Sunday, February 26, 2012

Don't Mess with the Tooth Fairy

A little-known fact about the Tooth Fairy: She's a witch. Not literally, as far as I know, but definitely figuratively. (But if she were, in fact, a witch, who would be in her coven? Obviously, the Switch Witch, but who else? Mother Nature? Mother Goose? Old Mother Hubbard? Hhhhmmm....)

But seriously, that Tooth Fairy is mean. You know what she did? She visited Bear the other night and left him a note -- but no money. I mean, come on! Who does that? In all fairness, she did leave him $2 when he had to have a tooth pulled in the fall, which was really nice of her given that it was pulled as a result of his refusing to brush his teeth. But I guess she's been paying attention, because despite the fact that he put the first "official" tooth out for her the other night, she didn't take it. Nope, not her. She left him a note congratulating him but explaining that only children who brush their teeth get money. It's not quite as bad as it sounds, because she went on to explain that if he started brushing his teeth like he was supposed to, then next time he lost a tooth (which could be any second) he could leave her both teeth and she'd give him money for the two of them. I have to say, I did warn him that very night that she might not come if he didn't brush his teeth before bed but he still refused, so I guess we should be grateful that she at least turned up.

At first I was concerned that she was being a tad too harsh with him -- after all, he's only six -- but not even a note from the Tooth Fairy herself seems to have changed his mind about brushing his teeth.

Sure hope the Easter Bunny isn't taking lessons from the Tooth Fairy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

If I Could Do it All Again

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of being invited to speak to a class of college students studying to get their early childhood education diplomas. To be able to share my thoughts on parenting a child with a mental illness with people who will be working with children like Bear was extremely exciting. At the end of the presentation one student asked if we would have had Stitch if we had known how difficult it would be to raise Bear. That got me thinking...

The answer, obviously, is a resounding yes. For one thing, I just can't imagine life without my baby boy. Stitch is the happiest, silliest, cutest baby EVER! Well, other than Bear when he was a baby. But of all the children who are currently babies, there is no happier, sillier, cuter baby. (I don't care how cute yours is, mine's cuter.)

See? Look how cute he is!

Stitch will, quite literally, leave you in stitches. At 22 months old, he's an absolute riot. He's destined to be the family comedian and the class clown, but it just comes to him naturally.

Once upon a time I thought that Stitch was my special gift from God to help me deal with Bear. He was such a silly, happy baby that he could cut right through my frustration and anger with one toothless smile. One giggle from Stitch and my patience suddenly grew exponentially, which was handy when having a bad day with Bear.

Then one day something happened, and I realized I had it all wrong. Little Stitch tripped over his own feet when he was just learning to walk, and he took such a tumble that he nearly did a somersault. Thankfully, this was in our living room, so no major damage occurred. I was about 20 feet away and jumped up to make a mad dash over to scoop him up, but there was no point. Before I was even on my feet, Bear had dropped to his knees beside Stitch and started rocking him back and forth, crooning reassuring words to him. They stayed that way, Stitch with his head on Bear's shoulder, Bear comforting him, until Stitch stopped crying.

I stayed where I was because I could tell I wasn't needed. Bear had it under control, and Stitch was happy with his big brother. It was then that it hit me: Stitch wasn't God's gift to me, he was God's gift to Bear. Little Stitch loves Bear unconditionally, and that's a great gift for a little a boy who gets into a lot of trouble. TheODDDad and I obviously love him unconditionally too, but since our job is to teach him and discipline him, Bear might not always think it's unconditional. And I get that.

But Stitch...well...Stitch expects nothing from Bear. Nothing except for Bear to be Bear. And Bear has blossomed in his role as big brother. Stitch will grab at Bear as Bear walks by. "Hug!" he'll demand. Bear isn't exactly a boy who gives in to demands, especially for hugs and kisses...unless they're from Stitch. Stitch always gets his hug.

Stitch has an ever-vigilant protector who says things like "I love my baby brother. We were meant for each other." Today I scolded Stitch for throwing the dog's food in her water dish, and I was rewarded with the "whah whah" of a toddler who isn't getting his own way. Bear dashed over, hugged him, cooed in his ear, and glared at me over his head. "What?" I asked. "Why did you make him cry!?" Bear demanded of me in a tone of voice that told me full well what he thought of me.

