Thursday, April 22, 2010

How to survive your kids shows!

Preschooler and toddler television programming is quite obviously not meant for adults.  Its meant to teach kids moral lessons in friendship, telling the truth, learning... etc.  Unfortunately, as a parent you can only quietly sneak away so many times while the kids are watching TV.  Often its a nice chance to sit quietly with them as the zone out on the so called Boob Tube.  The unfortunate side effect is that you actually start to watch the shows too.  Which is fine when your oldest first starts watching TV since its still a novelty, but by the time that child is nearly four years old you start to get a little batty from watching their shows.  Especially since you've had to give up all hope of watching any daytime TV shows that you used to be able to watch.  Of course one of the main reasons I don't watch my TV with the kids is that I don't think the content is suitable to preschoolers and toddlers.  Even if the show itself is okay quite often the commercials are not and any news breaks or what ever else there may be is also a little scary for kids.

One of the ways that I protect my sanity while watching their shows daily is by reading my own books at this time.  Of course, often that just means I'm re-reading the same page 10 times while paying more attention to the animated talking animals on whatever program is on at the time.   I find myself wondering about these shows.   I mean often all the animals are different species... what kind of future do they have together they can't marry and mate... or can they?  Turtle mates with a beaver?? um no I don't think so.   Or how about how they choose which animals are portrayed as female or male??  In two shows that my son watches regularly there are female characters that are beavers.  In one of the shows with mixed species characters all of the cats are females.  Hmm kinda makes you wonder doesn't it.  Okay I know that most of these shows are written by people who have advanced degrees in child development and have a lot of letters behind their names.  I know that they must have good reasoning for the different character assignments, but I'm still immature enough that it makes me giggle.

The most important thing about watching your kids shows with them is never to let them know which shows you hate!  Seriously, this is the MOST important part.  If you indicate that you do not like a particular show it will all of a sudden become their favourite show ever!  I once tried to prevent my son from watching a show that had a large purple dinosaur (and a really annoying theme song) and there were tears... "but Mom, he's a nice dinosaur".  Instantly I was the mean mom who wouldn't let him watch a semi-decent show that taught kids about caring and sharing.  Sigh.

A final comment on kids shows is that no matter how hard you try, you will end up with their theme songs stuck in your head and it will be really annoying and impossible to get said song out of your head.  Luckily there are lots of other parents out there to commiserate with (or get a different song stuck in your head).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A dish of loss served with a side order of guilt.

I recently had to say goodbye to my grandmother.  She was a feisty lady who lived a rich life.  It wasn't always an easy life, but I believe she made it a good life.  I'm a practical person who was able to tell myself that she was going to a better place, that she would be re-united with her husband who passed before and that she would be able to enjoy all the things that she could do when she was younger and healthy.  I even believed myself for a while.

She was a constant in my life.  I may not have been able to visit often at various times, but I could always call her up and she was excited to hear from me (as I imagine she was with all six of her grandkids).  I have to say that I've been very fortunate in my life to not lose very many close relatives.  I am very blessed by this and very sheltered.  The last person who passed was my grandma's husband (not biologically my grandfather, but still filled that roll).  I was saddened by this, but did not feel the same sense of loss that I do now.  The problem is that I aways thought I had time.  Soon, I thought, I'll get there to visit soon.  I'll introduce my grandma to her 3rd great-grandson.  She had already seen oodles of pictures of my boys since although I'm lousy about visiting I'm great at sending out updated photos.  Unfortunately everything happened quicker than I thought it would and I wasn't able to bring the kids to visit her again.

When her time was near I was trying to plan a visit with the whole family, but in speaking to my cousin who lived in the same town as her I realized that there was not enough time for that, nor was it a place for kids.  I flew out to Calgary from Vancouver basically to say farewell.  When I got there I was relieved not to have brought the kids as the frail elderly woman who lay semi-conscious in the bed was not the vibrant woman of my childhood.  We had a nice visit as I filled her in on my life and that of my brother who was not able to visit.  I brought pictures and taped them up on her wall so she would have something to look at.  It comforted her to have the pictures of her loved ones near and it made me feel better to tell her one last time that I loved her and that her job here was complete and she could rest. 

The day after my visit, surrounded by loved ones she passed on to the other side.  I was glad she was no longer in pain and she was at peace.

Today I feel that grief as well as overwhelming guilt.  Today is her memorial that I was unable to attend.  I didn't realize that I would feel so guilty by not attending since I had already said goodbye, but I do.  I feel guilty that I was not able to help my cousins and uncle deal with the aftermath of death.  I am the oldest grandchild (by only a few months) and my father is the oldest child.  My father has chosen to move to Thailand and be part of a new family.  He has barely been in contact with his two kids or as far as I know his Mom, in fact, he has not even met his second grandson who is nearly 18 months old.  I feel that I should have been there as some sort of representation of our branch of the family.  Perhaps it is the burden of the oldest child or maybe just the burden of someone whose parent has decided that they no longer need to be responsible and are more like a kid than an adult.  This coupled with the loss of my grandma makes me saddened about how distant I feel from that branch of the family. 

I've decided that I will make a conscious effort not to be driven by guilt or perceived duty.  I have done what I can within the boundaries of my own life.  I cannot change the decisions of others and cannot make them want to reconnect with their family if they do not want to.  I try not to be bitter and disappointed in the actions of my father who has played the "poor me", "nobody calls me" victim too long.  I will show my sons what family means and they will know my family even if they do not know my father.  I wish they had known my Grandmother, but she knew and loved them even without seeing them often.  She had boundless love to give and enjoyed life as fully as she was able.  I know that her feisty spirit lives on in her four strong, smart and beautiful grand-daughters and that through us her great-grandkids will know her legacy.

