This One’s for the Dads

My husband, Mark, and I have worked out a pretty good system. We both work and alternate picking up the kids from their day home. If one of us picks up the kids, the other will head home and start dinner so that the little monsters don’t starve (believe me, by 5:45 pm when we get home from picking up the kids, they can’t make it much longer without food).

Each morning, my husband wakes up at 5:15 am so that he can get to work for 6 am, which leaves me to get myself and the kids ready for the day and out the door. When his job demands more time of him, I pick up the kids, get dinner on the table and hopefully Mark makes it home before bedtime so that he can say goodnight to the littles. It is the nature of his work, the changing shifts, and we accept that. It’s harder on the kids.

“I don’t like daddy,” our three year old, Connor, said last night after Mark came in from a long day and asked for a hug (our 21 month old exuberantly hugged his father, thankfully). This wasn’t the first time that Connor has expressed his displeasure with his dad. He always wants me to read him the bedtime story and outright refuses Mark’s offerings to read, or he prefers when I brush his teeth or pour a glass of water for him. It gets worse when Mark is away for work or working long shifts. The disheartening fact is I see the kids more therefore I am the one that they favor for bruised knees and cuddles.

What Connor doesn’t understand, and what I try to explain in the simplest way, is that daddy works hard so that we can have our wonderful life.

What I don’t tell Connor is that the job market is soft and that we are lucky that Mark is employed right now, let alone busy. That in the trades, you take the work when you can get it, even when it means long stretches away from your family, or 24 hour shifts to get the job done. It means physically demanding work lifting, fitting, climbing, kneeling for long stretches. It means reading blueprints, organizing your materials and making sure that you can do the job in the most efficient way for the least amount of money. It means doing this work in the stripping wind or drizzling rain or frigid thirty below temperatures that make up our Canadian winters. It means injuries like burns on arms and fingers smashed and metal on toes or worse. It means the men (and women) who work these kinds of jobs are tough and strong willed and they love their families. Because it takes a certain kind of strength to work away from the ones you love to give them the best that you can.

So this one is for the dads. Often underappreciated, too often over simplified.Thank you for all that you do.

img_4571

 

“This Too Shall Pass”

I’ve been hoarding memories lately. Any chance I get a quiet, one on one moment with one of my sons, I find myself reflecting on when they were babies. I try my best to draw forth the feel of their perfect skin or the scent of their soft blonde hair.

I say “try my best” because I can’t remember anything chronologically. Images come to me in waves: my first son, Connor, at seven months, splashing in the lime green pool on our deck with his blue eyes squinted against the sun, or sitting in his high chair and pushing his chubby fists together to sign  “more” to indicate more food. IMG_2724-2The new discoveries of self-propulsion across our carpet, first rolling to where he wanted to go, then crawling, walking, running, jumping. The bubble feeling of just he and I going for mommy son dates: to the library for sing-a-long, or the swimming pool, or the zoo. There is a magic with the first child, because everything is a first for the parent as well.

And more recent memories of my second son, Nickson; the naps we would take together in my bed when he was brand new, or the vigour with which he devoured new foods, or the quickness with which he would pick up a new skill. He did everything faster than his brother. He crawled at 5 months, walked by 10. My ability to keep up with two mobile little humans adjusted accordingly. By default of being the second and not really being a cuddler anyway, I can count on two hands the number of times that Nickson has fallen asleep in my arms in his 18 months, with each time feeling like a victory. IMG_3298If Nickson does happen to fall asleep on me I am hyper sensitive to the little breaths he takes, the feel of his round tummy as it rises and falls against my own, the texture of his fine sunshine hair as it sifts through my fingers, the baby soap and sweaty smell of little boy, and the assertion to myself that I will always, always remember that moment.

It’s a fib I tell myself. I can’t remember it all. Photos help and videos are even better. And I am thankful I live in a time where there are devices at the ready to record a moment, even though I have to be mindful of also living in the moment and putting said devices down. With a full time job, the logistics of picking up the kids and making meals, a bit of a side job, the demands of keeping up with laundry and cleaning the house on the regular, ensuring that I pay proper attention to my husband and myself, along with keeping the kids occupied and not fighting, life seems very very busy.

