Just like that.

There are seasons of parenthood where you can see childhood stages coming to an end.  Diapers lead into potty-training, cribs lead into beds, and nursing/bottles eventually wean.  In my experience, these stages have had a build-up, a preparatory phase, a time of transition whereby I could mull things over in my analytical brain and get a handle on my emotional brain.  As a parent, of course each new childhood stage brings excitement and the chance to watch my kids grow and prosper, but another part of me mourns the passing of the previous stage.

When I was younger, being a mother was never on my radar.  I didn’t play with dolls and dream about having children like some little girls do; in fact, I used to wonder if I had any maternal instinct in me at all.  But when my son was born in 2009, my new role turned into my life’s greatest joy.  As I’ve been along for the ride of watching these little people grow, my joy has also grown.

But with each passing stage, there’s a tiny bit of me that wonders if I soaked it up enough while it was happening right in front of me.  Did I cherish their curled-up newborn bodies?  Their haphazard crawling styles?  Their oh-so-sweet toddler-speak?  Their unsteady gait?  I can’t recall their baby coos or three-word sentences unless I see them on old videos, and the clear memories of their first steps and their first words are already waning.  They say that the days are long but the years are short.  They’re right.

So, when we ended a parenting stage abruptly this weekend, I didn’t even see it coming.

You see, my daughter, who just turned seven last week, has been crawling into our bed halfway through the night for nearly four years.  Some of you may be shocked by that, but it’s never been a big deal to us.  Our house has a main-floor Master with kid’s bedrooms upstairs, and when we moved in 2015, her three-year-old self found comfort by wandering down the stairs, usually between midnight and 2am, and sleeping snuggled in between my husband and I.  At first, we attributed it to the move and all the changes in her life, and then it just became a habit we didn’t care to change.  Yes, some nights we got kicked by little feet and elbows, but most of the time she was a welcomed addition who whispered to me a “mom, snuggle” request that became our pattern.  I knew it wouldn’t last forever, and I wanted to soak it up for as long as I could.

This past Friday night, we returned from a March-break vacation in Arizona, with a three-hour time change to manage.  As I tucked her in much later than usual, I mentioned that she needed to stay in her room that night, rather than coming downstairs with us.  I had to be at work early on Saturday morning, and my 7:30am alarm would feel like 4:30am in Phoenix; she needed to sleep in and get her body rested instead of waking up with me.  And she did stay in her bed all night, likely exhausted from travel and a busy trip.  The next morning she proudly announced: “I don’t need to sleep in your bed anymore.  I’m going to stay in my bed all night from now on.”

Just like that.

And she did.  For three nights there were no pitter-patter of little feet on the stairs, no drinks from the sippy cup on my nightstand, no tip-toeing out of my bedroom in the morning to allow a sleeping child to slumber.  Done.  Onto the next stage, and I didn’t even see it coming.  And then last night, I awoke to find her beside me once again.

So although this stage is ending, it’s not finished quite yet.  Have I soaked it up enough?  Without a doubt.

But I’ll still miss it.

ash casey toque photo

My baby is not such a baby anymore.


Roots and Wings.

I was thinking long and hard about what to write about this week, and the only thought that came into my brain was back-to-school. I tend to write about the happenings of my life, and the return to September, and now October, routines have been at the forefront lately, as I’m sure they have been for many of you.

This year was a bit different for us, as it was the first year of “nothing new.” We didn’t move, or switch schools, or have my work schedule change. The logistics of our life look essentially the same as they did last school year, so we knew what to expect from a timing perspective. My son entered grade three, and my daughter started into Senior Kindergarten. In Ontario, the Kindergarten program is two years long, and starts the year that a child turns four years of age. Back in 2014, the Provincial government rolled out full-day Kindergarten to replace half-day and alternate-day programs, so my daughter began full-time school last year, at age four. It was rocky.

Not having been a daycare kid (my husband and I have managed to work opposite hours so that one of us could always be home with our kids), she did two years in a three-mornings-per-week Preschool, to get her prepared for Kindergarten and used to the idea of being away from home, and most notably, away from me. Her and I have a special bond and she’s a mama’s girl through and through. Last year, all year long, even into June, she would be teary at school dropoff. “Mom, I don’t want to go to school, I just want to be home with you.” Oh, how she broke my heart.

We tried everything- special necklaces, “kissing hands,” pictures from home, notes in her backpack, meetings with the teachers. We were always told that her days at school were happy and settled, and she was always all smiles at pickup time; but more often than not, she would cry at dropoff. I would pull myself away from the school gate each morning and stand out of sight, watching her cry and wipe the fog from her little glasses, and I would cry too. I would walk back home alone and feel like a monster for the better part of the morning. “How was your day, sweetheart?” I would ask at pickup, “Great!” She would exclaim, oblivious to the torment that she’d put her mother through yet again. The daily text thread to my husband read something like this:

Me: Tears again. I’m dying. This is THE WORST.

Him: She’s okay hon, she’ll get through it.

Me: Why are we doing this to her? She’s only four! Four year-olds should be with their mamas. It’s nature!!!

Him: Her days are good, it’s just the first few minutes. She’ll be okay.

Me: I am the worst mother. My HEART IS BREAKING.  Sob…..

Okay, so I have a touch of drama up my sleeve. But honestly, watching your child cry while knowing that you can’t help them, is quite possibly the world’s worst feeling. If you’ve never been through this with your children, you may not understand what I’m talking about, and you probably don’t think this is quite the big deal I’m making it out to be. But when you’re in it, let me tell you that it’s a very big deal. I’m a bit of an attachment-parent, kind of on the hippie side of the scale- my kids regularly sleep in our bed, I nursed them both into toddlerhood, and I was a regular baby-wearer, so this child-away-from-me stage of life does not feel natural or normal to me. We have very carefully constructed our life to have me closer to our kids. This school-aged-transition was as hard on me as it was on her.

Fast forward to this year, and I was expecting more of the same from her. Through the Summer she spoke about how she was going to miss me when she started school and flashbacks of dropoff haunted me. And we have had more than a few tears over the past few weeks, but I’m happy to report, we’re on a streak of six consecutive cry-free dropoffs. She’s grown and matured, she’s gained independence, she’s built confidence, and I can see a different kid when I send her into the playground in the mornings. She wants to be there. The reluctance to let go of my hand is lessening, the quivering lip is all but gone, and the vulnerability of her foggy glasses has disappeared. Maybe she’s ready. Maybe I’m ready. I’m not sure how it happened, but we’ve turned the page, and my baby grew up.

roots and wings