Talking to kids about Autism

Today I had the great opportunity to talk to H’s grade primary class about Autism.

To prep for the visit I had reached out to my Facebook friends who are parents to ask what they would like their kids to know about Autism. Many who responded asked me to post about my visit, so I thought I’d share the details of my “presentation” to his little 5 and 6 year-old buddies!

My friend Carly, who has a son with Autism in grade one, provided me with an incredible activity for the kids (one she has used when visiting her son’s classes the past two years) and some resources that could be sent home for parents.

H’s teacher introduced me to the class, and they were all really excited to meet H’s mom. It was really wonderful to chat with all the friend’s H had told me about, and to get to know them a bit better. They were all interested in me as well, one little friend inquired about my age and deemed me to be around 99. After the week I’ve had, I felt this was a fair estimate.

We started right away with the exercise. I had brought a large roll of paper. On the paper I had a number of different columns where I wrote some of the things that made H who he was:

  • Loves pasta and pizza
  • Likes playing sports
  • Enjoys swimming at the beach
  • Plays with lego
  • Has a sister

And more. In the middle of the sheet I had written, “has Autism”.

sheet1

I read out all of the different things H loved, but left out the “I has Autism” column. The kids were each given three post-it notes. They wrote their names on it, and then selected three activities/things that they also enjoyed. One everyone was done, they all sat down and we held up the sheet. I wrote H’s name on three post-its and placed them under “plays sports” (cause basketball is a HUGE thing right now) and “loves pasta”. I turned to the class and said, “I’m going to put this last sticky note here, under ‘Has Autism'”. Of course this was the only sticky note under this column.

“Look at all of these columns,” I said to the group. “You all are the same in so many ways!”

I then pointed to the “Has Autism” column, “This is one thing that makes H different from you. There are so many things that you share with H, but there is one thing that makes you different.”

The kids were really interested to learn about what Autism meant. So, H’s Learning Centre teacher sat them in the reading corner and she read the book, “My Friend with Autism”. It’s a great book, although the part where the book explains that the kids can’t “catch” Autism always makes me cringe. The book comes with colouring pages, that H’s teacher is preparing to send home in a binder with one child a night, so that they can sit with their parents/caregivers and talk about Autism and colour a page, placing it in the binder that will eventually be given to H to show him that his friends are supportive of who he is, and what makes him so great.

MyFriend

The book talked about some of the challenges H faces in his environment, such as sensory issues; like an aversion to loud noises, difficulty handling bright lights, and struggling sometimes to put his thoughts into words.

The best thing that happened after reading the book is that one kid said, “Now WE have a friend with Autism!” and everyone said, “Yah!!!”. Then another boy looked at his friend and said, “We’re not the same either!”.

What really hit me during this visit, was how prepared the kids were to have this talk. That their teacher had taken the time to talk to them about differences, about kindness and the meaning of equality. This resonated in the way the kids approached their questions to me, and how kind they were when referencing some of H’s behaviours in the classroom. They were not demeaning when they referenced these differences, but rather empathetic and curious. And curious is a completely great thing to be!

After reading the book, I referenced some sections and talked about how H identified with some of the points raised in the book, and then I asked them if they had any questions. They had some really good ones, and in another post I’ll try to recall them and provide my answers.

H’s teachers were wonderful in helping me prepare a package that we could send home to parents. It included a letter from me, and a handy (OMG I am so old now that I use the word “handy”) guide to talking to your kids about Autism. This guide is really great, and includes ways that typical kids can support their buddies with Autism.

Here is the letter I sent home with parents:

Dear Parents of xxxx Class:

My name is Ally, I’m the mom of H one of your child’s classmates.

H is six years old. He loves cooking with his Dad, playing with his toy characters (all kinds!), playing basketball, soccer and street hockey, watching movies (Inside Out is his current favourite) and reading books.

H also has Autism Spectrum Disorder, which means that his day at school likely differs a bit from the day your child experiences. H spends some time in the Learning Centre to work on some skills that he needs support with, and he also gets support from the classroom “helpers”.

Today, I came into Ms. xxxx classroom to talk to the kids about Autism. xxxxx amazing Learning Centre teacher, Ms. xxxx, joined me for this chat. We spoke to the kids about what Autism meant, and specifically, what it meant for H.

