Monday, May 21, 2012

Ode to an Outdoor Kid

Bruises, bruises everywhere.
Muddy face and messy hair.
Blackfly bites and thicket scrapes,
Open wooden garden gates.
Sandy feet under sprinkler hose,
Wipe the droplets off your nose.
Beginning glow of sun-kissed skin.
Slimy mud to throw stones in.
Rubber balls and hula hoops,
Plastic buckets, sandbox scoops.
Bird's eggs, toads and millipedes.
Picking flowers, sowing seeds.
Chase the cat with shrieks and laughs.
Trip and stumble on the path.
Bare feet tear through grassy lawn
Til at last the tell-tale yawn
Of energy that's wearing thin,
A sign it's time to head on in.
Soapy scrubbing, towel dry.
Crawl in bed to close your eyes.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Nature vs.Nurture

I've always found the argument of 'nature versus nurture' to be really interesting. I'm for and against a lot of things on both sides of the argument, so I couldn't say which one I agree with more, though raising Toby in exactly the same environment as my sister and I were raised has turned out to be an interesting experiment.

Most of you know, my parent's live in the country. We have a 30 acre property and about a half acre piece of dirt that we cultivate with vegetables every year (mostly my Granny and Opa's doing, who live next door.) We have two tractors, one big and one small. We've always had animals of some kind; when I was little we had chickens, cats and a dog; currently we have three cats who live outside. We have a bush with a stream and walking trails. We have wildlife regularly walk through our yard.

My sister and I could have cared less about the tractors when we were young. We were told to stay out of the way if Opa was mowing the grass or snow blowing, but that was about it. I tried to learn to drive the tractor when I was maybe 12 and I hit a tree and never wanted to do it again. I had my own vegetable garden, but it got forgotten and dried out half way through the summer. I loved our cats, and my sister and I played with them constantly.

Toby on the other hand, living in the same house with the same people around and the same routine, took an intense fascination to the tractor each time Opa drove around in it. This turned into pointing out every tractor on every farm on our way to and from town. Which turned into me needing to learn the names of a whole host of farm equipment so I wasn't just saying 'tractor' to everything that moved.
Tractors evolved into construction equipment. Construction turned into carpentry tools.
Yes, I encouraged Toby's fascination, but by no means did I force it.
I also encourage him with different kinds of sports and activities outside, but it always comes back to wanting to sit on the tractor or hit something with a stick or a hammer. Including our cats, which despite my best and loving efforts is still a problem. Yes my sister and I chased them around, but we never wanted to terrorize them the way Toby seems to think is fun.

People say 'Oh, it's just cause he's a boy. Boy's are like that.'
Alright, well my boy also regularly asks me to tie pieces of fabric or bath towels around him to make a dress. He asks to have his nails painted when I paint mine. He runs up to my mom while I'm cooking dinner and exclaims "Gramma! Mom is just making a FABULOUS dinner. You should SEE!"
Today he was eating carrot sticks when he declared that "This one looks like a pony! I'm not going to eat it, I'll save in in the fridge."
And 10 minutes later began telling me how he was going to chase a mouse behind a tractor and BAM it with a hammer.
On the way to town now he'll comment on the BEAUTIFUL HORSIES, and then THE HUUUUGE TRUCK WITH A TRAILER THAT HAD AN EXCAVATOR ON IT!!! in the same breath.

I feel like, yes, he is a very stereotypical boy, I blame genetics; but he's also been nurtured to understand beauty and nature. He's naturally very quiet sensitive, but he's also has a natural rage that rears it's ugly head from time to time.
So it's hard tell, where does the effects of nature stop and the effects of nurturing begin? Are we nurturing our kids to be their acceptable 'self', or are we trying to nurture them into what we think they should be like?

I encourage dance and yoga, as much as I encourage soccer and hockey. He likes them all, but is clearly not interested enough to be an Olympic athlete. And maybe I do have a secret hope that he'll end up on So You Think You Can Dance Canada Season 20, but I know it's not likely to happen.
Based on now, what seems likely is that he'll end up doing carpentry, at least as a hobby. He'll be a good cook even if he's not a chef. He could run his own farm one day if he keeps up the interest.

But again comparing to my sister and I, I was always the tomboy and my sister was the princess diva...and in the end I'm the one who went to school for fashion design and she's the one who gets excited over parasitic cat testicles.

You can do any amount of encouraging and your kid will still rebel against you. Nothing is ever expected.
Hopefully Toby finds a way to vent his aggression properly and is at least ingrained with the knowledge that he can be whoever he wants to be.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Outside today, weeding the garden, I very suddenly felt....old.
Not 'old' in the sense that my joints hurt or my knees popped when I stood up...Just...oldER?

Toby was playing beside me and we watched Opa (my Opa, Toby's Great-Opa) drive into the back yard to get a trailer. Toby said he was going to see what he was doing, I said sure.
He was gone for ages, so I checked around the corner to see things were ok, and he was waving Opa back to where the trailer was and then helped hitch it up, and then Opa put him in the car to drive through the field with a load of junk.
In the last few weeks I've let him do 'independent' things that I never would have dreamed of letting him do this time last year. Mostly because I know he's not going to go careening off the bridge, or trip over the front step now.
So, anyway, Here I am standing in the middle of the yard wearing slush pants over my pajama pants, with grubby skater shoes, a sweater, a scarf and a touque. An outfit I wouldn't be caught dead in a few years ago. An outfit I may have rolled my eyes at my mom for wearing.
And I'm watching my son walk away rom me to do another project and I don't feel a sense of panic that he needs to be supervised. I'm just....ok.
And it lead to this sudden feeling of feeling 'old'.
And then I'm thinking, maybe it has nothing to with age really, but more a sense of confidence.

I'm so used to feeling like I'm grasping at straws, both as a person and a mother. I had a kid right at the moment in my life where I was realizing that my adult-self was a different person than my teenage-self, and then I had to suddenly discover my mother-self and my single-self on top of all that.
So maybe I just feel 'old' because I finally feel confident that I have this thing figured out.
Maybe I'm feeling grown up because Toby is growing up and I don't feel tied down because I have to lug him everywhere. Maybe I'm feeling gown up because I feel like a mom, and not just someone who's raising a kid.

The wind blows around my legs, and I can't feel it because I've chosen to wear slush pants over my PJs. I smile to myself that I've made a good choice and kneel back down in the dirt to keep weeding.