Tag Archives: James

A Kind Of Magic

20 May

I am participating in the 2012 Wordcount Blogathon, which means one post every day for the month of May.

When James was about four, he got himself an imaginary friend. The friend’s name is Albert and his age varies from 3 to 12, depending on the day. According to James’ descriptions, Albert is a yellow monster with tall hair. He stays at home and sleeps while James is at school, and he is responsible for every single mess or piece of mischief-making that we blame on James.

Although Albert the monster features less in James’ incessant chatter these days, he still makes the occasional appearance – inasmuch as an invisible, imaginary monster can make an appearance.

I have come to recognize that Albert has served an important dual purpose in James’ life. First, James talks to him when he’s lying in bed at night, using him to process the events of his day and work through any conflicts he might be experiencing. And second, the monster fuels his imagination. James makes up a staggering variety of monster stories, and it is enormous fun to see where his mind takes him.

Monster hasn’t been around for a few days, but yesterday, someone else showed up.

I was industriously working wasting time on the Internet, and James was dancing around, chattering away to someone or something that only he could see. All of a sudden, he was by my side, telling me about a giant pink rabbit that was bouncing around in the kitchen.

“You should see it, Mommy!” said James, quivering with excitement. “Come on, look at it!”

“But I can’t see it,” I said to him, raising my hands palm-side-up in anI-don’t-know gesture.

Without missing a beat, James said, “Close your eyes and you’ll see it.”

His words instantly infused me with a sense of that childlike magic unique to six-year-olds who still know the true meaning of imagination.

As adults, we only see with our eyes. Most of us don’t take the time to look beyond what is literally in front of us. Children know how to see things with their minds. They can see possibilities of magic where most of us don’t even know there’s anything there. They are the ones who truly have vision.

I did what James suggested. I closed my eyes and really tried to look. And sure enough, there was that giant pink rabbit, dancing around my kitchen.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sebilden/3984605154/. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)

Autism Through A Child’s Eyes

8 Apr

I am participating in the Health Activist Writers Month Challenge, in which I publish a post every day for the month of April, based on health-related prompts.

April 8 – Best conversation I had this week: Try writing script-style (or with dialogue) today to recap an awesome conversation you had this week.

I’m not much of a person for conversations. I suffer from social anxiety, so talking is difficult. I tend to be more comfortable finding my voice in the form of the written word.

Obviously, this is less of a problem when I am among friends and family. I am married to a man who, in addition to having a totally off-the-wall sense of humour, has no “inside voice”. The conversations I have with him range from the baffling to the downright hilarious.

I also have some great conversations with my younger son, James. For a six-year-old, his vocabulary is astounding, and his imagination knows no bounds. He weaves in and out of topics at will, and you can never tell where the conversation will go next. One moment he seems to be wise beyond his years; the next, we are reminded that he is still a kid finding his way in this world.

A few days ago, we had this conversation while I was cooking dinner:

James: Mommy, can you buy me a water gun?
Me: Why do you want a water gun?
James: So I can spray Granny on the nose.
Me (after snarfing on my coffee): Why do you want to do that?
James: Because her nose is dry and that means she’s sick. Roger (a classmate) said so.
Me: Roger said that Granny is sick if her nose is dry?
James (looking at me as if I’m nuts): No. He was talking about his dog.
Me: Ummmm, James? Dogs and people aren’t the same. Granny’s nose is fine.
James: I think Roger’s dog has autism.
Me: What makes you think that?
James: He doesn’t talk and he knocks down Roger’s Lego towers. It’s not his fault, though. He doesn’t know what he’s doing because he has autism.
Me: James, that’s just the way dogs are. Dogs don’t have autism.
James: How do you know?
Me: Ermmmmm (thinking: the kid has a point)
James: Mommy?
Me (wondering about James’ sudden sombreness): Yes, buddy?
James: Will George always have autism?
Me: Yes, baby, he will. Autism is not something he can grow out of.

I want to pause this account briefly to say that where autism discussions with James are concerned, I find that honesty is the best policy. I don’t try to sugar-coat anything, and I answer questions without elaboration. This approach seems to be the one that works best with James.

James: That’s OK. I love him.
Me: I know you do. And he loves you too.
James: Yeah! Mommy?
Me: Yes?
James: Will George die from autism?
Me: No, people cannot die from autism. We just have to make sure we keep him safe.
James: It’s OK, Mommy. I’ll take care of him.