My husband xxxx and I wanted to send a note home to parents to talk about this chat, and to share with you what we talked about with the kids and also provide some resources that you might find helpful in talking to your kids about how everyone is different.

Today we focused on how all brains work differently, and that kids with Autism have really special brains that give them incredible strengths, but also provide some challenges. Some of these challenges include:

  • Sensory issues: Lots of kids with Autism struggle with noise volume and bright lights. These are things that H has to manage all day in addition to learning from Ms. xxxx. It makes him really tired, and this is why “helpers” sometimes take him for extra breaks in the learning centre. There he can regroup and return to the classroom.
  • Transitions: Sometimes kids with Autism get super focused on what they are doing. They are really interested in reading a book, or having lots of fun being silly and moving on to the next activity can be very tough for them to understand. This is why H’s helpers often use a “countdown” or a timer with him to help him understand that the next transition or activity is just a couple of minutes away. This lets H understand that a transition is about to happen.
  • Directions: Directions can be really tough for H to comprehend. Especially if there is more than one direction. His brain needs some time to understand each direction, which is why he gets frustrated sometimes in class or on the playground when his friends are playing games with a lot of rules.

H loves his friends in his class. He can point to each one of his friends in the class photo and tell me what they like and what they play at recess or after lunch. H wants to play and have fun like all of the other kids, but the tough thing is that sometimes he struggles with understanding the rules of the game, or comprehending a conversation that is happening really quickly. Here are some ways you can talk to your child about helping out a friend who might think differently than they do:

  • Be Patient. Some friends need a bit of extra time to understand what you are asking, or may need help with understanding the rules of the game you are playing.
  • Be kind. When you see a friend looking sad or frustrated, it might be because they are having a hard time finding their words to say how they are feeling, or they may not be able to find a way to ask you if they can play as well. Always remember that while H might not be able to communicate all his thoughts the same way you’re able to, he does understand everything you say. Words matter and he gets hurt feelings just like everyone else!
  • Be inclusive. H wants to play at recess or after lunch just like all the other kids. Invite him to play with you on the playground, he loves to have fun!
  • Be curious. It’s ok to have questions about H, and how he communicates differently. It is always ok to ask a teacher for help if you don’t understand what H is asking/saying. They can help you and H figure out the best way to play.

As well, here are some great, progressive pages to follow:

One of my favourites is Diary of a Mom; she raises two daughters, one with Autism and one who is typically developing. Her philosophy on parenting both her daughters is so inspirational: http://adiaryofamom.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Diary-of-a-Mom/

The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism: Some really great posts here, makes you think differently about disabilities and what we have previously thought about Autism https://www.facebook.com/thinkingpersonsguidetoautism/

And this was a great article in the Globe and Mail recently: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/facts-and-arguments/to-help-my-child-with-asperger-syndrome-i-need-to-look-through-her-eyes/article28185297/

I was so happy to be able to chat with the kids today. H has some great friends! I understand that autism is a big topic for them to understand, so never hesitate to touch base with me if you have any questions.

So there you have it! A brief overview of my awesome chat with some even more awesome kids!

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A letter to my son on his sixth birthday.

Dear Kiddo:

You’re six tomorrow. And you’re a phenomenal six. There has never been a better ambassador for the number six. Six will have the best year ever in the marketing department.

When their kids have a birthday milestone like this, most parents talk about how time has flown by so fast. Time hasn’t really flown by for us, in fact I remember that there were very long days, long weeks, long months and long years. These days, weeks and months were so drawn out because we, as your parents, were struggling to be just that…parents. We had read all the parenting books, devoured all the blogs, listened eagerly to other parents during playdates and birthday parties, but it seemed as though none of the advice and counsel provided applied to you at all.

We kept trying though, to adhere to the rule book, to measure progress by the same guidelines, to take your hand and lead you back into the box labelled “typical little boy”.

And it’s not like you fought it, the people-pleaser that you are worked diligently to fit into the mold we’d prepared for you, but you knew in your heart and in your head that it didn’t fit. It didn’t feel good, and it wasn’t you.

I’m sorry that it took us longer to figure that out. It wasn’t because we don’t love you. Oh, if you knew how much we love you.

I think the greatest gift we’ve given you this year is taking that “typical little boy” box and lighting it on fire. I only wish we had brought s’mores.

