Four no more

For the last couple of months, the kids have been on a big “pretending they’re animals” kick.  The target critters are usually puppies (rowr rowr!) or bear cubs (groggle groggle!) or kittens (meow meow, obviously).

They’re all cute and, after 12 straight hours of it, So. Freaking. Annoying.

It finally got to the point this evening where I told Seve that I just wasn’t going to respond to him — at all — unless he was speaking like a human:  “You can be happy or sad or scared or whatever … I am NOT talking to you unless you knock off that meowing. 100%.”

He made a vaguely hissy sound and walked away.

Fast forward to an hour later, when I’m trying to corral the kids up to bed.  Seve had just finished drawing a cat.  I was mildly eye-rolly about it (because CAT) but it was a really sweet drawing:


I made a big deal about it, telling him that it was really great and had to go up on the fridge right away.  At which point he burst into tears.

“Nooooo … I need to do another picture … it’s a flip picture … I have to do another one …”

I was having none of it.

“Upstairs.  NOW.  I’m going to grab some jammies and you’d better be upstairs by the time I’m done.”

By the time I was done, though, he was back at the kitchen table, putting the finishing touches on the second doodle I’d just explicitly vetoed.

The thing is … tomorrow is his fifth birthday.  Tonight, I was telling him about how five years ago my stomach was starting to hurt, and then I felt a little bit sick, and about how that was my body telling me that he was ready to be born.  And about how happy I was knowing that I was going to get to meet him soon on the outside, and how I was a little bit sad knowing that he wouldn’t be inside my tummy anymore.

And this is what my boy drew for me, on his last night of being four:


Dear Walter: You’ll be great

Yesterday, Seve decided that he wanted to write a letter to his bear, Walter … so he did.  As I described it on Facebook:

“The letter included Walter’s name, Seve’s name, a drawing of each, a drawing of a house and a drawing of a cave. Oh, and a drawing of some hydro wires. Then he made a bracelet for Walter, and included a set of keys (not ones we actually use). Then we weighed it (52 g), so we had to put five stamps (stickers) on it.  Very productive afternoon.”

Inside the letter, he traced the letters I’d written.  On the envelope, he printed them all by himself.  I posted pictures of both, and his grandma (my mom) made a sweet and benign comment about how Seve is a “budding writer.”

letter_to_walter_1 letter_to_walter_2







So I read that comment and, being a writer, reflexively started to compose the expected reply, about how writing is a terrible career, pay is lousy and wouldn’t wish it upon my enemies, you know the drill.

Except that: it’s none of those things.

It’s not a job for someone who wants to clock in and 9:00 AM and be out the door by 5:01 PM.  (But: my commute to the kitchen table takes 20 seconds and costs me what, one calorie?)

It’s not ideal for someone who needs a stable and predictable income. (Though: it can be, if you hustle, and if you’re hot hustle-prone, no kind of freelance or contractual work will suit.)

And it’s not something I’d wish upon my enemies, because if I had any, I suppose I wouldn’t want them to have fun, something that spending one’s time working with words most definitely is.

I’m reminded of something that happened to me when I was pretty young.  I was sitting on the steps of a house on 6th Street East in Fort Frances, Ontario, which meant it had to have been, at latest, the summer before I turned seven.  I’d written some little story and a neighbouring parent commented that I should be a writer when I grow up.

And I said: “Okay, but I only want to write fiction books, because then I can just make things up and I don’t have to do as much research.”

And then s/he said: “Actually, fiction writers have to do a lot of research, too.”

And then I said, in my head: “Well, fuck that.”

Because I was six and not a fan of hard work, and here I am 35 years later and I can’t say that impulse to otiosity has changed all that much.  Or has it?  I just took 30 seconds right now to make sure I was using “otiosity” correctly.

Anyway.  I feel like that one innocent conversation shut things down for me for a long time.  I didn’t stop writing but it did cease to exist in my own Arena of Aspiration, and to this day, the descriptor “writer” — even though it leads off my own dusty Twitter bio and satisfies Revenue Canada that I’m not earning a living through less salutary means — skeeves me out a little.

So if you’re going to have a conversation with a six-year-old this summer, and I do hope that you do, just know that what you say matters and echoes on.  Even if you’re right and that small boy fixated on saving each sidewalk-stranded earthworm does go on to be a veterinarian, maybe spare him the comment about euthanistic inevitabilities.  He’ll figure it out on his own.

We all do.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Family

They’re not this snuggly with each other when they’re awake.  Trust me.


More at The Daily Post weekly photo challenge.

Kindergarten, schmindergarten

ambulance_amputationThe other day, Seve came home for lunch, at the same time that two fire trucks and an ambulance were pulling up, a few doors down.  We had a conversation about why fire trucks might show up even if there’s no fire, about first aid and first responders, and why the trucks left but the ambulance stayed.

And then he had something to explain to me:

Me: … so if it turns out it was a medical emergency and not a fire, the paramedics will stay to help the person, and take them to the hospital if the situation is serious.

Seve: I used to be a paramedic when I was younger.

Me: Really?  When was that?

Seve: When I was ten years old. (Note to new readers: he’s four)

Me: Well, you know, you have to go to school for a long time to be a paramedic.

Seve: Oh, I went to school.

Me: You did?  When did you do that?

Seve: On a Friday, Wednesday, 11:30, August.

Me: Oh, okay.  I guess maybe I was busy that day.

Seve: Yeah, it was a very busy day.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.