Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

Have you ever? July 9, 2018

 

Have you ever had your son beg you to take him to iHOP because he loves their pancakes

So you wake up on Saturday morning and tell everyone to get ready because you’re all going to iHop

And then you get there and everyone places their order

But as the conversations flow

You realize you’ve been watching your older son who is sitting across from you

And you are keenly aware of how chiseled his face now is

And you keep thinking about how in no time at all, he’ll be a teenager and then an adult

But you brush those thoughts aside and just enjoy the quality, no electronics, family time

Then your son, who you were just willing to stay young and carefree and happy and innocent

Tells you that he’d like to get his ears pierced

And you are jolted out of your thoughts

So you take a moment before you respond that you are not comfortable with him getting his ears pierced just yet

Then you feel your eyes begin to fill with water

And you know you are being a bit dramatic

But you simply cannot help it

And since you know at this point there’s no stopping the tears

You put it on the table yourself by saying “Look at me, I’m gonna cry

And the other people at the table look at you in bewilderment because they don’t understand why talking about ear piercing is making you cry

But you know

And you decide you are not going to be embarrassed by it

So you grab a napkin and wipe your tears away

All while your wife and son are joking with each other about how weird you are

But your younger son, who is sitting beside you, puts his head in your lap

And you rub his head and revel in the sweetness of his gesture

As you try to finish your eggs, pancakes and toast

Which you eventually do

So then after paying the bill, you all walk out

And the older child puts his arm around you

Causing you to again get choked up as you hug him extra tight and kiss the top of his head

Realizing that soon he’ll be the same height as you

Even though you weren’t aware of any growth spurt that he’d had recently

And then he totally takes your breath away when he says, “It’ll be ok Mom, I will always be your baby

And you want to hold onto that moment forever

But you know you cannot

Because children were not made to be held hostage by their parents

They were made to fly

And as hard as it is

You know you will grease his wings for him when it’s time

And even though you may not know exactly how long it will take

You do know it’s a matter of time before you will either crack and give him permission to pierce his ears

Or he will get to a point where he’s old enough to do it without your permission

So you sit in the car and don your sunglasses

And in that moment it feels like they are the only thing protecting you from everything???

 

 

No?  That’s never happened to you?

Oh.

Well, that’s never happened to me either.

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Changing Dynamics July 5, 2018

We are fully immersed in the summer now.  The kids go to an all day camp where they do arts and crafts, go on field trips to amusement parks, watch movies, go bowling or to the library, play board games, enjoy sports and all sorts of other fun activities.  Shaunie and I, well, we go to work as usual.  Adulthood.

A couple evenings ago we were at our community pool.  I do love that we have a pool that’s only open and available to residents of our housing development.  We can walk and be there in less than 5 minutes.  As usual, we had brought snacks.  It’s what we do in the evenings.   Go to the pool; snacks in hand.  Some days we are armed with chips and cookies and assorted other goodies.  On this particular day though we had only brought one pack of Shirley biscuits: a Jamaican favourite, and water with ice of course.  The smell of sun block surrounded us as everyone does their best to keep their families protected, while having fun.  There were 3 other families at the pool that day which seems to be pretty standard as it hasn’t ever been crowded when we show up and we are always able to get a table with an umbrella.  We’d rather have a table with an umbrella than lounge chairs with uninhibited sun exposure.

So far, nothing about the scene seemed out of the norm.  Business as usual you might say.

The kids jumped into the water which was surprisingly warm and began their usual antics.  Spraying each other with water blasters, swimming, diving – you know the drill.  After a while, they began playing with the other children who were there.  One such child is new to our neighbourhood – And state.  He is an only child and will begin the 7th grade (the same as Ace) in September at the same school Ace attends.  As kids are wont to do, they hit it off pretty quickly and began some sort of game that I did not care to learn the intricacies of.

The next thing I heard was Ace complaining that Jay was “spying” on them.  Remember, they were in a pool.  There really was nowhere to “hide” but nonetheless, Jay was spying and it was annoying his older brother who was busy having fun with a peer and had no interest in playing silly games with his little brother.

 

It’s something I’ve noticed more and more lately.

 

Jay got invited to a classmates birthday party and when I asked Ace if he’d like to attend as well, because I was sure it would have been fine with the mom, he declined.  Instead he and I watched a movie at home.  Beetlejuice since I know you want to know.  And no, it wasn’t as good as I remember it being when I watched it back in 1988.

