Wednesday, April 2, 2014


I wanted a girl. I didn't find out for sure until quite late in the pregnancy (ultrasound at 32 weeks) but I had a feeling she was going to be a girl right from the beginning. I was hoping for a Princess -- a girlie girl that would like wearing pink dresses and tiaras and playing with dolls. I certainly got my wish. Michelle is a Princess if there ever was one. Her favourite book and movie is Cinderella. She now likes Ariel (The Little Mermaid), Belle (Beauty and the Beast) and Rapunzel (Tangled) as well. She can name all the Disney princesses (she has a collection of books on them.)

In fairytales, Princesses are beautiful, kind, sweet, perfect. They like wearing dresses, get along with animals and have a tendency to break into song. In real life however, "Princesses" are often vain, spoiled, high maintenance, demanding divas. Gee, that doesn't sound like Michelle AT ALL.

I've certainly played my part in creating a Princess and some would say I've created a monster! Though she may not live in a castle (I did get her a pink palace tent!) I spoil her with love and attention and cater to her every whim. She is under the (correct) impression that she rules the household and is used to getting her way. Michelle has always been fascinated by the mirror but lately she loves admiring herself and trying on clothes more than ever. The cute side of having a Princess is watching her strut around in tiaras and pink dresses. The dark side is having a moody, impossible child with a sense of entitlement who won't take "No" for an answer. And am I to blame? Probably. But I don't know how else to be. I don't know how to not put her first. She is everything to me now.

Recently my brother Mike gave us a huge bag of clothes size 3 and 4 years that my niece Kayla had outgrown. I'm always appreciative of hand me downs because Michelle grows so fast it's hard to keep up with clothes for her. She has always been big for her age. (She was 9 lbs 4 ounces at birth so I never got to use the cute newborn things I had for her. She skipped straight to 3 month clothes.) Now she's wearing some size 3 outfits at 20 months. While looking through the bag I was THRILLED to find this little pink princess dress and tiara! When I showed Michelle, she was as excited as I was and couldn't wait to try it on. She was in her glory prancing around proudly like a Princess and I was the paparazzi snapping away. She didn't even seem to mind posing for me. I managed to capture several shots I liked. I even got some pictures of her with Cinderella and Prince Charming. (I couldn't resist picking them up for her when I saw them in the store.) "Where's my Prince Charming?" she says when she misplaces her doll. "I've been asking myself the same thing," I joke. Michelle is becoming quite possessive of her things. Everything is "my" and "mine" now. Including my things. She reaches for my makeup bag and says "Mine." She takes out my lip gloss and says "I need it!" Thankfully she can't twist the lid off herself. She loves jewelry and runs off with my Mom's necklaces and earrings. My Mom put her favourite pair of clip-ons on Michelle and she lost one of them. Dresses. Makeup. Jewelry. A Diva in training for sure. I can't imagine when she's a teenager.

Here are some of my favourite shots from our "Princess Photo Shoot":

Michelle is up to 1500+ words and phrases now (I keep a journal but when I don't have it on-hand to update it I forget so many things. It's nearly impossible to keep up with all the new things she can say. She speaks in full sentences.) She still surprises me every day with something new. "That was a close one!" she says all of a sudden, which made me laugh. My Mom was amazed one day when Michelle asked "What's the matter Grandma, is something wrong?" One day she said "I understand," the only thing more surprising than her knowing the word would be if she actually did know the meaning -- and she just might. She was saying "huckleberry jam" out of the blue and I couldn't figure out where she picked that up. Then I realized it was in a Dr. Seuss book. She's like a sponge. She's taking everything in. Even when you think she's not paying attention. Between books, movies, TV and her family, she picks up all sorts of phrases. We have to be very careful what we say. She exclaims "Oh my God!" quite often now. Of course when she's shy it's a struggle to get her to say anything at all. I'll tell people all these amazing things she can say (all the days of the week, months of the year, etc etc) and then when I try to get her to do it on command: crickets. She clams up and won't say a thing. She always seems to have stage fright when she first meets someone new or sees someone she hasn't seen in a while. She got to see the whole family a couple of times in March.

Our family is big on celebrations and I'm always glad when we can all get together. I've heard of a lot of families that don't even celebrate birthdays together and see each other very rarely so I'm grateful my family is so close. We have three birthdays in March. Sometimes we combine them all into a one day celebration. This time we had Dan's and James' then Chris' later on.