Now our joy is seen watching you throw yourself into your passions, your interests, what makes you, “you”.

Our joy is the hour we spend on Saturday mornings pouring over the pasta recipe book that your Poppy picked up at Frenchy’s. Reading every single ingredient and deciding which meal would be best for each of your friends when you have them over for a dinner date.

Our joy is determining the specific shade of colour for every single item that you come in contact with…the garlic finger is light brown, the cup is baby blue, the minion stuffie is sunshine yellow…ok, that gets a bit tiring but it brings you comfort and peace of mind so we indulge.

Our joy is watching how you excitedly run up to meet new friends at the playground, eager to use your new found words. And our joy is seeing how you regroup when sometimes those friends don’t know how to respond. You just dust yourself off and try again. A skill that many of us adults still aren’t able to grasp.

Our joy is watching you at the cottage, a place where you are literally free. Free of programming, of structure, of barriers and constraints. Where you can race across fields, run into the icy cold ocean water, and spend time with all your summertime friends.

Our joy, my little buddy, is seeing your joy. Your happiness. Happiness that we probably hindered for a long time, however innocent our motives.

At six years old, you’ve literally changed our entire world. You’ve opened up our minds and our hearts and those of the people who surround you.

You are a ball of giggly silliness. You have Poppy’s ability to laugh at his own jokes, no matter how many times you tell them. You have an imagination that I envy and love being a part of when you tell your stories through your cherished characters. You are everything to your little sister, whose face lights up when she hears your voice or sees your smiling face.

You are the little boy I always dreamed of having; a boy who loves his family, loves his life, loves fun and adventure and who loves being himself.

You are perfect.

Happy Birthday, Boo.

HughBeach

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

That one time I did something right.

There are a million mommy blogs out there, all of which likely contain a post about this magnificent groundbreaking moment they had with their child when everything became clear to them.

Well this is another one.

The posts on this blog are far and few in between. Mostly because parenting a small child and balancing a career is fairly challenging, and it’s hard to type with one hand when you’re guzzling a container of wine after toddler bedtime. I try to get on here though when I have real deep thoughts, or there is something I’d like to share with my son or daughter when they are older(I haven’t properly introduced her on this blog, but that’s because she’s the second child and we mostly ignore her…she’s laying around here somewhere and I figure we’ll find out where once she gets hungry enough to call us).

Recently I shared a link on my Facebook page to this inspiring blog post from one of those other mommy blogs. This mom was Good. Like, capital G good. She talked a good game about not appreciating other people coming to her kid’s rescue when they’re at the playground. That her kids need to learn how to overcome adversity in order to get through this life without their heads shoved up their ass. I read it, shared it, and thought, “mmmhmm, exactly”. Except, I’m a complete fraud. My son is the kid at the playground repeating, “that’s not safe” when he encounters anything that requires a bit of effort to climb.

Basically, I thought that in order to be a good mom you needed to make sure your kid didn’t break. Part of it my son comes by naturally. Since birth he has always been cautious, like me, before taking on any task. I have to admit that another part of his anxiety comes from me trying to shelter him from anything that might give him the idea that the world is a sort of terrifying place. I slipped once when I let him watch Lady Gaga’s Marry the Night video. Nightmares for dayzzzz.

I’m trying, though, to be better for him, because I’m seeing how this behaviour is holding him back.

Tonight, it was my turn to take the boy to swimming lessons. It was to be his second lesson. So despite the pouring rain, we headed to his lesson which was being held at an outdoor pool. I ignored him the entire drive over when he pleaded with me to go home cause it was too cold to swim. I dragged him down the stairs to the pool once we arrived while balancing the umbrella. I averted my eyes so as not to look into his while we waited for his class to start, because I knew I would break if I saw the tears streaming down his face.

His shirt came off and he was thrust into his teacher’s arms, where he screamed and cried, and begged me to let him go home. I smiled and waved and gave precious winks to the other moms and dads watching this shit show play out in front of them. When he somehow escaped from his teacher’s arms and crawled out of the pool, shaking violently from the combination of freezing ass cold and being utterly terrified, I gently shoved him back in with the promise of treats when we got back to the car. I ignored him when he cried out, “but I looooooove you” as his teacher bounced away with him to the other side of the shallow end.

