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La maternelle, déjà?

I don’t know what happened.

I feel fairly confident that it wasn’t that long ago that I gave birth to our 2nd son.

Wasn’t it just last month that I introduced Robert to his baby brother, Sullivan? The baby Robert begged me, at every chance he could, to hold? The one he proudly called “his baby”?

I don’t know what happened.

I blinked, and 2 boys became 3.

And suddenly, I’m getting ready to send Sullivan to school in the fall.

Sullivan… my boy who came so quickly our birth photographer almost didn’t make it. The one who was so determined to join us on the outside, my midwife ordered me to stop pushing so she could untangle him. He didn’t let anything stop him, not even his umbilical cord. He was ready to meet us!

My 3-year-old boy is going to school in September.

I don’t know what happened, but in September, he starts la maternelle (also known as junior kindergarten or full-day kindergarten).

We had a virtual introduction to his school, with many smiling faces on camera. We saw some of the staff he will likely see at school in the fall and some potential classmates’ smiling faces.

And as I sat through this virtual session, it struck me how easy it was to enrol him. I didn’t write a 10-page document outlining all there is to know about him. I didn’t have to have a big meeting, complete with his daycare staff, his OT, his PT, his SLP and the school administration. I just clicked a few buttons online, and that was it.

But that’s not the reality for everyone. It certainly wasn’t our reality 3 years ago with Robert.

If this is your reality, I want you to know you aren’t alone.

It can feel overwhelming, daunting, exhausting… and just not fair. Advocating for everything you want for your child and everything they need to succeed. I hope you are lucky enough to be partnered with a team like the one we have. A team that recognizes your child as intelligent and capable and that s/he just needs a few more supports in place to achieve their potential.

And after you go through those meetings and feel like you’ve prepared everyone for what to expect the next year, there’s going to be someone you forgot. Sometimes, the teacher or the educators that work with our kids aren’t at school. They might be sick or are caring for a sick child. When they aren’t there, the person who replaces them might not know about your child. And, even if they know that your child is in the class, they might not have had time to read the 10-page document you wrote. In those cases, a one-pager that outlines your child’s challenges, strengths and preferred communication styles can make all the difference. Here is a template version (in French) of the one we made. If this is useful to you and for your child(ren), I encourage you to edit it and provide it to the school. Send paper copies to the school, and email the teacher and staff a copy as well. And hey! This can also help the bus driver if your child rides a bus.

Un défis pour nous était de trouver des ressources en français, alors, le document en question est en français pour aider ceux qui pourraient se trouver dans cette même situation.

Getting to meet the school staff and administration at the early transition meeting also had its benefits. For one, we were able to see how the team works together, how organized they are, and how they value their colleagues and the students. It was a great foundation for us to build on and made us feel more comfortable with what Robert’s educational path looked like. It helps that we chose a school with an outstanding team.

And while registration for Sullivan only took a few clicks, I miss being able to sit around a table with the staff and telling them about my child. They don’t know that he’s very shy and reserved only up until the moment he feels comfortable, and then WATCH OUT! He’s full of intense energy he is still learning to harness and will need their help to navigate this. They don’t know that he is a sensitive, kind, caring boy who isn’t afraid to play “chevaliers!” or “pirates!” the second he sees anything that remotely resembles a sword. When he goes to school on the first day, he will be a stranger to them, and they a stranger to him. I know he will be OK, and that school will challenge him and help him grow in ways we can’t, but I do miss that introduction meeting. It makes dropping your baby off for school a little less scary.

But I still don’t know what happened.

How it feels as though he was born only yesterday, but this week I registered him for la maternelle.

Time, you’re a thief.

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Bloom

Photo by K Zoltan on Pexels.com

For many, 2020 represented a very difficult, dark, and overwhelming year. While I tried to focus on the moments that brought joy, I have to say, 2020 hurt me. I am a bit of a social butterfly, and my kids are quite social, which meant that following the guidelines to stay home, and stay relatively isolated, was tough for our family. Like many, we missed seeing our friends and family, and we missed going on road trips.

My calendar pages no longer say “2020”, and I am moving forward with optimism and hope.

Last year, I wrote about how I enjoy the idea of changing the calendar to a new year, and setting new goals for growth. Rather than make a resolution that I’m likely to break only days after setting it, I pick a word to guide my intentions and actions as we move ahead in the new year. After this period of darkness, I hope to bloom in 2021. My word this year is “mindfulness”. I want to be mindful of the impact of my choices, my words and my actions, and more importantly, I want to be more mindful of others.

I want to model this behaviour to my kids and help them to be present, to be respectful and to be intentional. I began by setting boundaries for myself. My phone has the option to set limits on how long I can use an app in any given day, and so I first began by limiting access to social media. Now I am forced to be mindful of how much time I spend on the social media rabbit hole. The next step I took was to set time for myself every day. I realized that most days, I didn’t have a minute alone. Now, I am putting aside 30 minutes of the day to be alone. So far, this has typically resulted in the dog getting an extra walk, one with just me.