On the other side, Bear has an ever-adoring fan who mimics every move and sound he makes. If Bear runs down the hall, Stitch runs down the hall. If Bear makes a silly noise, Stitch makes a silly noise. When we go pick up Bear at school, Stitch calls out his name and stomps his feet with impatience the moment he spots him coming. (For the record, I'm Bear's second hug -- Stitch always gets the first one.)

In Stitch's eyes, no one compares to Bear, and it's beautiful to watch.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

It Ain't Always Pretty

Sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands and ask for help. It isn't always pretty, but it's at least worth a try.

Case in point: a conversation with my dad yesterday.

Me: Hi, Daddy. Watcha doin' this afternoon? Are you having a nap? (my dad is notorious for afternoon "snoozy" time)

Dad: Nope, I'm not. Why?

Me: Why not? Watcha doin'?

Dad: I'm busy. I'm baking an apple cake, an apple pie and cooking a chicken. Why?

Me: I thought I'd bring the kids by for a visit after school.

Dad: Sure, that would be fine.

Me: Great. big a chicken are you cooking?

Dad: Whaaa...?

Me: How big a chicken?

Dad: Why? Are you hoping to stay for supper?

Me: Well, if you're cooking a chicken and we're already going to be there...

Dad: You're very bold, you know that?

Me: Yup. You'd think my parents would have taught me better.

Dad: Yes, you would.

Me: Say what you will, so long as I get chicken.

Dad: <sigh> Fine...I'll tell your mother and I'll do some more vegetables.

See, sometimes you just need to ask for help.

Love you, Daddy!

Friday, February 17, 2012

My Son, the Actor

Mom, Dad...I want to be an actor.

The very words strike fear in a parent's heart, conjuring up visions of starving waiters actors.

NNNOOO!!!! you want to scream. You need to be a doctor or a lawyer or something else that will make you a lot of money so that you can look after me in my old age and make up for everything you've put me through.

At least that's how most parents would feel. But not me. Why not? Well, I'd love to tell you that it's because I just want Bear to be happy, but that would be a lie. It's actually because I firmly believe that my retirement plans rest on his Oscar-worthy acting abilities.

Take the other morning, for example. All was going well until he emerged from his bedroom about 15 minutes before it was time to leave for school. Have you brushed your teeth and washed your face? I asked him? NNNOOO!!! AND I'M NEVER GOING TO BECAUSE I'M NOT GOING TO SCHOOL! he screamed at me. (In case you hadn't figured it out yet, all caps denotes a major increase in Bear volume.) Because I'm very, very used to this, I calmly informed him that yes, he was going to school, and since I didn't feel like driving him could he please go get ready so he could still make the bus. I steeled myself for the backlash, but instead found myself staring at the empty spot where he had been standing. Where was he? In the bathroom washing his face and brushing his teeth.

I remember thinking it rather odd that he had given in so easily, and silently congratulated myself on my victory. Off he went to school without another problem and the incident was quickly forgotten about.

Until, that is, the phone rang mid-morning. Assuming it was my mother, who is one of the only people who call me during the day, I cheerfully answered the phone. Big mistake. It wasn't Mom. (Damn...I love it when it's Mom. I love my Mom. Hi Mom!) It was the Vice-Principal. Apparently Bear was so out of control that they couldn't do anything with him, and two of them had been trying since school started at 8:00 a.m. He was hyper, aggressive, rude, defiant -- all the usual "Bear" behaviours when something is stressing him out or he's eaten something that he's not supposed to. Did I want to come get him or did I want them to keep trying for another half-hour?

Normally I would bundle up Stitch and head out to get Bear, knowing full well that there had to be a reason for his behaviour and that if it was still going after a few hours at school, it wasn't likely to stop. They are extremely accommodating at that school, so I try to do my part by bringing him home when they're having major issues. But today I didn't jump. Or couldn't jump, I should say. Sorry, I explained, but I had just put Stitch down for a nap so I wouldn't be able to come get him for at least an hour or so. No problem, the VP reassured me. She would try again and call me back in an hour. We agreed that no news would be good news, and I hung up the phone anticipating the phone ringing again in an hour.

