“You are the joy of my life”

I was snuggling with my five-year-old daughter before she went to bed the other night, as is our normal routine.  She’s got a chiropractic-approved mattress in her bedroom, but for the last couple of months, she’s insisted on sleeping on a double air mattress on her floor.  This came about after my brother and his family visited at Thanksgiving; we set up the air mattress for additional sleeping space while they were here and, well, she’s staked her claim and insisted that the air mattress is her preferred sleeping spot.  So, there we have it, an expensive mattress sits unused while a cheap air mattress is favoured and cherished.  Kids are weird.

But, back to my story.  After we read bedtime books, we shut out the lights, and I lay beside her for a snuggle.  This is one of my favourite parts of the day; the part where she tells me her thoughts and asks me lots of questions.  This is uninterrupted, one-on-one time, the stuff parenting dreams are made of.

“Mom,” she whispered, her sleepy face snug up against mine, “you are the joy of my life.” joy

My heart filled and my tears welled up.  She said it just like that: “you are the joy of my life.”  Could there be a more perfect statement?  In just seven tiny words, she articulated the feelings I’ve had for years.  Joy, yes.  Joy of my life, definitely yes.

My eight-year-old son is also still in the snuggle-with-mama stage of life.  Last week we walked to school hand in hand, and I marvelled at the little boy who is growing up right before my eyes.  “When do you think you’ll be old enough that you don’t want to hold my hand anymore?” I asked him.  “Mom,” he said confidently, “I will never be too old to hold your hand.”  Oh, my sweet boy, how I hope that’s true.

My husband and I have been talking recently about how we’ve found ourselves in the “sweet spot” of parenting as of late.  We no longer have the physical challenges of babies and toddlers and we’re not yet into the emotional challenges of tweens and teens.  We can take our kids anywhere without worrying about naps and strollers and baby food, and yet they still want to be with us, with the full, unbridled enthusiasm of youth and naivety.

This is very likely our final Christmas with two Santa-believers still intact, and you can be sure I’m going to soak it all in, just like I’ve tried to do throughout their childhood.  I’ve heard that “the days are long but the years are short,” and I’ve found that to be true as this parenting train has rolled along, picking up speed as it goes.

Oh yes, you are the joy of my life.

the days are long

 

 

 


Little Girls and Big Cities

I am finding that raising a little girl is different than raising a little boy.  I am finding that raising kids in a city is different than raising kids in a small town.  And I am discovering both of these things fast and furiously as I venture into the realm of two school-aged children.

Let’s talk about the gender factor first.  My four-year-old daughter is now coming home from Junior Kindergarten using phrases like “best friend,” “she said she didn’t want to play with me,” and “hurt my feelings.”  These are all phrases that her brother, three years older, has never spoken.  She feels things deeply, she notices friendship nuances, she’s finding her way amongst her peers.

And the big-city versus small-town element, well, this is something that I’ve written about before.  I’m a small town girl, and I was raised in a town of 250 people until I was ten years old and we moved to a town of 2000 people.  Everyone knew everyone, for the good or the bad, so it seems unnatural to me to send my children into a classroom, knowing few other families, and having them talk about kids that I’ve never met.

Now, to be fair, we moved into this neighbourhood less than two years ago; we’re still finding our way and meeting people as we go.  But I suspect that this not-knowing-everyone is simply a side effect of city living, even though my kids attend a school of just 300 students, small by city standards.  So, while there are more and more familiar faces at pick-up and drop-off, and more and more hellos at the playground gate, the fact remains that I want to know my children’s friends and their families.

I was chatting about these things with a friend; this friend lives in a different neighbourhood and has children that are older than mine.  She’s been down this road before, and like the good friend she is, she sent her parenting wisdom down the motherhood pipeline: she suggested that I host a friend party for my daughter.  Now, why oh why, I hadn’t come up with this simple solution on my own accord is one of the reasons I often preach that “The World Needs More Girlfriends.”  Girlfriends help and support, and help and support she did.

A friend party it would be.

We printed off eleven invitations, one for each girl in her class, and asked her teacher to put them into the children’s backpacks.  “We’d like to get to know you,” the invites said, “please join us on Sunday afternoon.”  So, this past weekend I had six little girls running around my basement, laughing and playing and building their friendships.  And I had six families in my kitchen, meeting and talking and building their community.

This friend party was for her, but as it turned out, it was also for me.  You see, she’s nurturing relationships with girls that she’ll go to school with for the next decade and beyond (girls like this and this), and I’m nurturing relationships to build my small town within my big city.

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She was there.

I feel so happy.

I’ve just had a three-day visit with Shannon, one of my very best friends.  She flew from Calgary, just for the weekend; a quick little getaway to use up some airline points and get in some girl time.  She left her husband and two young boys at home, and when she left my place yesterday afternoon, she said to my kids,

“Thank you for sharing your mom with me.”

Such an interesting comment, and so applicable to this stage in our lives.  You see, the last time she visited Burlington was in the Spring of 2009, when I was a brand new, first-time mother.  On that visit, she had her husband and 18-month-old son with her, and they came specifically to meet my newborn.  I was still trying to figure out the new version of me, and the balancing act that comes with parenthood.  My memories of that visit are scarce, muddled amongst sleepless nights, non-stop nursing, and piles of laundry.  But she was there.

Her visit before that, in Spring 2006, is also foggy for me, but for a different reason: my bachelorette party.  Shannon and my friend Sarah flew in to surprise me in Toronto, only a few months before my wedding.  And as a control freak and a planner, let me tell you that I cannot be easily surprised.  But they pulled it off, and whisked me through the TO club scene with a crown on my head and a bachelorette sash around my neck.  She was there again.

Shannon and I have been friends for nearly 20 years now.  We met in l997, at the University of Calgary, when we lived on the same floor in student residence.  We were both raised in small-town, rural Alberta, and had a shared love of sports and boys, with some Type A stubbornness and ambition thrown into the mix.  When we went back to our respective hometowns for our first mid-University Summer, we cried like we were going off to war, and when we returned back to school in the Fall, we celebrated like the Uni students we were.  We’ve been through breakups and heartaches, cross-country moves and graduate school, weddings and babies, mistakes and accomplishments.  We’ve travelled to Milk River and Sundre, Red Deer and Edmonton, New York City and Toronto, Vancouver and Vegas.

“Thank you for sharing your mom with me,” she said, and my heart was full.  Because she gets it.  She gets that my primary role around here, and to those little people, is mom.  She also gets that my other roles are wife and chiropractor and friend.  She knows the back-story that wrote my story and the blocks that built my life.  She’s a part of my foundation, my memories, my past, my future.  When the big stuff happens, she’s there.  And when the little stuff happens, the stuff she doesn’t see because we live so far apart, she books a trip East to see for herself.  “What do you want to do while you’re here?” I asked her when she booked her flight.  “I want to see your life,” she said.  So I showed her: she saw bedtimes and school drop-offs and CrossFit and downtown walks and hot tubs.

She was there.  Just like she’s always been.

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