Heading back to “normal.”

The wind was brisk but my girls spent their days after new year’s trying a new outdoor sport, skiing. I signed them up for private lessons and as my winter-averse better half entertained the three year-old in the chalet, I tried to photograph their first movements across the snow watching them shuffle along following their instructors before clicking my boot into place to try and fit in a couple of runs before their lessons were done. What a feeling of satisfaction and pride I had as a parent seeing them both barely look back at me as they went up the magic carpet. 

Spending some time setting my personal intention for the year of finishing my novel, I feel it’s just as necessary to set an intention for our family. To take time to play each day. That could mean something simple as doing puzzles with my little guy or taking my girls out skiing. 

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Getting the girls ready for school this morning, dreading the icy cold that has come down upon our town, I realized the part of my day I was looking forward to was some special playtime with my little guy. After all, September will be here soon enough and off he will go to kindergarten, five full-days a week. I could not remember the last time I had floor time with any of my kids. I have cherished memories with Elizabeth of our year together at home, Audrey’s first few years there were definitely fewer of these instances, but I do remember reading and singing to her a lot.

However, little Jacob, being the third child, although receiving lots of attention from his sisters, has had me as more of a chauffeur taking him along for the ride or to an activity. This winter seems to be a perfect time as the temperatures drop to intend to have some sort of playtime each day with the kids. 

The last few weeks being home with all of them, although a part of me was looking forward to settling back into a regular routine, I missed the impromptu dance parties in pajams, hearing my girls come up with their own little games or their hilarious conversations. I miss having those rare days where we just decide what we are doing that same day. January is already being scheduled as people seek out playdates and dinners. 

Elizabeth was in tears before bed last night, feeling the pull towards wanting to go back to school to see her friends and teachers but it was intermixed with sadness that vacation was over it resulted in my usually calm nearly eight year-old gulping back sobs. As I stroked her hair trying to calm her down, I explained to her we all feel like that. 

So today, as I scrambled to finally get the last of the decorations off our tree, clean out the cold storage, organize our mud room a little better and make that dreaded trip to Costco to stock up on essentials, I took some time. I had a coffee lingering over lunch with Jacob and then we played, placing puzzles pieces together before story time before I went to attack the never-ending laundry. What a nice, tiring but satisfactory first day back to normality. 

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Back-to-school – a Mom’s perspective

“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” Oscar Wilde

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It has happened. In the days leading up to back-to-school, I saw my elder girl, Elizabeth, getting anxious. My ever forgetful, grass-stained knee absent minded professor type of kid had turned into a girl beneath my very eyes. She grew taller and thinner. Her front teeth have grown in giving her face a slightly older look. She is brushing her hair and picking out skirts to wear every day. Although still young enough to try and fit her doe-like limbs into my lap, the rolling of the eyes have started. “Mooommm…I know!” A shrill whine will unleash as I ask her to please remember to pick up her pyjamas off the floor, again.

It became so clear to me that she was on the cusp between young child and girlhood when we went shopping for back-to-school outfits. I had decided to make it a girls-only affair, leaving Mr. L with Jacob and taking Elizabeth and Audrey with me. Elizabeth made a beeline for the dresses at The Children’s Place. Snatching four of them off the rack she proceeded to twirl each of them to see which one would win.

Audrey, being five and a half years old, stood back unsure of where to go. Seeing Elizabeth muttering to herself, I took Audrey over to some sparkly skirts and asked her to pick her favourite. Still overwhelmed by the choice, I picked a few and told her to pick one. Asking her what kind of top she wanted, she deferred to my judgement and we found a some practical t-shirts that she could mix-and-match with other outfits. She told me to stop for a minute and asked to look at them. My thoughtful younger girl was matching colours in her head having an obsession with wearing clothes that are matched to precision. Leaving her I returned to my seven and a half year old who was preening herself in front of a mirror holding up one dress, then another as she tried to strike a variety of model-like poses. At least it was narrowed down to two dresses for this performance.

Sighing, I had to wonder what this year ahead held in store for her. I am the type of Mom who prefers jeans, nice tops and shoes or lululemon wear. I have been known to wear some funky outfits and like to dress up like any other woman, but I do not get heart palpitations over shopping.

“Mom,” Elizabeth turned around. “Can I try these both on? I just have to see which one twirls the best while wearing it.”

“No honey,” I said looking at the time and knowing I still needed to find Jacob a few items and wanted to hit the nearby shoe store in our short time. “I am sure both will fit, you can decide from here. We don’t have much time.”

Then I heard it. “But MOM!! I just have to. PLEASE?? I have to know which twirls the best!” The beginning of my oldest daughter reaching that point where I changed from the Mom who wears the golden crown and knows best, to the Mom who has no idea what her life is like if she does not try on both dresses. I was and am not ready for it.

“No,” I repeated more firmly knowing I would have to hold my breath and hold fast in my decisions from now on. “You have a couple more minutes to decide and then we are leaving.”

Turning around, I went back to Audrey who had made a decision and I took her with me to grab a new shirt and pants for the little guy. Turning back towards the mirror, Elizabeth was gone. As my heart stopped, I saw her heading towards the change rooms, a determined look on her face. With a big breath, I caught her by the arm and said to her quietly but very, very firmly, “I said no. What are you doing?”

“But I just HAVE TO!” she whined. “It’s right here, I’ll be just a minute.” Snatching both dresses I took them back to the rack. Following me, she realized I meant business. “Fine, I will decide right now.” She grabbed the blue flowery one. “But you do think it twirls the best don’t you?”

Sighing again as we walked to the cashier, making a quick stop at the headbands, (On a side note; headbands are the new Beanie Boos in our house. We have tons that were never worn until a few weeks ago and then all of sudden, every outfit has to have a matching headband.) I paid for our back-to-school outfits and headed to the van. Turning out of the parking lot onto the street it started. The girls asked why we weren’t going to the shoe store. I told them we had taken too long to decide on their outfits and ran out of time. You would think their pet dog died. Sentences were thrown my way. They could not POSSIBLY go to school without new knapsacks (and their old ones though a bit worn are fine) Elizabeth needed a new pair of sparkly Sketcher shoes. Would I like it if all the kids laughed at them because their knapsacks had holes in them? I bit my tongue and told them, “We are going home and I may take you out again when you learn to appreciate the clothes we just bought.”

In truth, I was exhausted from going to one store and my patience had grown very thin. It was also pretty close to the time we needed to be back for dinner and I needed a break.

Both girls were sent to their room for yelling at me in the van and ceasing to whine upon a couple of warnings. Their clothes were confiscated. After a while a contrite Elizabeth came downstairs, “We’re sorry. Can we have our clothes back now? I’ll listen better when we go to a store.”

“I’ll think about it.” I told her giving her a hug.

The first day of school came and went. Yes, their new outfits were worn and the dress twirled beautifully. Their headbands admired by all. I smiled picking Elizabeth up from the bus on the first day of school as she came off the bus, typically dishevelled with items being carried and her new knapsack open. She had grass stains on her pants.

“Mom, I’m sorry. We were playing in the grass and it just happened.” She looked nervous looking up at me and I knew that although I get glimpses of the girl that is blossoming with all the good and not so good that may come along, she is still a little kid, my little kid.

“It’s okay,” I told her carrying her heavy knapsack then watching as she followed her brother and sister as they ran down the sun-filled sidewalk to our house yelling like angry fairies and giggling.

After all, they were just clothes.