Then something clicked. He realized he was fucked (sorry, there really isn’t a better word). He was stuck in that pool for another 20 minutes until the class was over. He was going to have to suck it up and lay on the big floaty board and kick his feet. And so he did.

I watched this all go down in the pouring rain, completely soaked from repeatedly walking him back in the water.

He was scared, but he did it. He grinned at me from across the pool and kicked those little feet.

That was accomplished in the last minute of the class. If he had given up, he never would have felt that rush. He never would have realized that he could do it. I never would have gotten to see that confidence resonate from my son’s face.

On the way home, my son eating his Lightening McQueen gummy treats (I know, awful), I told him how proud I was of him and asked him if he was proud of himself. He said quietly, “Yah, I made it”. Being the drama queen that I am, I chocked back tears and agreed with him. Then he said, “Mommy? I love you.”

So there it is, a defining moment in my son’s life. Maybe he’ll share this story in his valedictorian speech at high school graduation entitled, “The Day I Grew a Set of Balls” alternatively titled, “The Day my Mother Stopped Ruining my Life”.

The truth is he will likely forget his moment of glory at age three in the neighbourhood public pool. I hope not though. I hope he remembers some of it. Maybe not that I abandoned him to the arms of a 20 something lifeguard who sort of wasn’t really careful about him not swallowing water, but I hope he remembers how alive he felt when he let go of his fear and actually took a chance. I hope it means that he’ll try it again. I hope it means that he’ll begin to understand to get to the glory you have to sometimes get served up with defeat.

Dear reader, I can see you rolling your eyes at this point, and that’s fair. To me though, after all we’ve been through with him this past year, tonight meant everything. I felt I did something right, and in doing so I allowed him his own moment of victory.

Tomorrow night at his third swimming class he’ll maybe pee in the pool, or throw himself on the ground before he even gets in. And if he does, I’ll know what to do. I’ll abandon the little shit into the arms of the 20 something lifeguard that maybe lets him swallow pool water.

And we’ll both be better for it.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

That’s a Bad Word, Mommy.

swear

Pre-kid, one of my favourite activities was to judge other parents. Pretty high on the list were the parents who let their kids run around with snot caked on their face. Actually, I still judge this. It’s called kleenex, they sell it at the grocery store. You’re welcome.

Another thing I judged was kids who dropped “f-bombs”, words they obviously heard from their parents. “How hard is it to not swear in front of your kids?!” I judged.
“Fucking hard,” post-baby Ally answers.

Case in point, on several occasions our Toddler G has been within earshot when we’ve said the word “shit”. I’m talking situations where you spill maple syrup on the floor or perhaps pour boiling water on your hand. It’s not pre-meditated, people. It slips out. Of course we do the obligatory, “Mommy/Daddy is sorry! We should never say that word! Never!”

The kid isn’t stupid. He quickly picked up on our anxiety and has used it effectively to his advantage.

Example A: Toddler G has come along for a family walk to Video Difference on a beautiful winter Sunday morning to select a few videos of his choice. Upset at having to remain in his stroller, he decides his payback will be served best in the form of instant mortification for his mother, “We don’t say shit, Mommy. Do we? No. We don’t say shit.” At first the video clerk pretends not to hear the child stuffed into his snowsuit which is stuffed into his stroller. This upsets Toddler G, so he repeats, “I said we DON’T SAY SHIT, MOMMY. DO WE? WE DON’T SAY SHIT!” Finally the video clerk giggles and Toddler G smiles with satisfaction.

Example B: We’re at a friend’s place post-sledding on a beautiful snowy day. Relaxing in their living room, we are chatting over a cheese plate while the kids enjoy their healthy snack in the living room. Feeling left out and frankly pissed that we have the better crackers, Toddler G swaggers over to our side of the room to check things out. Taking a cracker and piece of cheese from the cheese plate, Toddler G looks at our friend and says sincerely, “We don’t say shit”, winks at me and saunters out of the room. Toddler 2 – Mommy 0.

Example C: It’s hard to trump the no swear rule. Which Toddler G has learned early on. I was bad, and he will do everything in his power to remind me of this. Yesterday morning, Toddler G was pretending his fork was the school bus dropping his pancakes off at school, as one does from time to time. This had to be done by scrapping his fork along our wooden table, “Toddler G, it makes mommy angry when you scrape your fork on the table,” I said firmly just like the parenting books tell you. “Oh. It makes me angry when you say shit, Mommy,” he responded.