On particularly tough days when Connor is having a melt down about the shoes he wants to wear or Nickson is fighting having his diaper changed right as we need to leave the house, I repeat the mantra “This too shall pass.” And it does. Without me even noticing sometimes. But when I have quiet moments with the kids, I know with certainty that it goes by too fast. And all I can do for now is hold on and try my best to remember as much as possible.

The Trials of Travelling with Kids

 

9

Our most recent trip to Panorama Village. I didn’t write a master list and forgot many things…remembered the snowboards though!

As my good friend says, when travelling with kids “it’s not a vacation, it’s an adventure.” That advice has carried me through a variety of holidays with my littles.

When travelling with kids, you have to take everything with you. And you have different sizes of clothes and diapers for each kid. And you pack every imaginable snack and toy that will keep the crib midgets occupied during a drive or flight or any period of waiting. This involves a lot of packing and a master list so as not to forget anything. (When I don’t do the list, I forget a ton of stuff at home). 

Next, you have to maneuver your day around a nap schedule. A feat in itself is if you can hit the sweet spot of driving away from your house right at the start of nap time. If that doesn’t work, my husband and I know that we can get 2-3 hours out of both kids before they need to stop for a break. Then we just keep on keepin’ on. We know we’ll get there eventually.

Upon arrival at the intended destination there are two major stages: getting the kids out of the car/somewhat settled and unpacking all of the stuff. At least, unpacking enough of the sleeping equipment in order to put the kids to bed. Then there is the elusive vacation sleep. When in a new environment, Bubba wakes up multiple times per night and Connor finds his way into my bed. Vacation sleep is never a restful sleep for us.

And I plan to take my kids camping this year! Tent camping no less, which means no proper beds or Netflix or toys all around. This means a lot of extra preparation for meals, sleeping arrangements, activities, not to mention teaching my older kid to tell us well in advance if he has to use the potty since it may be far away. We’ll have to educate the kids about the camp fire and possibly get through a night of bad weather. It seems like SO MUCH EXTRA WORK.

But – I know it will all be worth it. I know that it will also be a hassle. Some folks might not think it is worth the trouble, especially since the kids are so little that they won’t remember the experience anyway. However, I would argue that these experiences can start at the earliest age. You need to get your kids used to trying new things. So far most of my time raising kids has been trial and error. For example, after some terrible car rides to and from my in-law’s in Saskatchewan, my husband and I opt to travel after bed time. We arrive at 3 a.m. but the kids sleep the entire trip.

The years when the kids are young are formative for learning how to behave in a variety of situations. My littles can sit in a restaurant and wait for their food as a result of our efforts to eat dinner as a family, teach them table manners, and expose them to eating in public. On the flip side, no one wants to dine with a screaming kid next to them so I know when to pack up and leave. The same goes for the grocery store. Cart full of groceries and the kid that won’t stop crying because he wants a toy? No way. He gets one warning then we leave. No fuss or scolding on my part; I simply just take him out of the situation where he is worked up. The pool, hiking, snowboarding, boating, play-dates etc. I am prepared to bail if I have to because, honestly, if the kids aren’t having an okay time then no one is.

It will apply to camping as well. We will camp close to home the first few times, so that I can pack up and leave if everyone is having a terrible time. It certainly isn’t desirable or always feasible but it lessens the pressure on my husband and I if we know that we can cut our losses whenever we need to and try again another time. And that’s the trick: we keep trying. I’m not advocating for quitting; simply, knowing your limits and the limits of your kids. And new adventures expand those limits.

Long car rides and packing for trips and sleeping in strange places and playing outside in unknown lands are all the stuff memories are made of. So bring on the extra work of travelling with toddlers. The good and bad and funny memories are the ones my husband and I will talk about for years afterward. And bonus if the kids have fun too.