I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Monday, May 17, 2010

One, Two, Three, Four...

Five, Six, Seven, Eight...and now you are nine. How, exactly, did all those years pass by so quickly? Supposedly time passes quicker the older you get... and I'm sure that's true since it feels like it was only yesterday I was planning your first birthday party. This year (like in that first year), there were balloons and cakes and tears... only this time the tears are mine as I think about how much my children have grown and how priveleged I am to have been a part of it. Each year your birthday is bittersweet, as I am so thrilled to watch you change and mature, and yet I can't help but wish I could keep you as my babies.

This past year has been one of changes for our family. Changes to our house; as we finally do some cleaning up and sorting out and upgrading... since you're 9 now we thought we could finally get our breakables out of storage, only to discover that they are called 'breakable' for a very good reason. Changes to our little family; as Julian moved into his own room and the girls compete to see who can make the biggest mess in a room at any given time. Changes to our bigger family; as we learn to deal with the sadness which comes with losing your Saba and the discovery that your parents are people, too. It's been a year of adventures - yet again we took you overseas (an expensive habit you all enjoy), and your Dad and I continue to try and give you the very best, full lives we can. He and I were very lucky to ourselves be born to adventurers, and so we make it our goal in life to give you your own set of crazy life experiences. I like to think that someday you will make those same memories with your own kids.

Most years my birthday post is written to you as individuals - but this year I'm going to address you all as a group because I think it's your togetherness, and our family teamwork, which has been a theme throughout this past year of your lives.

You always say, "Yes, Mum, we KNOW!" in a very bored voice when I remind you that nothing in life is more important than living by the golden rule - do unto others what you would have done unto you. I am forever reminding you to "just be KIND to one another" and to help one another - because you are so incredibly lucky to HAVE one another in the first place. At this age you think it's just another dorky thing that your Mum says ... but the reality of it is, I bear witness to you helping one another, loving one another, and being one another's support group. That's not to say it's all wine and roses - you are quite capable of annoying one another, yelling at one another, and giving one another a real dose of where-for. I often hear "she kicked me" "he snatched it from me" "she's not being nice"... but then I watch you snuggle together on the couch, or cheer your brother on at a basketball game, or say "good job" when someone has done something right. I think you'll find you love each other no matter how much you make each other crazy - and as a sibling myself, I can promise you that it's true even when you're grown ups.

Your Dad and I have also had a lot to deal with this year, and I'm both proud and embarrassed to say we've needed to lean on the three of you for support. Embarrassed because it's hard to believe that responsible adults need the support of a group of children, and proud because the three of you rise to the occasion each and every time. I've lost count of the times I've just told you that I really could use a hug - and I get crushed in the stampede of arms heading my way. The number of times you don't complain when Dad or I have to work instead of play, the number of times we've just needed some time to ourselves and you've done your best to respect that. Yes, your Dad and I are very fortunate to have the three of you on our team.

This year your household chores have increased, our demands on your behaviour have increased, and your demands on yourself have increased as well. Claire is now dancing twice a week, Julian is now a basketball player and Cub scout, and Alexis is still the bendy-est, flexie-ist gymnast I know. Your school requirements have extended to learning instruments (much to my chagrin but your delight), your responsibilities to our house and pet continue, and in general you've had to become far more involved in your own communities of school, home and shul. It makes me very proud to know that you've taken all of these responsibilities in your stride (and I'll forgive you the complaining.)

I think I'll end this post by telling you about a typical triplet moment in our lives. This morning on the way to school you asked me to tell me the story about the day you were born (a story which you all know verbatim, but clearly it hasn't lost anything in the constant re-telling.) I began my story like this, "The day you three were born was the happiest and most frightening day of my life." Before I could continue, I was interrupted - a frequent occurrence for me. Alexis wanted to know, "But then once we were born you were just happy, right?" Not scared any more?" and before she could finish Claire interrupted and said, "Of COURSE she was happy because we were the most fabulous amazing babies EVER in the UNIVERSE!" and then came Julian, saying, "Wait, wait, wait - Mum! That's not the beginning of the story! The beginning of the story is when you went to the hospital. Did you forget the story? You forgot the story of your own babies being born?!"

I could only smile... because that's pretty much how all our conversations are - with interruptions and questions and debate and endless chatter. In our family you need patience, because it takes us a while just to finish a sentence.

It then took several minutes to answer all the questions and protestations and carrying on... and eventually I started again with saying, "The day you were born was the happiest and most frightening day of my life... but I was only frightened for a while because then you were born, and you were happy and healthy and strong and therefore the most fabulous amazing babies in the universe. But really, I should start this story from the moment I walked into that hospital..." and I continued, all the way until we got to school...at which point you all stayed in the car for several minutes to ask yet more questions and interject with your own versions of this story. You all then tumbled out of the car in a flurry of tangled jumpers and unzipped backpacks and boxes of birthday cupcakes, and you made your way through the school gate.

