Saturday, July 31, 2010

I don't have a crotch...Sleep-over nightmares...

It was mid July and both children still had Easter candy(and Hallowe'en candy too)...really. About an hour before supper, Izzy started asking to have some.
Izzy:" Can I have some of my Easter candy?"
Daddy: "No, that will for sure spoil your appetite for supper."
Izzy: "Daddy, the Easter candy is going to sit on the side of my belly, there'll be lot's of room left for supper."

I have often wondered, as I think many parents do, at what age do kids start to notice and wonder about the differences between boys and girls. Four, I have recently found out.
Izzy goes to the baby sitter's during the days now. Since taking a temp job on the graveyard shift, I have to sleep during the day and so can't watch Izzy or have Tuesday tea parties anymore...temporarily I am hoping...So on a Wednesday morning before dropping her off at the sitter's, she told me that she had seen her friend's crotch. I didn't think much of it until she said, "I saw his crotch and it is very little." I finally clued in to what she meant.
"It was very little, not big at all and I don't have a crotch because I am a girl."
If there was any doubt left as to what she meant, it bounded out the window precisely then.
And apparently, size matters to the four year old crowd too, though not in the traditional sense because then she announced,
"If I was a boy I would have a crotch and it would be bigger than his."
I am still a little speechless at how mercenary things in the pre-school world have become...

Occasionally, we relent to the demands of our children and let them have one of those rights of passage and childhood that all parents fear. The childhood gathering of children in your home. Things like birthday parties and play dates and the most dreaded of them all, the sleepover. There is nothing to cement the fact that you are not so much in charge of your children, as just making sure no one gets maimed, as the sleep over.
Parents everywhere, stand aside helplessly as the seething cauldron of feet and hands and screams goes rocketing past in yet another, seemingly pointless, unbelievably loud game. The excitement level reaches fever pitch so quickly, there is little one can do but stand back with a steady supply of pizza, Dr. Pepper and band-aids and just let it unfold. Many a normally calm and serene parent has crumbled and snapped in the face of the sleepover beast. My wife, who is normally the more tolerant of the two of us, said (in a deceptive moment of calm) "All children may now piss off."
Surprisingly I wasn't too worked up about it. Maybe I am getting more understanding as I get older or maybe years of Tai Chi practice is finally paying off...or maybe I have just learned the sleep over secret. Removing all visible traces of the "rules" is a great way to start bending the will of the children straight off. Things like all the crap food they want, after they have had a full meal of course or no discernible bed time but all video games need to be turned off by 9:30. Letting them all sleep in the same room, like on the living room floor in front of the television will make them think you are the coolest parent that ever lived.(with the added bonus of very little bedding to wash the next day) And here is the real clincher. Letting the children stay up all night watching T.V. will mean just that. Children will be awake long past the adults if they are given free reign over the television. Even Izzy, who normally channels her grandmother and will fall asleep with the converter in her hand ten minutes into program, was still wide awake and saucer eyed at 11:30. The boy and his new partner in crime were still full speed ahead at a quarter past twelve. Now the trick is you tell them that they can watch T.V. as long as the want but you the adult get to pick the programming after 11:30. Expressions like "I pay the bills and I bought the T.V and do I ever get to watch it?" should send out just enough shame for them to give in without causing any real hurt feelings. I find ten or fifteen minutes of the History Channel and it is a pre-pubescent snore fest on the living room floor before you can say "Who wants more popcorn?"

Monday, July 26, 2010

Crossing the line...My daughter the bag lady...

One day last week, when the humidity was crushing, Izzy wanted to wear a dark blue velvet dress.
Izzy: "Why can't I wear this dress? I love this dress, it's my favourite dress..."(tears beginning to well in her eyes, daddy's iron will beginning to falter)
Daddy: "It's crazy hot outside, if you wear that dress, you'll melt."
Izzy: "I'll be fine, it's not too hot for this dress."
Daddy: "If you wear that velvet dress in this weather, you're going to sweat like a pig."
Izzy:(Her look had gone from pleading to confusion and resolve in a flash and she said with all sincerity) "Daddy, pigs don't wear blue dresses."

