When They’re Ready

One blazing-hot summer day, when I was a small child, I almost drowned while at a day camp. 

That is the way 5-year-old me remembers the incident, anyway. My group was taken to swim at the big junior high pool, and as part of some kind of test, we were lined up like petite penguins, and one by one asked to jump into the deep end. 

In reality, it was probably the shallow end, but one is short when one is only 5. The point is, that I had never had to jump into water over my head before.

I was one of those can’t-get-my-face-wet kids. I pleaded to not have to do it, but the unsympathetic teenage captors counsellors prodded me to the pool’s edge, and so I leapt.

I remember the sinking, echoey feeling of floundering underwater. Of not being able to breathe. So this is it, I thought, I’m drowning.

Before darkness closed in, I was hoisted to the surface, water-logged and teary, and ejected from the pool to shiver in a towel somewhere.

My enduring feeling to this day, is of shame at not being able to perform this simple exercise that “everyone else” could do.

But the truth is that I just wasn’t ready. Being pushed, literally, at the wrong time created a negative association with swimming that lasted for years. 

With my own kids, I’ve tried – key word –  to strike that balance between an encouraging push and allowing them to get to something on their own terms.

We’ve all witnessed that parent publicly pushing their child to do something they’re not ready to try. Come on, you can do it. Stop whining. I’m right here. Nothing’s going to happen. The child is in tears and the parent is fuming. There’s nothing worse. 

Actually, there is something worse than witnessing it, and that is being that parent.

But it is also true that there are times that our kids will not do something without the required pressure. My oldest would never have gone to overnight camp without a little momentum, but I waited until he was almost 10 before signing him up. I knew that he wasn’t anywhere near ready at the age of 8, as many kids are. 

My daughter came to this world to spread joy and fun times. She is the life of the party, exuberant and affectionate. She’s also as stubborn as a mule, or an ox or any other stubborn animal you can name. You can want her to do something all you want. But if she’s not ready. It. Is. Not. Happening.

Almost two years ago, we bought her a bike.

This bike:

It was everything her four-year-old heart dreamt of. It was sky-blue, strewn with flowers, and had matching pastel streamers.

She had a few wobbly outings on the quiet street behind our house. My husband did that awkward knees-bent run beside her, to keep her stable and prevent a major collision. She made a little progress.

She was very excited about having the bike, but absolutely not excited about riding the bike. Each time I asked her if she wanted to go for a ride, the answer was no. No amount of coaxing or cajoling helped.

Eventually, the cold weather came and our bikes went to hibernate in the garden shed. Then came the first spring of the pandemic, and every 5 year old in our neighbourhood was cycling circles around us. Every day, I asked her if she wanted to get her bike out and have a little ride. The answer was no, no and again, no.

I started to get annoyed, and became, for awhile, that parent. 

I ramped up the coaxing.

I tried some small bribes. 

I even resorted to threats like these, “Well, if you don’t ride your bike, you obviously don’t want it, so I’ll have to give it away.”

I don’t recommend any of these strategies.

In danger of creating an I-almost-drowned-at-daycamp moment for her, I quietly stopped with the bike.

The summer flew by, and the bicycle continued to gather dust.

Another spring! 2021. After the winter of our despair, hope welled up anew. 

In April, I began plotting about how to get her on the road without prompting the digging in of heels. 

I finally realized that there was something about riding in the laneway behind our house that just wasn’t working for her. She needed new territory.

With that thought in mind, I loaded my two kids’ bikes in the back of the car and took them to a running track at a local high school. It is wide, it is 400m long, and it is perfectly flat. 

She was hesitant and needed some convincing to get into the car, but with her brother riding point for moral support, her streamers finally flew in the wind. First one lap. Then another. 

Turns out, all she needed was a change of scenery. Such a simple solution!

Going up to the track to ride her bike became a daily occurrence. She finally was able to voice that she was terrified of falling. But, she also finally realized that you actually can’t learn to ride without a few falls. 

She’s become incredibly proficient at getting up again.

As much as she loved her sky-blue baby, eventually, she was forced to admit that it was too small for her. So we upgraded to a geared bike, a huge step up that I would never have imagined several months before.

A girl and her bike.

She then asked me if biking is a sport in the Olympics. To which I say, Citius – Altius – Fortius.

5 Aussie Words You’ve Never Heard Of

The husband and I met in 2001, in England. At that point, I’d never been to Australia, but had met enough Aussies on the road that I was somewhat familiar with Australian vernacular. Much of the time, Aussies align themselves with the Brits, so, many words in their collective vocabulary will be the same as their English counterparts.

For example, both Australians and Brits call a flashlight a torch, whereas in North America the word “torch” is exclusively used for some sort of flaming piece of wood that you might brandish if you were exploring a cave in the 1800s.

But you probably already knew that. Just as you are already aware that boot is another word for the trunk of a car and much of the rest of the world uses the succinct carpark instead of the clunkier American parking lot.

