29 November 2008

Saturday Night

It's Saturday night and I'm curled up on the couch with Wifey. The kids are tucked in. I'm waiting for the chai tea to finish brewing.

In my lap, I'm reading a book on planned giving. It's less of a book and more of a tome. One that could hold a small child down in a wind storm. It's all about wills, bequests, taxation benefits and so on.

Our mutual silence is punctuated with questions like, "Who do you want to leave the dining room table to?" and "How much do you think we're going to need in life insurance to cover the kids if we die?" and "I want to leave some money to charity X, you good with that?"

As I'm learning about how to help people leave their own legacy through a charitable gift, we're getting ready to create our long overdue wills. Once we get the insurance in place, the massive paperwork we've been slowly picking through will finally be complete.

In Wifey's lap she's reading a stack of articles from the Harvard Business Review and some other magazines on human resources management. My favourite so far was the sarcastic article on the symptoms of a bad boss.

It's Saturday night. This is comfortable. I don't think I've ever felt more grown-up in my entire life.

19 November 2008

Sticky Fingers

Bubaloo has a little problem with sticky fingers. Sticky in as much as he often finds himself attracted to objects that don't belong to him. Things somehow find their way into his backpack, pockets and eventually our home.

We've moved from the inconsequential collecting of bottle caps and garbage off the street to more meaningful things that actually belong to someone and have been intentionally taken.

To keep this stealing phase under control, or in the least to preserve our sanity, we have him on pocket check. This means every time he enters and exits the house we search him.

You'd think that pocket check would become a deterrent to the thieving and the ensuing consequence, but what we're finding out is that they inspire innovation.

The first couple of times, it was easy to spot the toy, candy or DS game that wasn't his. These items were just casually tossed into his bag. He then switched up his modus operandi by sneaking non-food items into his lunch bag.

Next he embarked on the confusion tactic. This is where he'd pack so many toys to take to school every day so that we couldn't possibly keep track of what was his and what wasn't. Quickly, he was limited to a maximum of three things.

Then he decided to use the class auction that happens every Friday as a cover to bring things home that weren't his. All of his "big bucks" would be used to buy chocolate bars, pop and toys and he'd weave us an elaborate tale. We uncovered that, too, and now communicate with his teacher's through the trusty agenda to find out what he acutally won at auction.

Another time he tried to take the contraband out of the house by shoving it up his jacket sleeve. He's also tired to covertly hide a toy within a toy. And just the other day he realized that I wasn't regularly checking the side pockets of his backpack so he stashed two full handfulls of halloween candy in there. I only caught him this time because I heard the crinkling of candy wrappers.

While it's kind of exhauting having to do all of this busting, now it's starting to be a detective game for me. It's a challenge to try to think like a 10 year-old-boy. I'm consistently amazed at how clever and innovative he is. I'd be even more so impressed if he'd use his brain for good!

This morning, however, has to be the best attempt at smuggling yet.

He wanted to take his iPod to school and I said no. He tried to whine, negotiatiate, and talk me to an alternate decision. But I did not break. There was going to be no iPod leaving the house. Call my motivations self-centred. I certainly did not want to have to deal with the child who would be hysterically upset when it was lost or stolen - and I think the liklihood of that was pretty high.

Just as I was about to start his pocket check, I asked him to produce his iPod.

He couldn't. He told me it was in his room. He told me it had fallen behind his dresser. There were a couple of other tall tales woven in there. I told him that he had to put it in my hand, and warned him that he had better not make me late for work.

I sent him up to his room to find his iPod while I started to check his backpack.

Quickly he came back down the stairs to confess. He let me know that he had lied and wanted to take responsibility. Indeed, the iPod was not in his room. He had put it in a little bag that holds his shark tooth in one of the pockets of his backpack.

I pulled it out. Only the earphones weren't there.

When I inquried as to their whereabouts, he gave me a little sheepish grin.

He took off his shoe, stuck his hand all the way to the toe and pulled out the earphones. They had been squished in there with his stinky sock resting on top.

Now, I'm having to re-think pocket check. Growing and innovating alongside my child. I never imagined that SHOES would be part of my daily checklist.

12 November 2008

My Kid Takes the City Bus to School

I grew up in suburbia. In a small town north of Toronto. It wasn't until Grade 9, when I was 14 or so, that a yellow school bus was no longer provided. Well to be truthful, I lived 3 blocks from my grade school and had to walk, but that's not the point.

According to the Ottawa Carleton District School Board, when you are in grade 7 and live less than 3.0 kms from the school, transportation will no longer be provided for you. That means that this past September our daughter needed to take OC Transpo back and forth from school every day.

Now remember, this is a child who has memory challenges, regularly gets seriously disoriented in our own neighbourhood and loves to talk to strangers. The first two, we were pretty confident that we could develop strategies for. It was the "talking to strangers" that had us concerned.

This is the same child that locked herself out of the house last summer and instead of waiting for us to return in a short time, knocked on a complete stranger's door and went into his house. The only reason we knew she was there because when we were walking up the street we saw her backpack on his stoop.

On the transportation front, I can appreciate that we live in a city, and that mass transit is somewhat of a luxury. This is in the sense that my kid won't have to walk 2.7 kms to school each day and we're saving some tax dollars by not having a yellow school bus.

But, we DO live in a city and we don't exactly live in the nicest part of the city. We live in Overbook on the cusp of Vanier and she now goes to York Street Public School.

The very things we try to protect our children from, like dirty needles on front lawns and prostitution, were addressed the very first city transit trial run we took with her before school. I'm not so worried about her exposure to such issues, I just don't trust her judgment not to pick up a used needle up to throw out or to ask someone directly what they're doing standing on a street corner. No amount of street proofing has been effective with her. Social cues and street smarts just aren't her strength.

We've done what we can do, not without a hefty dose of questioning and parental guilt, but we've done that best that we can and we have to let her go, learn and make her own mistakes.

When Bella came to show me the photos on her camera, she got to a series of images of people sitting on the bus. I asked who her friends were. "I dunno. They're not my friends," she said. When I probed further, I discovered she knew nothing about these people. They were just random people on the bus.

I then proceeded to warn her about taking photos of strangers without permission and how that could get her into big trouble. She quickly cut me off.

In the belitting matter-of-fact voice that 13-year-olds use with an annoying frequency, she let me know that she wasn't stupid enough to take a photo without permission. In fact, very smartly and smugly, she let me know that she had asked for permission.

To which I replied, "Isn't one of the first rules of taking the bus that you don't talk to anyone, especially strangers?"

It only then dawned on her. She had taken random photos of... g-a-s-p ...strangers! And just because she talked to them to take their photo didn't make them any less strange!

Sometimes I just want to hit my head against a brick wall.

On the other hand, I can just picture the scene unfolding on the bus of some little kid asking randoms to take their photo. I mean, what would you say to that? How bizarre!

My kid behaves on the bus like one of the people we warn her about.