As the parent of a child with allergies, one of the hardest things that we do is let our child eat food that has been prepared by someone other than me, somewhere outside of our control. We do, because there are restaurants, parties, meals with family and friends where the risk can be managed, and we know that great lengths are taken to ensure that the food is nut free. For those times when a nut free option is not available, I provide snacks or treats for Woo, and I make sure that he has them at school and parties.
Tonight was the lils’ hockey banquet, and I made sure that had I let the organizers know of Woo’s allergy in advance. When we arrived, they assured me that all of the items on the buffet were safe, but that the desserts were not, so a fruit plate was being prepared as an alternative. I knew that Woo would not be overly pleased with the fruit, but figured that he would be accepting.
Goose is generally sympathetic of Woo’s plight, and if there is a treat that he is unable to eat, she refuses to eat her serving of the same. Woo wasn’t present when desserts were served tonight, but I explained that Woo would have a perfectly safe and tasty treat, so she should feel comfortable having the unsafe treat. She devoured it, then very carefully washed all traces from her hands and face to ensure that she didn’t accidentally get some on Woo.
When Woo arrived back to the table, he realized what she had eaten and began to negotiate for a better treat at home. I said no, as I have been trying to teach him that it is important to be gracious and accepting when his hosts ensure that there is a safe alternative for him. He switched tactics, and pointed out that fruit was not a dessert, it was just a part of the meal, something that I have said to him on a few occasions. Conceding that he had a point, I suggested that he eat the fruit that had been prepared for him and agreed that he could have a small treat from home.
In the car on the way home, Woo started to ask when he could have his treat. I explained that it was too late to have any sweets before bed, but that I would make sure that he got his Caramel (his current favourite) in the morning. “BUT. They got chocolate cake!!”, he complained. Thinking that he had taken issue with the timing of his treat, I pointed out that the dessert was served over an hour prior, and he had been given his fruit plate at the same time.
“That’s highway robbery!”, he exclaimed, “They got a big piece of cake, and all I got was some fruit and a little caramel?! It’s high-way robb-er-y!” We laughed a little because it was true, the desserts that they had at the banquet were delicious, worth much more than a caramel and some fruit in a trade, but also because this was a new phrase for Woo. I have no idea where he picked it up, but it perfectly described what happened tonight. It didn’t gain him any additional treats, but it did earn some respect for his ability to so accurately describe what had occurred. Highway robbery.
When we were living in India, Woo and Goose developed their own language. I assumed it was because they had gone from living in a predominantly English world to one where the language that they heard most often was Hindi. They heard it everywhere and it was like nothing they had ever heard before. The new language surfaced within weeks of our arrival in India, and it shared some characteristics with Hindi, mostly in how it sounded when they spoke. Woo and Goose were taking Hindi at school, so there may have actually been some Hindi mixed in.
Their imaginary language, which they named “Woo and Goose language” stuck with them for the entire year that we were in India. It was a large part of their play, allowing them to get lost together for hours. It both amused and confused me, watching them “talk” to each other. We were certain that they didn’t really know what each other was saying, but right from the start they acted like they knew what they were saying to each other, and they were happy.
Following our return to Canada, the language gradually faded away. There are still times when it comes out, but they are rare. Now they just make up words for things. Toys that have no name, creatures that don’t resemble any known species, or contraptions that they have created or drawn all get some new name, and more often than not, these nonsense words stick. There are a handful of terms that have become so common in our home that I have unconsciously used them in public. What I have done becomes blatantly obvious when I notice the person that I am speaking to is looking at me like I am speaking in tongues, and I silently curse the lils for sucking me into their language.
The other morning, Goose bounded into my room, too full of energy for 6:30 in the morning, so I convinced her to crawl into my bed and cuddle. We lay there contentedly for just a moment before she started to squirm and sing. I tried to keep her quiet, in the hopes of allowing a few more minutes of sleep for Willy, so I engaged her in a quiet conversation. We talked about everything and nothing for a few minutes, until she interrupted me and said, “Mama, you’re the happifier. Because you make me happy.” She then continued to squirm and dance and sing in the bed while I smiled, and vowed never to curse their language again.
I suppose that I should be grateful that it took until the week before March break in grade one that Woo was introduced to the swear words. Some might say that it is something of a miracle, given that I have been known to have a bit of a potty mouth, but somehow, he escaped learning them from me. He was actually quite up front about his new knowledge, matter-of-factly reporting what he learned, who taught him, and how to spell the words. Then he asked what some of them mean.
