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Posts Tagged ‘Children’

After school, after homework, after work was done for the day, my girls wanted to go outside. It was, as is customary in these parts, cold enough to warrant a winter jacket – but the sun was bright; the sky was blue; the snow had melted.

And even though I had dinner to make, I decided to listen to my girls and head outdoors. My son and husband were off looking for a Teddy Roosevelt costume for an upcoming school project, so it was just us girls.

Nora wanted to play soccer. Lindsey wanted to ride her bike. She made a move for her little 12″ bike with training wheels, but I suggested the 16″ two-wheeler (no training wheels.) It’s nothing fancy – a hand-me-down from an older cousin – but it comes in a highly desirable shade of purple. She’d been practicing riding without training wheels before the snow came last week – though without success – and was intrigued.

She’s five years old and wants so much to be a big girl.

The sun was setting, casting long shadows in front of us. Lindsey was very excited when she hopped on the bike. I gave her a push and she was off. I ran next to her briefly, but somehow I knew it was time to let go.

So I let go – and saw my baby girl take off. She hardly wobbled at all.

She was riding her bike like a big girl.

I looked down just at the moment our shadows parted – my shadow slowed to a stop and Lindsey’s shadow moved beyond me – swiftly, smoothly, easily. The shadows parted – and my baby girl was no longer a baby. She was a big girl riding a big girl bike.

Of course, once Nora saw this, soccer was over for good this afternoon. When it was her turn to ride the big two-wheeler, it was as it had been with Lindsey. Our shadows mingled at the start, only to part ways as she took off. She perhaps wobbled a bit more than her sister, but she’s a bike rider now, a big girl.

Learning to ride a bike is a significant rite of passage in our culture. It’s a skill we never forget.

Today, I let go of my girls and watched them move forward toward their future.

It was a joyful day in our house –– and yet with a touch of melancholy too.

Lindsey & Nora exploring the trails ahead...

Lindsey & Nora exploring the trails ahead...

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So it’s St. Patty’s day and as a good daughter of a dead Irish woman, I should be thrilled, happy, all in green to celebrate. Today’s the day we celebrate the banishment of snakes and the victory of Catholicism and all, right?

But I’m – dare I say it – irritated instead. I’m irritated because (more…)

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Black Swan Green, a novel by award-winning author, David Mitchell, tells the story of a year in the life of a new teenager. This is not a children’s book by any stretch of the imagination – it’s a book that left me ruminating on the pitfalls, perils and potential that come with adolescence.

It is 1982 when the book opens; Jason Taylor is 13 years old and at one point in the book, he really wants to see Chariots of Fire at the cinema. The first time he’s supposed to see it, his dad has to work late, then returns too drunk to go to the movies. The second time’s the charm for Jason; after hanging out with his mother at her store for an afternoon, they set off to see the film together.

Which is fine, until he notices something while standing in line.

“Ninety or a hundred people were ahead of us. Kids, mostly, in twos, threes, and fours. A few old-age pensioners too. A few couples. The only boy queueing with his mother was me. Wished it wasn’t so obvious I was with her.”

Unfortunately, the queue is so long, they’re turned away at the entrance and Jason is once again denied the chance to see English college students run in the 1924 Olympics.

Mitchell’s earlier work included Cloud Atlas, a novel so opaquely filled with genius that you come away knowing you’ve read a masterpiece, even if you don’t know much what it was about. Black Swan Green, Mitchell’s semi-autobiographical novel set in Maggie Thatcher’s England, is a significant departure from the opacity of brilliance – it is a rich and vivid portrait of that first year of adolescence.

In Black Swan Green, young Jason has a stutter that enhances his unpopularity; his parents fight constantly; he’s always trying to figure out his place in his world. And his is a social position that shifts and moves all the time.

An act of foolhardy bravery leaves him popular for a moment. But the act of attempting to see a movie with his mother catastrophically plunges his social standing….

“‘Jason Taylor’ – Ross Wilcox’s breath smelt like a bag of ham – ‘goes to the pictures with Mummy!'”

Even the biggest losers in the school feel emboldened by Jason’s glaring lapse…

“It’s one thing Ross Wilcox giving you a going-over in public….But if a Mister Average like Leon Cutler slags you off and doesn’t even care if you can hear, your credibility is bloody bankrupt.”

When reading Black Swan Green, I realized with a bit of panic that (more…)

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Legend has it that master scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, developed the theory of gravity after being hit on the head by an apple, that most mystical of fruits.

I wonder what Sir Newton would think of that anti-gravitational forces at work on my son’s hair:

Anti-gravitational forces wreak havoc with my son's hair

Anti-gravitational forces wreak havoc with my son's hair

That was Aidan’s hair prior to combing.

Thanks to the magic (and gravitational pull) of water, here’s what his hair normally looks like when going off to school and other public places:

The look we like when we head out to anywhere....

The look we like when we head out to anywhere....

And just to clarify, there is no product at work on the “before” pic. That’s just some powerful tangles holding up the hair in defiance of all that Newton discovered.

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Today was utterly lovely for February – temperatures reached mid-60s. In my area, a rare and welcome respite from winter’s bite.

My children came home from school and tore off to be outside as quick as they could. And I was astonished at the speed with which we could move. My two four-year olds required just down vests. No winter coats, no mittens, no hats, no snow pants, no boots… we were outside in a flash of a moment.

Which made me realize that dressing two small people for the outdoors in winter is akin to moving a glacier. It is painfully slow; sometimes it seems as if movement is non-existent. And I realized on this warm and sunny day in early February that spring is long way off…and I’ll be waiting on that glacier once again soon enough.

What was once my past will soon be my future... snow!

What was once my past will soon be my future... snow!

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My daughters are four – they’re at that age when everything is getting curiouser and curiouser, as Alice once discovered in the rabbit hole. The minds of my little girls bubble over with questions…questions that require answers:

“What time does that clock say?”

(Bedtime!)

“How did that clock get there?”

(We bought it from Ikea when we moved here.)

“How does that clock stay on the wall?”

(This required a physical show of the hook used to stave off the forces of gravity…)

“Can I wear the dark lipstick?”

Lindsey and her lipstick; and yes, Nora has tape on her forehead...

Lindsey and her lipstick; and yes, Nora has tape on her forehead...

(You may not wear lipstick outside of this house until you are 21.)

“Will summer be here tomorning?” (In our house, we have “today,” “tomorrow” AND “tomorning.”)

(Not according to the groundhog…)

“Is today tomorrow?”

(Of course there can only be one reply to the last question. Today is yesterday’s tomorrow.)

And the concept of past, present and future becomes linked in just one sentence.

My girls are growing, they’re learning, they’re eager to understand their world. And in my house, the questions fall like rain and the world blooms for two small girls who are insatiably curious about the who, how and why of it all.

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