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The (Dreaded?) School Run

21 Nov

So my morning started with this post on Facebook:

A cultural misunderstanding of hand signals and general road etiquette led to a policeman scaring the hell out of me and my kids this morning at the school gate. Yikes! Won’t be doing that again.

A friend asked for “more details please” so here they are.

Ha ha! So about my being scared sh!tless by the Romanian police this morning…

I usually drop my kids off at school by 7:30 – the earliest parents can (or else my husband takes them). Today, we were running a little late so I had to take them in because husband had a 7:35am meeting.

I find Romanian drivers to be notoriously selfish. This morning was no different. As I was waiting in line to turn right into the school parking lot, I noticed that nobody was letting the folks trying to turn left into the parking lot in. So I flashed my lights, as is the custom here, to indicate that I’m willing to let the next car go in front of me. I thought that the policeman directing (and I use that term lightly) traffic must not have liked that I did that because he gestured for me to “stop”. So I did, and I let one or two more cars go in ahead of me. The policeman had walked away at this point. I’m sitting there thinking that I’ve done the polite thing – I’ve let cars in ahead of me – and that now it’s my turn to go in. WRONG!

Now keep in mind, I’m only going 5km an hour  or so when all of sudden there is this loud banging noise coming from the back of my car. I jumped and I screamed because I thought I’d hit, or been hit, by something. Turns out, that noise was the sound of a burly 6ft tall officer banging his knuckles on my rear window! My son is asking, “Mommy! What’s wrong!”

“I don’t know sweetie,” I said.

The officer motions for me to pull over outside of the gate (yeah, he’s not letting me onto school property) and starts berating me in Romanin. I smile politely say I don’t understand.

He says, “I told you to STOP!”

“Yes sir, and I did, but then it was my turn.”

“NO! You stop until I tell you to go!”

“Ok. I misunderstood. My mistake. I apologize. But you just scared me very much.” Turns out that last bit was the wrong thing to say. LOL

Must double up my efforts to get to school by 7:30am when there is no traffic.

So that’s my story. I’m sure that while it will one day make an interesting little scene in the screenplay of my life, today it was just plain embarrassing.




My toddler is wearing underpants. Sort of.

4 Aug

I came home today to find my two and a half year old, naked, in the front courtyard wielding a garden hose. I wish I’d gotten a picture!

The next time I saw him, he was wearing his older brother’s underpants…over his diaper. His nanny tells me that this fashion choice was his own insistence. Is this his way of telling me that he’s ready for potty training??  

I ask this because, well, for a variety of reasons, I’ve let potty training sort of slide this summer. This being my second trip around parenting, I’ve learnt to pick my battles. Potty training falls under that category for me. I mean, he’s not really even talking yet (and that’s a post for another day), how can I start potty training?

That being said, I was rather surprised at the reaction I got from the director of the Montessori preschool that I just enrolled my youngest in when I told him that my son wasn’t toilet trained yet. “You mean he still wears a diaper at night?”, he asked. “Um, no, he wears a diaper all day too”, was my response. It wouldn’t have taken an expert in body language to tell me that this man did NOT approve.

I took this up with another teacher mommy friend of mine with a child of similar age. I told her about how this school director responded and, that up until that moment, I’d thought I was doing well as a parent – or at least I didn’t realise that I was ‘failing’. She was predictably supportive and reminded me that we all learn at our own pace. 

So hopefully, soon, my youngest will be fully potty trained and I will gain the approval of his new school’s director. In the meantime, I’m happy to continue changing diapers. 

A Sad First in my Teaching Career

21 May

I’ve been teaching now for 15 years. The law of averages says that at least one or more of the students that I’ve known has passed away in that time. But as an international teacher, I’m not connected to the communities that I teach in the same way that someone who spends their whole career in the same school (or school district) is. So there are surely some passings that I am not aware of.

That’s why this one is so hard. It’s a first.

This kid was in my French class for a couple of months. I remember that he was funny, athletic and personable. He was ready for a laugh and seemed to get along with just about everyone. He came from a good caring home and had all the material and societal advantages that one can think of. But ‘sit’ is just about all he did do in my class. He wasn’t terribly interested in French and he transferred to beginner’s Spanish before Christmas. Having a French language background made it easier for him, his new teacher told me. Even after he’d left my class, whenever I would see him on campus he would give me a smile and a cheery, “Bonjour!”

