Tonight’s menu: Gum and popsicles

It is 9:30 pm. For the last hour and a half, I have been sitting by the fire, reading the paper, reading emails, and sipping my favourite red wine. My kids went to bed happy and I have no dishes to do. Oh, well, I rinsed the pot of defrosted baked beans. Don’t know why I bothered with a bowl, I could have eaten right out of the pot.

I have been able to do this because tonight, I decided not to serve dinner. Well – correction – I served Gum as an appetizer (choice of 2 kinds; all-u-can-chew) and Popsicles as a main course. Interspersed between courses were such fun and stimulating activites as bike-ride-dog-walking, sunflower-planting-and-watering, board-game-“playing”, and our new favourite, “Choppy Chopperstein”.

Ben is away for a couple days, and I was able to manage all this entertainment after work, and serve dinner too!

Last night, I spent the better part of an hour in the kitchen after work, repeating the phrase, “I can’t (Frida/Elsie), I’m making dinner”. Perhaps 8 or 10 times. Also intervening as the girls checked off everything on the “don’t do it” list.

When dinner time rolled around (chicken & barley soup cause they have runny noses; isn’t that so maternal of me? I don’t even like chicken soup and I think it’s a myth that it makes you better), they didn’t eat it.

Not surprising. BUT very, very, very annoying. A complete waste of an hour, 8-10 repetitions of the same boring phrase, and numerous interventions. Boring mum, for naught. Add stress, frustration, a bit of yelling and…dishes.

So tonight? No dinner. BOOM!

True. They could have all the gum they wanted, and eventually out of irrepressible mother-guilt I asked them if they were at all hungry for a bowl of cereal or … a popsicle? (with yogurt in it, OK?) And I got to take them for the first outside bike ride of the season, help them sow 24 sunflower seeds, play a stupid farmer board game, have a round of Choppy Chopperstein, and then put happy kids to bed and come down and eat my warmed-up baked beans with red wine.

Look, I am not even exaggerating one bit here. They never, ever eat dinner. So why do we bother? It creates frustration, no fun at the table, stress, and time loss. Yes, it’s important, traditions, education bla bla. But right now, I am NOT STRESSED AT ALL and we had a super fun evening. It’s even super windy out, and – no stress. Win.

Dinner tomorrow night? I think we’re on to something here…. (so much faster shopping at the dep than at the store!!!)

PS stay tuned for a Choppy video…

A day in the life of consistency

Read any parenting advice – seriously, pretty much any – and somewhere you’ll come across the notion of consistency. Like, “your kids need limits, it’s comforting and provides them with security, and they need to know what to expect. So you just need to be consistent.”

That’s great. SO easy! You just need to be consistent.  So for all you future parents, current parents, or someday-maybe-but-not-right-now-even-though-you-make-it-sound-so-appealing, here is a Day in the Life of Being Consistent with Pre-school Aged Children and a Partner!

4:30 am: Child stumbles into bed with you. Child is squishy and warm and cuddly and smells like pears. You spoon her and almost fall asleep. But WAIT! Yesterday you told her she had to sleep in her own bed till the night time was over. You dutifully carry her back to bed and endure wailing until 4:45 at which time you can no longer fall asleep. But she does.

6:02 am: Children wake up for real this time. One is hoping for a sticker if she has a dry pull-up in the morning. Her pull-up is wet. No sticker for you! You are the Consistency Nazi.

6:15 am: Children try to assert their independence and feel proud of themselves by pouring their own bowls of cereal. You step in because yesterday, cereal was wasted and you had impulsively uttered, “from now on only grown-ups pour the cereal; that food-wasting business is NOT ON”. You therefore can not do otherwise but to perform more servant-like tasks such as serving cold cereal to perfectly capable small people.

6:20 am: you make a cappuccino, cause that’s what you always do!

7:30 am: Time to get dressed to go outside. It would be so much easier to not make them put on their snowpants, but every time you fall for that, they fall in a snowbank and cry all the way to daycare cause their pants are wet and there’s snow in their boots. So, snowpants it is. No, you do it yourself, you’re perfectly capable. And hats, mitts, neckwarmers… and a hat for you too, cause you have to be an example. To heck with your fancy hairdo. How consistent is it?

7:50 am: Drop-off at daycare. Make sure they hang up their own stuff, even though it’d be 85 times faster to do it yourself, so they learn responsibility. Yeah. The mitts too. And the boots! Is that where the boots go? No? So what if you’re late for your job?

8:10 am: You are already sweaty and hoping to get to your class before your students do. Oh yeah, guess what: you are a teacher! You have to be consistent ALL DAY with your students now!

4:30 pm: Pick-up from daycare. Everything in reverse but more ridiculous. You tell them no, they can’t have gum, cause you’re sick of finding ABC gum everywhere. When your partner finally joins you to herd them out the door, Mr. Hero Lifesaver hands out gum while you are under a bench looking for a mitt. “Ma-ma, we go-ot gu-um, we go-ot gu-um!”

6:30 pm: Dinner. Pssst – What was the rule again? No, I didn’t agree to that one. Make them sit here? But they’re ruining my meal! That’s what we said? Shit. How long till we get to change our minds??? Is there any wine??

7:00 pm: Time for bath-teeth-story-bed. In that order. Except that, earlier, during a bout of outrageous behaviour from child, you said, “That’s it: No story for you!” and now, Consistency Nazi, you are held to that. Even though she’s sweet as pie right now and you would really, really love to read her a story. You said it. No backing out, or she’ll have you by the balls. So you endure the wailing, insults (“t’es méchante!!”), thrashing, and general mayhem, all the while wishing you could go back an hour and a half and come up with a better consequence. But there wasn’t really one.