Touche.

He has also learned other things from me, like how you can effectively display concern that you may or may not actually feel towards someone’s hardship by uttering, “what a sin” softly while shaking your head in commiseration.

“Why would you torture yourself by buying maternity skinny jeans,” asked my husband as he saw what the bright red pants were doing to my five-months-pregnant behind.

“What a sin,” says Toddler G, who has overheard this exchange, shaking his head in sorrow.

We shudder in fear some days sending him off to school, wondering what street language he is going to throw down in Circle Time.

4 Comments

Filed under Classic Parenting Moment, Did I actually do that?, Ugly but True, Uncategorized

Basically I was a Nut Job…

Things have been busy lately. So busy that my husband searched for a way to bring some levity into my life by sending me the following document I prepared for him when Toddler G was Baby G and I was heading out of the house for my first evening away from the kidlet. It’s scary, dudes. Really scary. I prepared a document for him. An actual document on how to care for our child. Like it was his first rodeo. Here are some snippets (obviously his name has been replaced with “Baby G” to protect his identify…this is for the time-being until I get my Dina Lohan role underway and start pimping him out on YouTube:

Baby G’s Intinerary

Pre-Dinner

  • Make Baby G’s supper
  • Prepare bottle for bedtime
  • Wipe down bath
  • Two face cloths (one for wiping bath, one for Baby G to sit on)
  • Place Baby G’s towel and face cloth in the bathroom
  • Lay out pajamas on our bed
  • Fill humidifier

Supper

  • Sippy cup of water
  • Meal
  • Fruit for dessert
  • Warm milk and bring it upstairs with you

Bathtime

  • Play with toys
  • Wash hair
  • Wash stinky baby
  • Play with toys
  • Out when Baby G says so!
  • Warm milk again

Pre-Bed Routine

  • Baby G waves at himself in mirror wrapped in towel (Editor’s note: I really did have this down to an effing science)
  • Place on change table, make a big deal about looking for Sal (Editor’s note: Sal is Baby G’s stuffed animal)…”Who’s that?! What’s in there??!! Who could it be??!!”
  • Bring out Sal, “It’s SAL!” (Hug Sal when you say this)
  • Start the Sal song, (Editors note: I did include the lyrics for the “Sal song” but in order to protect what is left of my credibility I will delete for the purpose of this blog).
  • Baby G hugs Sal while you sing the song
  • Face cream first
  • Excema cream
  • Lotion on legs (not on feet, Vicks Vapour Rub goes on feet) and arms
  • Vicks on chest, feet and back (Editors note: He had a cold! Give me a break)
  • Hair brushed
  • Dim lights, turn on humidifier, turn on monitors (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT PUT HIM IN HIS CRIB FOR THIS, CARRY HIM TO DO IT)
  • Into bedroom to put on pajamas and read a story
  • Back in Baby G’s room, sit in the rocking chair and give milk. Constant slow rocking while Baby G has his milk. Not too fast, not too slow. No talking. Start to look sleepy yourself. He should be laying in your arms like a baby, rub his legs and belly a bit with the hand that is not holding the bottle. He should start to get drowsy.
  • After milk, softly bounce and pace around the room (slowly) while Baby G lays against your chest. 
  • Place in crib once he is relaxed (sometimes he actually points to crib and wants to go in).
  • He will roll towards Sal, and cuddle him, put his blanket over him after this happens.

Make sure to open his door and your door before you go to sleep.

If Baby G wakes up

  • Grab the bottle you prepared for the morning and warm it. You can replace it afterwards. Don’t go in until you have the warm bottle. He’ll just get worked up that it is not mommy.
  • Same routine as before bed. Rock slowly, rub his leg, turn on music (you often have to turn the volume down a bit, for some reason it starts out loud)
  • Pace a bit and lay down with Sal. He will probably cry a bit, but if he is not teething, he should be fine to go back to sleep. 

At the time, I did not realize how insulting this organizational chart must have been for The Husband. In retrospect, I was a massive asshole. I love that he saved it. Toddler G will be so impressed with our communication skills when he is a teenager.

