Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The pen is mightier than the sword

With four kids, physical fights are inevitable. I think it's unrealistic to expect children won't resort to kicking, punching, pushing, biting, pulling hair and jumping on one another to solve their conflicts. I'm not suggesting it's the preferred method to deal with differences, but it's not out of the ordinary. What we hope to accomplish as parents, in raising the hellions to become respectable citizens of this world, is to guide them away from physical aggression and to more constructive means of communication. Words. Spoken or otherwise, but words that are not hurtful. Words that can convey their frustrations and feelings of angst.
Although the following pictures are over a year old, I think we're getting somewhere on that particular parenting responsibility.
The following is an exchange between siblings, posted to each other's bedroom door:
And, finally, just to show that writing down one's frustrations can be a cathartic experience:

His middle name!

When you have 4 kids, all attempts at watching your language go out the window. Or at least it does in my case. For those of you whose children have never heard a four letter word uttered in your home, unless of course, the toilet backed up at the same time the washing machine broke down and you dropped a wrench on your big toe, good on ya. You’re going to parent heaven and I am burning in hell.
There you go, another 4 letter word.
And then there’s being the parent to a precocious, curious, over active, mischievous child. It never fails that when I need be somewhere or need to have Quinn do something, it doesn’t happen according to plan or schedule.
Inevitably, there will be a crash, or a thump, or an “oopsy” and then, a “Quinn – Goddammit! Can you please ____” and fill in the blank with whatever you want. Brush your teeth, stop touching that wire, stop hitting/scratching/kicking, stop picking your nose, get out the door, pick up the toy you threw, finish your lunch …”
I have lost all pretence of attempting to edit my language at home. Yes, I’m sure that makes me a very poor role model for my children. But so long as they’re able to understand what is acceptable language for mommy and what is not acceptable for them, my children are learning self-regulation.
Although, perhaps I too need a lesson in self-regulation.
The other day, after another episode of “Quinn, goddammit, can you please ___”, my little precocious tot stated “That’s my middle name!”
“What’s your name?” I asked absently while tending to his latest misadventure.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Only hugs at School

How can it be? Quinn is in grade one.
With that comes the new rules for Mommy. No more kisses at drop off.
I am allowed hugs only.
Today, he gave me a kiss. But not anywhere near the school.
Once on school property, I was reminded it would be a hug only.
I must have looked sad.
He stated, "Ok, maybe a kiss on the cheek. But that's it."

That's okay. After school, it's kisses galore, and hugs a plenty. And there's still great fights at bedtime over who gets to sleep with Mommy.