8:15 pm. Your new year’s resolution was to not drink on weekdays. Whaaat? Shit.

OK. So you need to be consistent in, say, the rules. But that means being consistent in your actions, behaviour, consequences, and expectations. In what you say to one child and what you then say to the other. In what you said yesterday, and what you say today – even if yesterday you felt like a discipline champ and today you feel like a pushover with a napoleon complex. You even have to be consistent with what your PARTNER said/did/does/expects!  Which requires negotiation, arguments, trial & lots of error. Faack.

Despite my bitching and slight dramatization, I really, really believe what they say in all the books & magazines about being consistent. I see the results every day. But I think it’s one of the hardest things about parenting. It’s exhausting. There. I ranted it out. And I had a glass of wine with dinner, even though it’s Wednesday. There’s a limit to this consistency crap, and I’ve reached it. Good luck y’all.

Oh – and the recipe:

Shreddies (1 serving)

1 cup Shreddies

1 cup milk (or more, who cares if it’s just going to get poured down the sink)

Place Shreddies in bowl. Pour milk over top, making sure there are no “holes” in the cereal otherwise child will freak. Ensure both children (or all children) get equal amounts of Shreddies and that the cereal:milk ratio is even. Allow children to choose their own spoons.

Repeat as necessary, but beware of bowl #3, it is often a fake. Ensure child stays sitting (if that’s the current rule) and eats any cereal (with a spoon, please) that she served herself or asked for. But don’t force her to eat, we don’t do that.

Joybubbles, Unbridled Kid Joy and Countdowns

This is certainly far from being an epiphany, or even a vaguely original thought, but recently I’ve been living somewhat vicariously through Frida and it’s struck me that being 3 1/2 must be a hell of a lot of fun.

The excitement that she feels for what I consider to be the most mundane of activities shoots across the space between us and seeps into my jaded, old skin. She jumps up and down and gushes and squeals – and she gets Elsie all excited, too. Their two little voices saying “Ouuuiiiiii!”  as they clap their hands and then Frida starts jumping and chanting:

“Post office! Post office! Post office!”

Yes – that’s right. All of this excitement for a routine errand.

The post office outing was great. We parked a little further away so we could “walk” there – on the SIDEWALK! and Frida got to LICK STAMPS! oh – and there was this crazy yellow box outside the post office, and guess what was in it? SALT!!!!!  Yeah, we got to look in that box on the way in AND on the way back out.

It was worth the double car-seat battle with Elsie (whose superpower is to turn into a 2 x 6 when it’s time to be strapped in)  to be witness to all that unbridled kid joy.

Other things that have resulted in Unbridled Kid Joy (UKJ) recently:

  • Crossing the street to visit a friend
  • Making waffles (ok, unbridled adult joy, too)
  • Snowshoeing
  • Getting on any kind of bus (this one never fails)
  • Mud
  • the purple yoga mat on the living room floor
  • Taking a shower instead of a bath

    There's UKJ coming out of her head

I’m sure there will be more. In fact, I’ve taken to testing the UKJ by suggesting banal activities in an excited tone of voice to see how intense the reaction will be. “Frida- wanna help me do the DISHES???”

“OOOUUUUUIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!”

It makes me think of all those clichés about seeing things through the eyes of a child and all that crap. But I guess I should shut my jaded mouth cause it’s TRUE. I really did love going to the post office and started dreaming up the next outing. Oh, I can’t tell you how excited she is about going to the dentist. We’ve got a countdown calendar bringing us to April 13. Less than a month now!

Recently, I’ve been listening to Radiolab podcasts while walking the dog (“OOOOOUUUIIIIII!!!!!”) by myself. (I have been getting pretty excited about this new activity, actually. But I try to keep my UKJ under wraps so that no one wants to come with me.) Anyway, the last episode I listened to featured a story about a guy who discovered that he could hack phone lines with his voice – they call it Phone Phreaking and apparently lots of people do it (UKJ?), but it’s illegal, so don’t. Anyway, this (blind from birth) dude at around 40 years of age decided, instead of being a jaded old cynical adult, to be 5 years old for the rest of his life, and host a call-in show for kids. He’d leave long messages on an answering machine that were stories, or just him talking, and also trying to boost kids up a bit, and you could leave messages for him or not. He legally changed his name to Joybubbles.

And I think Joybubbles was maybe on to something, along with Mister Rogers.

outdoor shoes off, indoor shoes on. Ah, the joys of routine.

Being 5, or 3, or whatever age you need to be: wow! everything is so INTENSE. Can’t have the red cup with dinner? BAAAAWWWLLLLLL. Flop on floor like bacon. Shudder and wail. Snot. Peanut-shaped mouth.   Want to go to the post office? ECSTASY. UKJ. Shin splints from jumping so much.  (Sadly, some psychiatrists are now treating UKJ as “juvenile bipolar disorder” in toddlers and prescribing anti-psychotic drugs. Yes, toddlers. Those who toddle. Sometimes, this disorder is misdiagnosed as “normal toddler behaviour”.) But more than that, everything is new. Shiny. Untarnished by cynicism and the news and strikes and the conservative government and climate change. It’s salt in a yellow box, y’all! Rejoice! Let’s look at it again, Please??

Anyway – basically, I think what this boils down to is that I’m going to start going on a lot more errands with Frida (tomorrow I have to get a lightbulb for the kitchen!), and that we’re going to be making a lot more glue-gun projects with pinecones.  And, one day, I’ll tell you how to make the BEST GRANOLA EVER – but you have to start a countdown calendar. You can put a “granola recipe” sticker on the calendar to show you when it will be. And unleash your own UKJ  – it’s springtime!!!

she is containing her UKJ. she's truly ecstatic about this granola. Countdown!