Happy that he has only asked what some of the words mean, we have answered honestly, let him know when one might use these words, and cautioned him to never use the words at school. So far he has been respectful and hasn’t taught all the words to his little sister. Yet.
The lils and I were in the car one day last week, and Woo decided that needed to confirm with me all of the bad words that he knew, and began spelling them out. Goose didn’t know what specifically he was spelling, but she did know that they were swear words, so she was egging him on. Wanting to be supportive of the need to explore these words, I reminded the lils that there was a line between using the words legitimately and using the words to provoke a reaction from me, and that one side of that line was bad behaviour. They seemed to be following along, so I asked what side of the line they were on. “Left” answered Woo, followed by a “right” from Goose.
Sure enough, they had correctly identified what side of the car they were on…
March Break meant that the time that I generally spent working at home was spent with the lils, so I found myself falling behind as the week went on. I am teaching two classes this term and had some marking that I needed to get done, so I found myself working late into the night a couple of nights. Woo notice that I was tired one day, so I explained what I had been up late doing. He was fascinated by the whole marking process, and had many questions around the process, but was most concerned with how many “A” grades I gave out.
I thought nothing of the questions, assuming the he was just trying to understand a process that he has barely been exposed to. That was, until he asked if I was going to mark his assignments at home when he took my course. I explained that I would, but that I was going to mark him extra hard, making sure that he worked for an A from me.
He thought about it for a moment, then he turned on the charm, launching in to a number of reasons why he would be deserving of an A from me. When he saw that I was unmoved, he gave me his sweetest smile and said “but Mama, I’m your little boy”, in a voice that melted my heart.
You get an A for that one, Woo.
Woo had his bestie over for the afternoon one day during the break. They were having lots of fun, but the crazy level was slowly working it’s way off the charts. Knowing that a snack generally calms the Lils, we headed to the kitchen. It was the day after Woo’s birthday, so he asked if they could have cupcakes. Knowing that the sugar wouldn’t make things much worse, I said yes.
The snack diversion worked, and the four of us spent quite a while talking about all things food. It was fun to talk to them about their views on food and what is healthy and fun to eat, as well as their likes and dislikes. When Woo’s friend heard that Woo had created the recipe for the cupcakes that they had just eaten he was impressed. I asked if he ever noddled around in the kitchen, and he started trying to explain what he liked to do in the kitchen. He struggled to tell me how his parents let him, but he just doesn’t like to, until he blurted out, “I’m just more of an eater than a cooker!”
The lils were scurrying around like mad before dinner tonight, but I was distracted enough with trying to get things done that I was barely paying attention to what they were up to. They were laughing, nothing was getting thrown around, and dinner was going to be on time. I was suspicious, but not suspicious enough. I left them to their giggles, and thought nothing more of it until after supper when I found some things in odd places.
With each discovery I asked them why, and they giggled and Woo said, “don’t tell her, don’t tell her”. I could tell that whatever they had been doing was building to something, so I played along, and kept asking why things were in crazy places. Each time the response was the same, until I got to the empty Kleenex box on the Tupperware shelf. Apparently they couldn’t keep it in anymore, and revealed to gales, of laughter that they had been practicing their April fool’s day pranks. I asked where all the Kleenex had gone and Woo said, “don’t tell her, don’t tell her”.
I forgot about the Kleenex until I slipped my feet into my boots to go to Beavers, and they somehow felt several sizes too small. Well played, little ones.
I find it hard to believe that you are seven years old today! It seems closer to a week that has passed by than seven years! You continue to be the sunshine that greets me bright and early with a smile on your face, as you have for these years. The difference is that now you can get your own breakfast!
I look at you now, and I see how much you have changed in a year. While it seems like all you did was grow taller, this year saw you lose your first tooth, and your second, third, fourth, and fifth teeth, including one that was removed surgically. You continue to grow into a confident boy who loves to learn. Your transition into the more structured format for grade one has suited you well, and you are thriving there.
It’s amazing to watch who you grow into the little person that you have become. I love to see you reach new heights, be it in the swimming pool, on long bike rides, in your cooking experiments, with challenging new books, or in the nets with your hockey team. Your curiousity is what continues to guide you, as you build and create with whatever you can get your hands on. I think that the recipe you developed for ‘knight cupcakes’ is my favourite of all your creations from this year, because they are seriously the best cupcakes that I have ever tasted. I was secretly proud when you told me that I couldn’t make them for your birthday this year, because you had to do it to get them right!
It’s so wonderful to see the kind, considerate, and loving boy that you continue to be.
Happy birthday, my little man!!
A year of Woo