5 Comments

Filed under Classic Parenting Moment, Did I actually do that?, In which my Husband and I Disagree

Cut to Two Years Later

I’ve completely ignored this blog. Completely. It wasn’t until my friend Marah commented on my Facebook page citing this blog that I thought to perhaps update on the goings on in Baby G’s life.

Baby G is now Toddler G. I look fondly on my trials and tribulations with the Soothie and the Transition to Crib. Now we are dealing with a pint size locomotive who is constantly attracted to traffic and expresses this affection by attempting to run into the street on an ongoing basis.

His vocabularly is amazing. Truly. It took him 15 months to walk, but by age 17 months he could name every colour under the rainbow and currently enjoys using terms like, “Jesus Christ” and “Oh my God” in addition to humanity’s all-time favourite swear words. Note to parents of newborns: no matter how much you try, they will hear you uttering a foul word at your weakest moment. It could be 12am, they could be fast asleep in their crib, you could be telling off your husband in hushed tones and possibly dropping the f-bomb. Guaranteed, they will hear that and use it the next day. Moritifying.

He truly is a parrot. Which gives us great comfort in sending him off to daycare. I can image the teachers delight when he drops a book in class and expresses his displeasure with a “oh, shit”.

I’m painting a bad picture here. Our son can also count to ten, remembers the names of the majority of his 100 odd books and can pretty much carry on a conversation. We’re super proud. Therefore, will ignore the occasional swear word he adds in as an adjective. Although if he is going to say, “Oh my God” it would be nice if her could get a sense of the context. Currently he is using it in sentences like, “Mommy read Curious George, please. Oh my God!” and “Mommy let’s go look at the blue water. Oh my God!”

So, more posts to come as we continue to navigate this thing called parenting. Basically, we still feel like the luckiest people on earth. Oh my God!

Leave a comment

Filed under Classic Parenting Moment, Daycare, My son is a brainiac, Uncategorized

Days go by…

My little baby is over a year old. Not only has time flown by, but it as given proof of my ineptitude as a mommy blogger.

I found the lead-up to the first birthday really emotional. It just seemed like the year got away from me, even though there were days that felt they would never end (particularly in the early months and the long winter days when it was too cold to go outside).

So since BabyG has turned one, I find myself struggling to let go of some of his “baby ways”. Like the bottle. I’ll admit it. He’s still taking milk from a bottle before bed (calm down, we brush his teeth before he goes to sleep), I just am really hesitant to give this up. It’s not that he’s not comfortable with a sippy cup. He loves his sippy for his water and milk during the day, but we both are attached to those moments before bed, when he’s fresh from his bath, placed in his cozy pajamas and story time has just commenced. We cuddle in his rocking chair and I chat with him about the day, he plays with my eyelashes and then plays with his own. Mostly, we just smile at eachother until he starts getting really sleepy.

Maybe you got to know BabyG, but having him cuddle, or stay still for any length of time (like, two seconds) is impossible. He’s never been one for snuggling, except when he’s sick. And he’s never wanted to sleep in our bed, except when he’s sick. You get the picture. He’s always wanted Mama at bedtime though, he looks forward to this time as much as I do I think. Where he can have a warm bottle of milk and kick back and get some cuddles.

So, yah, I know, I know. I’ve got to give it up. I can just see the judgey moms tsk tsking me through the screen. Oddly enough, I don’t really care about the judgement. I’ve become a big believer in doing what feels right for you and your baby. A mom sort of knows when it’s the right time to transition to something else, and I feel like I want to give us both a bit more time with the bottle before bed routine (again, chill, WE ARE BRUSHING HIS TEETH…ok, I care about the judging a bit). Besides, it won’t be long before he tires of this routine and wants to be more independent. I won’t let him be all Suri Cruise, carrying a bottle around at age 4. Swears it.

I also swears that I will try to update a bit more. I like writing here, mostly because I want a place to track my thoughts for the boy to read when he gets older. So he’ll know that even when I’m super pissed at him, I’ve always loved him with everything. Plus, he can blackmail me when he realizes all the mistakes I’ve made that I’ve recorded here on the site.