Are you someone who sets resolutions? Have you ever considered picking a word to help you to navigate your growth over the calendar year? Let me know in the comments below.

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Bye, 2020

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2020 has been a year. I remember in the early months I worried about Robert being accepted and treated fairly. The gap for many with disabilities has widened, thanks to the pandemic. Despite the challenges, the year 2020 hasn’t been only horrible. There have been some pretty great moments too.

To send 2020 off right, our friend Kylie made this beautiful video. She held an “open casting call” for people of all abilities to submit moments in 2020 that represented joy and pride. In the heaviness of the Pandemic news, the quarantine, the work-from-home-while-raising-kids, and the worry that the lack of socialization brought, it’s moments like these that deserve to be celebrated.

Kylie not only recognized this but put it to video!

Cast:

@mrskyliesamson
@the.sassmcleans
@calebs_crew
@bravetumelo
@myincredibleivy
@kelcmich14
@jasonsquest1
@kiefferng78
@sandra_alnakkash
@emilyyoung3
@meeshellsullivan
@courtkauai
@toni_lovelee
@inthisopenbook
@eva_of_to
@throughmylense_
@katie__jameson
@luckymama.ca
@our_extraordinary_edward
@tour_de_wyatt
@rightnao
@gracies_groovin_47
& Carson

I encourage you all to follow Kylie on her parenting journey – @mrskyliesamson

That’s a wrap for 2020. Stay safe, friends xo

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Confidence in Motherhood

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Some women slip into the role of a confident mom more easily than others. It’s not that they are better moms, it’s just that they are more confident in their abilities.

I’ve been told I’m one of those confident moms. Truthfully, I feel confident in my role as a mom. I’ve always wanted to be a mom, and from the moment my fresh, sweet boy was placed in my arms, I knew this was who I was meant to be. Each sweet baby I’ve carried and birthed has only affirmed that.

I attribute my confidence to my support system. I have an incredible family who is so supportive – they will help me without hesitation or judgement. My boys idolize their grandparents, uncle, and great-aunts.

My family is a constant pillar of support, reaching out to me and offering to help. Family dinners weekly? Yes please! Rainy day drop-ins just for a change of scenery? OK! Don’t mind if I do! A phone call just to say hello? Let’s chat!

When I was pregnant with my oldest, I asked my mother-in-law to come to stay with us to help me to navigate being a new mom. She came shortly after Robert was born and helped me adjust to being responsible for this sweet, sweet boy. Being able to get some rest in those early days was so beneficial.

I also have a group of friends who I can turn to for commiseration – some live 6 hours away, and others live 600m away. Regardless of the distance, these friends are always there to offer empathy, a listening ear, or to build me up after a tough day.

And there are tough days.

Our “public self”, as we all know, is not the complete picture. There are days where I text my husband asking him when he’ll be home because I am not doing OK and need support. There are days when mommy needs a time out because she’s losing her cool and not modelling the behaviour she expects. Because let’s face it, I might be a confident mom, but I’m not perfect.

Denise (aka luckymama.ca) holding her youngest Alistair. He's in a sleeper with emergency vehicles printed on it. She is sporting a men's old navy blue and white striped shirt and freshly washed hair.

I have an idea of what kind of mom I want to be. In my mind’s eye, I created a vision board of who I want to become as a woman and a mama.

I want to be a mom who offers her boys a safe place to be, even if they’ve made mistakes. Robert might only be 6 years old, but the foundation for this safety net is being built and reinforced daily. I might not love the choice he made when he took out the acrylic paints and slathered it on himself and his brothers, pretending it was sunscreen…. but, I love him. And while he knew that he didn’t make a good choice, he also knew he is loved.

I want my boys to see a mom who placed importance on community connection. As parents, we get to know our neighbours, look out for them, and check in on them.

I want communication skills to be learned at home, including how to speak with each other even if we are upset or angry.

I want my children to feel celebrated, to strive to be great and to not be afraid to try new things.

I want them to see a mom who models being kind (to herself and others), and who recognizes the importance of making mistakes as a way to build yourself up. Like most parents I know, some of these things I learned in my own home growing up, and others I wished were present.

Sometimes I watch Robert and I see so much of myself in him. He is the typical eldest child (as am I). He’s achievement-oriented, and he wants to be the best in what he does. He can also be cautious, and I see him looking for ways to set himself up for success. Sometimes this means he doesn’t even try because he doesn’t want to fail. He wants to do things “right” and “perfectly” on his first-time attempts at something new. And, boy, does that ever resonate with my personality.

When do we learn that failure is so horrible?

Failure teaches us so much. We know that we have room to grow when we aren’t successful at something on the first try. We don’t expect a baby to be able to walk without stumbling as they take their first steps, so why do we expect of ourselves perfection from the gate?

Failing teaches us resilience, growth and empathy. Giving up isn’t the answer to failure. Moving forward is.