Michelle loves seeing everybody but she's always very shy at first. Eventually she comes out of her shell and then is happy to be thrown in the air by Uncle Chris and to run around with cousins Reggie and Shannon. She wasn't too keen on my brother Mike's new beard. She's a little leery of anyone with a beard (she wasn't too fond of Santa at Christmastime.) I worry sometimes that because she doesn't have a man in her life that she may be uncomfortable around men in general but at least she gets to see Grampa regularly and her Uncles fairly often as well. Sometimes a man will make a fuss of her when we're out somewhere. She usually just turns away. There are a few men she likes. The Wiggles for instance. Lachy is her favourite. And she likes Prince Charming.

It's fun watching Michelle come out of her shell. Seeing the whole crowd at my sister's she went from being silent, clinging to me, hiding her face and refusing to let me put her down to then talking up a storm, running around laughing and shrieking and chasing balloons.

My Mom said Michelle is so much like me. When I was little I used to be painfully shy until I would suddenly come out of my shell and be dancing around and singing for the crowd. "I wonder if Michelle will love dancing and singing like you," my Mom mused. I think so. She already dances when she hears music she likes and she sings all the time. She sings lullabies and nursery rhymes and now she's started singing along with The Wiggles' songs too (and she even does the accompanying dance moves. She sings Rock a Bye Your Bear and does the whole routine that goes with it, clapping, putting her hands up, rocking the bear and miming him sleeping.)

Everyone commented on how bright Michelle is. My nephew Dan said that I would probably teach her to read before kindergarten the way I did when he was a toddler. He said he was one of the only kids in his kindergarten class that could read. I couldn't believe that he actually remembered me teaching him to read. I was so proud and moved that I started to cry and ran over to hug him. It was the greatest compliment I could have gotten. "I didn't mean to make you cry!" he said. His girlfriend said I should have been a teacher. I used to play school with my brothers when we were little too.

Michelle may be reading before kindergarten. She has always had a love of books. I was reading to her before she was even born. Now she tries to read herself. She'll say "I read it, Mama," and she takes the book, turning each page carefully and says the words she remembers from each page. She likes me to read stories over and over because she's trying to memorize them. She has known the alphabet for a while now and already recognizes certain letters and letter sounds. She even knows that some letters start some words (or she may just be repeating it from hearing it in the song) "A is for apple, A-a-apple, B is for ball, b-b-ball..." She knows M is for Michelle and Mama and monkey. So many people have said she's like a 2 or 3 year old. She has become pretty good at puzzles. She used to get frustrated if she couldn't make the pieces fit on the first try but now I tell her to just keeping trying until it clicks into place. She can do the whole shape sorter now. I found one of my mini-Buddhas inside it as well. "That's where that went!" "MY Buddha," she says. Apparently EVERYTHING is hers now.

Being a single Mom can be isolating. Especially when you're in hibernation mode. I was looking forward to the nice weather so we could go out for walks again. This winter has been the hardest I can remember. I was so anxious for Spring to come and then ironically when it did, I got sick. The first day of Spring came and I had a horrible cold/cough/flu. I don't think there is anything at once so mundane and so horrible as the common cold. It just knocks you out. I always hated being sick. Even long before I had Michelle I used to whine about having a cold. I didn't know how easy I had it back then. I could just lay in bed to recuperate. That's no longer an option. Michelle doesn't give me a break because I'm sick. She still wants constant attention, wants me to play with her, pick her up, give her a piggyback ride, play hide and seek, chase her around. I tried to explain that I barely had the energy to walk myself much less carry her but she's used to getting her way and giving in, as hard as it is, is still preferable to hearing her scream. So I muddled through and after several days of Hell I did start to feel a little better. Unfortunately then Michelle caught it and as every parent knows, there is NOTHING worse than your child being sick. It is BRUTAL.