When Jay asked me to initiate a play date with a friend and basically told Ace that he would come too, Ace flat out said NO.  He was not interested.  Jay has been steadily trying to convince him to change his mind.  Ace is unwavering.

 

Also, he no longer likes shows such as Teen Titans, and does not care that they have a new movie coming out.  Last year it was his and Jays fave and they were eagerly anticipating the movies release.

 

Yesterday was the 4th of July; Independence day here in the United States and that meant a lot of people had the day off work.  Typically, it’s a day spent with family and friends, having bar-be-cues or going to the beach and when it gets dark the skies are lit up with fireworks.

Together with 4 friends (family really), we went river tubing.  Ultimately it was a fun and mostly relaxing way to spend a day off, knowing we all had work the next day.  All, except my teacher friend that is, who has off all summer, but I’m not jealous at all.  Like, NOT ONE BIT.  (I’m lying 🙂 )

We had done this same activity at the same river last year so we thought we knew what to expect.  This year though, for some unknown reason, everyone in the state decided to go river tubing, at that river, at the time we got there, so from the time we parked, stood in line to pay/get wrist bands, sign waivers, get tubes, get on the bus that takes patrons to the top of the river and actually get in the water, it took about an hour and 45 minutes.  A lot longer than the 20 minutes it took us last year.  Everyone was hot and sweating but doing their best not to let it affect their good mood.  At one point Jay was messing with Ace; As brothers do.  Ace wanted no part of it.  He wanted to stand there quietly like the rest of us, inch up slowly in the line, get a tube and chill.  He just wanted no part of being silly or goofy and I had to intervene and tell Jay to leave Ace alone.

 

I cannot believe I just typed the words “[Ace] wanted no part of being silly or goofy”.

 

That tone continued the entire time we spent on the river.  Ace wasn’t being surly.  He was just being … more mature?  He lounged in his tube.  Hopped out to help bring us back together when someone in our group drifted away, passed drinks from the cooler to whoever asked for one and offered to help anchor us when we wanted to stop going with the tide.

Jay spent the nearly 2 hours we were on the water, jumping in and out of his tube, splashing people as they are chips, dropping his empty chip bag in the water which meant I had to go rescue it and put it back where it belonged with our other trash, being loud, making me belly laugh, climbing onto me and nearly toppling me over, “sneaking” up on Shaunie to splash her and just all round having a great time; the way a little kid would and should.

 

I do believe we are entering a new stage here folks.  They have always been each others play mates and my boys do still enjoy each others company but Ace is becoming more serious; more teenagery; more grown up.  The dynamics are changing in our house.  Change is not bad.  But it does mean that some adjusting needs to happen and I think in this case, instead of my mama heart, it’s Jay who is about to have the hardest time accepting it.

 

The Unexpected Gift March 13, 2018

Filed under: Family,Marriage — The B Side @ 9:25 am
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My Grandma  was born with a cleft lip – and as a result of the corrective surgery, she had a tiny little scar.  It was almost undetectable but she was always a little aware of it.  By the time I knew her, she had delivered 2 children by c-section so she had the tell-tale scar down her abdomen.  That was before the cute little bikini line scars we have now.   She was diligent about applying Oil Of Olay to combat wrinkles.  She preferred contact lenses to glasses  and often commented on how unattractive her varicose veins were.

She was a jogger and a vegetarian.

She wasn’t a vein woman but she did care about acting like a lady and presenting herself well and about living a healthy life.

 

I was sent a picture recently.  A picture I had never seen before.  What a treat to see myself sitting on my Grandma’s lap.  In the picture I must be about 9 or so.  9 year old me, in my favourite of all places to be.  On my Grandma’s lap.

I thought she was perfect.  Scarred lip, glasses, wrinkles and all.  Her strong legs and her soft curls and her slightly crooked teeth.  The way her fingers were always gracefully positioned and that she was just as stunning – maybe even more stunning – even after she stopped colouring her hair and let herself go grey.  I loved how her eyes sparkled.  I loved her entire face.  I wonder if I ever told her how beautiful I thought she was.  I don’t think so.