Yes, I cried.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)

The New Runner’s First Race

21 Nov

It was a magical moment…

My son James, who is all of five years old, stood beside me at the start line of his first-ever race. He wore his newly acquired official race T-shirt and proudly sported the number 857. I went over some basic rules with him one last time. Look where you’re going, not at me – I will be right beside you. Go at the speed that’s comfortable for you, without worrying about what everyone else is doing. Most important, have fun. He added a rule of his own: keep your eyes open at all times. Sounded perfectly reasonable to me.

And then, with the blast of the starter’s siren, 41 kids started their 1km race. The vision of 41 little pairs of legs dashing off down the road was the cutest sight ever. Many parents ran alongside their kids, myself included. At first, James had a little trouble focusing and I had to keep telling him to look where he was going. Once his attention was on the road ahead, the kid took off like a shot. I almost choked on his dust.

Throughout the 1km, James was weaving a path for himself, overtaking other kids. From time to time he slowed to a walk for a few seconds, and then he’d be off again. He started to tire in the last two hundred metres or so, but by then he could see the finish line, and in the spirit of a true runner, he kept going and finished the race at a sprint. The smile on his face as he received his finishers’ medal could have split his face in two. He was immensely proud of himself, and rightly so.

He finished in a time of 7:06, coming in 23rd out of 41 kids. Pretty darned good for a five-year-old running his first race.

Then it was my turn. James joined his dad and I lined up at the start for my 10K race. I didn’t really expect anything from this race. My running has been somewhat sporadic lately, and I hadn’t bothered to train for this race. I was approaching it more as a fun run than anything else.

Fun run or no, 10K is still 10K, so I was a little alarmed when I ran my first kilometre in 6:10 – way too fast considering that I was aiming for a ballpark average of 6:30 minutes per kilometre. If I kept going at the pace I started at, I would burn myself out somewhere around the halfway point. I tried to rein myself in to a 6:30 pace, and ended up having a conversation with my legs that went something like this:

Me: Legs, you’re going too fast. Slow down.
Legs: What do you mean, slow down? It’s a race.
Me: If you keep going at this rate, you’re going to conk out in the seventh kilometre.
Legs: But I feel gooooood. And look, you’re already in the fourth kilometre and you’re doing just fine.
Me: Hmmmm, you make a good point. We’re almost halfway already.
Legs: So will you please chill out and let me do my job?
Me: OK, go!

During the eight kilometre the wind came up strongly and I started to tire.

“Told you so,” I said to my legs, that had slowed down considerably.

“Shut up,” they replied, picking up the pace again.

With about 400 metres to go, I was spent. I was on the verge of just packing it in and walking the rest of the way, but standing on the corner, cheering me on, I saw my husband and son. If James could do it, so can I, I thought. I dug deep and kept going, and all of a sudden I was crossing the finish line amid cheers and applause.

In the end, my legs turned out to be right. My time was 1:02:54, which pretty much squashed my previous personal best (1:05:25).

The biggest triumph of the day? Being there for my son’s first-ever race. You can run half-marathons and marathons, set personal best times and win medals. But is there any greater honour that can be bestowed on a runner than to witness and be a part of the emergence of a brand new runner?

To Serve And Protect

10 Nov

This morning, I got up extra-early – despite my body screaming at me in protest at being yanked out of bed at such an ungodly hour – and went to the gym. It was so early that, even with the recent time change that gives us an extra hour of daylight in the mornings, it was pitch-dark.

My drive to the gym was uneventful. It usually is. There’s not really a lot that can happen during a two-minute drive. By the time I got there the parking lot was already about half-full. I parked the car, grabbed my bag and got out. When I turned around I was surprised to find myself face-to-face with a large policeman who was standing beside his cruiser.

“Good morning!” he said.

I looked blankly around me for a few seconds before concluding that since no-one else was in the parking lot, the policeman was talking to me.

“Hi!” I said brightly. Remember that “bright” can be a relative term. It was just a smidgeon after five in the morning.

“This your car?” he asked.

Again, I looked around, this time at the other cars in the parking lot. Gesturing stupidly at my old Chevy van, I said, “This one?” as if the policemen could have been referring to any of the other fifteen cars that I had just gotten out of.