Much to my surprise, the phone rang again about 20 minutes later, and it was the VP again. Seriously? Had things gone so downhill in that short time that I was going to have to wake up Stitch to go fetch Bear?

No, apparently that was not the case. Much to my surprise, she was calling to say that the situation had been resolved. When she went in to talk to Bear, he had asked when I was coming to get him. That clued her in a tad as to what he was up to. Oh, she's not, she informed him, explaining that I was too busy to come get him today. Laura, you should have seen his face! she laughed on the phone. I guess that stopped him in his tracks. Realizing that he was stuck at school for the day, he finally confessed. He had been acting up in order to get sent home. You see, the Switch Witch came last night, taking away the Valentine's candy Bear and Stitch can't eat and leaving them presents. Bear wanted to come home to play with Stitch and their new toys.

Bear finished his day at school without further incident, and when he got home I introduced him to the story of the little boy who cried wolf. I explained to him that if he pretended to be upset, we might not know when he was really upset. He seemed to get the concept and promised not to do it again.

Fast forward one day, to yesterday. The call came at 11:30 a.m. but I wasn't here to get it. Then came the email -- Bear was completely out of control and they didn't want to put him on the school bus, so could I come get him. When we got home, there was no sign of Bear being even remotely bothered by anything so I confronted him. Had he been pretending again, I asked him pointedly. He dropped his head the way only a little boy who knows he's been caught can do. Apparently he didn't want to take the school bus home (long story, but valid reasons) so he thought if he was naughty, I'd have to go get him. And since I hadn't gone to get him the day before, he had to be extra naughty for it to work.

So this begs the question...when did my little thespian hatch his plan? At six years old, is he capable of real deceit? I tend to think not, that he's just an extremely smart little boy who noticed what worked last time and decided to try it again. Whatever the answers, he had everyone fooled, so now we no longer know what's put on and what is deliberate.

All I know is that I'd better get a really big house and a fancy car out of this. Isn't that what successful actors do? Reward their long-suffering mothers for everything they've put them through? At this rate, he'd better throw in some diamonds, too.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It's Was a Good Morning

I so often use my blog to vent, but today I thought I'd try something a little different. Today I'm going to share how well my morning went. I know, novel idea. Actually, having a good morning has been kind of rare these days thanks to Bear's anxiety. I've been lucky to get him to school before 10:00 a.m. (it starts at 8:00 a.m.) and even then I've had to get someone to help me wrestle him into the building.

See, there I go complaining again. But it just feels so good sometimes...

But I promised happy things, so here goes.

My morning started off with my 100-pound dog jumping up on the bed beside me, curling up on The ODD Dad's vacant pillow, and licking my nose. Puppy kisses in the morning as I listen to her tail go "thump, thump, thump" just make me giggle.

Then I had a great morning with Bear. He took his medicine without a fight, ate his breakfast nicely, watched a bit of TV, got dressed and ready for school without complaint, and then headed off for the school bus with hugs and kisses and an "I love you, Mommy!" My heart swelled with love and pride when he turned to wave at me before getting on the bus, signing a hug and a kiss. We haven't had a morning like this in probably a month. OK, that might be a slight exageration, but there haven't been very many mornings like this lately.

Then I took Stitch to daycare, which usually breaks my heart. This is only his third week there and he only goes two days a week, so it's still new to him. The tears (his not mine, I promise) normally start as soon as we pull into a parking spot and don't stop until I leave. I know he has a great time once he settles down, but these are still the things that make mommies feel guilty. But today there were no tears when we arrived. I got him out of the van thinking they would start any minute, but they didn't. In fact, he ran to the door of the daycare, giggling as he went. I handed him over and he happily trotted away without looking back. For the second time this morning, my heart swelled with love and pride.

Then I got home to an email confirming that I will be the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of a local women's group during Children's Mental Health Week in May. This is an incredible opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences with children's mental illness with a group of women who possibly know nothing about it, so I'm really excited.

It was a good morning. Here's hoping tomorrow will be just as good, because I could get used to this.

