Friday, October 17, 2008

How I traded my fear of escalators and ramps for a little lift

I used to sweat every time I went near Polo Park Shopping Centre.

There's a few reasons for that. When I first moved to the city in the summer of '92 (to begin my short career at Dairy Queen) I was hit by a truck right in front of the mall. I didn't see any other vehicles coming, but in the middle of my U-turn I sure felt one. We never found each other in all the traffic, he never phoned it in, and I was left paying the deductible.

I wasn't injured, but the experience didn't do much for my confidence as a city driver, especially considering I had just rear-ended someone two weeks before. If I had had speed dial, Autopac would've been on it.

I was so tired of dealing with body shops, police reports and Autopac claim adjusters. Every time I saw an Autopac sign I would relive the boom of the crash, followed by the laughter of my Dairy Queen coworkers, the shaking frowns of my parents.

When I began dating T. that fall, we decided to turn my negative experience around; every time we saw an Autopac logo we treated it like mistletoe and smooched. Now that was a much more pleasant 'collision'!

The other reason Polo Park gave me the shakes was because I was a regular window shopper at Polo Park's Thyme Maternity during my first pregnancy...the one I lost.

I also seem to recall a frightening encounter with the Polo Park down escalators from my childhood, but I think I've repressed it.

This summer there was a reclining lawn chair on sale at Zellers that I wanted to get T. for our anniversary. There was only one left in the city - at the Polo Park location. I made it home with the chair, a stiff neck, and a few more reasons to hate going there, which involve confusing parking ramps and gift cards that drain themselves if you don't spend them in time.

But last night I drove to Polo Park and I can't wait to go back.

I visited a parents' group for moms of kids with disabilities that meets in that area. We shared our experiences with behaviour therapies and stimulant medications, discussed coping strategies, and swapped the battle stories that sometimes make parents of typical kids clear their throats and change the subject. Stories of kids running away in public and parents wishing they could too. Of unhinged doors and falling stipple. (Which, by the way, they wanted me to let you know makes a great hair gel. Scratch off ceiling onto head, rub in and style. Instant body and hold. Not that K.'s naturally "Calvin and Hobbs" hair needs it.)

After 3 hours of laughing and sharing over 7-Up (i.e. 3 hours of laughing on a full bladder) I felt so comfortable (except for my bladder), like I'd known these moms for months.

Polo Park still has parking ramps and gift card fees, but I don't have to worry about those. Just like Autopac can become a reason to kiss, Polo Park has become a reason to laugh.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A house full of pirates and joy

At G.'s dance class last weekend I overheard some moms talking about their families. One mom had five young children and finally felt like her family was complete. She looked very calm for a mother of five. (She owns 2 washers and dryers which helps I'm sure.)

I always imagined T. and I would have four kids, or at the very least three. When we were engaged I had visions of us someday walking through the park with four blonde heads of descending size, like Russian dolls, walking between us.

Okay, so I was a bit naive. What I really got was one blonde head trying to dive into the duckpond and the other one rolling in the grass screaming because her leggings were slipping.

I guess it's sort of like my dream: they could've been brunettes or redheads diving and rolling.

I wonder if the Madonna-Five-Times-Over ever has days like that. From what she said it sounded like she nurses the baby while the other four sit quietly at a table and teach each other the alphabet.

After K. got his diagnosis, I'd see pregnant women and all I could think about was the risk they were taking. Especially by having boys, who are 4 times more likely than girls to have autism and 2-3 times more likely to have ADHD. At the time when people usually talk about having a third, I was so overwhelmed with K.'s behaviour and the needs of a preschool-girl-with-attitude, I didn't even seriously consider it.

Last night I had 5 kids in my house. Three boys from the neighbourhood showed up to play hide-and-seek with K. and G.. I had kids popping out of closets and shower stalls left and right. And it felt like little champagne bubbles popping in my chest.

I loved having a house full of children. And as someone who wanted a little girl very badly, I'm surprised at how much I loved the pirate sword fights and Lego airship factories of K. and his friends. Nine year old boys are a lot of fun. And now that we're permanently diaper and spit-up free, I wonder what it would be like if we had had more? (If we'd made it through the toddler years with a bit of sanity remaining.)

All I know is that I'm grateful that K.'s social skills and our parenting skills have grown so that we now have the energy to welcome more Russia dolls of all colours into our home.

Even if it is only for as long as it takes to bring down a pirate airship.