Never Underestimate Ceilidh

At the beginning of the school year, Ceilidh was excited to have a certain teacher. It seemed, in a few short days, the two of them had bonded over their mutual love of reading. Fast forward a few weeks, and Ceilidh came home, glum and upset over the news she was being moved to another class over re-organization of the classes. While she was heartened by the fact she would remain with two of her best buds, the new teacher was an unknown and she wasn't sure what to expect.
As a parent, I gave her the talk about doing the best in whatever situation we find ourselves in, and that life isn't always easy. The old, make lemonade when you're handed lemons lecture.
The first day with the new teacher didn't go well. Ceilidh mentioned being reprimanded over how she handled a task. Having listened to Ceilidh's recitation of the facts, I felt maybe the teacher had overreacted but suggested to Ceilidh that she should have apologized. Over the next few days, I noticed Ceilidh's  school agenda remained blank, and her details about the day's events were slim. Her enthusiasm for class began to wane. The only time she showed any interest was when the decision was announced to establish a student council. With a bit of urging and encouragement, Ceilidh decided to throw her hat into the race for the student council prime minister.
Even though she was running against one of her best friends, she showed no animosity. In fact, she and her opponent got together one afternoon to brainstorm ideas for campaign posters. They vowed to remain BFFs no matter what. Ultimately, Ceilidh was unsuccessful in her run as prime minister and was chosen as a call rep instead. Her best friend was elected as prime minister and the honest heartfelt excitement Ceilidh displayed for her best bud was humbling to me as a parent. World leaders could learn a thing or two from the maturity my 11 year old daughter!
Once the excitement of the elections wore off, Ceilidh returned to her ho-hum attitude about school. This was most unusual from my model student child. We soon learned the why.
Last week, a most distressing message was left on our voice mail. Her teacher insisted on an urgent meeting to discuss Ceilidh. That was all. No further details. Upon being questioned after school, Ceilidh relayed a tale where she was singled out and yelled at by the teacher for not completing a voluntary assignment, and for berated for making up an excuse about not being able to retrieve the document from cyberspace. Furthermore, she was told there was a "reason" for Ceilidh's transfer into this teacher's class and it was now clear as to what that was. However, she didn't enlighten Ceilidh on that reason, but announced to the entire class that she had called Ceilidh's parents and was expecting a phone call in return. And, she also sent a message to Ceilidh at recess through her little sister Aisling. The message being "Your teacher is unhappy with you."
Now, I'm not the parent to simply believe every word my child states. Frankly speaking, I know children exaggerate and my kids are especially good at overstating a situation. However, I received a call from another parent that evening, repeating what Ceilidh had earlier stated. This parent further advised me this berating of students was not an unusual occurrence, and the fact that Ceilidh, a model student, was now being targeted, was concerning.
Armed with that tidbit, I didn't hesitate in calling the principal the next day. Whatever this teacher had advised the principal, I pointed out Ceilidh's mature reaction to the student council election results to refute the incorrect assumptions this teacher had made. Given the conflicting stories, it was decided a meeting with all the parties needed to be held. I insisted on a meeting in short order given Ceilidh's reluctance to now attend school and the tears that ensued in the mornings.
Ceilidh was upset to learn she was to be included in this meeting. Given her reaction, I was suspicious that perhaps Ceilidh hadn't been quite truthful with us, and maybe this teacher was in the right. Nonetheless, I instructed Ceilidh to write down what she wanted to say to her teacher, including her list of complaints and how being the subject of the teacher's wrath made her feel.
I'm sure this teacher felt this meeting was going to be her opportunity to showcase all of Ceilidh's faults, and to extol the advantages of her teaching methods. This teacher's platform was critical thinking, and apparently, her method was forced group work in order for all the minds to expand. But without saying so, it was also clear she marked each student on a floating scale. Without a standard for which all students were held to, each student had their own "gold standard" they were to achieve. That standard depended on each student's particular abilities. So while Ceilidh would put in the same amount of work as another, she would receive a lower mark because she was capable of more in this teacher's eyes. While the desire to do better for the mere satisfaction of challenging oneself is great, it's a bit much to expect 11 year olds to attain this lofty goal.
After listening to this teacher critique Ceilidh, we deftly turned the floor over to Ceilidh. She was clearly nervous. But she held her own. First, she asked if she could respond to the teacher's accusations of 5 incidents of "misbehaviour". Ceilidh then provided her own recounting of the events with much greater detail and clarity, which prompted this teacher to interject with an explanation or excuse. She didn't have much to say when she was corrected on the names of those involved. Ceilidh continued on. She listed the teacher's shortcomings, including not listening to the students and not allowing them to explain without being cut off. She described how scared she felt when she was yelled at in front of the entire class. And when this teacher had the audacity to suggest Ceilidh was misinterpreting certain comments, Ceilidh challenged her and asked her point blank, "Do you think I'm lying?"
Ceilidh asked her what was the reason for being placed in her class? Watching this teacher struggle to answer was something I wish I could recorded. It was clear that comment was made without thinking, for she had nothing.
Bravo Ceilidh!
The teacher sputtered and deflected, denied and made all sorts of excuses. Her inability to have an insight into her own behaviours displayed her gross lack of maturity - both as an educator and as an adult. Her inability to be flexible in her teaching methods and being unprepared for a meeting with the parents also showed her own high opinion of herself. She addressed me incorrectly, and when I pointed out my name was clearly stated on the student records, she was silenced, momentarily. If this teacher had taken the time to review Ceilidh's school records and past report cards, it would have been clear that Ceilidh's strengths were leadership and independence, not forced collaboration.
Ultimately, we were successful in having Ceilidh moved to another teacher. After all, our goal was to ensure our child had a supportive environment in which to learn. To restore her enthusiasm for education and going to school. While all the right things were stated about the importance of trust and respect between a teacher and a student in moving Ceilidh I hope it was made clear to this principal that this staff member is not cut out to educate young impressionable beings.
Mostly, I am proud to have a daughter who was not afraid to speak up for her classmates who are also berated by this "role model". A child who looked her teacher in the eye and stated the incident where she was singled out was the last straw. She didn't back down when the teacher accused Ceilidh of lying, but instead calmly explained her side of the story in a composed manner.
Bravo Ceilidh!
P.S. Apparently, this teacher spent the rest of the day glaring at Ceilidh. Doesn't that speak volumes?