“Yes,” said the policeman, without showing any trace of impatience. He probably encounters a lot of dimwits early in the morning.

Cripes, I thought suddenly. Does he think I stole the car?

I assured the policeman of my status as the car’s rightful owner, and the conversation that ensued was very boring. It involved a headlight that was out, a promise (on my part) that it would be taken care of right away, and an assurance (on his part) that he would not write me up for the $110 ticket.

Coincidentally, when I was riding the subway to work about ninety minutes later, the pair of men sitting across from me were talking about the evil entity that is the police force. From what I could glean, one of them had received a speeding ticket over the weekend and was now fighting it. This story led to a rant about how policemen as a breed are awful money-grabbers who are rude to the public and never do anything useful.

As I listened to this, I thought back to my earlier encounter. The policeman had been very nice to me, even though I was displaying the intelligence of a dead tulip. Technically, he would have been within his rights to give me a ticket; instead, he had done me the service of telling me – helpfully and non-confrontationally – that my headlight needed fixing.

This all makes me think back to a day about two years ago when I was at our local coffee shop with James, who was then almost four. My two boys had been playing the back yard, and George had pushed James into a brick wall. James had ended up with a bleeding face and more than a few tears, so I left George with my mother-in-law and took James out for a donut.

We sat next to a window in the coffee shop, James proudly sporting the gauze patch on his cheek. When a police cruiser parked outside, James waved enthusiastically at the policeman, who waved back cheerfully. When the policeman entered the coffee shop, he came right up to our table and started chatting with James. He introduced himself as Larry, told James about his own little boy who was about the same age, and on James’ request, he took James outside to look at the police car. He capped off the exchange by pulling a Thomas the Train sticker out of his pocket and putting it onto the gauze patch.

James thought Christmas had come early that day. He spoke about Larry the policeman for weeks, and a couple of years later, he still remembers him. What I remember of that day is that a police officer took the time to speak to a child. He instilled in my son the idea that the police are there for the community, and that they are trusted sources of help.

There are exceptions, of course. There are the policemen who will  be rude and arrogant, and who will power-trip you right into the middle of next week. But it is important to note that the exceptions are just that – exceptions. It seems a bit harsh to diss the entire police force based on the actions of a few of its members.

I want my children to know that if they are ever in trouble, they can go to the police, and the police will help them.

I am truly grateful for everything the police do. These people, who willingly put themselves in dangerous situations in order to protect their communities, are heroes.

(Photo credit to grainger. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)

Autism Brothers

8 Nov

Sometimes, when you’re five years old and your big brother has autism, life just isn’t fair.

This weekend I spent a lot of time worrying about my son James. The worrying was prompted by reports from his before- and after-school program that he’s been acting up and is “always in trouble.” Initially, my husband and I put this down to James’ independent nature. He is a strong-willed child who is currently going through a phase of pressing other peoples’ buttons and seeing how far he can go.

But my gut instinct is telling me that I shouldn’t be giving James a hard time about his behaviour in the program – at least, not yet. Not until I have had a meeting with the program administrators to get a clearer picture. I have this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that there is something else going on here, something that might be making my baby unhappy.

About six weeks ago, we went through a decluttering blitz at my house. We got rid of toys and clothing that the boys had outgrown, and we threw out stuff of our own that has been lurking in boxes in our basement since Noah built the ark. One of the items we found was a calendar from a Chinese restaurant. It has the entire year on one long piece of fabricky-type stuff that rolls up like a mini-blind. James was fascinated with this thing and asked if he could have it. I said yes, and passed it over.

Last week while James was playing with the calendar, George kept grabbing at it and saying, “Mine!” James was getting upset because George was bugging him, and George was getting upset because he wasn’t getting the calendar. The situation escalated to the point of George having a meltdown and trying to headbutt James. And in order to stop George from going off the deep end, my husband took the calendar from James and gave it to George.

James was devastated. He sobbed his little heart out. It was bedtime anyway, so I carried him to his bed, lay down beside him, and held him tight. My own heart felt like it was breaking.

James didn’t see that my husband had been trying to stop a bad situation from going completely out of control. He just saw that we had taken away something that belonged to him, and given it to George.

There have been other times when George has gotten what James must perceive to be preferential treatment. We have to make allowances for George’s tolerances and levels of understanding. When James gets a timeout, he understands that he is being punished for something. This is completely lost on George: consequently, George never gets timeouts. We have different expectations of the two boys where it comes to sharing their toys with each other. Sometimes, family outings have to be cut short because George is not coping.