To my grandma I raise my drink... a Caesar, one of her favorites!  Cheers Grandma... I love you.

Friday, April 9, 2010

My own personal Nemo

We bought our place in summer of 2008 and there was a pretty little pond in the backyard.  We were pretty excited about this because after living in northern alberta for 5 years you don't see to many ponds.  This was part of the lifestyle that we were looking for by moving back to the Vancouver area, i.e. somewhere that had nice weather for more that two months of the year. 

This pond came complete with luscious plants, a waterfall and five tiny coi fish.  Four of them were colorful gold, or gold mixed with black and white.  The fifth one was a shadowy black colour that was very difficult to see.  You more saw it as a void than a fish.  We would feed the fish with our older son during the summer months and they would come to the surface and greedily devour what we sprinkled for them.  Then as the rain came and the water cooled the fish didn't need to be fed so we didn't visit it too much. 

The next spring we excitedly waited for the water to warm up so the fish would be active again.  Occasionally as we were scooping out the masses of leaves from our huge and very old oak tree (seriously it might be 200yrs old) we would see flits of colour as the fish hurried to find a new hiding spot. 

We had been warned that backyard ponds attracted local predators such as heron or raccoons.  In fact at one point in our first summer here our dog was barking at a heron perched on the neighbor's roof, just waiting for its chance to dine at our pond.  The second summer predators struck our pond.  I'm pretty sure it was a racoon since I had recently seen a fat one amble along the back fence.  Slowly the fish dwindled until we thought that they were all gone.

One day I went to check clean out the pond filter and there was my black fish.  I don't know how long he had been in there, but he had probably been fleeing the same hungry raccoon that had gobbled up his friends (assuming that fish really have friends).  I pulled the strainer basket and went to go dump the dead fish and the collected leaves in my compost.  Just as I was about to dump the basket into the compost, the fish moved.  It scared the bejesus out of me and I quickly ran him back to the pond where he swam to the deepest part and hid.  Wow.  Talk about a lucky fish!  At that point I had a 5 month old baby who wasn't sleeping through the night.  I could have easily not noticed it move and it would have, well, met its demise in the stinky compost.

This fish was now a little shy.  It wouldn't bother with the fish food that we gave it and because it was so dark we hardly ever saw it.  I don't blame it for not trusting surfaces creatures anymore... after all look at all it had been through.  Since we didn't see it, we assumed that it was no longer, that it was an ex-fish, pining for the fjords (so on and so forth).  We stopped mentioning it since our older son had taken the loss of the other fish rather badly and we didn't want him to be sad for the fish.

Fast forward a year later and as I was once again trying to rid the pond of the last of oak leaves I encountered our fish.  It was still there.  Elated, I told my husband and older son who were in the yard.  My son's comment was now he wouldn't be sad about all the fish being eaten.  Perhaps this year we'll get some more friends or decoys (whatever) for our little black fish, who I am now thinking of as Nemo because of his survival skills.  I don't think that I'll tell my son about this new moniker since he has only recently seen Finding Nemo for the first time and would be even more saddened if Rocky Raccoon comes back and finishes the job he started.  For now I think we'll just enjoy our little fish and it's spunky survival instincts.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bad behaviour... genetic or learned??

I think my older son may take after me behaviour-wise.  Everyone always compares him to his father and says that he is a mirror image (which in many ways he is).  What they don't see is some of the inside stuff.  Of course, I'm the one home with the kids so you would expect that they are picking up on my mannerisms.

A few weeks ago my older son casually dropped an F-bomb during polite conversation.  "It's fucking cold out, eh mom?"  No question where this comes from since I've been known to drop an F-bomb now and again (I'm a recovering swear-aholic).  You should be proud of me since I neither burst out laughing nor yelled at him.  I calmly explained that that word was not polite and perhaps a better way of saying that would be to say "its really cold out".  Yeah I know sucked all the fun out of it, but he's 3 and I really don't want him swearing like a sailor or railroad Engineer.  (No offense to railway workers, but my dad worked for the railway and they really do swear a lot!)

But I think some things go deeper than just mimicking things that they saw me do or heard me say.  The other day we had some friends over and had snacks out.  After people had left my husband and I and the younger boy were in the playroom downstairs deciding what to have for dinner.   The older boy had gone upstairs and we assumed that he had been into some of the leftover snacks, which was okay since they were mostly healthy things.  As we headed up the stairs to the kitchen the older one streaked across our view (much like the bad guys in Alien or Predator where you don't really see them they move so fast).  Of course to us seasoned parents this indicates guilt.  Somebody was up to something they shouldn't be.  Sure enough on the floor was the bottle of Nestle Quick syrup.  My boy had been chugging straight out of the bottle.  He was pretty embarrassed to be caught and that in itself was a bit of a scene.

As my husband and I controlled our fits of laughing, I couldn't help feel just a little proud!  That's my boy!  I would like to say that I haven't done that in a few years or even months, but I'm not going to lie.  However, I am pretty sure that my son has never seen me do this.  This is something that he thought up all on his own.  I didn't even know that he knew the syrup was there (I should have, since that kid doesn't miss anything).  Is it wrong to be so proud of a kid picking up on your bad habits?  After all I have two boys and everyone always compares them to their dad.  Ha!  I'm the one who has  the stretch marks, the c-section scars, and saggy boobs to show for having these kids and he's the one who get's all the credit for their cute looks!

For now I'm just going to have to take credit for what I can!  Even if it is the less desirable behaviour!