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Minding our Manners

Trick or treating this year with Quinn, I felt like I was constantly reminding him to say "Thank you" after the brightly wrapped candy bar was dropped into his loot bag. I get it - it's exciting, and he's more interested in the treats than being polite.
It's always shocking to me and Daddy when the teachers are describing our progeny as polite, well behaved, cooperative and helpful in the classroom. I often wonder if they've mixed up our kids with someone else's. Their aunt and uncle who regularly host them for sleep overs also report nothing but the best behaviours from them. Which again, I find shocking because there isn't a single night without an issue at bedtime.
One afternoon, I dropped off Aisling for her first sleep-over party. As she was taking her jacket off, I issued a litany of reminders and ended with "Mind your manners! Please and thank yous!"
She  responded with, "We're always polite at other people's homes. It's just at home, we're not."
All the parenting books I've read suggest that we must be doing an okay job in raising our kids if they are well behaved in public and for others. The children know what is expected of them, but at home, they feel comfortable in the unconditional love of their parents, so they feel "safe" in acting out, and testing the limits of bad behaviour. Or testing the limits of their parents' patience with their shenanigans.
And yet, sometimes they do remember to use their manners.
The other night, Daddy went to give Quinn his usual good night kiss - a slobbery "doggie" kiss.
Quinn buried his head under the pillows and said "No thank you Daddy. I don't want a kiss!"

Young Love - So Short Lived...

It snowed for the first time a few nights ago. The snow didn't last for more than a few hours, but it was enough to get all the kids excited about the upcoming winter season. Plans for skiing and sledding flew around, and there was a panicked search for matching mitts and hats.
Quinn, seeing the falling flakes was full of instructions for me.
"Mommy, look! Snow! It's time to get ready for Christmas!" he announced, though it sounded like "Kissmuss twee" coming from him.
"Yes, it's snowing...what do we need to do?" I asked.
"You have to put up the Christmas tree, and put on ornaments, and lights, and go shopping, and make cookies," he directed.
"And after Christmas, do you know what comes next?" I asked in a whisper.
"It's Quinn's birthday!" I announced to my New Year's Eve baby.
"Yay! I'm going to have a party! I'm going to invite all my friends - Tristan, Max, Tristan's brother, Dylan, Lia, and my girlfriend," he said excitedly.
I did a double take.
"Um, pardon me? Your girlfriend?"
Very matter of factly, he stated, "Yeah, my girlfriend, Elissa."

The next day, wanting to know if there was a difference between his friendship with Lia and his relationship with Elissa, I asked him about his "girlfriend".
"Quinn, how come Lia is just a friend and Elissa is a girlfriend?"
"She's not my girlfriend!" he said forcefully.
"But yesterday, you said Elissa was your girlfriend," I reminded.
"She told me to shut up today. So she's not my girlfriend anymore."