Having a French language background made it easier for him, his new teacher told me.

“Easier”. That is a word that keeps coming up for me when I think about this kid. From what I saw of him, he seemed to spend a considerable amount of energy seeking out the ‘easy’ option at school: be it class work, homework, projects or deadlines.

This afternoon his parents will host a service of remembrance for their son in accordance with their spiritual beliefs. It will no doubt be attended by many of his fellow students and former teachers.

As a teacher, as a parent, I feel that we need bigger, better, badder ways to talk to our kids about substance abuse.

We can’t keep allowing funerals for 17 year olds to be the final lesson on this subject.

An open letter to the ‘big boy’ at the playground

9 May

We live in a high-rise apartment building that has its own playground. There are perhaps two dozen kids living here that use that playground regularly – from teeny toddlers to teens.

My 4 year old son has a particular fondness for one of these boys. I’ll call him Adam.

Adam is a ‘tweenager’ : so he’s much older than my son. But he’s a sweet boy with a kind soul and he often goes out of his way to play with my son and to make him feel included. My son’s face literally lights up whenever he sees Adam.

The other day my son and I were down at the playground when Adam and a couple of friends came running in. They were obviously playing a game together and, naturally, my son wanted to join in. So off he ran. I started having a chat with some of the other parents there but very soon it dawned on me that the boys were gone.

And that’s when I saw it – my little boy’s head poking out from the spot he’d crawled into under the Little Tykes playground equipment.

He’d crawled in there so that no one would see him crying.

Apparently, as he tells the story, when he went up to Adam to ask if he could play too, he was told by another boy that, “Adam thinks you’re stupid.” just  before the boys ran off. And if that wasn’t enough to bring tears to my eyes and want to hug him for eternity, the next thing he said certainly did. “And Mommy, where was (sic) you? You’re supposed to come and give me hugs when people say bad things to me.”

So we had a great big cuddle right then and there on the playground floor, tears streaming down his face.

I did my best to reassure my son that he wasn’t stupid, that that was a mean thing for that boy to say and that people are sometimes going to say things to you that aren’t true. “I know it hurts but you have to learn to shake it off.” I told him.

If I could say anything to the boys in question, especially Adam, this is what it would be:

Dear Adam,

My son thinks that you are a pretty special person. But you probably know this already by the way that his face lights up, and the excitement in his voice when he calls your name, whenever he sees you. He looks up to you in probably the same way that you look up to the older kids at your school and your brothers. He doesn’t have an older brother so you are, in many ways, a role model to him. 

I realise that he’s a lot younger than you; and probably not your first choice in a playmate. I understand that. He can’t play the same games as you (or at least not as well) but you’ve always let him try. That is so important to him. You’ve shown patience and maturity with him that is beyond your years. And for that I would like to thank you. 

I would also like to remind you that my son is only 4 and a half years old. He’s just learning what the word ‘friend’ means. If you asked him to tell you what a ‘friend’ is, he would probably tell you that a friend is someone that you play with, share things with and who doesn’t fight with you. 

Can I ask you a favour? Please be careful what you say to him. He takes everything that you say to heart. Because he looks up to you, he’s likely going to do and say the same things that he sees you doing and saying because he wants to be like you: his ‘big’ friend. 

If he hears that someone that he thinks of as ‘friend’ thinks that he’s ‘stupid’, then I’m afraid that he’s going to think that that’s what friends do; put each other down.

His Dad and I understand that the world is not a perfect place. We understand that our son is going to get his feelings hurt from time to time and we are trying to teach him how to best deal with that. But if you could understand the influence that you have to set a positive example of what friendship is all about…well, we would be grateful. 

In response to ‘Dear Mom on the iPhone’

18 Mar

Today, via Facebook, I came across a retort to a posting of an article entitled “Dear mom on the iPhone: Let me tell you what you don’t see” The retort, entitled “In Defense of the iPhone Mom” really got me going. It got be going so much that I then went over and read the article that incited the retort. And all this began a realtime conversation with a fellow mom, whom I respect very much. Her beef was that people nowadays spend too much time documenting events rather than experiencing them. Think of the last concert you went to. How many people were holding up a digital device and recording the event rather than experiencing it? Probably too many.  And too many people, many of them parents, seem more engrossed with their phones than their children when you see them out in public. And, I agreed, this is a very real issue. A societal issue, in fact. So why did the original article specifically attack “mom”? There inlies my beef.