I cannot help asking myself: is it any wonder that James is trying too hard to assert himself in an environment other than home? Could it be that his perceived lack of control within his family is leading him to try and establish it elsewhere?

I try hard to make it up to James in other ways, but I wonder if I am doing enough. My mind keeps coming back to the idea that this poor kid probably doesn’t even have faith that his toys will remain his own. I worry about whether we are expecting James to have more coping ability than he is developmentally capable of.

It is clear to me and my husband that James loves his brother. He is always – with increasing success- trying to get George to play with him. When George is being reprimanded for something, James is standing up for him. And sometimes, when James wakes up from a bad dream in the middle of the night, he crawls into bed with his big brother and the two boys snuggle up to each other.

As much as they love each other, though, it seems to me that at times, the happiness of one has to be sacrificed for the needs of the other.

And that just isn’t fair.

(Photo credit to the author)

Three Generations Of Runners

2 Nov

James preparing for his first run

One of the best races I ever ran was my first-ever 10K event starting at Mel Lastman Square, on the northern fringes of Toronto. This was back in 2001, before my long hiatus from the running scene. The run was called the Ismaeli Run For Charity, and although it was a small event with only 300 or so runners, it was festive and well-organized. This particular race stands out in my memory not because of the run itself (I actually remember it being a very hard run: race day coincided with the start of an intense heatwave in Toronto), but because my dad was there. It is the only time my dad got to send me off at a start line and cheer me on as I crossed the finish.

Dad played a pivotal role in my running. Having been a top-class marathoner in his youth, he became my mentor when I first took up running, way back in 1996.  He gave me advice on everything from race-day strategy to the importance of having the right socks. He showed me how to tackle hills and demonstrated how incorrectly laced shoes can make your feet hurt. He advised me not to rely too much on technology in my training, pointing that in his youth, the only tool a runner really had was his own body. He told countless stories of the races he had run and the people he had encountered on the way.

He was immensely proud when I started running. Passing on his stories and his wisdom to me meant a lot to him, and the day he stood waiting for me at the finish line was absolutely momentous.

Now, I get to pass on the legacy as a third generation is added to the line of runners. My son James, who is all of five years old, has been taking an interest in my running for the last year or so. He wishes me well as I set out for my long runs, and stretches with me when I get back. He fussily makes sure I have enough water to drink, and for some time, he has been talking about going running with me “one day”.

Recently, when I registered for the upcoming 10K event at the Whitby Waterfront Races, James asked if he could be in the race too. Deciding that he was ready, I registered him for the 1K kiddies event. And this weekend, his dream of going running with me came true as I took him out for his first real run.

I did not have any real expectation for the run. I just wanted to see how James would do over a full kilometre, and more importantly, I wanted to get a sense of whether he would really enjoy it. I made it clear to him that he could stop anytime he wanted, and that he didn’t have to do it in the first place unless he was sure. This earned me an eye-roll so intense that I thought his eyes would fall out of his head, and he said impatiently, “Mom-meeeee! Can we please go now?”

I needn’t have worried. Although he briefly slowed to a walk three or four times, he ran the kilometre I had measured out with no trouble. I marvelled at his natural form as his body just fell into the posture and rhythm that articles in running magazines are always saying we should adopt.

I also needn’t have worried about whether he would enjoy it. He loved it. He wants to go again, and as the day of his first race approaches, he is getting more and more excited.

I realize that anything could happen: the kid is only five and he could lose interest tomorrow. But by all appearances, he is really interested in running being a part of his life, and what I do as a parent could either cement that or dissipate it. I feel that I am witnessing the emergence of a new runner: a runner who I get the privilege of nurturing and mentoring, just as my dad did for me.

I feel that in guiding my son, I am a part of something big, something special, and something that I consider to be a great honour.

I only wish my dad could see this. Who knows? Maybe he can.

Welcome, James to the world of running. I hope you choose to stay here, and if you do, I hope we get to run many miles together.

(Photo credit to the author)

Sleep Interrupted

18 Jul

Sleep – or lack thereof – has been a big issue in my life lately. I’ve never really been one to sleep for long stretches, and particularly since entering the world of motherhood, I consider six hours to be a good night’s sleep. But these days, even getting that amount of shut-eye is a challenge. There are a number of reasons for the recent sleep deficit, ranging from a run of kids’  tummy bugs to the fact that I’m an occasional insomniac.