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Pre-tween Ceilidh

It seems like only yesterday that I had a little girl with unruly hair, chubby cheeks and twinkling eyes who would dance for a potato chip. Now, I've got a pre-tween daughter who is almost as tall as me, who is spending hours curling her hair and putting together outfits, and constantly on You Tube. Her friends are calling on the phone, and she's asking me to buy her shoes with heels! A cookie or juice from Starbucks is no good enough. Now, she's ordering a cotton candy frappuccino with whipped cream. It's not even on the menu board."It's on the secret menu, Mom. Everyone knows that!" she states while rolling her eyes. Clearly, I am not cool enough to know that.
I am not ready to be a mother to a teenager. My oldest child who is only a year from that has not given me any cause for concern, yet.
But all of a sudden, I find myself shopping for training bras, at the request of pre-tween, and I am in shock. What happened to my little girl who liked frilly dresses and Barbie dolls? Where is the toddler who would dance, in a diaper, to ACDC's You Shook Me All Night Long with the innocence that only a child can? Who took away the child whose eyes grew to the size of saucers when a tub of Cool Whip and a spoon were placed in front of her? (It was easier than constantly scooping a dollop, that kept disappearing, onto her tiny slice of pie.)
Ceilidh was my easy child. The one who actually slept 6 hours a night when she was 8 weeks old. She was difficult to potty train but night time training was not an issue. She did not want to poop in the toilet, and I remember watching her like a hawk all day. Of course, the minute my attention was diverted by a wailing infant or I had to answer the phone, she'd scurry to a corner and poop in her pull-up. When she was tired, she'd crawl up the stairs to bed or curl up on the couch and simply fall asleep. There were no big productions of fighting bed time.
Unlike Devlin, I rarely had to cajole her to practise the piano. She doesn't need much prompting to do her homework, and she devours books at such a rate that I am Amazon's most loyal customer. Where she gained the flair for creativity, I don't quite know. Ceilidh can spend hours patiently and meticulously creating a school project.
She's the more mature child, and generally speaking, the more responsible one. If I have to leave the house for short period of time, I ask her, not her older brother, to keep an eye on Quinn. She's still the tallest too.
She dislikes competitive sports and anything that seems to require physical exertion, other than dance. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Ceilidh was the always the lazy one, who figured out a unqiue method of motoring about that was a semi crawl, semi scooch around on her bum. We called it the crab crawl. She disliked mini golf because it made her sweaty. Soccer games were about picking flowers and twirling around the goal post. There wasn't much interest in chasing after the ball, which frustrated her daddy to no end. Especially given her long legs and the ability to run fast, if she truly tried. While the other three play hockey, Ceilidh is not interested. It's boring. And cold. Her progress in Tae Kwon Do has come to a halt because she refuses to spar.
I've enrolled her in Korean language lessons as she's got an aptitude for learning. It's also part of her cultural heritage. I'm hoping her initial frustrations at not understanding the teacher will ease and she'll learn to ignore the annoying boys in her class.
Over the past year, we've noticed some changes in her attitude that we haven't liked. Sometimes we wonder if it's the influence of her friends. Her dismissive and impatient attitude with her younger sister irks me.  As an oldest sibling, I so understand that younger sisters can be annoying. But Aisling idolizes her older sister and brother. She wants to be a great skater like Devlin on the ice and she wants to dance like Ceilidh. Now she wants to take singing lessons too, just like her older sister.
Sometimes I wonder if because she was the easy child, and didn't need as much discipline, that Ceilidh thinks she can get away with pretty much anything. I can tell you that is certainly not the case.
A few weeks ago, Devlin was too ill for school. Ceilidh decided that she wasn't going to school either. Not because she had nothing to wear. Not because she was ill. Not because she wasn't getting along with her BFF. Ceilidh was refusing to get dressed for school because she didn't like the snack Daddy put in her lunch! To top it all off, Quinn decided he wasn't going to school either, if his big sister wasn't going. Of course, she went to school, but her stunt caused her to be late, and she lost her allowance.
If her silent glares, stomping feet and slumped shoulders are a sign of the times to come, then I've decided that I am moving out. She's only 10 now, but I've heard this is nothing compared to the true hormonal rages that are soon to occur.
I still see my little baby girl every once in a while. Ceilidh is the one child child who craves bear hugs and needs to be cuddled. Her eyes still light up when a bag of chips is opened. She still bites her nails. When she's feeling ill, she sobs. And when she's happy and excited, she still hops around while clapping her hands.
I'm not prepared for teenaged angst. But I suspect my little baby girl is more than ready to embrace it.