 

That initial picture I got was quickly followed by a few more.  Except for that first one, all the others were pictures of text.  It seems there is a cook book that highlights the favourite recipes of notable Jamaicans and our family made it in there.

It would appear from reading the passages that the author actually visited our house.  I wonder where I was.  I should have been there.  It sounds like they visited on a Sunday.

The book speaks of the drive from Kingston to our “country home”.  They briefly mention her faith and upbringing and also how my Grandfathers family ended up living in that town.  They offer a couple theories into how our street got its name.  My Grandma thought it was named by an avid golfer while others think it got it’s name due to the many pot holes.  The article quotes my Grandma as saying “We have our 10 year old grand-daughter living with us and it’s wonderful.”  *Cue me getting teary eyed*  Humbly she tells them that she is no expert but they note how evident it is that she has a green thumb.  She did.  I wouldn’t expect them to learn things about her like the fact that she loved a good foot massage or that she lost her original engagement ring years before I ever knew her; but I was a little surprised that her love of animals didn’t come up.  She was so good with them.  She trained all our dogs to come, heel, sit and “say please”.  She even knew how to do that loud fingers-under-the-tongue-whistle thing that would make our dogs come running no matter how far they had wandered.

She tells them about her love of a good book, her and my Grandads charitable endeavours and his bird watching hobby.  I had actually forgotten that he was a bird lover.   It made me happy to remember that.

Then they dive into the food.  Her creative ways of making veggie dishes and her fond memories of eating seafood in Vancouver.

 

You can’t even imagine how much I LOVED and appreciated receiving these pictures and reading those tidbits about our life.  I basked in the memories – Both the ones that are still fresh and the ones that had to be triggered.

 

Life takes interesting turns.  This I know.  As pleased as I am to have found out about this hard copy piece of my history; this gift was from someone who is not connected to my Grandma in a positive way.  It added something else that I cannot describe to my feelings about it all.

You can fill in the blanks any way you like.

 

Yeah, life is interesting all right.  Wanna know what else though?

This weekend I’ll be making a frozen lemon pie.  That was both mine and my Grandma’s fave dessert.

 

In The Bedroom Down The Hall February 1, 2018

We had a talk.  You and I.  There were tears and hugs and realizations and assurances.  It was hard on my heart because there is so much more I wanted to say but it wouldn’t have been right.  I will take all the blows I need to take for now in order to shield you.  One day, maybe when you are a parent, you will see all the things you cannot see now.

 

Sometimes there is no easy answer.  Sometimes being the bigger person means you are not seen as the better person and that’s a tough pill to swallow.  It’s tricky water to navigate.

 

It’s hard loving and listening to and trusting two people who have different ideas about what you should do.  I know.  It’s especially hard when one says what you want to hear but in your heart you know it’s not what you need to hear.

I fear it will get harder before it gets easier.  I know it will get harder before it gets easier.  For everybody.

 

But here I sit  thinking back on your cherubic face from years ago.  Back then you didn’t know any heart ache.  Your world was full of toy trains and Nick Jr.  Back then it was easy to keep you happy, even in the midst of a {figurative} storm.  We’d play hide and seek or go to a park.  Oh how you loved the park.  You preferred the slides and the climbing apparatus to swings but your favourite was making new friends and playing tag.  No matter how long we stayed, it was never long enough.

 

As you grew, there were big life changes and there were diagnoses.  You had a lot to balance.  You had to sort through a lot of emotions.

I thought I knew some way that I’d get through to you.  Remember?

In the bedroom down the hall, we fought a war where no-one walked away a winner.

Cause everyday you pulled a little more away.  Remember?

Saw the counselors and the clinics and the cures a mother tries.  Cause maybe they could take away that anger in your eyes.

Except, in your case it wasn’t anger.  It was mostly confusion and sometimes, sadness.  

 

We need to have another talk.  I don’t know yet how it will go, but I know it will include what I said the other day – I’m not going anywhere and everything I ever did, everything I do, is all for you.  Anything to make you be your best.  Anything at all.  Anything for my boy in the bedroom down the hall.

 

 

 

 

*Post inspired by and the quoted block are some of the lyrics to the song “In The Bedroom Down The Hall” which was cut from the show Dear Evan Hansen.*

 

One Week In – The Middle School Version September 12, 2017

He was the same person on September 5th (the first day of school) that he was one day earlier on September 4th which will henceforth be known as BMS (Before Middle School), yet things were totally different.

