Are you going to do course-based or thesis?”

I almost hung up. I hadn’t even started and already it sounded hard.

But I did the research, explored program options, timelines and costs. I made a trip to the bank; I ordered transcripts.

And then I told my boss: “I think I’d like to go back to school to get my masters degree.”

And he responded with a smile: “Figure out what you need, and we’ll do what we can to support you.”

I needed letters, and when I asked, people wrote them. And they were perfect. I’ve printed them off and tucked them away in my nightstand. I read them sometimes. They’re about a woman who is smart, and accomplished, and professional, and thorough, and funny, and insightful. She sounds amazing, and I can’t wait to meet her.

I needed time, and they agreed. I needed a little bit of money, and they provided what they could.

I started my first three courses last week, and I feel like I’m drowning — like I’ve just arrived in a new country that seems sort of familiar, but everyone speaks a different language, and I’m just faking it, hoping that at some point it’ll all begin to make sense.

I’m excited to start and terrified to fail. I’ve already learned so many new things, and am quickly realizing how much I don’t understand.

I’m meeting new people, and they’re so much smarter than me.

I’m being brave and it’s uncomfortable. When I lay awake at night I think about how much easier it might have been if I’d just kept my mouth shut. If I’d never said the words out loud. If I’d kept my dream a secret.

But then the sun comes up. And I’m one day closer to finishing. I’m one day closer to convocation, and I’m one day closer to meeting that woman that my references describe in their letters.

Please buy my “vintage” junk

There are people out there who “live simply,” which I assume means that they don’t have children.

I aspire to live simply, but currently, “live ordinarily,” meaning that my house contains a lot of useless junk. And because we’re busy, and because I consider it winning if I manage to wipe the toothpaste off the bathroom mirrors and occasionally run the vacuum around, organizing, arranging and disposing of this useless junk is always going to happen next weekend.

So as an experiment, when the notice went around the neighbourhood to participate in an upcoming community garage sale, I put my name down figuring that committing to this nonsense would force me to empty out the closets and root through toy bins. Short of moving, this was the only thing I could think of to reduce our mountain of useless excess.

I made this commitment a month ago, and I’ve been stressed the hell out ever since.

I’ve never hosted a garage sale. The garage sale will take place in two days. I am not prepared.

What if I don’t have enough stuff?

Are there a suitable number of things one must offer up to qualify as an appropriately-sized garage sale? What if I’ve been overestimating the volume of crap I have in my house, and when the day arrives, I set up my table in the driveway and it contains only four things?

I have literally lost sleep over this in the past month. What if I don’t have enough garbage?

Then I began combing through closets and it became clear that I was not at risk of running short of crap. It was at this point that I became nervous about displaying my crap with the right amount of flare.

Showing off the goods

When fun, carefree wanderers set up stalls at the market to sell jewelry made of forks, or driftwood wind chimes, their booths look charmingly whimsical, but I bet money they Pinterest the heck out of their retail displays before trundling into the market square at the break of dawn.

But what they’re selling is artistic and fanciful, what I’m selling are four pairs of gently used soccer cleats, every single season of Entourage on DVD (it was a phase), and a bucket full of action figures. My wares are not whimsical, and as such, will be dumped onto old sheets of plywood balanced across Rubbermaid bins with a sign above that reads, “Everything for a dollar.”

I envision brisk sales.

At the heart of it

I’m putting on a Bandaid without treating the infection. I’m purging the worst of the garbage, knowing full well that I’m just making way for more. I’m stemming the flow, but I can’t hold back the tide. I’m not dealing with the root of the problem, but she’s my mother in law and I love her.

So please, if you’re not busy Saturday, come buy my “vintage” DVDs.

Hands free

Imagine for a moment that it’s a spring day, and you’re walking down the street with all the time you need to pause, look in a window, fix your hair in the reflection, and keep on going.

You are sauntering; your long arms are swinging by your sides, and there’s a light breeze that’s keeping you cool but not messing with your mind. No jacket is required. Winter is over, and your arms can move without being imprisoned in their nylon jail; without that irritating “swipe, swipe, swipe” of a winter coat.

And you’ve got nothing in your hands.

Imagine that. Nothing in your hands.

Recently, I was listening to a podcast and the host was interviewing actress Amy Sedaris. During the interview she described a man they both knew as “the kind of guy who walks down the street with nothing in his hands.”

