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A fine balance

blossoms

I see you standing on the sloping grass, arms folded, bereft.

I call to you: “Are you okay?”

You’d been playing happily with a pair of 6-year-olds for over an hour – fast playground friends, friends with a ball. The shrieks of laughter, the running, the glee making my stint at the playground so effortless.

“Theo?” I see your face collapse as the hot tears of rejection roll down your cheeks. You sob: “They said they don’t want to play with me.”

I feel the heat rise, my face reddening. I stare at the boys as they run way, boys who were sweet and fun and nice moments ago, are now the enemy. “How can they be so cruel?” I want to run over and shake them.

But I don’t.

I wander over tentatively carrying my gangly sobbing 4-year-old naïvely hoping for some kind of acknowlegment or contrition.

Eventually, one of the father’s makes a plea for them to play, and they reluctantly allow him back into their cushy fold.

Moments later, I push them all on tire swing as they try to one up each other with stories of barf, dog poop, and bee stings.

Equilibrium restored. For now.

Complimentary

 special

Theo, now 4,5, is working on the art of the compliment.

To the babysitter: “Hi N. you are my best friend. I can take you jacket?” [leans in to gently take her jacket off.]. “Oh! I like your shirt!”

Theo: “Mummy I like your food! Your food is good!”

“Daddy you feed me?” Mark: “Why?” Theo: “Because I love you!”

Me: “Theo, how about we go for a bike ride?”  “Mummy! YOU ARE A GENIUS!”

Theo: “Mummy, you aren’t old … Daddy is.”

and the kicker …

Theo: “Mummy, you are bad and nice, and I love you.”

 

 

Moment 16: Turtles

IMG_4462

This is not a turtle.

It snowed a few weeks ago, a glittery dusting of white that barely covered the sidewalks and lawns of East Vancouver but shimmered under the street lights giving the urban rainforest a festive wintry feeling.

A few days later, the snow revealed its ugly side transforming into a crispy yet mushy layer of dirt flecked muck, the typical of the fallout of a Vancouver snowfall.

Undaunted, Theo noted that the snow was still there and insisted we go out and “throw it.”

So we ventured out fashioning clumps of snow into leafy, dirt-filled snowballs and threw them against the silver maple tree trunk pausing occasionally to let people walk by without fear of a sloppy snowball to the head.

About half-an-hour into our throw-a-thon, our spry octogenarian neighbour came walking down the sidewalk laden with shopping bags.

As she passed, Theo launched his snowball and totally missed the tree. The lady yelled: “Hey kid with a throw like that, you’re never going to be a pitcher!”

Theo threw another and missed again. The lady kept walking and yelled again: “You can forget about baseball kid!”

She arrived at her house about three doors down, and suddenly turned around and yelled:  “Send the boy over!”

Theo scampered over oblivious to her earlier heckling, and she pulled out a large box of Turtles (the gooey chocolate treats not the reptile) and muttered, “You’re never going to make it on the ball diamond but …  well …  here you go.”

I watched as Theo ran back waving the box in the air. He tore it open, and downed three turtles in rapid succession before I confiscated them, simultaneously laughing and shaking my head.

IMG_5310

It’s a bleak, grey wintry day. Theo and I are on our way to a midday Christmas concert at Mark’s school for a little kid power pick me up.

It’s quiet.

Suddenly, Theo pipes up: “Mama, where does Carmen* live?”

Me: “Carmen? You mean your birth-grandmother? Well, actually she prefers to be called ‘Nana Carmen.’ She lives in Stoney Creek not far from grama and grampa. Remember how we visited her house in the summer, and we all had lemonade and cake and she gave you the singing book? She used to live here but now she lives in Ontario. She loves you very much, and we’re going to talk to her on Sunday over Skype.”

Theo: “Mama …?”

Me: “Yes…?”

Theo: “Where do zombies live?”

He goes on to ask where Superman, Spider-man, Ironman, Batman and The Incredible Hulk live as well.

*Name and location changed.

theobike

Theo is riding his bike downhill … FAST!

He’s wearing his Spider-Man body suit and riding his shiny new Spider-Man bike in a moment of supreme Spidey overkill. But we don’t care. He’s out of the hospital where he spent the previous night in an asthmatic haze. And besides the dahlias and the sun are out.

We hear a voice. It’s Theo’s friend Bryan, age four-and-a-half.: “Hey Theo! Stop!”

Theo screeches to a halt.