Leave a comment

Filed under Judgey Moms, What the experts say

The Daycare Conundrum

There were days this winter that I felt time couldn’t go any slower. I had a colicky baby for the first three months, a baby that seemed to sleep, nurse and cry in constant rotation. It was a terrible reality. Every time my baby was awake, he was either eating or crying, and nothing I did seemed to comfort him. Time creeped. To make the days go by quicker, we would walk when it was mild enough…sometimes three times a day. I’d cross my fingers that BabyG would be in good enough shape to go to a library program, or a playgroup, something that would equal success for another day on mat leave. By month four something clicked, my son was happier, more rested, I was more relaxed. It was like we had been roommates in our freshman year at college, spending the first few months eyeing each other, trying to figure out how the other one worked, holding our ground. Month four meant more cuddles, less crying, more playing. It was bliss.

All of a sudden, I find myself finishing my mat leave, a month early as baby is only (almost) 11 months, but a daycare space opened up in August at a centre we really liked and we jumped on it. The good news is, I made a great career decision, I’m now going to be working on my own as an independent communications consultant, to allow me more flexibility to balance my family and work life. I was never great at balancing the personal/work life pre-baby, so something had to give.

Next week is baby’s first full week at daycare, this week he has had two visits, each two hours. The pain that is associated with the decision to place him in daycare is sort of indescribable. I’m a dramatic person to begin with, so this transition has left me an absolute mess. I have to give myself props though, I did what I was told and completed the “quick drop off” leaving him in the arms of a complete stranger while he wailed, tears streaming down his face, crying out for “mom-ma” (how he pronounces it). I look back to high school and university, when I thought some dude had completely broken my heart, these arseholes had nothing on daycare. Daycare shatters your heart into pieces.

I didn’t know what I would be like as a mother, how I would take to it. I’m pretty self-centred, and I like having my own space. Over the past year, I have learned so much about myself. Sure, I now know I am much stronger than I thought, but my weaknesses have come rushing forward for examination as well. This year has not only been the year that I fell in love with my son, it has also been the year I sort of learned how much I hated myself. The year I really worked on who I was in order to be a better role model for him. I have a ways to go, but our time together 24/7 the last 11 months has given me such perspective, and shamed me for decisions I have made in the past.

Now, with two full days left together before we end our year together, I find myself feeling really depressed. I know that I’ll get to pick him up each day, spend every weekend with him, and plan wonderful family vacations, but it won’t be the same. It’s like graduation or something, without the party.

The selfish me will miss my buddy. The little friend who makes me laugh at the little things he does. I’ll miss the moments we have before he goes down for his nap, where I whisper our plans for the afternoon in his ear, and plead with him to rest for a bit so we can have tons of fun when he wakes up. I’ll miss our morning routine…dropping daddy off at work and singing songs on the radio on the way home. Having a cup of coffee while watching him explore the living room before preparing his cereal and yogurt. I’ll miss our outings that I would plan each day around his naps, something new for baby to see and experience. Sure, even if it was Winners where mommy tried on bathing suit after bathing suit.

When I dropped him off for his daycare visit this morning I came back to an empty house. Being dramatic me, I went up to baby’s room and sat in the rocking chair and cried. I looked in his crib and saw his blankie, the one I slept with for two nights before giving it to him so it would smell like mommy when I was trying to get him used to his crib. I saw Sal, his stuffed dog, that he loves to cuddle with in the morning. I leaned over and turned on his iPod station, where I had placed all of his favourite songs, the ones we listened to when he had colic and I had to dance around the room for hours with him. I missed him. Mostly, I felt the decision I had made. I felt it hard. The decision to put him in care and not stay home with him full-time.

Like any mother, I can’t be sure I am making the right choice, although it feels right to me. I promised to always be honest on this blog, so I’ll say that there have been moments over the last couple of months where I have been yearning for my old life. To be able to have time for me again, to do actual work, to feel proud of something I have accomplished outside of motherhood. When I’m being rational, I know I am making the best decision for our family, if my husband got one more call at work with me complaining about how suffocated I felt I think he would have driven off the 102. And let’s be serious, mat leave pay isn’t condusive to my shopping lifestyle.