Listen: WTF with Marc Maron podcast with Amy Sedaris

I stopped listening at that point, and began imagining what that kind of freedom might feel like.

I can’t remember when I started carrying everything, but it’s been awhile. To walk down the street with nothing in my hands, or looped across my shoulder, would feel as foreign as writing with my left hand, standing up to pee, or being wrong.

I got my first purse when I was about five. It was shaped like a bunch of bananas and had a sharp metal zipper across the top. It held quarters and my Avon lip-gloss that came in the shape of a chocolate chip cookie.

Remember when your mom would take you to baby showers and they’d play the game “What’s in your purse?” Look it up, people still play it.

The winner of the game is the woman with the most ridiculous things in her purse. The ladies would all sit in a circle and someone would read out a random item — usually it started simply, with “keys,” before moving onto more obscure items, like bear spray, a spoon, a bottle of mouthwash, and a roll of duct tap (all of which, used together, could probably be turned into a bomb.)

Whenever you raised your hand and hoisted up your spoon or pepper spray to be admired by the crowd, you’d be awarded a clothes peg. By the end of the game, the woman with the most clothes pegs lining the hem of her skirt would take a prize home in her enormous handbag.

I was always annoyed that my own mother didn’t think ahead and salt her purse with random oddities, but as an adult, I recognize one clear truth: The winner of that game was the loser. The actual “winner,” is the one with the rotator cuff problems; she’s the one who can’t find her lip-gloss when it counts; she’s the one who can’t get through customs without a serious misunderstanding.

The real winner is woman without a single clothes peg, or the guy walking down the street with nothing in his hands.

This guy isn’t carrying anything for himself, or anyone else. Nobody’s asking this guy for snacks, or to please carry his BeyBlades. Nobody is begging him for gum, or a quarter so he can get a bouncy ball out of a machine. Nope. He’s so free he can’t even remember where he put his cellphone, and he’s so chill that he doesn’t even freak out about it.

The freedom of not carrying something — the freedom of not carrying everything — blows my mind.

I know I’ll never be described as “the kind of woman that walks down the street with nothing in her hands,” but as far as goals go, it’s not a bad one to strive for.

 

 

 

The great sleepover debate

I said no.

I say no often to my children without giving it much thought, but this seemed like a big no; there was a harshness to it. Saying it hurt a little because I could feel he wanted it so badly, and he’s such a great kid, and he’s almost 10, and I was probably being over protective.

“No. You can’t go to the sleepover birthday at the local ski hill. I don’t know this boy. I’ve never met him or his parents. It’s an hour away on a snowy road. No.”

Sleepovers are a rite of passage, and I remember my first attempt vividly.

I was about six, and I was to sleep over at my best friend Tami’s house. I’d visited countless times before, and our parents were friends.

There was a build up of excitement; I could barely eat as butterflies parked in my belly.

Finally, Friday night arrived and it was amazing until the lights went out, at which time I sobbed and begged Tami’s mom to take me home. She did.

A few weeks later, I tried it out again and made it through the night. I graduated to other sleepovers — sleepovers that found me giggling on my grandma’s balcony with my cousin Becky, or up watching Labyrinth over and over, pausing only to make prank calls to the boys from school.

(Keep in mind, this was before call display.)

Sleepovers were great. Sleepovers are great. I want my kids to have sleepovers and to host sleepovers, but I’ve been fielding invitations from parents since my oldest was about five, and I say no far more often than I say yes, because I’m torn between wanting my kids to have amazing experiences with their buddies, and wanting to make safe choices for them.

I’ve had to develop rules, which include:

  • If I don’t know the child, or the parent, the answer is no. You’d be surprised how many sleepover requests come to my house from children, and parents of children, who are complete strangers. I couldn’t pick them out of a police lineup, I have no idea who the parent is, what they look like, how many children or dogs live in the house, what they do for a living, or whether they have gang ties.
  • If a parent decides at the last moment that the pizza/movie birthday party is now a sleepover, the answer is also no. No. No. No. First of all, WHO LIVES LIKE THIS? Making the decision to extend a nine-year-old’s birthday party into the next day — on a whim — seems insane to me. I can’t work like that. I like plans, and I like having them in advance so I can give my extremely anxious brain enough time to freak out.
  • If there have been multiple playdates, and I’ve gotten to know the kid and the parents and have successfully creeped them on social media, then yes, yes, a thousand times, YES!

