Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why I would like time to stop

Over the years I have noticed that each of my friends when their children approach school age ask themselves if they should homeschool. These same friends all went through public schools themselves and talked about public schools when their children were babies and backpacks and No. 10 pencils seemed like a star in another galaxy when daily life revolved around eating schedules, diaper changes and tantrums.

But as the star in that other galaxy drew closer these moms looked at the sweet, shining faces of their children, remembered some of their own not-so-great elementary school experiences, pictured the real world hitting like a large bucket of ice water dumped on their heads, and wondered if perhaps homeschooling wasn't such a bad idea after all.

I was a few years behind most of my close friends and I heard the agony of separation in those conversations without fully understanding. Well, now it's my turn. Our twins did not start Kindergarten this year. They could have, they turned five in the early Fall, and in fact most people assumed we would send them this year, but we chose not to. Firstly, our city only offers a full-day Kindergarten program and up until a couple of weeks ago they still napped for 2 or 3 hours everyday and in fact have fallen asleep on the couch while I write this. Secondly, the proverbial "They" recommend boys start school at the age of six. They recommend this for many reasons, one being "They" did a study and found that the language area in the brain of a five-year-old boy looks the same as a three-and-a-half-year-old girl. Boys brains develop at a different rate and trajectory and that extra year makes a big difference. And thirdly, I didn't think the kids were ready for school. They have a later birthday and waiting a year means they'll be that much bigger and that much more emotionally mature and I want them to have every advantage available to them to make it in the rough and sometimes cruel world of the playground. But mostly, I just wasn't ready to let them go.

This week I was a parent helper on a field trip the kids took with their playschool. One of the things we do as a family is clap every time we go underneath a bridge. Well, I was partners with my kids and another boy (who I will call X) and on the way there we clapped while X ducked his head, which is what his family does. An interesting thing happened on the way home. At the first bridge X, Ava and I clapped and Tristan ducked his head. At the second bridge, Ava and I clapped and X and Tristan ducked their heads. At the third bridge, I clapped alone while all three ducked their heads. As I looked at my head-ducking children sitting on bus seats twice as tall as them, legs stuck straight out and barely hitting the seat ahead, I felt inexpressibly sad.
This is why I'm not ready to let go yet.

How do you explain to a barely-five-year-old about peer pressure and knowing yourself and liking yourself well enough to not follow the crowd? How do you encourage your children to be who they are without fear or shame or apology? A day or so later we had a talk about how it's really neat that other families do special things too but that we don't have to change what we do just because someone else does it differently. Ava's response to that was, "But Mom, I don't like clapping anymore."

You know what? Maybe homeschooling isn't such a bad option after all...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Are you there God? It's me, Heather...

Typically Fall here is long and warm. Last year at this time we had just put in the sod for our front lawn. Last year at this time I was wondering if it was ever going to get cool enough for me to wear my new winter boots (they just don't go with capris). This year in the span of two weeks we've gone from t-shirt weather to snow so deep it required toques, Sorells and shovels and back to today which is supposed to be a high of 22.

I'll tell you what is the same as last year. My family is sick. Last year the entire month of October was spent indoors (excluding the time I spent going to the doctor), while a stomach flu, hand foot and mouth disease, and finally colds ran through our household. It was so awful I have become the mom that won't go places if I know anyone has been sick there and I won't let sick kids come over.

This October also reminds me of October two years ago. Two years ago after a brutal delivery where I lost half my blood, spent an hour being internally stitched and had a D&C to get rid of the placenta bits that had attached themselves to my internal C-section scar, Sebastian was born. Two years ago I left the hospital feeling knocked-down and dragged-out and unable to sit without a donut pillow. I got out of the hospital this year on October 6th, the day before Sebastian's second birthday feeling knocked-down, dragged-out and like I had entered a time warp.

It has been two weeks since my surgery and on Thursday, just two short, blissful days ago things were looking good. I was thinking with great satisfaction that no one had been sick in a while (excluding my appendix episode which was an isolated incident and not contagious), and I felt like I had turned a corner in my own recovery and was looking forward to a weekend with Hugh home and the kids playing outside and me not having to sleep all the time. And then Thursday night Hugh said his stomach felt off and immediately I began to hyperventilate. I went to bed with fear and trembling and sure enough was rudely woken up an hour later to the sound of retching. But it wasn't Hugh. Tristan was puking up lasagna all over our bedroom carpet. And then he proceeded to throw up about every 20 minutes from midnight until 5:00am. The next morning Hugh went to work and after finishing up the carpet cleaning from the night before and wiping down every conceivable surface in my house with vinegar we limped through the day from Treehouse show to Treehouse show. Hugh made it through the day feeling fine but bolted out of bed in the wee hours and spent the night hugging the cool porcelain. When I checked on him later this morning I asked if I could get him anything and he said, "I'd like my Saturday back."

Today Hugh was going to take advantage of this good weather, since who knows it might be blizzarding next week, and finish off the top pieces of our fence. This summer while he wasn't working would have been a great time to do that but it's hard to buy lumber when you're not getting a paycheck. We really need to finish the fence so we can paint it. It's starting to turn grey which from an aesthetic point of view I find pleasing but from a rotting wood perspective isn't good, and now that the sprinklers have been blown out it would be a good time. Were it not for the fact that Hugh is currently lying on the couch hoping to keep down his last two sips of water. I am living in such dread of the rest of us getting it that I can't tell if my stomach is off because of nerves or because I already have it.

Do you know what I want? I want October back.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The long and short of it

Hey. So. Got a stomach ache on Friday afternoon. Thought I was hungry. Ate 3 pieces of pizza, you know, to make sure I was really full and so my stomach really wouldn't hurt. Didn't work. Went to lay down. Writhed in agony on my bed for a while. Had a bath. Writhed in agony in the tub. Puked up my pizza. Drank some peppermint tea. Puked it up. Writhed in agony on the floor of my bedroom for a while. That was uncomfortable. Went back to writhing on bed. Went to hospital. Was immediately admitted and hooked up to IV combo of Gravol and Demerol. Spent the night in a hospital bed in Emerg. puking but doing slightly less writhing thanks to the Demerol and then no writhing when they switched me to morphine. Had a CT scan. Went to the OR. Had a nurse press my throat till I passed out. Woke up without an appendix. The End.

Except it's not really the end is it? Not when the doctors told me I'm not allowed to lift my children for 4 weeks and I have to sleep sitting up and take antibiotics that make me smell like a nursing home. At least the twins are at good ages and will be able to bring me breakfast in bed and feed me grapes all day long while I lounge on the couch. Sigh. And Sebastian? Good thing he loves his crib, cuz I can't lift him out of it!