Friday, February 10, 2012

My Son the Night Fury

It occurred to me the other day that Bear reminds me of someone. Or something. To be more specific, he reminds me of Toothless, from How to Train your Dragon. If you've seen the movie, you know what a Night Fury is. For the uninitiated, here is a description of a Night Fury taken from

The Night Fury is the rarest and most intelligent species of dragon. Night Furies are generally quite aggressive to any form of threat they find. According to the Dragon Manual, the Night Fury is considered to be so aggressive that it is likened to the "unholy offspring of lightning and Death itself." Also like it's fellow dragons, Night Furies are seen to have a different personality when they are not threatened. They are curious creatures that attempt to understand new things they observe and are intelligent enough to recreate the actions that they see.
I'd say that sounds a lot like Bear.

In the movie, Toothless takes Hiccup on wild rides, spins him around, threatens to eat him, wakes him up by jumping on him in bed, bounces on the furniture, teaches him about himself, takes him places he'd never thought he'd go, scares the hell out of him, challenges him at every move...and makes him smile. See, he's a Night Fury!

They manage to tame their dragons, right?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

It's 11 a.m...and I'm done

It's 11 a.m. and I'm done. Done in. Done for the day. Just plain done. I feel like I've given everything I've got and that I've got no more left to give. But here's the problem. I have two kids. I have to find more to give, because they're going to demand that. And they deserve that. Whether they'll get that is another story.

Here's how my day has gone so far, in a nutshell. Bear decided he wasn't going to school today, and he was adamant. He's missed a lot of school lately for one reason or another, so I was equally adamant that he was going. I did my best to listen to him and sympathize with his concerns. I tried to find solutions to what was bugging him. I explained, I pleaded, I snuggled. I did everything. And when nothing else worked, I informed him that if he didn't get dressed, I would get him dressed. You can imagine how that went over.

Bear did eventually get dressed.

Correction...we eventually got Bear dressed. Yes, we. The ODD Dad is working from home today, so he pinned Bear down while I dressed him. Again, you can imagine how that went over. I don't advise pinning your child down to dress him if you don't have to, because it's a pretty miserable process for all involved. It started with just me trying to get him dressed, but between his kicking, screaming, crying and writhing, it took me about 5 minutes just to get his underwear on. That's when I called in the reinforcements.

Once we got Bear dressed, he informed us that he was going to hurt his friends at school so that he could get sent home. Last time he threatened that, I kept him home, but I can't do that everytime. Is he all talk? No idea. Guess we'll find out.

So The ODD Dad carried a struggling Bear out to the van (and I removed the snow brushes after Bear tried to club me with one) and off he and I went to school. The ODD Dad and I had agreed that he would call the school as soon as I was out of the driveway to warn them that we were on our way. (I figured it was the least I could do.) I wasn't sure if I'd need help getting Bear into school, and they're extremely supportive that way. The hand-over went well, and they'll be keeping a close eye on him today.

Did we do the right thing? No clue.

Then on to Stitch. Poor Stitch gets put into his crib for safekeeping when Bear is melting down, and he doesn't like that very much. Stitch is more of a free-range kid, so he doesn't really like being stuck in one place. Add Bear's yelling, screaming, door slamming and toy throwing, and Stitch sometimes gets a little frightened.

Today is a daycare day for Stitch, so after I dropped Bear off I came back home and picked up Stitch. Stitch only started in daycare last week, and he goes two or three days a week. He's settling in well, but it's still pretty new to him. He has a great time once he's there, but that didn't stop him from starting to cry as soon as we pulled into the parking lot. ARE YOU KIDDING ME????? Cause that's what I needed today. Then he clung to me, still dressed in his snowsuit and his puppydog hat with the ears on it, with tears streaming down his face. It was all I could do to not bring him back home with me, but I didn't. Instead I turned and walked out, listening to his crying as the door closed behind me.

Then I came home and wrote this. And now that I've shared it, I feel a tiny bit better. I still feel emotionally exhausted, but now at least I can concentrate on getting some work done while the kids are gone. The school hasn't called and neither has the daycare, so the kids must be OK. We're lucky that both our children are in loving, nurturing environments, and I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

They're OK. They're OK. They're OK.

And soon, hopefully I will be too.