Here is what a fellow educator and mom had to say:

Hmmm, I do think that I see so many parents greet their kids at school with a phone in their face while dealing with their important messages. Not just mothers but fathers too. Everywhere I go I see people living their lives on i-products (or similar). I went to see Fat Boy Slim last year and no one was dancing, all except me and (my husband) were filming it. Sorry, I don’t actually think that’s ok. People need people. Face to face. I get her point about stop picking on parents and totally agree but really….in defense of the i-phone? Sorry, have just opened a can of worms there.

Open that can of worms my friend! For certain cans need to be opened if we are ever going to get to the bottom of this.

Here is my reply.

What I really connected with was the idea that no blogs ever go viral praising parents, especially mothers, for the countless little things they do day in and day out. And the sad fact that motherhood is a competitive contact sport with metaphorical blow after blow being levied on women for not putting their children first every minute of every living day. These attacks come from family, peers, strangers, the media and government. I recently saw a US study where 60% of respondents (all parents) said, when asked, that they put their children’s needs first and their needs second. Sixty percent also correlates roughly to the divorce rate in the US (and many other countries where this sort of mindset exists).
The iPhone issue is part of a wider societal issue. People are recording events rather than experiencing them -as you rightly point out. The larger issue, for me at least, in that post was that maybe, just maybe, we should stop for a moment when judging strangers. Perhaps giving people the benefit of the doubt once in a while wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
On the birth board that I belong to online, in the fall of last year, a woman posted about how she saw a couple with their maybe 6 month old on the bus. The baby was in a stroller wearing nothing but a diaper. The poster took a pic of the child and posted it online ranting about how these parents were unfit because they had their child out after dark wearing nothing but a diaper in 18 degree Celsius temperatures. I was livid when I read this. Livid at the poster – not this poor kids parents! How freakin’ dare she violate the right to privacy of this family that way. And by the way, all she did was snap a sneaky pic and post it online. She didn’t speak to the family at all! Who knows what was going on there? If she had honestly thought for one moment that this was a case of child neglect or endangerment then shame on her for not enquiring and offering assistance!
I remember a time last summer when my six month old had a massive diaper blowout in the car. We pulled into the rest area to change him only to realise that we’d forgotten to pack a spare change of clothes for him. All we had was a spare t-shirt for our eldest. So, one filthy infant onesie in a Ziplock bag later, there we were in the food court of the rest area with a 6 month old infant wearing nothing but a diaper and t-shirt that was 3 years too big for him. What must we have looked like? Thank the gods that no one whipped out their camera phone and posted that!
So all this to say that I just think that most people are living their lives with the best of intentions and ya know what? Sometimes you end up on a bus with a kid wearing nothing but his diaper because wearing nothing is more appropriate than being covered in your own poop. I just wish that everyone would stop judging. But also, I wish that more people would risk the embarrassment of being wrong and genuinely enquire when they see something that perhaps raises a red flag. All that that mother had to do was say something friendly to the family like, “Forgot to pack a spare change of clothes, eh? Man, I’ve been there, done that.” That would have probably been all she needed to do to ascertain whether this was an act of child cruelty or human fallibility. This woman in question also needs to learn the story about glasses houses, in my opinion, and keep her damn camera phone to herself. But that’s a whole other rant 

Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m wrong. What do you think?

Funny. But not ‘ha ha’ funny

21 Dec

Over two months ago, my last post was about how I reacted to seeing a play surrounding the events of 9/11.


Today, the events of 12/14 still haunt me.


They haunt me as  a teacher, as a mother and as a human being.

The problem with short bedtime stories

20 Sep

My eldest son started “big boy” school this past August. The day he came home from school after his first trip to the library he exclaimed excitedly, “Mommy! That’s where aaaallllllllll the books are!” The kids each have their own library bags and when I opened his up to see what he’d borrowed I chuckled a little bit. If you’ve ever spent any amount of time with my son, you wouldn’t need to be a psychic to predict that he would have located the only book in the library that combined dinosaurs and football/soccer.