I’m a big believer in quality time, and that’s what my focus will be with baby. No matter how tired I am at the end of a work day, he’ll be my priority. I’m his mama, and I always want to be the one he turns to for guidance. I’m going to miss our full days together, the routine we’ve established. I know he will too. I hope he makes friends at daycare, that he learns to love having his own time, his independence, his own place that he can soon tell mom and dad all about. I hope this helps to prepare him better for school, and allows him to be more comfortable when left alone with others (maybe The Husband and I can finally go on a date!). Mostly, I hope he doesn’t forget how much he means to his mama. I hope he doesn’t feel like I’m abandoning him. I hope that he knows how excited I will be to pick him up every day, and knows that mom doesn’t like walking away from him each morning.

I’m so glad we had this time together. Each and every day, even the bad ones. We’re truly lucky in Canada to be allowed to spend this time with our babies, to help them develop, to get them adjusted. I haven’t taken that time for granted. It’s a new chapter now, baby. I love you more than anything times a million.

For now, your dramatic mama will listen to some of this:

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Mat Leave Countdown

Baby starts daycare in August. It is now the second week of June. In short, I’m a mess. Already.

Where did the time go? Seriously? It’s so cliche, but I do feel as though it was just yesterday we were staring down at an eight pound little munchkin wondering what we were supposed to do with it. It’s not that we know so much now, but we know him so much more. I know what he likes, what he dislikes, how can I hand him over to someone else?

While I know the transition to daycare is tough on everyone, and I expected to feel a bit of pain, I didn’t realize how heavy my heart would be as the day nears. Thing is, Baby is my buddy. We’ve spent almost every moment together the last nine months, we are a sort of team now. How’s it gonna be when he’s not with me, or me with him?

Which got me thinking of this song. Expect many more misty eyed posts as the days to daycare draw near. Until then, we’ll be making the most of the lazy, hazy days of mat leave.

Leave a comment

Filed under Buddy and Me, Daycare

Our First Mother’s Day Together

I remember very clearly Mother’s Day of last year.  I was about six (was it six? I can’t count good) months along in my pregnancy, and my husband bought me a bottle of Marc Jacobs Daisy perfume to celebrate my first mother’s day. While the gift was appreciated, as any gift at any time is, I wasn’t even close to feeling like a mom yet.

So, today was my first official mother’s day. I didn’t put too much thought into it, besides telling my husband that I would love to do something different with him and Baby. He made me a funny card, and bought my favourite chocolates, which was super sweet but wasn’t even close to the best part of the day.

Maybe it was how I kept reminding myself all day long how lucky I was. How all of the difficulties I faced in previous years were worth it in order to be here in this moment today. It chokes me up to think about it. The day was just so perfect. Every moment. Even the fact that Baby didn’t say “mama” once, instead saying “dadadadadada” all day long.

We took Baby swimming for the first time. Of course we were the bumbling new parents in the Family Change Room (which is a strange experience btw) getting Baby ready while trying to get ready ourselves. We weren’t sure whether it was going to be a massive disaster or a super good time. Baby blew our expectations out of the water (pun!). The look on his face was priceless. He laughed the entire time, everything was so brand new for him. I realized as I looked at him in his swim trunks and shirt, that we get to introduce him to all of these firsts. Simple, but sort of extraordinary. It’s an amazing gift.

As we drove home, Baby babbled on and on, squealing with excitement over what he had just experienced. He was still full of energy when we got home, fed him his dinner and gave him his bath. The events of the day finally caught up to him and he fell asleep in my arms before getting into his crib. I decided to give The Book (which says very clearly to put the baby to bed drowsy, but NOT ASLEEP!!) the middle finger and sat down to rock with my sleeping baby nuzzled close to me. We rocked for a good while tonight while I wordlessly thanked God, my parents, my husband, the guy at the corner store, Britney Spears, the dandelions on my lawn…everyone and everything for bringing him into my life.

I hope I always remember to be this grateful, to remember how lucky I am each day. Even when things seem rotten. I know it is a privilege to be on this ride with my boy, and I never for a moment want to take it for granted.

To all the moms out there, I hope you had a fantastic day. Especially my mom, who this year especially gave me unwaivering love and support when I needed to find my own way as a mother.

I’m going to go listen to some sappy music now and have a good happy cry. Then I am going to eat the dinner my husband is happily preparing downstairs. Life is good tonight, my friends.

xoxo

P.S. This is good sappy music, FYI.

8 Comments

Filed under The Book, Uncategorized