Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My baby!

Here's the cover. I promise that the insides will be just as attractive -- details to come.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dream big, kid

“I was at the wishing well in the park and I threw a penny in and I wished that I had a marble run.”


“Yeah. And then I wished that you were a princess.”


“Yeah. And then I wished that Rachel was a princess.”

“I see.”

“And then I wished that Isaac was a princess too.”

“Didn’t you wish that you were a princess?”

Mom. I only had four pennies.”

Pass the Twinkies, Elmo

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, the Globe & Mail wants you to know, again, that family meals are good for the kids. The research shows that “the more often a family eats together the less likely children are to smoke, use alcohol and drugs, suffer from an eating disorder or consider suicide. Family meals have also been linked to higher self-esteem and better performance at school.”

What I love about this research is that — although I forget where I read this so you’re just going to have to take my word on it for now — apparently, even family meals that consist of TV dinners in front of Friends reruns are better than no family meal at all. It so lets parents off the hook. I mean, even on the day where you throw Kraft dinner in front of your kids while they watch Elmo downloads, you’re actually benefiting their brains — just as long as you sit next to them on the couch while they eat it. So sit down! Watch TV with your kids! Just make sure you eat something while you do it. Even a Twinkie will do.

And, just imagine: if you manage to get the Kraft dinner into them around the dining room table, you’re really ahead of the game. And if you get a home-cooked, organic meal with three different colours of local vegetables into them, well, just sit back and wait for those letters from Princeton and MIT to come rolling in. Even when the boat of parenthood seems awfully rocky, it’s something to hold onto, now, isn’t it?

Rowan, for one, takes such things quite seriously. So much so that, for him, it doesn’t count as dinner unless it’s around the table. And not just any table — our table. At our house. He won’t be convinced otherwise, which is why on Sunday evening I found myself conceding to him that the pizza and salad and peach pie we were about to enjoy at a friends’ home was, sure, not dinner but just a really big snack. Sometimes it’s just not worth arguing. Especially when the Caesars are flowing and the children are playing happily.

At least I know I’m not alone in having a child with this particular foible. At a birthday party recently, I said very slowly and carefully to my children, “Just so you know, THIS is dinner. We’re not going home and having dinner again.” And a friend jumped up and slapped her forehead with her hand and said, “Oh! Thanks! I forgot to tell them that!” and ran off to find her boys. Which made me feel much better. I will choose to take Rowan’s attachment to our dinner table not as symptom of a deeply ingrained inflexibility but rather as a sign that we’ve been doing something right for the last four and half years.

Tonight is the school’s annual welcome barbecue. We’ll mosey over to play in the playground, chat with friends, and eat hot dogs served by the principal. And then we’ll come home and eat dinner. Around the table. Because it’s good for the kids.

Friday, September 11, 2009

School of hard knocks

In last week’s episode, our heroine was left wondering whether her son would ever go to senior kindergarten without dissolving into a little puddle of profound unhappiness.

In a word: yes. Wednesday evening treated us to a series of conversations in which Rowan ping-ponged back and forth on that very question. “I’m not going to that school ever again,” he would say, and then, immediately afterwards, “And I’m going to play with the marble run!” followed by, “But I’m not going to school,” followed by, “And there are going to be balloons for Avery’s birthday!” And so on.

Thursday morning, I still wasn’t sure what would happen. My guess was that he wanted to go, but couldn’t quite bring himself to fully admit that — and that any hint of sentimentality or moment of doubt would set him off. So when he said he wanted to ride his bike to school, I jumped on it — until Rachel reminded me that his bike was in the shop. “I want to go in the car, then, “ said Rowan, and, a hot minute later, I had him buckled in the backseat and we were off. Like a prom dress.

I was so on the ball, in fact, that we were the first kids to arrive. We wandered into the senior kindergarten courtyard and hung out for a while until the teacher’s assistant, Mrs. T., showed up. I met Mrs. T. approximately, oh, infinity times last year during Rowan’s tenure in JK, and yet, every single time we meet her, he feels the need to introduce her to me.

“That’s Mrs. T.,” he’ll say, and then be genuinely shocked and puzzled when I explain that I know who she is. “But how do you know her?” he says, and I explain, patiently, that I have met her before, right here at school. And he looks both impressed and doubtful.

In any case, this being a new year and all, Rowan obviously felt some justification in introducing me and Mrs. T. again.

“Mom, this is Mrs. T.,” he said. “And this is my mom. One of my moms. I have two moms. And I also have a dad, Rob. But he doesn’t live here.”

He said this all, characteristically, while walking in a circle waving his hands, as he is wont is a to do when he explains things to adults. Mrs. T. and I nod and smile — she’s heard all this before. Rowan talks about his family, like all kids talk about their families — at least, when they’ve never been given a reason not to. The four-year-old daughter of my friends Fiona and Jen has been telling supermarket cashiers that she has two moms since she could put words together. Another toddler-daughter-o-dykes I know recently shouted at the corner of a busy downtown Toronto intersection, “No Dadda! More mamas!”

Which is fantastic. And not necessarily because we’re not ashamed of our queer families (which we aren’t), or because were proud of them (which we are), but because we exist for the most part in a world where we can exist, where we can talk openly about our two moms or our two dads, or our donors, and the like. We’ve never explicitly explained to Rowan that there is anything unusual or different about his family. He simply has two moms, and a Rob, who doesn’t live here — and an entire network of biological and chosen family to support him. No secrets, no shame, no worries.


So, tell me this: how am I going to explain to my sons how this:

becomes this

outside a gay bar in downtown Thunder Bay last Friday night?