Now I don't want to give the impression that Izzy is all sunshine and smiles, she is not. She is my child after all. Anyone that knows me, know what a complete and utter brooding bastard I can be and my daughter is following me in spades. Thankfully, she also has her mother's hair trigger temper so thing are nicely balanced between rage and black moods. That does not however excuse what I have done...there is nothing my child, anybody's child could have or will ever do that will forgive the horror that I visited upon Isobel. It is not something a civilized, educated man would do. It is ugly and atavistic and I wish I could do something to take it back.
It was a stifling hot day, the kind of heat that would make a dog mean. Izzy had been playing with some of her toys and had been stock piling them in little cache's around the house and I thought it was time to put a stop to it so I told her it was time to clean up. By about the third time of asking her to clean up, she was rolling on the floor feigning illness and beginning to weep.
"But daddy, I don't feel too good for picking up my things, oooohhh..." She was full on crying now. And that's when it happened.
"Quit crying or I'll give you something to cry about." The look on her face told me I may as well have kicked her in the stomach and told her, "Your Mother was drunk the first weekend she was pregnant with you." My head was spinning and waves of hot guilt were washing over me like high tide against a break wall. I crumpled and fell to the floor, disgusted that I had just become my mother. Right there and then... I was wagging fingers and hitting my brother and sister with a hot wheels track and sprouting chestnuts like "Don't you be smart with me" and screaming at the top of my lungs "DO YOU HEAR ME!!!???!?!" I offered to buy Izzy a pony if she could find it in her heart to forgive me and I think for the time being I have assuaged her fragile ego but I know this is going to bite me on the ass in about eighteen years...well, ponies are nice.

On of Izzy favourite games is to play dress up and wander around talking to her friends. Imaginary all of them, though some are actually dolls and puppies and various other stuffed creations. She does not have tea parties or social functions or other things I have seen little kids do with their imaginary friends. Izzy puts on most, if not all of her dress up clothes and wanders around putting things-treasures into old purses that Mrs. Narrator has given her. All the while she talks and mutter to herself in a sort of tape loop. Over and over and over. And it struck me as odd and somehow familiar but I couldn't quite put a finger on where I had seen this behaviour before. Then it dawned on me...I had seen this sort of thing with dozens of homeless ladies across the daughter is playing at being a bag lady. Her mother must be so proud...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

When I am bigger for Rufus dance...

We were watching "Marley and Me" and Jennifer Aniston's character announced that she was pregnant.
Izzy: What's pregnant?"
Daddy: "It means when a Mommy is going to have a baby."
Izzy: When will I be bigger for a baby? When I'm five?"
Daddy: "No, not when you're five."
Izzy: "When?"
Daddy: "Hopefully when I am long gone, I'm not ready to be a grandpa."
Izzy: "Where are you going when you are a grandpa?"
Daddy: "Isn't that Mommy I hear, making a cupcake for you?"
Izzy: "A cupcake for me?"

I am a writer. I have been a writer for as long as I can remember, really. I wrote stories and entered writing contests while I was still in public school...Terry Goldsworthy and I won a chapter book each and mention in the school newspaper.
My other passion is music, which didn't come to me as early but the desire to create and perform it are no less intense than writing. The two of them are as natural to me as breathing...they feel right. Now my latest love/obsession, is bagpipes. I toyed with them a little when I was younger but ultimately gave them up for the devil rock and roll. When the halcyon days of vans and buses and hotel suites(oh my!) were behind me, I came back to octopus wrestling and all of the glory therein. It has been in my family, in one form or another and it felt right to come back to it after all was said and done. And I had hoped that somewhere in there, my children would embrace their heritage as I had and pick up a set of pipes and march right in line with me...
Before Izzy was born, we decided that we didn't want to know the sex of the baby, that we would keep it a complete surprise. But call her "the Baby" got old and "It" was too nasty sounding. Somewhere along the way we took to calling the unborn progeny "Rufus". In order to hurry along my musical inheritance and assure that bagpipes would be the first sound the child would hear, I used to play my practice chanter at Mrs. Narrator's belly. Much to my delight, Rufus would dance up a storm. Mrs Narrator wasn't so keen on it, it generally made her have to pee. When she was still very young, Izzy was very colicky. We either had to go into the bathroom with the door closed and rock her back and forth to the soothing sound of the blow dryer or I would carry her while marching back and forth across the kitchen floor to the strains of "Flowers of the Forrest." A lovely tune but one usually set aside for funerals...The kid loved bagpipes as much as I did from a very early age and I was over the moon about it. Visions of my daughter and I, marching side by side winning the worlds...ahh it makes a father proud.
So about two weeks ago, the band I play with had come over for a practice before a competition and Izzy saw one of the younger tenor drummers. (These are the drummers that spin the sticks as they are playing.) I swear I actually saw little hearts above Izzy's head. She was completely taken with this little girl who was whipping the sticks around to beat all hell. The girl's mother, who is also in the band, gave Izzy a spare set of sticks and my pipe dreams became just little girl wants to be a tenor drummer.
I have to say that during the course of the practice I would catch her out of the corner of my eye, Izzy doesn't like to be looked directly at while she is performing, she was beating time and keeping the beat better than a few drummers I have know. And she is four...
I guess if there is a point to all this, it is that fate will put you where you are meant to be, where you fit best and no amount of pushing, seriously or not, by your parents will make a lick of difference. I may not get to march beside her but if she sticks with it and I really hope she does I will be proud to have her march behind me, bringing up the beat. Glasgow Green won't know what hit it...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Invisible cuteness...pushing old ladies...the third stall on the right...