And the same can be applied to motherhood. When we have an imperfect day, we need to remember that moving forward teaches our kids so much, and it gives us strength as parents. Those imperfect days allow us to reframe what is important to us. And when we invest the time into focusing our energy on what matters to us, our energy will flow in that direction. We will show our kids that it’s ok if your day or week didn’t go as you planned. We can accept that, and adjust our focus accordingly. We can fail and still be great.

I am a confident mom.

I am a confident, imperfect mom.

I advocate for my boys, especially Robert. I model a growth-mindset whenever possible. Rather than look at my friends with envy – you know, the ones setting up amazing sensory bins or literacy activities, or the ones baking homemade bread with their kids and successfully implementing a chore routine with them – rather than look at those friends with envy, I look to them for inspiration. What can I learn from them?

Motherhood isn’t a competition. It’s a journey, and it’s hard.

Give yourself permission to accept that it’s hard. But mama… you can do hard things. 

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Productivity Tips for Work-At-Home Parents

For the past few months, I haven’t seemed to be able to find a topic to compel me to sit down and blog about. It’s not that nothing is happening, and more like I feel stuck in the same rut. I blame these ‘groundhog days’ we are living. You know, where every day blends into the next and you just can’t tell them apart unless you look back at your photos and check the date stamp.

So, today I decided to check pinterest for some ideas. It’s true, you can find nearly anything on that site!

One of the first suggestions was a page with 31 ideas to write about in December. It ranged from favourite December vacation destinations (my couch? the kitchen? what do you want here?) to fashion and make-up … and I am an expert in neither of those last two things.

I kept looking until finally I found some parenting blog suggestions.

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OK, I thought, I can do this. I am not exactly an expert, but I feel as though I at least have some idea of what being a parent to small children is like. Initially, I thought the suggestions would be “favourite moments you’ve spent with your children” or “how to serve mac&cheese in 5 new ways!”… you know, relatable topics for anyone reading. To my surprise, the topic suggestions were more like “How to get your baby to sleep through the night” and “Healthy Eating for Toddlers”.

Now, I might have 3 boys under the age of 6, but I can assure you that I know nothing about those topic suggestions. My 3-year-old finds his way into our bed about 1,700 times a night, pushing me over so he can cuddle. I obligingly move over, knowing that it’s highly unlikely he’ll be doing that when he’s 13, all while my husband sleepily tells the 3-year-old to go back to bed. My husband doesn’t want me to move closer – he claims I emit furnace-like heat and he doesn’t want that anywhere near him as he sleeps. And health meals for toddlers? Try as I might to feed my kids healthy meals, if I’m being honest, I’m throwing goldfish crackers and nature valley fig bars at them hoping they will stay quiet while I’m on my 13th video call of the day.

Oops. I just gave away my productivity secret for work-at-home parents.

Here’s the thing… For any parent who is trying to work at home with small children underfoot, a productive day is one where there was minimal crying (from the child or parent), most work-related tasks were completed, and the children are still alive and fed.

It’s tough working from home right now. It’s not like before when working from home meant you could walk the dog on your lunch break or get a load or two of laundry done between spreadsheet creation. Now, it’s all about survival.

The other week, I was with my youngest 2 children almost exclusively by myself from pre-dawn wake-ups to bedtime routines. There was an exception – an 8-hour break spread over 2 days. And when I say break, I mean someone else was responsible for my children. I was still working my full-time job, trying to stay on top of the files and expectations.

Alistair marches a suitcase across the couch – why?
Your guess is as good as mine…

When I was alone with the children, I would be at my dining room table trying to work as the kids played in the next room with the TV on. I remember being on a videoconference and glancing over just in time to see the 1.5-year-old lugging a suitcase in front of him as he walked across the couch. Naturally, I took a photo so I would always be able to remember that moment.

As I participated in video calls, I was simultaneously fielding questions and demands from the kids. Demands that ranged from Je ne veux pas CA! (“I don’t want to watch THIS tv show”) to MAMAN! DU LAIT STP – J’AI TELLEMENT SOIF (“MOM!? MAMA!!??? Milk! Please! I’m so thirsty!”). During all of this, I did my best to stay composed. I would briefly turn off the camera to oblige, hoping they’d stay quiet for just 10 more minutes. Well… Sometimes I would turn off the camera. Other times I would be too frazzled to remember.

For any parent, mom or dad, trying to work from home while their littles are underfoot, I want you to know that you are doing a great job. It’s OK if the house isn’t vacuumed or the kids are having frozen peas and hot dogs for lunch (again). I mean, first of all, who is coming over to visit? And second, can they vacuum on arrival?

If there was ever a time to give ourselves grace, this is it. And, if there was ever a time to reach out to someone and say ‘hey, you’re doing great’ – today’s the day.

So if your child is walking on the couch with a suitcase, eating goldfish and watching Daniel the Tiger for the 88th time that day, know you aren’t alone. You’ve got this! And while this might not be the parenting tip you came for, it might be the one you need.