When my kid visits your house I want to know that he feels comfortable enough to tell you if he’s scared. If he feels sick. If he’s hungry or thirsty. And I want your kid to feel that way with me before he spends the night.

We’re told to provide our children with the tools they need to engage with the world. We talk to them about stranger danger, and about bullying, and about participating cautiously in cyberspace.

But we’re also told that most child predators are not strangers, and that they’re the next-door neighbour, the basement tenant, the babysitter, the uncle.

As a kid I didn’t notice when I graduated from midnight My Little Pony marathons to sobbing over Heathers and making prank calls in the basement. When my parents said no, which was often, I thought it was just because they were jerks.

Turns out they weren’t jerks. And I’m not a jerk, either. My kids will do sleepovers. But let’s not rush it. Let’s get to know each other a bit, see how they play together for a few hours before they spend the night. How about you invite me in for a coffee while they play so that I don’t have to resort to the social media creep?

That’s a lie. I’ll creep you anyway. I’ve already creeped you. But it’s only because I care.

The mom flu

Once, when I was about 14 I had a sinus infection so severe that I nearly blew my left eye out.

To this day, I have to close my eyes tightly when I blow my nose so as not to accidentally launch my left eye across the room.

It occurred to me over the past several days, eyes closed, blowing furiously into a Kleenex, that I used to be really good at being sick.

As a kid I was sick all the time. I had coughs, fevers, pink eye, strep throat and chicken pox. I even got shingles when I was 13 — a special virus reserved for the elderly — that traced perfect loop-de-loops around my teenaged back.

But at some point it all stopped and I got cocky. My life is a germ factory, and I walk through it daily in short sleeves; my sick offspring literally sneeze into my open mouth and I wake up the next morning without a sniffle.

I rarely get sick, and now I’m out of practice.

Man Flu has its own Wikipedia page, and just recently, Dr. Robert H. Schmerling posted results of a scientific study conducted to determine if this condition is legitimate — if men actually experience more acute flu symptoms than women.

There is no similar Wikipedia page or Harvard study for the Mom Flu, so I feel qualified to discuss the differences between them, and I’ll do so by drawing upon zero actual research, and pure anecdotal evidence. Here is my conclusion: Women rarely give themselves permission to be sick.

Men are no better at math than women. They are no better at driving, at comedy, or at managing money. One only has to turn on the news to recognize that they’re also not that fabulous at running countries.

But they are great at being sick, and most of the women I know (sorry for generalizing ladies) are terrible at it.

This Mom Flu found me at home, alone, on my living room couch, on a cold Tuesday morning, confused and anxious about what was going on.

“What does a sick person even do,” I asked my dog.

He suggested a rousing game of fetch or a trip to the dog park, but there wasn’t enough Kleenex in the world to make that possible, so instead I washed the dishes, cleaned the kitchen, tidied up the boots by the front door, started a load of laundry and took out the recycling. Then when I felt I had “earned” some down time, I made tea and sat on the couch.

Tea done, I got up, put the mug in the sink, and looked around.

“What now,” I kept wondering, as the minutes ticked by on my first official sick day in over a year, completely aware that I was failing, and feeling crummy about it because I hate being bad at shit.

I turned on the TV but it seemed noisy and out of place during the day.

So I folded laundry.

Then I tried to nap, because that’s what I tell my kids to do when they’re sick.

But instead I sat on my bed and stared at my dog, who I eventually took for a walk.

Sick Day No. 1 was over, and I’d accomplished about 20 minutes of productive rest time.

I’ve got a Mom Flu. I’m out of practice, and it’ll take a lot longer than the length of the average flu to figure out how to grant myself permission to relax.

Rainy Sunday reading

My perfect rainy Sunday involves a great book, a fireplace, a soft blanket and a hot cup of coffee.

Oh, and a clean house that smells of pie, and children who are playing together (with educational toys), quietly.

I can’t manage most of this — except the coffee and the book, and usually the coffee is lukewarm by the time I actually get to sit down and drink it. I can almost always carve out a small space in each Sunday for reading, but at this stage in my life, the books I read have to meet certain criteria.

For starters, they can’t be overly complicated. There was a time in my life when I expected a lot from literature. I devoured classics, and poured over Oprah’s book list. These days? I need books that take me away but don’t ask much of me in return.