Saturday night was particularly brutal. I went to bed early enough, because I was planning a long run early on Sunday morning. The kids were asleep, and James, who had been afflicted with a tummy bug, seemed to be on the mend.

At about midnight, when I had barely been asleep for half an hour, I woke to the sound of James crying his little heart out. My husband and I went to investigate, only to discover that the poor child had had a tummy-bug related accident. I whisked James off to the bathroom to clean him up and comfort him; my husband took care of changing the sheets and throwing soiled sheets and pajamas into the washing machine. James, bless his precious little soul, kept apologizing, even though I assured him that it was OK.

We got James settled and went back to bed. By the time I got back to sleep it was well after 1:00 a.m. A couple of hours later, I was roused to consciousness by a light tugging at my arm. I squinted in the darkness and saw James standing beside my bed. He took my hand, wordlessly led me to his bed, and plaintively asked me to stay with him. How could I refuse, right? So I climbed in and got settled, and James promptly threw up all over me.

As quietly as I could, I got James and myself cleaned up, threw yet another load of sheets and PJ’s into the washing machine, and having run of clean sheets, settled the two of us on the futon in our living room.

We went to sleep, and until about 4:00 a.m., I slept the sleep of the just.

At that point, George started to feel lonely, so he abandoned his bed and went in search of me. His first stop was my own bed, where he apparently found his Dad alone, and woke him up just to say, in a tone riddled with indignation, “You’re not Mommy.” Then he found me on the futon and squeezed in beside me.

There is not enough room on the futon for me and two long, lanky kids, both of whom sleep splayed out like starfish. But my discomfort was outweighed by the fact that I had my boys, one on either side of me. And so I (sleeplessly) passed the rest of the witching hours squished between my two gently snoring kids, with elbows and knees poking into my back, and my head bent at an uncomfortable angle.

Eventually, I gave up on the idea of sleep. I made coffee and drank some, and then, with my body screaming in protest, I went out for a 12km run.

It was not a good run, except in the sense that I actually finished it. By seven in the morning it was already scorching hot, I was not properly hydrated and above all, my body was utterly exhausted.

And because I love being there for my kids whenever they need me, at any time of the day or night, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/doortoriver/2903845014/)

Out Of The Darkness: Overcoming Post-Partum Depression

4 Jul

This post was a hard one to write, even though the events described happened several years ago. It took me a number of days to get this all down, and it has taken another few days to actually decide whether or not to publish it. My hope in publishing this is that it will make a difference to somebody. Maybe you’re a new mom who is going through post-partum depression. Or perhaps you know a new mom who seems to be retreating into herself. If your life is touched in any way by post-partum depression, know that there are things that can be done. Talk to your friends and family, seek help from medical professionals. And whatever you do, don’t lose hope.

My younger son James was born at a tumultuous time in my life. I had lost my dad to cancer a year previously, and me and my husband were going through some challenging times in our life together. At around that time, we were also starting to realize that there was something wrong with George and we had started to experience the frustration of wrangling a referral out of our family doctor.

I sometimes wonder, when I look back, whether all of these factors led to the post-partum depression I went through. Or perhaps it would have happened anyway. This is an illness that can strike the most unlikely of victims.

I knew within a couple of days after giving birth that the utter bleakness I was feeling was more than a case of “baby blues”. What I had experienced with George two years previously – the mild sadness, the anxiety, the tendency to be emotionally weird – that was baby blues. What I was going through now was completely different.

On New Years Eve that year, when James was six days old, I was sitting in front of the TV nursing my newborn while I watched CNN coverage of festivities around the world. At about five to midnight, Gerard brought me a cup of tea, and as he set it down beside me, he asked in surprise, “Why are you crying?”

I was just as surprised as he was. I had not even noticed the floods of tears rolling silently down my cheeks.

Even though I was filled with this feeling of terrifying – emptiness – I did not initially label what I was experiencing with any name. The first time I thought of the term post-partum depression in relation to myself, James was about two months old. A replay of an old Oprah episode was on – the episode where Tom Cruise spouted forth about how there was no such thing as post-partum depression, and how all new moms could solve all of their problems by eating right and exercising.