Yes, he is the same person but parenting him is different.

On day 1, I made a plan to go to work late so I could walk him to the bus stop.  It was his first time taking the bus after all.  As we turned the corner we saw the other children at the end of the block already waiting – with nary a parent in sight.    I had to stop walking and bid my boy goodbye before the other children noticed us.  As I watched him walk away, he got smaller and smaller.   He made his way to the curb where he would wait and I saw that it wasn’t all in my head.  He was at least a whole head shorter than all the other students.  It was hard turning my back and walking in the opposite direction.  I never had to do that BMS.

On day 2 the students were assigned their lockers and Ace was given a top locker but he’s not from a family loaded with tall genes so he couldn’t reach it and they had to swap him with another, taller, student.  He’s still not quite grown.  Yet, he was so excited about the freedom he now has to roam the hallways in between each class.  We talked about how it’s now his responsibility to get to all his classes on time and to collect, from his locker, whatever books he will need to bring home in order to complete homework.  None of this was an issue BMS.

3 days in, I was getting questioned on whether or not he can take a cell phone to school because he is apparently the ONLY one who does not have a phone.  He was asking if friends could come home on the bus with him after school.  (Ahm, no. Friends can’t come over when no adult is home and we need to get their parents contact info – Same as BMS.)  After just 3 days, he was asking that we not wake him up so early in the morning and he’s taking it upon himself to make his own dinner.  Mind you, it’s microwave mac and cheese but still.

 

I believe there’s an upcoming school dance, which I’m sure parents are not invited to.  I know they will have teacher chaperones but I don’t remember going to a “no parents allowed” school dance until I was in (the equivalent of) 9th grade.  He’s getting jokes now that he didn’t used to get and he’s more concerned with how his outfits look and his little brother is no longer allowed into the bathroom with him at any time.

 

All these developments make my brain go a little haywire.  I think about the time I went to a school dance and had promised to meet my Grandma in front of the school by 11pm but I was too busy on the dance floor to notice the time and the next thing I knew, my Grandma was there, in our auditorium, looking for me.  How embarrassing!!!

It’s a good memory (now), and I love getting those triggers, but it makes it very real to me that this time with my Ace is going to go by very quickly.  Looking back at it now, my teenage years FELT like the longest ever at the time, but they were over in a flash.

I think about the lyrics to a song from the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack where his mom sings to him:

 

And I knew there would be moments that I’d miss
And I knew there would be space I couldn’t fill
And I knew I’d come up short a billion different ways
And I did
And I do
And I will

 

He’s growing up and the truth is, even though it’s scary at times, I do love to watch it happen.    He’s the same person, but now that he’s in middle school, it’s calling for a different kind of parenting.  I will try to do it all right.  But I haven’t.  And I don’t.  And I won’t.  All I can do is my best and hopefully he will look back and say his memories are good ones.

 

*Note*  He’s one week in and he says it’s been great.  He swears that Middle School is better than Elementary School and much to his own amazement, he thinks he will enjoy History class.

 

Sneak Peak July 18, 2017

We’ve had a teenager staying with us for a couple of weeks now and let me just say that it was a shake up.

 

First of all, she’s a “she” which is quite different from having 2 “he’s”.   Hers is a world of making matching tie-dye bandanas with her best friend and taking selfies showing off her various hair styles.  It’s a world of nail polish and emoji’s and the mall.

 

She’s 14 so she’s not a kid, but she’s also not an adult.  It’s a fine line to walk for both her and us.

Even though she’s on vacation, we are still who we are so she has chores and the tutor who comes (yes, even during the summer) to work with our boys has been helping her also.

 

We monitor social media posts to make sure they are age appropriate and try to find the sweet spot between outfits that are cute and trendy but not too “grown”.  We still have to tell her to clean up her room – all while talking about crushes and suicide and drugs and abortions and STD’s*.

One minute we are in the throws of peer pressure to smoke and the next thing you know we are painting toe nails and singing songs from High School Musical and drinking strawberry milk.

 

Being a teenager hasn’t changed.  When she writes, she decorates her pages with hearts and the dots over her i’s are big circles (to look cute).