A week went by and I eagerly waited to see what he would bring home from the library. I admit, I was a little surprised when he came home with this.

Based on the famed Russian ballet of the same name, it tells the story of a king with three sons. The king discovers that someone, or something, is stealing the golden skinned apples from his tree and he offers a quarter of his kingdom as a reward to whomever brings him the thief. Full of mythical images and undertones, it is the youngest son who is cast as the hero.

So we read the story and he enjoyed it. It was quickly apparent that he was drawn to the book because of the illustrations. He really loved touching the picture of the firebird with the golden threads running through it. However, as the story was a little on the long side, I decided to read it over two nights. It struck me that we’d never before read a story at bedtime that couldn’t be finished in one go. And that got me thinking of the idea of delayed gratification.

When I was a kid, my bedtime stories were read from thick, hardcover books (like the complete tales of Winnie the Pooh). And even if the books were compilations of short stories, and my mom finished one of those stories, I always wanted more; because in my child’s mind the book wasn’t finished until you flipped the back cover over. I eagerly looked forward to bedtime. I wanted to know what was going to happen next.

In this ‘instant’ world that we now live in, I am going to be conscientiously on the look out for ‘big’ books that we can read together at night. I want my son to learn patience. I want him to experience healthy anticipation. I want him to learn that good things come to those who wait. But above all, I want him to always yearn to ask, “What’s next?”

Who is with me?

*On a side note, I’d really like to thank the librarian who didn’t say to my son, “Don’t take that book. It’s not for you.” That lover of books who didn’t tell my son that this book was too complicated, too grown-up or too difficult for him. Because of that book, mommy had a little epiphany. 

To each her own

30 Apr

Today on the mommy board that I belong to, a new stay-at-home mom (STHM) posted about feeling overwhelmed. Most first-time parents, certainly first time STHM, can easily related to her. She writes:

I’m a first time Mom…  I am feeling completely overwhelmed sometimes, with just life in general…

Here is my unedited and hurried response.

Oh sweetheart! Welcome to the club!  I haven’t read the previous posts but I imagine that they’ve been overwhelmingly supportive. This is my second child and I’ve gone back to work after only three months (I had 16 months off with my first).

When I was at home with my first I loved it. I was so fortunate to find a wonderful mom’s network in my local area. No mean feat when you live overseas! Those ladies, and their babes, were my lifeline. Don’t know what I would have done without them. There are only two of us left in town now. The rest are scattered around the globe. And that’s why I love Facebook because we can still share so many of our ‘mothering’ adventures. Although, after the first year, I really felt ready to go back to work. And, like you, I REALLY looked forward to bedtime too. Nothing wrong with that!

I look at motherhood like being a passenger on a plane. You have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can be of any assistance to anyone else. So whatever your ‘oxygen mask’ is, be it work, school, a good workout, or a great weekly mani-pedi…you have to take time for yourself. I can honestly say that the only times that I felt lost as a mom were those moments when I started to lose sight of who “I” was.

Now that I’m back at work with two kids I find it so tough to find that balance. Two things I do for myself are a standing bi-monthly mani-pedi appointment on Saturday morning with a good girlfriend. And second, the hours between 4 and 6 from Monday to Friday are generally mine to do with as I see fit.

See, I’m a teacher. Between the hours of 7am and 4pm, my priority is making sure that I’m giving the best of me to other people’s kids. And that’s not a snarky or flippant comment. As a citizen of the world, I have a vested interest in making sure that the kids entrusted to me can one day go out into the world and, ideally, make it a better place. That they have the drive, the desire and the knowhow to do so is something that me and tens of thousands of other hardworking and dedicated teachers are striving for on a daily basis. But I also have another equally (arguably more) important obligation to my own kids. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t give them what they need (the best of me) until I’ve had some time to decompress from my work day. Some will undoubtably call me selfish but this is what works, right now, for me and my family.

All the little losses

27 Apr

Hope your week has been full of good things.

While I have a 30 minute lull in my day, I thought that I would send a quick update. 

