Wednesday, November 19, 2014

7 Habits of Highly Perfectionist Children

1. Always make sure your bingo cards are perfectly aligned with each other AND with the hardwood pattern on the floor, or whatever surface they are lying on.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Talking about death and.... koalas

Not exactly sure how to talk to kids about difficult stuff like death. My grandfather, who lived overseas, died some time ago. I was not sure how to present this news to Koopa without making him too distressed. So one day, after picking him up from school, I waited for a moment when I had his undivided attention, and just shared the news with him. He studied my serious and sad face, looking a little nervous, as if measuring up my emotions and trying to adjust his own, didn't say anything. We had talked about death before, in quite simple terms, he knows that all living things die, people grow old and die, but he never encountered it, and so there was no reason to discuss it in much detail. So I don't know what was going on through his mind when I told him the news. He was silent for a little while, then inquired if my grandma was ok. I said yes, she is. Will she live alone now? Yes, she will live alone now. And that seemed to be it. After that he seemed satisfied with the conversation and ready to go about his five-year-old business.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Do toilets die?

I have to admit I wasn't really looking forward to August 2013, the month when Koopa was already out of his daycare in Montreal but wasn't yet in school in Toronto. That is, I wasn't looking forward to having to unpack and arrange all the stuff you have to arrange in new city without any child care support. We ended up working in shifts, me and Gleb, each of us alternating parenting and unpacking/working shifts. And I don't know about Gleb's shifts (I think the two of them were mostly busy exploring the Toronto transit system, judging from the fact that Koopa has memorized the whole subway map by now), but my time with Koopa was largely filled with these philosophical conversations about the essence of the universe. It's like all this time spent together set off some kind of inquiry mode in him, and he was finally able to ask all these important questions that must have bothered him for a long time. Basically, he wants to know how the world works. And I am there to offer my (very limited) expertise about these issues. So even though August was not an easy month, it was also a lot of fun to spend more time with this new inquisitive Koopa. And now he goes to school but only till 3pm, so we still have a lot more time to talk every day than we used to.

Probably ninety per cent of his questions have one of the following formats: a)"Who made X?"    b)"Do Y die?"    c) "Can Z move/operate by itself?  d) "Can I drown in ___?"

For instance:

"Why is thunder so loud?"

"Can I drown in the ocean?"

"Who made lakes and rivers?"

"Why is it dark at night?"

"Do cars die?"

"Who makes toilets?"

"Can I drown if I get into your cup of coffee?"  (I'm not joking, he seriously asked it the other day)

"Can a bus move on its own?"

"Why do people need a nose?"

"Do toilets die?"


And, finally, my personal favourite:

KOOPA: Who made ME?
ME: me and daddy
KOOPA: But how? How did you make me? [Me: oh shit, do we have to get into this already? i don't have energy for this right now... but thankfully a helpful clarification follows] Did you make my arms or my legs first?
ME [thank God, he must think we made him out of play dough]: Well, they just kind of formed at the same time I think, your arms and legs.
KOOPA: Did you make my head too?
ME: Yeah, I suppose.

I didn't realize what a serious impact this conversation had until the following exchange took place two days later. I noticed Koopa sitting on the floor and shaking a not-very-stable shelf with a heavy cast iron pot on it. I rushed towards him, exclaiming "Koopa, please don't do it! It can fall on you and break your head!" To which he calmly replied: "Well then you and daddy will make me a new one!"

So as of this writing, we're not completely unpacked, not quite settled down, and not really feeling like we're home or anywhere in particular (that won't happened any time soon, but whatever, that's a different story). But who cares? I don't. When your (only) head is occupied with such important matters as the life and death of a toilet, the last thing that will bother you is a couple of unpacked boxes and stranded household items scattered around the under-furnished living room.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Koopa the Conqueror

Koopa has come a really long way with his fear of unfamiliar toilets. He is far from being completely at ease with them, and is still quite picky about his pubic bathroom choices, but he can handle them now most times. A trip to the bathroom when we're out and about is still never a mundane event for us, but almost always involves at least a slight surge in anxiety, and a lot of negotiations and sometimes tears. But the toilet is not an invincible monster anymore, like it used to be for almost two years for him.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What to be when I grow up

Mid-August:

KOOPA (very seriously): Mama I have to decide. I have to decide whether I want to be a construction worker or a subway train driver.
ME: OK, you have enough time to decide. You have to go to school first and then you'll decide what to be.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Interactions in the new place

So we are in a new city and a new neighbourhood. The city is not that new actually, its both familiar and new at the same time. We have spent five great pre-Koopa years here, and have great friends here. But the neighbourhood is new, and it seems to be the kind of neighbourhood where you want to get to know people, especially if you have a kid. This is something that I actually really like about this corner of the city, that it doesn't lead your typical North American way of living where every child is secluded in their own private backyard, occasionally going over to carefully pre-scheduled play dates in the next door backyard (in the best case scenario its a backyard, in a typical case scenario its probably a computer screen).

Paddling along

We took a walk on the Toronto lakeshore the other day and passed this little pond where people could rent a canoe or an individual paddle boat for a 15-minute ride. The little paddle boats were clearly for kids but most of them were occupied by 6-8 year olds or so it seemed to my critical motherly eye.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Koopa on bilingualism/multiculturalism

Koopa: Mama, why is it that not everybody speaks Russian?

me: Well, that's because not everybody's parents speak Russian. But many people speak some other language at home. That's often because they or their parents originally come from some other country. For instance, your friend Isabel speaks Spanish because she was born in Spain where everybody speaks Spanish, and your friend Ben speaks Persian, that's because he was born in Iran where everybody speaks Persian.

Koopa: Where was I born?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Koopa talks

I think it is safe to say now that Koopa's selective mutism is a thing of the past.

About a month and a half ago he started talking freely in most settings, chatting to friends at daycare and on playgrounds, and even occasionally replying to grown ups he doesn't know too well, like his dentist. If you just met him for the first time in July, you probably wouldn't even know he ever had a talking problem.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Well, we've graduated. Both of us.

It's not that Koopa's graduation party went badly, exactly, it just was... overwhelming, I guess. For him. And for me too. And its not that it left a bad taste in my mouth, no, it just left... well, more of the taste of the reality than I usually have.

At the beginning, they sang songs (Koopa sang in whisper). This part was nice, actually. Very cute and touching. They'd been preparing for this performance for weeks, which made it that much more touching. The hard part came after the singing, when the random mingling and snacking and running around started. First, Koopa got upset  because his best friend was playing with other kids when he wanted her to play only with him. We figured that out somehow, but that minor incident seemed to set off the 'overwhelmed' mode.