I hate having a runny nose but for a kid that doesn't even know how to blow her nose, it's unbearable. Michelle hates when I wipe her nose with a tissue (even though I got the ultra soft ones) and runs away when I try. She kept wiping her nose on her hands, sleeve, whatever was around. It was driving me crazy. No matter how many times I tried to explain about germs she just wasn't getting it. Then there was the coughing. She would cough so hard it would make her gag and almost throw up. She was crankier than ever and I still wasn't 100% myself so it was a struggle. By the end of the day I was just spent. Then just when I thought things couldn't get worse, they did. She had just finished her dinner when all of a sudden she coughed and it all came up. The whole works all over her, me and the floor. I carefully peeled our clothes off and put them in the kitchen sink to rinse, went upstairs to get us cleaned up and changed then put the clothes in the laundry. We had our bath and finally she seemed to have settled down. I was so exhausted, discouraged and frustrated that I finally went down to the family room, sat in the dark and bawled my eyes out. Some days I don't know how I will get through. To never have help, never have a break. Being a single Mom is tough and no one can possibly understand unless they have been through it themselves. Some single Moms still have some help (ex is in the picture, has partial custody, helps out financially). In my case I'm completely on my own with no ex in the picture since he left when I was 4 months pregnant.) My only childcare is my Mom and she doesn't live in the same city so it's difficult to say the least. I feel guilty enough when I have to leave Michelle to go to work (and I'm on a modified schedule so I don't have to work that many days as it is) so there's no way I would ask my Mom to watch her on my days off. So I never get a break. The closest thing I get to a vacation is going to work and with long days (14 hours including the commute), it's not exactly a picnic either. Life is difficult enough at the best of times so when Michelle is sick and so much more difficult and demanding, it is completely draining. So I sat on the couch and cried. It felt good to get it out. It was cathartic. I went up to bed and saw Michelle sleeping peacefully and felt better. Then she had a big cough and vomited on the bed. It was like a slap in the face. She was crying "Nap! Nap!" because she was tired and didn't understand why I was taking the bed apart and undressing her. I didn't even have a spare set of sheets to put on the bed so I had to improvise with blankets and sheets that were too small while I did the laundry.

Being a Mom is the hardest job in the world. You give everything you have and wonder if it's enough. I have days where I don't know how I'll go on but then Michelle will say "I love you, Mommy" and I know that I could and would go through anything for her.

My Mom called me one night to say she's so proud of what a great mother I am. It was nice to hear, especially since my Mom is often one of the people telling me everything I'm doing wrong. Apparently she had just watched a movie about a "career woman" who goes back to work right after having her baby and doesn't have a lot of time to spend with her child. The child is then two years old and can barely speak and the doctor tells her it's because she didn't give the child enough attention. My Mom is impressed at how brilliant Michelle is and attributes it to all the attention I've given her. I devote 99% of my time to Michelle, playing with her, reading to her, etc and have made many sacrifices (financially, socially and otherwise) to do so. I've given up sleep, dating, hobbies, my car, my body, life as I knew it. I'm with her 24-7. I've had women tell me I'm too smothering and can't keep Michelle in a bubble, that I'm making her too dependent, spoiling her, etc. Every woman is different. I know there are Moms who had no problem leaving their kids with strangers. There are women who have other priorities -- husband, career, friends, vacations etc and don't have a problem leaving their kids with strangers and for extended periods. I put Michelle first. I don't know how to put myself first anymore. I know that some people would say you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of someone else but for me it all changed the day I found out I was pregnant. I stopped living for me. I live for her. So I don't shop for myself anymore. Everything is for her. I will go without clothes so that she can have more clothes, books, toys. I don't have a social life anymore. I don't have the car I loved. I don't have time for my hobbies. I've given up on old dreams. To me, there is no other choice. She is more important than anything I used to think was important. That being said, I know that I do have to take some time for myself for my own health and sanity. I'm starting to work out because I want to get in shape again (so I'm doing the 30 Day Shred again.) I enjoy a little bit of "me time" here and there when I can (when Michelle is asleep.)

It's hard for women today because society seems to create unrealistic expectations of us. You're supposed to be some "Superwoman" and have it all -- to be a devoted mother to your children and a successful career woman. The reality is that it's tough to find a balance. You can not put two things first. Something has to give. I had to make some tough choices and sacrifices. I did what I felt was right. My priority is Michelle. I'm an attachment parent. I am still co-sleeping. I know that detachment parents out there would tell me everything I'm doing is wrong but if one end of the spectrum is smothering and the other end is neglect I would rather be on the smothering end. The fact that Michelle is light years ahead of where she's supposed to be developmentally is a testament to how much love and attention I've given her and I won't let anyone make me wrong for that. It was nice to hear my Mom telling me that it was the right thing to do. And when I see this amazing little girl, the things that she can say and do already, when I see how excited and happy she is, how loving and affectionate she is, I am proud that I made being a Mom my top priority.