Oh, and I’d prefer if they don’t make me cry. There’s enough sadness in the world. I’ll come back to the classics and the books that soak up my sobs eventually, but these days I need escape.

So, if escapist fiction — often with a historical bent — with the occasional bit of dystopia thrown in for good measure is up your alley, then read on to find out what I recommend, and I’ll do my best each rainy Sunday to offer a few other suggestions.

(Note: I live in a semi-arid region, so there aren’t as many rainy Sundays as one might wish for)

The catch? You have to share your recommended reads with me. I read a lot, and quickly. I’m always running out of books, so the more recommendations the better.

What I’m reading now

The Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley (books 1 through 9)  flaviadellucebooks

“It was one of those glorious days in March when the air was so fresh that you worshipped every whiff of it; that each breath of the intoxicating stuff created such new universes in your lungs and brain that you were certain you were about to explode with sheer joy; one of those blustery days of scudding clouds and piddling showers and gum boots and wind-blown brollies that made you know you were truly alive.” 
Speaking from Among the Bones, Flavia de Luce, No. 5

A friend of mine introduced me to this series. It turns out that despite the fact my friend is way smarter than me, with many letters after her name, she and I have a similar taste in reading. This knowledge makes me feel way smarter than it should.

But Flavia is truly enchanting, and I’m so glad we met. Set in 1950, 11-year-old Flavia is finding her way through the world out of her home base of Buckshaw, a rambling old English mansion. Her mother died when she was a year old, her older sisters either ignore her or are terrible to her, and her father is absent. She’s raising herself under the sometimes watchful eyes of Dogger, her family’s butler who suffers from PTSD. Her best friend is Gladys, her bicycle.

Oh, and did I mention that Flavia has a passion for poisons, and also solves murders?

Alan Bradley is a brilliant writer, one I wish I had discovered sooner, and I’m so excited for you to get to know Flavia if you haven’t already.

The Timothy Wilde Series by Lyndsay Fayelyndsay faye timothy wilde trilogy

The Gods of Gotham, Book 1
Seven for a Secret, Book 2
The Fatal Flame, Book 3

I can’t remember who recommended The Gods of Gotham to me, or whether it was one of those books that just kept popping up on my recommended reading lists, and I eventually just bit the bullet and bought it, but however it happened, I’m grateful.

The Gods of Gotham, set in the 1840s, introduces Timothy Wilde, the best, yet most reluctant, copper star on New York City’s inaugural police force. It’s dirty, and twisted. I pride myself on being a bit of a plot sleuth, able to figure out what’s going to happen before the author shows me, but there are so many twists and turns and gritty bits in this book that I was completely taken by surprise. Wilde is among the only decent humans that Faye reveals, in her exceptionally well-researched period drama.

These are my recommendations for today, what are yours?

Bringing home the (dog) baby

This week our family welcomes its first puppy.

For years I’ve rolled my eyes at the suggestion that raising a dog is similar to raising a child. Often, this comparison comes from people who don’t have children, making scoffing a requirement.

But, having spent the past several weeks planning to bring a puppy into the home, I’ve come to realize that maybe — just maybe — I’ve been too quick to dismiss the similarities. There are a few.

Consider upfront costs, for example.

Dog babies, much like human babies, require a ton of stuff, and as a result, are really, really expensive. My dining room table is buried under bags of dog food, dishes, treats, toys, bedding, crates (one for home, and one for travel), and an endless supply of puppy potty training essentials.

And nobody — not a single person — threw me a puppy shower, so I’m on the hook for all of it.

Then there are the late nights spent coming to terms with the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m bound to screw it up and raise an asshole dog that sniffs crotches, jumps on children, pees everywhere, barks at everything and eats cats and postal workers.

As motherhood approached, I spent many nights tossing and turning, and staring at the ceiling fretting about the same things — minus the crotch-sniffing and cat-eating, of course.

And let’s not forget the unsolicited and often conflicting advice.

“You must follow Cesar Millan’s method, it’s amazing.”

“DO NOT follow Cesar Millan’s method. It’s terrible.”

“Don’t use pee pads.”

“Do use pee pads.”

“You must clicker train. Immediately.”

“Do NOT give him a human name. He is NOT a human.”

When this advice is launched at me, I can’t help but think back to the unsolicited and often passive aggressive advice I fielded during my advent into motherhood, some nine years ago.

“DO NOT give him a soother. You’ll never break him of it.”