I don’t know Jake Raynard, the gay man who was savagely beaten gay with bricks by a crowd of young men. The man to whom police took more than an hour to respond when the employees at the fast food restaurant called them to report his distress. The man with 15 fractures to his cheekbone, a broken palate, a broken eye socket, and a broken jaw. I don’t know Jake, but I know the daughter he helped my two friends here conceive. I know he has a supportive community in this city, who have organized a rally this evening in order to support him to welcome him back into the community, and to send the message, in their words, that our response to this action — and not this action — will define our community.

We are going as a family to the rally tonight. I suspect it will be an emotional event, a conflicted event, an event that has the potential to be healing but that could also pit community against community if we aren’t very careful. And I’m not yet sure how to answer the questions that Rowan might ask about why we’re there and what’s going on.

These are lessons way beyond the scope of senior kindergarten. And yet, our kids have to learn them, now.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

This post NOT brought to you by Apple

So, I got this new computer and it has completely sucked all the life out of me and my poor little repetitively strained forearms. Seriously, sucked the life out of me. Like a Dementor sucking the life out of Dudley Dursley. Sucking. Suck-King.

To be fair, it's not so much the new computer as the voice dictation software that was supposed to make my life easier and my forearms all smiley and my limp little carpally tunnelled wrists spring to life. MacSpeech dictate officially sucks in my books right now. It doesn't work, which means that I can't make the computer work, which means that I am dictating this on a wheezing old PC that's starting to look kind of good right now. At least when it doesn't crash on me, like it did ... just ... now. Reboot. Somewhere in Georgia, two tech people are trying to solve this problem for me. I spent 40 minutes on the phone this morning with some drawling guy named Jason and it felt just a little bit like suicide prevention call. "Jason," I kept saying as the call drew to a close, "Jason, I'm scared to get off the phone with you."

"Yeah," he would answer, "I'm kind of leery about that myself."

Despite his compassion, Jason could not make MacSpeech work for me, though.

And yet, I haven't lost all hope. You get hopeful. You do, when the shiny new technology toy arrives in the box and you imagine just how great things might be. You do, when your four-year-old climbs on the school bus on the first day of school last week and you think, "Huh. That was way easier than last year."

And then, and then, the computer sits on your desk like a big shiny expensive mistake, and the second day of school rolls around and your son pulls his knapsack straps over his shoulders and then turns around for one last hug -- hugging! Damn the hugging! -- and completely melts down. Runs back inside the house. Repeats things like "I'm going to miss you too much! I want you all to come with me! I'm going to miss Isaac! I just want to be here with you!" Is driven, sobbing, by his other mother to class, clutching a blanket, continuing to sob. Setting off other kids in the class who weren't quite sure whether this was a good idea or not.

Rachel and I have been kind of mopey all day.

To take the edge off, I cycled to the bus stop after school where Rowan would meet his babysitter. He climbed down, a bit tired but seemingly no worse for wear. Told me he had homework, that we had not put a granola bar in his lunch (peanut allergies in the classroom) and that it was Katie's birthday on Thursday -- and they would celebrate.

"When it's your birthday, should we bring cupcakes to school?" I asked him.

"Yes," he said.

But I'm not convinced. Not convinced that the promise of cupcakes will get him on the bus easily on Thursday. Not convinced that my Mac will be running by then, either. I give them both three weeks to settle into the new school year. It's a tempered kind of hopeful, and yet, it's still there. Because I'm nothing if not an optimist. Or just terribly, terribly naïve.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

It's the most wonderful time of the year

As some of you may remember, approximately one year ago today, I carried Rowan, all hysterical 40 pounds of him, the four blocks to his new school and delivered him in a shuddering, tear-stained heap to his junior kindergarten classroom.

And although it didn’t take him long to acclimatize, and although he grew to love school, love his teacher, love his friends, love – like Lilly in Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse – the chocolate milk at lunchtime, shades of that first morning still haunt me, have taunted me for the past couple weeks as a new school year approached.

Rowan seemed all gung ho about SK, but of late he had been balking whenever we mention it. “I’m not going to school,” he announced recently. “I’m not going on the bus. I’m just staying home with you.”

We’ve been quietly working to subtly shift his attitude. He has been somewhat mollified by the promise of a granola bar in his lunch on the first day, the fact that there will be a train table in his new classroom, the fact that we have a birthday party to attend right after class today. Still, this morning, as far as I was concerned, was a crapshoot. I was totally prepared for him to get on the bus, happy as a clam – and I was equally prepared (well, as prepared as one can be for such events) for a bloodbath.


We waited outside, the tension mounting as yellow school bus after yellow school bus drove on by, until finally his arrived, the door opened, and … the sun shone its smiling face down upon me and my boy as he climbed aboard, smiling, and waved goodbye. I think I caught a flicker of doubt cross his face just as the doors closed, but he sat down, and the bus pulled away, and I got all weak in the knees and couldn’t stop grinning.

And then he got to school just fine. His “bus buddy,” a tiny fifth-grade girl, delivered him to his locker and then to the senior kindergarten courtyard, where he dropped his bag and went off to play. I know all this because Rachel, Isaac – Isaac, who spent the morning chanting, plaintively, “I want to take the bus!” – and I followed the bus on foot and spied on Rowan as he made his journey.

We’ll do the same this afternoon as he buses to his babysitter’s. If you think we’re being overprotective, just remember that on my first day of Grade 1, my carpool driver – Mrs. Miller, my parents’ trusted friend – forgot me at school.

But! What a difference a year makes.