Gabriel is doing great. We have an appointment with the pedi for his 4 month check up plus some vaccines. He also starts his swimming lessons tomorrow. Yeah! Hopefully he’ll grow into as accomplished a swimmer as his older brother is becoming. In the last week or so, Gabe has discovered rolling over at will! Hurray! He’s a big fan of tummy time and is growing by leaps and bounds. He’s more or less wearing size 6months onesies now. Which is sad. As my last baby, I have to now face the fact that I can’t save all his clothes for ‘the next one’. He continues to be a happy little boy who hardly ever cries. Even though I’m back at work full-time, we’re still breastfeeding. He gets one to two bottles (tops) a day of formula while I’m at work (4oz per bottle). I come at lunch (10:45am) to feed him, then after school (4pm), and then feed him all through the evening and night. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he weighs now. He sleeps well but not always predictably. He’s not sleeping through the night but for the last couple of weeks he’s going down between 7-8pm and only waking once in the night. Usually around 1:30am. At which point, I bring him into our bed to nurse and he stays there until the morning. 

Being back at work sucks. I mean, it’s nice to get out of the house and it’s REALLY nice to get a paycheck again. It’s even nice to see my students again. But I simply hate leaving that sweet little angel face in the morning. And by angel face I mean Gabriel and not Aidan.

Poor little Aidan. Where to begin? The poor kid has had so many changes in his little life in the past 4 months. A new brother. Started school. Started going to school 5 days instead of 3. Moved house. Papa came to visit for two weeks and then left again. Mommy went back to work. He takes the bus to school now because Mommy is at work. He sleeps in a regular queen sized bed and now Gabe sleeps in his old crib. So many changes!! He still calls our apartment “my new house”. He lost all his old friends from the old apartment except Aaryka who visited for the first time Wednesday. Apparently, she was driving her mom crazy asking for Aidan. To the point where on Monday, the nanny took her downstairs to our old apartment and let her ring the doorbell to show her what they’d been telling her for weeks; that Aidan really doesn’t live there anymore. So finally her nanny called Marley and asked if they could come over. Sweet, isn’t it. So he’s been invited to her birthday party on May 14th. He’s very excited.

But that all brings me to today.

Tuesday at 4pm I received a call from Aidan’s teacher, Teacher “A”, asking if I could come to school to discuss Aidan’s “behaviour”. You don’t need to be an educator to know that this is not good. No one ever summons you to your child’s school to discuss how fantastic they are. Nor does it bode well for the remaining 17 years or so of formal education that he has in store for him. 

We’ve been kept a little in the dark, it would seem, about some of his behaviour. I’d had some notes come home in January/February but since I hadn’t heard anything in a while, I assumed that this issue had died down. Ummm. No. Is apparently the answer to that. Aidan has a ‘frenemy’ named, of all things, ‘Hayden’. So I get home on Tuesday and said to Aidan, “Teacher A called me today. I have to go see Teacher A to talk about you. What did you do today?” Not missing a beat, Aidan says, “I scratched Hayden’s eye.” So at least we can add ‘honest’ and ‘frank’ to the list of qualities that my son possesses. ‘Self-control’ and ‘using our hands and not our fists’  will, sadly, apparently have to wait. Long story short…Hayden’s mom is livid. Aidan is being switched classes. The staff at the school admit that these two boys are pretty much magnets to each other. Unfortunately, their play tends to become physical and although Aidan isn’t always the first to start the pushing and the shoving, he’s never been the one to go home with bumps and bruises; if ya know what I mean. So now we can add yet another “change” to his life. He will no longer be in Teacher A’s class. And while the professional in me acknowledges that this is the most practical solution, the parent in me grieves for his loss. He is truly fond of Teacher A. When he plays ‘school’, he is always teacher A. When there is a holiday and he’s not at school, he asks, “Where is Teacher A?” So now we can heap ‘Teacher A’ to the pile of things that he’s lost in the past four months alone. So I will spend my weekend trying to find any and every opportunity that I can to tell him how excited Teacher “D” is to do story time with him on Monday morning. All in a vain attempt to soften the blow for him. 

Feeling a little needy

2 Apr

One morning last week, as I was sharing giggles in bed with my now 3 month old. My three year old came in, as he usually does, to say good morning. What he said next was so innocent yet so cutting.

“Mommy, Gabriel needs you too much.”

Yes, he does need me but how do you explain to a three year old that it’s not “too much”?