Yet, teenagers nowadays are living a totally different existence than the one I lived.  It’s scary.  They have too much access to things they are not mentally equipped to handle.  There is so much pressure to be raunchy.  Thanks to the few who have turned bad publicity into lucrative careers, things that my friends and I would have thought were scandalous have become “goals”.

 

Her time with us is coming to an end.  I will miss her a lot and I’m sure the boys will too.  It’s been a joy seeing her have fun and experience new things.

We’ve laughed a lot.  In addition to Fun Land and the river, we’ve played board games and Uno and been to a water park.  Shaunie and I were even able to go on a mid-week date since we had a babysitter.  She’s been VERY tolerant of Ace and all his talking and she’s been completely unphased by Jay and his moods.  Her and the boys have developed a relationship where they trust her and love hanging out with her while they watch TV, but they fight over who has to sit in the middle seat in the car.

The 3 of them ganged up on Shaunie to tease her about being scared to go down the big slide and they really get a kick out of it any time her and I make fun of each other.

 

Having 3 kids means more.  More fun and more laughs and more hugs and more “I love you’s”, but also more money and more mess and more tiredness.  Kudos to you guys who have 3 or more kids.  It’s a JOB.

Taking it all into consideration though, she’d be welcome back at any time.

 

We are on the cusp of having full time teenagers and I can only imagine what things will be like when my boys get to be the age she is now.  Based on what we saw over the past 2 weeks with regards to the topics of conversation, I’d love to think that it is far away but the fact is that it is less than 3 years away.

Having her has been …. eye-opening, and interesting, and scary, and helpful, and heart stopping, and a breath of fresh air, and tiring, and a treat.

 

 

 

*We are Aunts so I think that makes it easier for her to open up to us about certain things than with her mom and yes, we tell the mom everything that we think is even remotely concerning.
 

On Maturity March 17, 2017

Some kids mature faster than others – That’s not news.

If I look back honestly on my own childhood, I do believe I was a fairly easy child to raise in many ways.  I was a talker for sure, but I didn’t talk back.  I wasn’t destructive or defiant or a liar.  I was polite.  I excelled at entertaining myself through reading or playing with dolls or attempting arts and crafts projects.  I pulled good grades and kept good company.  I was dutiful as the granddaughter of a public official when we either hosted or attended official functions.

That said, I also don’t think I was particularly mature mentally.

Among the many things that Ace has inherited from me – That’s one of them.  Overall, he’s a good kid;  But, he’s not the most mature for his age.  That can be good in that he’s holding onto his innocence and we all know that it can hurt once you realize that the world is not a nice place – but it can also be frustrating as a parent when you feel like you are constantly correcting behaviours that your child should have outgrown due to natural maturing.

 

This is something that we have been working really hard at over the last couple of years … Breaking Ace out of some of his more childish (?) interests and ways of thinking or acting.  We have upped the “tough love” and we talk excessively about how he’s becoming a man and he’s not a baby anymore.  We remind him that he’ll be in middle school later this year.

 

For me, it’s one of the more difficult aspects of parenting.  I don’t want to be hard on him.  It’s not my natural tendency.  I am the soft landing.  The nurturer.  The boo boo kisser.  I also recognize much of him in my younger self so I understand how he feels – But I wish if someone had tried to help me instead of leaving me unprepared for adulthood.

 

Recently, we told him he could not do something.  He was not happy about it.

Later that evening he said the following:

“Mom, can you sit down please.  I’d like to talk to you.  I know you said no (to that thing earlier) but I don’t understand why.  I really don’t see how anything bad could come of it.  Can you please explain to me what the problem is.”

 

It was such a grown up thing for him to say and I was really proud of the way he handled it.  I sat and we talked and I got him to see it my way.  I even shared a story about something similar that I went through when I was in high school.  Me sharing my own stories like that help him to understand that we are not being hard for the sake of it and help to show him that we do understand where he’s coming from but we have some added knowledge based on life experiences that he doesn’t yet possess.

There was no attitude or raised voices or pouting or shutting down.

 

We hugged it out and I breathed in his freshly bathed scent.  It’s not easy raising a sweet little boy clad in snow man pj’s to be a strong, confident, adult man of integrity.  So often I wonder if we are getting it right.  So often I feel like I’m not the right person for the job.  Every so often, I feel like we will all be ok.