My partner has been living here on foreign Canadian shores since 2003, so he’s had to adjust to our way – some would say the correct way 😉 – of doing things. It took him a long time, and I mean at least a decade, but he finally started to say he’s going out to the store instead of the shop. He’s learned to say the word “burger” with a hard arrrr on the end of it so as not to lead to massive confusion whilst dining out.

Despite his learning to blend in to some extent, as a family, we still have our what-do-you-call-that? moments, which we reference by saying this catchphrase:

“That’s an odd name. I’d have called them chazzwazzers.”

The Simpsons S06E16 Bart vs. Australia

Without further ado, here are 5 words for everyday items that you never knew were used in the land Down Under. (And often in Great Britain. And potentially the rest of the Commonwealth.)

1. Hundreds-and-thousands.

What are they? Are they some kind of unit of measure? No, my friend. They are much more ordinary and extraordinary than that. They are sprinkles. Yes, the kind that you would ask for on your kid’s ice cream cone.

At an Aussie children’s birthday party, you can eat fairy bread, that is, buttered white bread covered in sprinkles, sorry, hundreds-and-thousands. In Canada and the US, we tend to say “sprinkles” for both the little round balls and the longer-type confection. Although the balls are technically nonpareil, and we supposedly speak French here in Canada, the word isn’t common. Click through for more on international sprinkle culture.

2. Manchester

You’re in Australia and you’re wandering in a department store, and you see a sign pointing you to “Manchester.” Curious, you follow the signs, wondering what goods imported from the northern English city you are about to discover, only to find a section full of sheets and other bed-linens.

Yup, in Australia, Manchester became a catchall phrase for bedding, due to the fact that the city used to be a major producer of cotton products.

Incidentally, in the process of reading a bit about this, I discovered that “Manchester” is also the Swedish word for “corduroy.”

3. Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs

Apparently, caramel corn. Wow, what a mouthful. This package also depicts how caramel corn makes me feel.

I feel like this can’t be what caramel corn is called on a daily basis. (Australians, lemme know!) It’s just much more fun to say lolly gobble bliss bombs.

4. Thongs

Definitely not a type of underwear. Thongs are flip-flops, shortened from the expression thong sandal, which apparently was abandoned in North America at some point since the 60’s in favour of the onomatopoeic flip-flop.

As an aside, while reading about thongs all over the Internet, I discovered the true story of how Sisqo was inspired to write “The Thong Song.” It’s a mini-documentary. You’re welcome.

We are firm flip-floppers in this household.

5. Squash

Okay, this is where things get confusing.

Squash can be a bunch of things. Internationally, it’s a raquet sport. Fine. Agreed.

We have a bunch of vegetables that we call squash in North America that are generally called pumpkin in Australia. Butternut squash is butternut pumpkin. I don’t know what they call the other squashes, like, is it acorn squash or acorn pumpkin? Lastly, we have a small squash that we usually call pattypans and they call those squash.

AND. One more thing. Once I was out at a pub with friends in Sydney, and I was driving. A friend was fetching drinks from the bar and taking orders, and as I was not drinking, asked me if I wanted a squash or something. ???

Turns out squash is a lemon-flavoured carbonated drink. There are a bunch of different brands.

It’s sort of like lemonade, but carbonated. Oh wait, in Australia, lemonade is what they call Sprite or 7-Up.

The Portable Magic

We’ve hit a family milestone.

On a Saturday not long ago, we had no plans, and no place to go, as is mostly the case during our pandemic life.

My petite Lark was bored and complaining that she had nothing to do, although she owns all the toys and art supplies in the universe.

I suggested that we all grab a book and have a “family reading session” in the living room for half an hour. Admittedly, I expected her to scoff at this suggestion as she had the other 1,000 ideas I’d offered up, but she agreed.

For 30, blissful, quiet minutes, we sat together but apart, each person reading a book of our own choosing.

Continue reading “The Portable Magic”

One Year of COVID

The beast.

Tomorrow, March 11th, 2021, we in Canada will hold our first National Day of Observance to commemorate the lost.

No matter who you are, or where you live, this year has taken something from you. It has taken lives, health, jobs, friendships and money.

It has given many things too. It has given loneliness and heart-break. It has also given gratitude, appreciation and resilience.

A little over a year ago, in February of 2020, I got sick. Actually, we got sick, my little 5-year-old and I.

It was the Family Day weekend in Canada. Valentine’s Day fell on the Friday, and we’d intended to go away to the cottage for wintry good times with the extended family, an annual tradition.

Continue reading “One Year of COVID”

Take a Hike

I’m sure you know one of those families that are so outdoorsy and stoic that it’s irritating. They’re always headed off on epic cycling trips or month-long paddling excursions. They don’t have any wimpy kids in their brood, who constantly whine, “My legs are tired. Are we almost there?”

No. Their kids completed their first triathlon at the age of 6 and can easily carry a 20-lb pack as they scale mountains.

I don’t know who these kids are, but they look impressive.

I aspire for us to be one of those families. And I’m ready to irritate you with tales of our stoicism.

Continue reading “Take a Hike”