I sat down beside Izzy on the deck out back,
Izzy: "Why are you sitting?
Daddy: "I'm tired."
Izzy: "No why are you sitting beside me?"
Daddy: "Because I like you, you're kinda cute."
Izzy: "I'm not cute anymore, I'm big now."
Daddy: "If you're not cute anymore, what are you now then?"
Izzy: "My cute is invisible, it's not here."

I am a guy. Apart from the uncomfortable lessons I was given in health classes between grades eight and ten, I have very little knowledge of the workings of the female anatomy. Oh sure I know the bits by sight but too much beyond that I must confess I am at a loss. I have a daughter and on the day she was born, I knew I would change diapers (and I did so, poorly) but I had very little vision of what would happen past that. I knew there would be training of a kind but I don't think I knew what it actually involved.
It was a proud day for everyone and Izzy was rightly chuffed when she used the toilet for the first time and when I offered to take her with me to THE MALL, I didn't give any consideration to the fact that a three year old girl ,who has been swilling apple juice like a drunken stevedore, might actually have to use the facilities. We had wandered around doing our shopping, holding hands and walking the little kid heel walk, for some time before she uttered,
"Daddy, I need to go pee."
"Oh, ahhh....ummm....ok. We'll just go over to the bathrooms." realizing that I had not planned for this eventuality in the slightest.
I don't understand( and said so aloud) why it is that they put the bathrooms smack dab in the middle of the busiest area of the mall. The food court during any meal hour is like a market call on wall street. There are little pockets of screaming and yelling and seemingly things are getting accomplished but on the surface it's loud and scary and nobody is moving. Add to this a little girl with a full bladder and lo and behold, you have a father on the ragged edge. There is a certain advantage however, to be had in this situation. If you know how to use it right.
If you pick up your child in much the same way a politician would use an infant as a human shield (a sort of and out in front of you position) and announce to all, "My little girl has to pee, she has to pee!" People will part like the red sea. The malls are filled primarily with apathetic, angst ridden teens and fellow parents. The teens will be much too forlorn to peel themselves off of the food court seats and so pose little real opposition. The parents will be familiar with your situation and will generally get the hell out of the way.
I actually bumped into and nearly flattened an older lady on my way towards the door way to the restrooms.
"Sorry, " I said "she has to pee."
The old woman smiled and waved me off, I think she sensed the explosion that would have followed had she chosen to admonish me. Under normal circumstances, mall security would have been no doubt, escorting me to my car with a warning about harassing the elderly and admonishing me not to do it again...and it dawned on me, the power of all this. If I could bottle and sell this sort of direct naked power, people would tremble before me captains of industry would shake at the mention of my name, why the crowned heads of Europe would...
"Daddy, I have to go pee."
"Oh, right honey. Sorry."
We got through the rest of the way unabated and found ourselves standing at the entrance to the washrooms. To the right was the ladies and to the right, the men's. I stood silently for a moment looking at the signs. Honestly unsure which one to take her in. Family washrooms are a blessing. Everything is kid sized and nobody gives you much notice while you're in them. The mall did not have a family washroom. I looked at the ladies room sign and said to Izzy,
"I don't care how cute you are, if I take you in there, one of us is getting escorted out by mall security."
Izzy shrugged and crossed her legs.
"I gotta pee."
So off we went to the men's room and quickly into a stall. I found myself a little taken aback and slightly embarrassed when Izzy dropped her pants and hopped up on the seat. I know I am her father and helped bring her into the world etc, etc but after a lifetime of being warned not to be a dirty little boy and not to stare at girls and everything else that was ever drilled into my head by repressive teachers and their ilk, I found myself not certain where I should be looking while all this was going on. I am certain I am not the only father that has experienced this(I know for a fact I am not after a few conversations I have had!) but maybe the only one to give voice to it. I stood facing the door and told Izzy to let me know when she was finished.
I had begun to notice a smell rising in intensity since we had gotten in there and considering our locale, I didn't think anything of it...until I realized it was coming from the vicinity of my progeny. I can only describe it as the smell of evil that does not sleep, the acrid smell of evil that is so bad it would have to be spelled EVILLE.
"Done!" Izzy said
"Now what?" I asked.
She pointed at the toilet paper
We have since been back to that mall and every time we go into the men's room, she refers to the third stall on the right as her stall and woe betide the fool that has gone in there before her...
"Who is in my bathroom?"