What an idiot, I remember thinking. This thought was followed by the sudden light-bulb moment in which I realized that I was suffering from post-partum depression.

There was a good news and a bad news aspect to this discovery.

The good news was that I now had a name for what I was going through. I had something to Google, and sure enough, on every checklist I found, I was able to put checkmarks beside all but one or two of the signs and symptoms. I had a basis for research, and I felt some validation that I wasn’t simply going mad.

The bad news was that I too far down the path of post-partum depression to be able to actually do anything about it. Talking to someone – my doctor, my friends, or even my husband – would have taken energy. And that was something that I had in very short supply. Just getting through the day was an accomplishment. Once I had attended to the basic needs of my kids – feeding, diapering, bathing, dressing – there was nothing left over. No reserves of energy whatsoever.

And because I didn’t do anything about it, my illness got steadily worse and worse. I didn’t talk to anyone about it, and no-one recognized the signs. My friends and family saw me retreating further and further into myself, but they did not know why. They saw that the kids were obviously being taken care of, so they didn’t realize that there was anything to be concerned about.

Even when my depression was at its very worst, I was not suicidal in the sense of wanting to actively go out and kill myself (again, that would have taken energy that I just didn’t have), and I was never in danger of harming the kids. Their health, safety and happiness were my top priorities – my only priorities.

I did start to think about dying, though. I fantasized about what it would be like to die in a car accident, or to have a sudden heart attack, or to be shot during a bank robbery. I thought about being on a plane that had a bomb on it. What if I had some undiagnosed condition, and simply went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up?

My depression went untreated for over a year, and by then I honestly thought that I was lost forever. Right after George was diagosed with autism, I went to see my family doctor, who had received a copy of the diagnostic report. I was seeing the doctor about something unrelated – an old ankle injury was acting up – but he immediately picked up that there was something seriously wrong.

My doctor, who had been absolutely dismal at detecting signs of early developmental delay in George, was able to tell right away that I was going through a major depression. He put me on medication and insisted on seeing me once a week until I was out of the woods.

The pills were both good and bad for me. The bad part was that they made me feel angry. While I was taking them, I was mad at everyone and everything. Back then, I didn’t even have running as a stress coping mechanism, so the anger just sat there and frightened the living daylights out of me.

The good thing, though, was that the pills helped with the depression. I started feeling some energy again – even though the energy itself was negative, it was a start. Negative energy was better than the absolute empiness and desolation that I had been feeling for so long now.

And so gradually, I started finding my way back. With time, I rekindled my relationship with my husband, and I discovered the true joy of parenting. I went back to work and started to find my own identity again. I started running. Little buds of hope started to grow within me.

I found my way out of the darkness, and into love and light.

Graduation Day

28 Jun

My Kindergarten Graduate

On Friday morning we all woke up with a sense of occasion. Especially James, my five-year-old son for whom this day was happening. He had been looking forward to it all week, and now that it was here, he could barely contain himself.

In honour of the occasion, I walked him to school myself instead of dropping him off at the daycare. Once we got to the school, he ran ahead of me to join his peers, and I joined the group of parents walking towards the gymnasium where the event of the day was being held. I secured two seats in the front row, and hoped that my husband, who was taking George to school, would arrive before the excitement started.

As I waited, there was a lot of scuffling and whispering and shhhh-ing coming from behind the curtain on the stage, as the kids were obviously brought in through an unseen entrance and put into their positions. With just moments to spare, Gerard scooted in and sat beside me.

And then it began…

The curtain opened to reveal a sight that made the audience go Awwwwwwwww in unison: a class of graduating Kindergartners, all wearing oversized white mens’ shirts that had been put on backwards, and personalized graduation hats made of construction paper.

I have to tell you, they looked cute. Especially when music was cued and the kids started singing a song to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York (instead of singing about New York, New York the kids were singing about Grade One, Grade One).  And the cuteness just about exploded near the end of the song when the kids started doing that leg-kicky dance routine. They were very enthusiastic about it, too.

The music segued into I Gotta Feeling by Black Eyed Peas. This time the kids weren’t singing, but they were dancing. Even though it was supposed to be a choreographed dance, it somehow didn’t matter that at no point during the song did any of the kids have matching dance moves. Their energy and enthusiasm – and the fact that my child was part of it – made it the best dance I’ve ever seen.

