Momfession #39: Summer Mom

end_of_summerIt’s the last “unofficial” week of summer for anyone who has kids in school. And while I love back-to-school shopping, the excitement of the first day of school, and the promise of cooler days and fall colours in the near future, I can’t help but get a bit depressed. Over the last two months, I have had someone amazing come into my life, and when summer ends, so does our relationship. I’m talking about Summer Mom. You know…the lady who lets you eat freezies every day, allows you to stay up wayyyy past your bedtime, and who says “OK” to playing video games on a frequent basis. I have come to love Summer Mom so much that I don’t want her to leave. I have been thinking a lot about it lately, in fact. What if I let Summer Mom stick around a bit more? What if I became a bit less rigid and more lenient when it came to parenting throughout the year? Would my kids turn out the same in the end? Does it really matter if they play video games, or eat candy? Would our lives become less stressful and more enjoyable?

Sometimes I feel like I am the only person in my kids’ lives who is concerned with ensuring that they don’t become spoiled, entitled, or downright bratty. I know my husband strongly believes in the way we are raising our kids, but even he is more lenient than I. It feels like I am constantly battling against everyone else who comes into contact with my kids, trying in vain to offset the limitless, present-filled, sugar-coated experience that they have with family and other caretakers. But now I am wondering…what if I just hopped on board the “yes” train and went along for the ride? What if I decided to let my Summer Mom mentality continue into fall? What’s the worst that could happen? Cavities?

Other moms, tell me: do you have a summer version of yourself? If so, what do you think about letting her stick around for a while?

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Momfession #38: Karate Kid

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We haven’t had the greatest success with extra-curricular activities. When our son was  three, we started him in a preschool soccer class. It was a frustrating experience: while all of the other kids listened to to instructor and nicely ran back and forth in the gym, our kid ran in the opposite direction. Or hid in the net. And sometimes purposely kicked the ball at other children. I would sit in the observation area, glaring through the window, mouthing “pay attention!” to him through the glass. My husband decided he couldn’t be the one to take him to the class; it was that frustrating. What followed was years of the same; in gymnastics class, he refused to warm up with the other kids. In baseball, he would walk slowly to first base after a hit, and when he fielded the ball, he would just hold it instead of throwing it in. At swimming lessons, he would swim off while the instructors were teaching the other children. In karate, he was pulled to the side countless times for misbehaving and made to do push-ups. As his parents, it wasn’t just frustrating. It was downright embarrassing. No matter how many times it happened, it still bothered me to watch all of the other kids behaving nicely, learning, progressing in a craft…while my kid just ran around in circles. I longed to be that parent who could just relax and enjoy watching their kid in class, instead of the one who was a constant ball of stress.

So that’s why what happened last week was nothing short of a miracle. After three years of forcing him to go to karate every week, something has finally clicked- and he is catching on faster than anyone expected. He spent the last week at karate camp, and at the end we were told that he is learning so well he will be invited to the elite class. We were blown away…our kid, the one who can’t pay attention, in an elite class?!

Yesterday, my daughter and I went to his Saturday morning class. I sat in the viewing area, and a mom sat next to me with her three-year-old daughter in tow. Her son had just started karate a few weeks ago and she asked me which kid was mine. As I pointed him out, I noticed that he had been pulled from the class and was working with a small group of children who were all at a higher level. “Wow,” she said, “he’s really good.” I nodded in agreement, looked down, and noticed that my daughter had slid over in her seat and asked the woman’s daughter if she wanted to sit down with her. Right then, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride. Here I was, watching my typically-behaviorally-challenged kid perfectly demonstrate the third kata to his peers, while my more-cranky-than-not toddler was offering her seat to a child she just met. Maybe we’re not so terrible at this parenting thing after all, I thought. It might take our kid a bit longer than most to shine, but when it does happen, it is sweeter than anything I could imagine, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Momfession #37: The Santa question

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Tonight, out of the blue in the car ride home, my seven-year-old said, “you know what Mom? A lot of my friends say Santa Claus isn’t real.” My heart skipped a beat. I knew this day would come eventually, but not so soon. Not until he was at least eight, I thought. And definitely not on a muggy August afternoon. So I said, “Oh yeah? Well what do you think?” I was hoping that, by turning the question around he would just say he believed in Santa and that would be the end of it. But, it wasn’t. And what happened next is what I had been dreading. He asked me, point-blank, in a very serious tone, “Mommy, tell me the honest truth. Do you and Daddy put the presents out on Christmas?”

The question itself might not seem like a big deal, but I have this thing about brutal honesty with my kids. We don’t have cute names for our genitalia in this house, for example. We call our body parts by their proper names (and then wince when our toddler decides to talk about her vagina or her brother’s penis loudly in public). When a pet dies, or when someone is sick, we don’t hide it from them. We tell them honestly what happened, answer their questions, and help them to deal with their feelings. When they want us to buy them something that is too expensive, we tell them that….we don’t make up excuses for why they can’t have said item. Recently, my son even asked me if I believed in God, to which I gave him an honest answer (no) and then sat with him to attempt to explain in a child-friendly way about different belief systems and religions.

But the Santa thing is a tough one. How do I preserve the magic of Christmas without outright lying to my kid? How do I ensure that our younger child doesn’t get gypped out of that same wonder and excitement that our son got to experience when he was her age? If I tell my son the truth, will he ruin Christmas for our daughter? Will the holiday lose some of its magic for us all?

So, I did the best I could. I looked him right in the eye and said, “Gabriel, do you think that I really would have given you a Nintendo DS for Christmas last year?” With that statement, his eyes lit up. In that moment, he made the connection: there must be a Santa because Mommy doesn’t like him playing video games and there is no way that she would have purchased that for him. I breathed a sigh of relief. The moment had passed, and I hadn’t outright lied to my kid. I was safe, for now. At least until he starts thinking about the Easter Bunny…I have no idea how I am going to sell him on a giant rabbit that hides chocolate eggs. That one is just creepy, if you ask me.