At my brother Chris' birthday party Michelle was sick and cranky. She didn't have a nap. Her nose was running like a tap. Luckily she was distracted by having her cousin Reggie there and was pretty good until it was dinnertime. Then she was just impossible. She'd ask for something then push it away. Then ask for something else. She'd wiggle to get down then cry to be picked up again. "She's toying with you," Christina (my brother's girlfriend) said, "because she can. She knows she can get away with anything. So she keeps showing you she's in control." I nodded reluctantly. "Do you ever just let her scream?" she asked. "No," I admitted I can't stand to hear her crying so I've never sleep-trained her and she usually does get her way. I feel guilty if she's crying more than a minute. So she has me wrapped around her finger. Christina could see how bright Michelle was though and was impressed by her vocabulary. Michelle even said "Christina" perfectly, even though she hadn't seen her since last year (she works evenings and weekends and usually can't make it to family functions) and hadn't heard her name. At home Michelle was saying "Happy Birthday Uncle Chris!" and singing "Happy Birthday" perfectly but once we were at my Mom's, it wasn't happening. At least she let Chris hold her once she got over her initial shyness.

Aside from visits with family, we hadn't gone out much through the winter. Most days it was just too cold and miserable to attempt anything. We used to go to the park all the time in the nice weather. Then I heard about an indoor playground and thought we'd give it a try while the weather was still bad. They had slides and things to climb on. There was an area for toddlers and for bigger kids. I had high hopes that Michelle would love it and be running around and playing to her heart's content. It didn't quite go down that way. For starters, I foolishly went during March break and it was too crowded and chaotic. Michelle was overwhelmed and didn't want to go on the slides or do anything. She cowered in my arms. I tried to convince her to go up the big slide with me but she wasn't having it. A cute little boy approached us and asked what was wrong. "She's a little scared," I said, "she's never been here before." "It's ok. Follow me. I'm not scared of anything!" but Michelle wouldn't let me carry her up to the top. Then we went to the toddlers' part and she was sitting quietly playing with some toys when a little girl came up and tweaked her nose unexpectedly. Michelle started to cry. "Home. Cheese. Shrek," she said. So we went home and had some cheese and watched Shrek.

Michelle had always loved playing at the park in the nice weather. Finally we had a warm day, warmer than we'd had in a while so I decided to venture out. Michelle still had her runny nose and cough and I wasn't feeling great either on no sleep but I thought the fresh air would do us good. It felt like Spring. It was so good to get out. Most of the snow had melted away (except for one part on the path near the park.) Michelle was so happy riding in the stroller and then running around at the park. I was surprised she didn't want to go on the slide or the swing though. It had been so long since she'd been on them that she was afraid of them now. She did go on the bigger swing sitting on my lap but she didn't want to go in the baby swing by herself. Mostly she just wanted to run around and play with the woodchips and stones on the ground.
She was happy when she found a stick and called it a "magic wand." Oh to be a child again and find wonder in the most simple things. Her poor little red nose kept running and I finally ran out of tissues (and patience) running to wipe it for her. She swats me away and tries to wipe it on her hands or sleeve. It drives me crazy. I still think the fresh air was good for her though. On the way home she wanted to walk on her own rather than be pushed in the stroller so she walked alongside me, holding my hand. It took ten times longer to get home but she was happy to be walking rather than riding. She likes holding my hand and pulling me along where she wants to go. She does it at home too, leading me down the hall, to her room. "Come walk with me Mama. Play with me." She did the same thing with my Mom. "Walk with me, Grandma," grabbing my Mom's hand and leading her to the next room. My Mom thought most kids didn't start doing that until they're 2 or 3. Michelle likes to be in control. She definitely takes the lead. Perhaps her cautiousness is part of that need for control. Once she feels comfortable and sees that a situation is safe, she lets her guard down and enjoys herself. She was afraid of sand the first time she walked on it but when we went to Wasaga Beach she was running around, thrilled out of her mind. It's probably better to be somewhat cautious than to just go blundering into harm's way. I'd have more to worry about if she was fearless and getting into all kinds of trouble.

Being a Single Mom without an ex in the picture there is no help (financial or otherwise) and no break, ever. Aside from my Mom watching Michelle when I work, I'm the only caregiver. It's all me. I feel like I have to give her two parents' worth of love. I never want her to feel like she's missing out. I am with Michelle 95% of the time. That means I get to accept all of the blame for her flaws (moody, demanding, headstrong) and all the credit for her virtues (affectionate, loving, intelligent). I am not a perfect parent (I would argue that no one is). I do my best. I do what I feel is right. I make mistakes but I learn as I go. One thing is for sure, I couldn't love her more than I do and I will do anything to make her feel safe and loved and happy. She's a Princess in every sense of the word and I am extremely grateful to have her.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was looking for a Prince, my true love, a soul mate to share my life with. He never did show up but I got a Princess instead. And we will live happily ever after. It isn't easy. Some days it's more difficult than I can possibly explain. But overall it is the most rewarding, beautiful and joyful relationship I've ever had.