Give Me Shelter

Goose, my 6-year-old daughter, was recently discussing her plans for when she grows up.  “I want to be a mommy when I get bigger, but I don’t want to grow a baby in my belly.  I’m going to get one from the shelter.”

For those who don’t know, I work in a veterinary hospital (12 years and counting), and before that, I was a volunteer for a greyhound rescue.  All of our dogs and cats have been rescues of one sort or another.  Discussions about homeless animals and responsible pet ownership are common in this household.

Me:  You’re going to get a baby from the shelter?

Goose:  Yes, I want to be mommy to a baby that doesn’t have a mommy.  Maybe one that’s zero years old, but maybe one that’s bigger because it’s harder for older kids to get families.

Me: That’s true, Goose.  And I think that’s a wonderful idea.  But children who need homes live in a place called an orphanage or a foster home.  The shelter is where dogs and other pets go. When you add a child to your family that way, that’s called adoption.

Goose:  Just like when we adopted Frances (the dog)?

Me:  Something like that.

Goose:  How will I find the orphanage or foster home, mom?

Me:  You’ll find the way.  Your heart will lead you.

Goose: Yeah, I have a big heart.

Yes, you do.

 

 

Life Experience

Image by Neil Fifer  (WikiMedia Commons)Buddy (age 6) is ever inquisitive.   I try my best to answer every inquiry as factually as possible, so when he asked, “Mom, why do old people get wrinkles?”  I went on about skin elasticity and muscle tone, and some other stuff that sounded about right (with a disclaimer that I was not super knowledgeable in that area and if he’d like more detailed information, I would help him look it up when we got home.)  He said that my explanation made sense.

The conversation among the three kids turned to the various adults that they know and how many wrinkles each person had.  There was intense discussion about each person’s age and if it seemed to relate to the amount of wrinkles they can see… It didn’t.    I explained that lifestyle, diet and family history can have an impact on how your skin looks as you get older.

This led to an analysis among the children about the health of various relatives (sorry, family!): grandma doesn’t make good food choices, auntie gets lots of exercise, and so on.

This, in turn, led to an analysis of my own wrinkles.  Bear tells me to smile, and I do.  He points to the lines around my mouth.  Laugh lines, I tell him, because you bring me so much happiness.  Then, he zeroed in on the “little wrinkles by your eyes when you squint.”

They’re called “crow’s feet”, Bear.  They mean that mommy has lots of life experience.

Bear, without hesitation, laughs, “Life ‘sperience means old!”

Strong Girls

The Littles watched Mulan for the first time recently.  I admit that I wasn’t really paying attention.  I was folding laundry, putting away dishes and the like, when Buddy asks a simple question:

Mom, why do the people think that girls aren’t strong enough to fight?  Girls are just as strong as boys are.

I sigh.  Of course, that’s the point of the movie and he’ll see that by the end, and believe me, I am so very happy that he recognizes the bias, but how to answer his question?  I had just watched this video (I’m a confessed Upworthy addict.) and had women, education and literacy on my mind.

So I explained, in the simplest terms I could manage, that there are parts of the world where girls aren’t considered as important as boys (and some people here in our own corner of the globe would agree).  In some places, girls aren’t allowed to go to school. Girls aren’t taught to read.  And while it’s better than it was in the past, like in the movie, there is still along way to go.

I thought again about that video, and how all of my children, even the 4-year-old, would have been able to help that woman get to the right place.  I feel fortunate.  I told the kids a very boiled down version of the story: there was a woman who didn’t get to go to school because she is a girl.  She didn’t learn to read.  She took her mother to a hospital and they couldn’t find the doctor so they had to go home.  Now she teaches other girls to read.

They ask why someone else in the hospital didn’t help her find the way.  I tell them: maybe everyone else was too busy, maybe she was embarrassed to ask.  I don’t know.

They looked perplexed, and why wouldn’t they?  An adult that can’t read is just as strange a concept to them as girls being less important, or less strong than boys.   After a moment, Buddy speaks…

I bet boys made up that rule.  Mean boys.

January Registration- This Cannot Be Happening

January RegistrationA few days ago, I received an envelope in the mail… the one I’ve dreaded.  It was an envelope from the Registrar; the one that says “January Registration.”

I remember the first time I received this envelope.  It was January of 2012 when the registration forms for Buddy and Goose arrived.  I met that envelope with a mixture of excitement and worry.

Kindergarten will be so great for them!  They will learn so much! I hope they’re ready.  Of course they are! I hope they can make friends.  They’ll be fine! And so on until the day came that they climbed the steps of the bus for the very first time.

But this envelope is for Bear… and the emotions that go with it are more complex.  This is my youngest.  My baby.  The last.  I took the mail from the mailbox, saw the envelope, sat in my car and cried.  He is my baby, but he is also my partner in crime, my best friend.

When the Buddy and Goose started school, it was me and Bear.  For the first time, I have regular periods of time with one child… alone.  My attention is not divided by 3.  We have adventures.  We go to cafes that I wouldn’t dare bring 3 kids into.  I joke that he’s the best boyfriend that I’ve ever had, and it’s true. When we go to the diner and he’s impatient waiting for food, I tell him that while we wait we should talk because that’s what grown ups do.  When I ask what he’d like to talk about, he grins and says, “You, momma.  Let’s talk about you.”

When I’m shopping and manage to pick out a few things for myself, he insists that I try them on before we leave. “We have to go to the dressing room, momma.  I’ll hold the hangers.”  And he does.  And he doesn’t complain.  Ever.

On Christmas, the kids were all given Kindle Fires.  When I was setting them up the night before, I noticed that one didn’t seem quite right, but I wasn’t sure.  Confession:  I made a conscious choice to give the wonky one to Bear, because I knew that if it was defective, he’d be able to handle it without a meltdown.  It was broken.  I told him a replacement would come on Saturday.  He didn’t bat an eyelash.  When Saturday came and I was notified that the package wouldn’t arrive until Monday, again, no problem.  When UPS arrived Monday with his Kindle, he was SO EXCITED, but by a cruel twist of fate… it was also broken.  Disappointed but not a tear, he asked if I could order him a new one.  I said I would.  He moved on.  If it had been Buddy’s Kindle that needed  replacing twice, you might have heard him screaming clear across the globe.  If it had been Goose’s, there might have been weeping, or at minimum sulking. Bear accepts change and disappointment with an ease I wish I had.  He teaches me daily that an unexpected change of plans is an opportunity and not a crisis.

I’m going to need to channel his inner-calm come September, and I will because I have to, but it will still feel like a breakup.