Bryan, who is wearing a Spider-Man sweatshirt – call it small boy solidarity- yells (despite being right in front of Theo) “Are you the REAL Spider-Man?!!”

Theo looks at him quizzically (as in um … come on dude it’s me Theo). Bryan asks again “So? Are you the REAL Spider-Man?!”

Theo says “No. I THEO! I not the REAL Spider-Man!” (sic)

Bryan: “Well Black Spider-Man isn’t the REAL Spider-Man.”
[Sudden spike in blood my pressure … Huh? What? Whoa? Where is this going?]
Bryan: “Yea, Black Spider-Man is Ed.”

I’m speechless.

Theo looks at him slightly confused and says: “I got a bike! A Spider-Man bike!”

Have you ever had an interaction that left you completely speechless? 

–> This is the second time a child has called Theo Black Spider-Man

Addendum: I’m not sure who Ed is (random 4-yr-old comment perhaps) but Miles Morales is the first black/hispanic Spider-Man.

Moment 13: Little Fox

It’s been a non-stop day; and Theo is still wired. He wants to play ‘crash it’ with his superheroes but I kibosh the idea in favour of a book. It’s been a while since we’ve read an adoption story. I pull out “God Found Us You” (by Lisa Tawn Bergen with art by Laura J. Bryant) despite my agnostic tendencies. I figure all adoption books are great jumping off points for discussion so we give it a whirl.

It begins with Little Fox cuddling up to Mama Fox and asking her to tell him again about the day he came home.

Immediately, Theo says, “Little Fox adopted?” I say, “Yes just like you.” Then he curls up to me and waits for me to go on. I’m so surprised, I keep reading, and for perhaps the first time, Theo listens to a complete story (with a few amendments by me) end-to-end.

Mama Fox begins by giving Little Fox an idea of what life was like for her before he arrived in her life. The story uses beautiful imagery to show her deep longing for a child. Little Fox snuggles up as his mother tells him how she dreamed of him, how he would look, smell and sound. Every day she thought of how wonderful it would be to hold him in her arms. She saw him in the leaves and bark of the giant oak and in the night stars. But she had to wait, and wait, and wait.

In a series of achingly beautiful scenes, the book shows Mama Fox watching the other mothers have children (bears, owls, rabbits), and it shows her howling alone on the cliffs watching for Little Fox to show up. Day after day after day, she waits. The trees lose their leaves, the snow flies, and she wants to give up but she never does.

Then Little Fox asks why he couldn’t stay with “the mother who had me.”  I worried that the book might steer into “God had his reasons” but Mama Fox’s response is quite wonderful. She says, “She must have had very big reasons to give you up. She must have thought it was best for you.” Mama Fox does not try to make up a reason when she doesn’t know all the facts or motivations.

Little Fox then asks: “Did she have fur like mine? Eyes like mine?” I mention to Theo that he has brown skin and curly hair like his birthmother whereas Mama Fox says (not knowing all the facts): “She must have been as beautiful as you are handsome.”  I like how the book honours the birthmother in the context of limited information.

Little Fox then asks if Mama Fox will be his forever mama. She says yes, “Always and forever no matter what. I will always love you and treasure you and celebrate the day you came to me.” Some people take issue with “forever mama” and celebration around adoption but it works for a small child who needs to know they are not only cherished but they are with you for life.

Mama Fox then tucks Little Fox into bed, and he is glad that he has a cozy home and good food and a mama how loves him very much.

At this point, Theo is sprawled on my lap making fox-like noises, and says. “Mama, you call me Little Fox?” I say, “Yes Little Fox … now time for bed.” “Okay Mama Fox,” he yawns.

* Like most adoption books, the story won’t match up perfectly with your own but I found it a great jumping off point.  This book refers to God a lot but you can easily omit the references so it still works for non-believers. It also works nicely for international, local, closed, open and single mother adoption.

Moment 12: Sparkling rain

rain

Photo by muttcutts (Instagram)

Fat wet drops explode on the car windshield putting an end to any delusions of a golden fall. Memories of tire-swings, beaches and lakes drown instantly in a torrent of cool rain.

I twist the dial searching for CBC’s The Signal. It’s hypnotic, haunting music would be perfect for this abrupt entry into fall. But it’s too early; it just feels much later.

The road is slick, car lights blur in the downpour, and any trace of warmth has disappeared. Theo, bundled in sweats and thick jacket, yawns from the back: “Hey Mom … look at the rain; it sparkles.”

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