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

God's toenails... Channeling your inner princess...

Izzy and I were sitting on the back deck of our palatial mansion here in Ontario whine country, when she noticed a bird's nest in the tree we were sitting under.
"Daddy, do you see the bird nest?"
"I see it, it's a big one."
"Is it broken?" she asked.
"No," I said. "I just don't think there are any birds in it."
"I bet they are on holidays."

I always envisioned that this would be a sort of "Shit my Izzy says." sort of column but it appears to have taken on a life of it's own. I suspected as much though I didn't think it would turn into the "Marley and Me" for the potty training crowd that it is veering toward. But like Isobel herself, this thing goes the direction it goes, I just keep it from running into the rocking chair at full speed.

Izzy asked me about Easter once and I made some smart comment that it was about The Baby Jesus.
"Oh Daddy," she said. "They don't exist."
"Who doesn't exist?" I asked.
"The Baby Jesus, they don't exist."
It's one of those moments that leave even a know it all like me speechless. I am smart enough to know that kids are going to be curious, especially if there are a couple of kids at daycare who's parent's happen to be inclined toward the divine. I am also smart enough to avoid a theological discussion with my four year old at all costs.
My mind went back to a time when the boy was all of four years old and graduating from day care. Someone had said to him in passing that god was in his heart and loved him forever. He came home an demanded to know who this god guy was and what did he think he was doing just hanging around in some one's heart. Was he waiting for something, like a bus? He wanted answers and he wanted them from me.
I struggled to remember Sunday school lessons and worn out metaphors when the answer came to me. Divine intervention, some might say.
I said, "Do you see how Mummy is always telling me what to do?"
"Yes," the boy replied. "she always tells you what to do."
"Well that is because she knows so much more than me."
His eyes lit up. "She does?"
"She really does, so you should go ask her." And off he went.
I've never held the opinion that this is what I believe and therefore so should my children. Izzy starts school soon and begins a new life where people will be cramming rules and regulations down her throat with impunity. (OK Dad is perhaps more worried than Izzy) The very least I can offer her and her brother is a home where their opinions and beliefs still count for something.

I was off work for more than a year and Izzy was home with me every day. We would play a little here and there but Tuesdays we had set aside for a weekly ritual. The princess tea party. Tiaras and mangled dollar store tea cups and barbies, lots and lots of barbies.
When I was a kid I never had a problem bringing barbies into the mix of everyday play. Even my friends noticed that Saturday night at the G.I Joe Mobile Command Centre, were a bit of a sausage party and so we would "borrow" a few barbies from our sisters to even things up. My inner princess is alive and well.
There is a certain freedom in assuming the mantle of Mrs. Nesbit and gossiping about the people next door over a cracked plastic cup full of imaginary tea and now that I am working again, I miss Tuesday afternoons with Mrs. Izzy.
We are at a time, finally, when there are few stereo type roles that a father is supposed to play. The archetype dad bringing home the bacon and expecting his dinner and his pipe and slippers at five is gone. Being a some time stay at home dad has brought me a closeness with my children that just didn't exist when I was a kid.
Fellas, take my advice. Put on a tiara and pull up a chair... the tea is just about ready.