“Disposable diapers are great for people who hate the Earth. Do you hate the Earth?”

“No screen time. EVER. Until he’s at least eight.”

“Keep him rear facing until he reaches puberty.”

“Bottle feeding is an option. If you’re terrible.”

“DON’T swaddle him.”

“DO swaddle him.”

“DON’T let him cry it out. EVER!”

“Jeez, just let him cry it out already!”

When I was growing up everyone had dogs, and all any dog needed was a collar, a leash, a bed, a bowl and a belly rub or two. Instead of pee pads and poop bags we had newspapers and shovels. Dogs licked plates, ate scraps, chewed ham bones, and gobbled whatever kibble was on special that week.

Somehow, even without all of the gadgets and canine behavior modification methods, dogs were amazing. They protected us, loved us, and we returned the favour.

Dog ownership has become riddled with pitfalls. The stakes are higher, the expectations greater.

But I’m convinced that, as with raising children, sometimes the simple things matter more than the gadgets and the gimmicks; simple things like consistency, routine, encouragement and praise.

There. Now it’s your turn to roll your eyes.

Call me, maybe?

It usually starts with heavy breathing, but if you wait long enough, you’ll be rewarded by a few tremulous and stuttered words.

By eight years of age, children should be able to facilitate their own playdates. To do so, however, requires endless amounts of coaxing, encouragement and lessons on that old-fashioned machine called the telephone.

Our family is still in possession of what telecommunication companies call a land line. Regular callers on this line include: My mother-in-law, the Canada Revenue Agency telling me that I owe back taxes, people from India who want to help me disable a very bad computer virus, and Diane from Big Brothers Big Sisters, letting me know there will be a truck in my neighbourhood next week.

And now there is a new batch of callers to the land line — heavy-breathing eight year old boys.

Teaching children how to talk on the phone isn’t as simple as you might expect. Kids learn by example, and they don’t see many examples of people talking on the phone anymore. I communicate with one of my best friends multiple times each day, and yet I haven’t heard her voice in over a year.

That makes my heart hurt a little.

My children will never know the frustration of sharing a single, harvest gold, rotary dial telephone with a cord that doesn’t quite make it down the hall to the bedroom.

They won’t understand the agony of having their older brother answer the phone, hold the receiver two inches from his mouth, and shout, “DANNA, THERE’S A BOY ON THE PHONE FOR YOU, I THINK HE LIKES YOU! IS HE YOUR BOOOOOOYYYYYYFRIEND?”

They’ll never experience having their older sister answer the phone shortly after 8 p.m. only to say: “Sorry, Danna can’t come to the phone right now. It’s almost her bedtime. Oh, and will you please tell all of your other friends to not call so late? You will? That’s great. She needs her beauty sleep. Grade nine is so tough.”

It’s for these and other character-building reasons that we’ve opted to hold on to our landline and finally teach our children how it works.

Any good lesson starts with a plan, so together, my child and I come up with a suitable script. We decide to write down our address so that after he’s asked his friend to come over, he can explain where “over” actually is.

That settled, he begins the mission and dials, which takes several tries. Careful, though, because when the number is officially dialed, the child will immediately begin speaking.

“Wait until someone picks up, bud.”

But people never pick up these days and he’s caught off guard by voicemail. He panics,  hangs up, and lobs the phone onto the couch as if it bit him.

“YOU DIDN’T TELL ME WHAT TO SAY,” he shouts, accusingly.

“Just say your name, who you’re calling to speak with, and your phone number,” you explain, all while mentally kicking yourself for not simply texting his friend’s mom like you’ve done every other time.

And so he dials again. And waits. And when the beep sounds he reads his script perfectly, except instead of his phone number, he recites his address. He realizes what he’s done at the last second, hangs up, and throws himself and the phone onto the couch in melodramatic agony.

“UGH! This is so HARD!”

This kid perseveres, though, and you’ve got to give him credit. He gets back up, grabs the phone, dials like a boss, waits, states his name, phone number and reason for calling. And it’s perfect. He did it. He raises his hand, drops the mic (phone), you grab it on a bounce and give him a high five.

In a few minutes, you reap your reward. The phone rings. And there it is, the beautiful sound of heavy breathing.

Just wait for it, and be patient. This is beautiful. They’re figuring it out.

“… Hi… this is Billy, can I speak to …”

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.