When the music faded out, it was time for the big moment. The children were called one by one to receive their Kindergarten certificates, which were rolled up into little scrolls and tied with ribbons. When it was James’ turn, he solemnly received his certificate and then posed for the pictures as if it was an occasion in the White House. He had taken this graduation concept very seriously all week, even telling me at one point that “graduation is no laughing matter”.

So far, I was doing OK. I hadn’t cried yet. I hadn’t even needed to reach into my bag for a tissue.

The kids were brought down from the stage and they were ushered to pre-assigned seats in the auditorium. A projector screen appeared from nowhere on the stage, and in a slightly alarming move, one of the teachers started handing out Kleenexes to the assembled parents. “You might need these,” we were told.

The lights were dimmed and the show began…

It was a photo montage of the kids’ school year, and it was absolutely beautiful. The pictures of James showed a kid who was happy, social, and doing really well. My heart burst with pride.

Yes, I cried. So did all of the other parents. The person who was probably crying the hardest at the end of it, though, was the teacher. She clearly cares about every child she teaches. And that shows in how well the kids have done, and in how excited they are to be in Grade One.

The day could not have been more perfect. So what if the singing wasn’t exactly in tune? And so what if the kids chose, on the day, to dance to the choreography inside their own heads? We, the parents, had the privilege of seeing our kids being the wonderful, spontaneous human beings they are.

We saw them being themselves, and it was the best thing ever.

The Princess And The Dragon

8 Jun

A few days ago, I was play-wrestling with my kids in the living room. They were beating me hands-downs. I mean, it’s hardly a fair contest, is it? There are two of them and one of me, so I was at a mathematical disadvantage right from the outset.

So anyway, there we were, rolling around on the floor. I was lying face-down trying not to choke on bits of carpet. James was sitting on my legs poking his very pointy elbows into my back. And George was trying to pull my head off my neck. All of a sudden, James lost his balance, rolled off me, and bumped his head lightly on the table.

Instantly, the wrestling came to an end (much to my relief, it must be said) and James started screaming in outrage, underscoring the theory that he was born with the drama queen gene that runs in my husband’s family. When I had managed to calm him down and convince him that not only was he not bleeding to death, he hadn’t even broken the skin, he said to me, “Do you know how much that hurt?”

“How much did that hurt?” I obligingly asked him.

He replied, “That hurt more than a pickle falling on my eyeball.”

James’ use of words is just incredible. His extensive vocabulary coupled with a colourful imagination results in word pictures unlike anything I’d be able to come up with. I mean, a pickle falling on your eyeball? How do you even think of that?

It beats the time we asked him to tell us a story, and he said, “Once upon a time there was a poo. The end.”

His imagination clearly wasn’t firing on all cylinders that day, although for a week after that, I couldn’t get the South Park song “ Mr. Hanky The Christmas Poo” out of my head.

More often than not, though, James does come up with really creative stories. It used to be that he would provide the plot and I would turn it into a coherent story, but now he doesn’t even need me to do that.

Yesterday evening, while I was cooking dinner, James was sitting at my desk busily working away with a piece of paper and a pencil. When he was done drawing, he joined me in the kitchen, showed me his picture, which depicted a girl standing at the window of a castle and a dragon flying by, and solemnly said, “I am going to tell you a story about this picture.”

I sat down with my boy and listened as he spun a wonderful tale…

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who lived in a castle. She had long black hair and the prettiest dresses in the whole wide world. One day, Dragon came to visit the princess. She wasn’t scared, because this was a friendly dragon and she knew he wouldn’t hurt her. She took him to the back yard, and gave him tea and cookies.

The dragon told the princess that he wanted her to give him one of her pretty dresses. The princess asked why he wanted a dress, and he told her it was a surprise.

The princess had lots and lots of dresses, so she gave one to the dragon. He finished his tea, played in the sandpit, and then left with the dress in a plastic bag.

The next day, the dragon came back, and he had the handsomest prince in the world with him. The dragon said, “You were lonely so I made you a prince to marry. And my granny turned your pretty dress into a wedding dress.”

The prince and the princess loved each other, and the princess put on the pretty wedding dress, and they got married.

The end.

Personally, I think the princess was kind of slutty to get married to someone she didn’t know, but I still think it’s a lovely story.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pathfinderlinden/3118654532/)