Voting

This evening I took my two boys with me as I went to vote in the Ontario provincial election. As we walked to the polling station, B asked me what an election is about. I told him it’s when we vote for the representatives who will represent us in government and make important decisions on our behalf.

“So you pick the smartest people who will make the best decisions?” he asked.

“Yes,” I responded. Then, after a second thought, I whispered to myself, “Actually, sometimes we pick the people who we think will make the fewest bad decisions.”

I’d much rather B grow up thinking that he should pick the best candidates whenever he has the privilege of voting.

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Five Minutes Later

As I brought B his bedtime snack, he asked, “Dad, why do you do everything for me? Why don’t you get me to help with things, like making my own breakfast in the morning?”

“OK, I’ll start asking you to do more things,” I affirmed.

** Five Minutes Later **

“B, please put on your pajamas.”

“I need you to help me,” he yawned while playing with LEGO on his bed.

“You just said you want to start doing more things by yourself,” I responded.

“I know, but I still want you to help me put on my pajamas.”

 

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Two Things and One to Come

With R away in Uganda, I’m doing my best to keep the household from falling apart. I’ve managed to keep the boys clean and well fed and they haven’t been late for school or missed any of their soccer, swimming or martial arts lessons. I’m remaining diligent with all the daily tasks at home, even with my broken wrist, and so far I’m not feeling overwhelmed by the extra work. I’m happy that R is able to have this experience in Uganda, so it’s all worth it.

On Day 5 of 15, however, I’ve noticed two challenges. First, it’s quite difficult to run outside unless I do this before picking up the kids from school. Second, I get lonely when I’m not able to talk with R. The first challenge isn’t a huge deal, especially for a two-week period. I don’t feel safe running on our treadmill with my broken wrist (I often have to grab onto the rails when I need to adjust the speed or stop), so I’ve just accepted that I will be running much less than usual during this time (even taking days off completely). The latter challenge is becoming more significant as the days go on. I was surprised by the number of times I automatically tried to phone R today. She’s the first person I reach out to when I have news to share and need to either vent or cheer about something happening in my life. I also miss her physical presence around the house, particularly in the evenings, which is when we usually take a break from the busyness of our day to sit and chat and spend time together.

Within the next few days, a third challenge will emerge that will trump the other two. This will come when the boys get tired of counting down the nights that remain until their mother returns and decide that she needs to be home now. I got a glimpse of that this evening, so I know it’s coming soon. Thankfully she left us some video messages on my phone, so I can use those to allay their sadness.

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Wondrous Wonder

Tonight as I was tucking B into bed, he asked whether I knew anything about superheroes. “What do you want to know?” I replied. He obviously wanted to know a lot, as he started throwing out questions faster than I could answer, such as:

  • Can Spider-Man shoot webs from his head or just his hands?
  • How does Thor fly up in the sky?
  • What’s so special about Black Widow? Can she walk on the ceiling?
  • Will you buy me rockets so I can fly like Iron Man?

And then he said, “But my wondrous wonder is if Hulk can jump from one forest to another. Do you think he could even jump across the world?”

He looked so intently at me that it was abundantly clear how serious he was about his questions. I remember when I shared his wondrous wonder about so many things. What leads us to lose our passion for learning and discovery? At what point does the pursuit of knowledge become tedious and/or designated as a work- or school-related activity? What can we do to continually foster a playful and adventurous spirit as we develop greater wisdom and expand our understanding of the world around us?

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Puppy Love

I’m allergic to dogs. This meant that I never had a pet dog growing up, but I did have a few of them chase me on my walks home from school. As an adult, I still experience unleashed dogs racing after me, especially when I’m running on urban trails. Of course their owners always tell me that their dogs are friendly, even while the dogs are nipping at my legs and butt. And when I lived in Zimbabwe, I often had to start my morning runs carrying two large rocks that I could throw at the wild dogs terrorizing the neighbourhood. I’m definitely not a dog person.

I’m not sure how I was talked into this, but I brought home a bichon frise puppy last November. The boys named him Shadow as he’s always following us around the house. This breed of dog is hypoallergenic, so I don’t have trouble being around him … at least with my allergies. However, the first six months were very stressful for me, as I couldn’t get Shadow to stop peeing and pooing in the house or biting our ankles or fingers.

The good news is that he’s stopped using the house as his personal washroom. I think the warmer weather helped with this, as did his desire to have free range of the house. He’s also getting much better with the biting, but he’s still a bit nippy when he wants us to play with him more.

Shadow is always so excited to see us when we come home. He’s particularly fond of peanut butter and is extremely clever at convincing the boys to give him some of their human food. Most of all, he loves cuddling with us on the couch once he’s used up all of his puppy energy. It’s these quieter moments that I enjoy the most. No matter how hard of a day I’ve had, I know that I can sit with my faithful friend who always seems to appreciate me.

I’m still not a dog person. But I’m my dog’s person.

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Speak Easy

I just spent 20 minutes lying in bed with my son, K, as he tried to tell me everything he knows about birds. This is one of his recent obsessions, so he’s invested significant time into researching various types of birds and learning what differentiates them from each other. If I hadn’t wanted him to go to sleep, I could have stayed in his room and he would have kept talking for at least another hour.

Seven years ago, K could only say a few words. With his significant speech delay, we weren’t sure whether K would ever be able to communicate verbally with ease and complexity. After he was assessed by a speech pathologist, we started taking him to speech and language classes on a weekly basis. We also attended classes for parents to learn how to help him develop his expressive language skills. I’m not sure if it was because of these interventions or just the right amount of watching kids’ shows on Netflix, but K eventually started to connect more words together and gained the confidence he needed to speak clearly and appropriately.

These days, K has lots to say, especially if the subject matter is appealing to him. So if he wants to engage in an hour-long discussion about birds of prey, I will gladly participate, just as long as it doesn’t interfere too much with his bedtime. He’s a bit of a hawk when he doesn’t get enough sleep.

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My Own Story

Each month my son, B, is required to complete a homework assignment as part of his martial arts program. This month’s assignment focused on personal responsibility and included this short poem:

“I’m the one who writes my own story
I decide the kind of person I will be
What goes in the story and what does not
Is pretty much up to me.”

While it certainly won’t win the Griffin Poetry Prize, the poem did challenge my son to be accountable for his own actions and behaviours. When asked to explain what the words meant to him, B said, “You get to decide who you are. I want to be me—a good guy; nice.”

This evening as I reflect on the poem, I’m challenged to continue writing my own story. While I can’t control what will happen to me in the future, I can determine what kind of person I want to be and how I will respond to the challenges and opportunities that come my way.

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