Julian was the last to leave the car, and before walking away he stuck his head in the open window, smiled and said, "Mum? Did it REALLY happen like that? Or were you just telling a good story?"

Well, Jules, it's like this. Yes, it really happened like that... and yes, it's a good story. Truth is, I love being your Mum because the three of you not only make me a better storyteller, but you make all of our lives a story worth telling in the first place.

Happy Birthday.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ignorance is Bliss

Since school is the topic of the day, I thought I would post a follow-up to my post about Being Revolutionary. I'm actually quite frustrated with the situation. A parent in the group - a parent who participated in the letter writing - apparently took it upon themselves to complain verbally to the principal about the meeting. The principal, in turn, approached a parent also in attendance at that meeting, and they had an informal discussion about what ensued. And that, my friends, was the end of that.

The letter never got sent (although I suggested it should.) Nobody stood up and said anything, no big revelation happened. It's all ... just... the same. Given that I am pro-revolution, I'm actually disappointed that things never actually got any further. Nobody is any happier about the issues there, and yet, whatever wave of action we were riding has hit the shore and ended up as foam.

So here's what I discovered. It's lonely being revolutionary. I could have taken that letter, and sent it myself, with only my name at the bottom. Except that I know that one person standing alone is going to have very little impact - especially since not all of the things listed there are things which have happened to me personally. So it would be difficult to send a letter of concern when only one or two of those items are of concern to me personally. I needed the support of the group (and felt we would be much more effective) to move this situation forward.

I am in a quandary here, as the parents who were unhappy then are still unhappy now. The situations outlined in our letter have not improved. Nothing, actually, has changed even one iota.

I want, and need, to be revolutionary. I'm just not sure entirely how to best go about it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Of recent topical interest to my friends and I is the whole private school versus public school debate... or more specifically, if private school is really worth the kidney you need to sell to afford it. DH and I chose to send our kids to a private school for primary school - mostly because we had some financial assistance which enabled us to do so, and also because it was important to us that they get a religious education from a young age. It's entirely possible to get that religious education through other means, but at the time we were making the decision, that was certainly a factor. The reality is, unless we get some extreme form of financial aid (or grow a few more kidneys), there is no way we will be able to afford to privately educate our kids through the end of high school. It's actually highly probable that their only private education will be to Grade 6 - because after that it becomes close to 60K per year and, call me crazy, I quite like being able to eat and have a roof over my head.

That being said, here's my official opinion on private school. I think there is a very small group of children for whom the opportunities private school offers will truly be the difference between living a average life, and living a highly successful life. I believe that the vast majority of children will fail or succeed regardless of the uniform they wear (here in Australia all children wear uniforms, both public and private). Simply paying enormous school fees guarantees nothing at all. In fact, conversations with The Neighbour's Wife about her teaching experiences have just reinforced my feeling that losers, nobodies, ignorants and total drop-kicks can be found even in a expensive blazer and school tie. Similarly, brilliant kids can be found at our local public schools. I think the parents who believe that private school will guarantee their child success in life are just fooling themselves... money does not buy success.

Success, to me, is something which is shaped in part by formal education - but it's also very much shaped by the education which occurs outside of school hours. Do you fill your home with books? Expose your children to cultural activities? Eat dinner together and chat about your day? What are you doing at home to ensure your child grows up to be a confident, contributing member of society? Why are you expecting that your school will do the work for you? Sure, your child might graduate speaking fluent French, having spent 4 weeks in Paris... but will you actually LIKE the person they are?

Let's suppose for a minute that someone offered me free tuition to a fabulous private school for all 3 of my kids. In all honesty, I'd have to consider the offer... but it's highly likely I'd reject that offer, too - for one or all of them. I firmly believe that as parents our responsibility is to our children - and to that end, we're responsible for finding the school which we believe will fit them best - not the one with the indoor pool and Olympic squash courts. If it turned out the best school for my kid was the one I couldn't afford.. well, then I'd have to consider what's best for us as a family - because I believe children can succeed in the right environment, and that environment is the one both in and out of the classroom. A friend recently said that they won't be able to afford family holidays and other luxuries while their child is in private school. I understand how important that decision is to her, but it's not one I could comfortably make myself. I simply couldn't sacrifice our family's general quality of life in that way, and I would worry about becoming resentful about it. I suppose this makes me selfish, and I'm okay with that. I also worry about the pressure on my child... knowing that his or her education was the reason we couldn't holiday, or enjoy life's luxuries - that's a lot of pressure to put on a kid.

Among my friends, the private school debate rages as we all consider what we want for our kids versus what we can afford, and in some part what we feel those schools can do for our kids. I'd be lying if I said there was not some element of societal acceptance as well - frankly, among many of my peers, a private school is considered the only option. To be heard to be considering a non-private school...is, well, akin to social suicide. Nowhere was this more true than on Cubs camp (a post I have yet to write... clearly my lack of private schooling has left me a slacker)... but that's another story for another day.

In the meantime, riddle me this - how much, really, is that private school education worth?