Gummy Bears Are After Me


Gummy Bears are after me

One is red and one is blue

One is pooing on my shoe

Now I’m running for my life

Because the red one has a wife.

When Miss C’s small voice breaks into this playground song, all I think is: cast Miss C in your next film, M. Knight Shyamalan. All she needs is a tight shot of her face, so you can’t see what’s behind her, and dark circles under her giant blue eyes for the haunting scene to be complete.

Sung to the tune of the Alphabet song, the grade three version goes like this:


Gummy Bears are after me

One is red and one is blue

One is pooing on my shoe

Now I’m running for my life

Because the red one has a knife.

Ah, grade three, the succulent melting pot of innocence and imagination, dotted with amusing wisps of what is yet to come.

My deodorant became the subject of discussion a few weeks back. The child who loves order, Miss S, looked at my pink baton and said, “When I’m an adult, I’ll probably wear this.”

“Probably when you’re a teenager,” I told her.

Miss S corrected herself, “When I’m an adult or a teenager I’ll wear this.”

“That’s right, we’ll let you know when you start to smell,” I said.

“I think Mr P wears deodorant,” Miss Q piped up, referring to a boy in her class.

“Why do you think that?”

“Because when I used to sit beside him, he sort of smelled.”

“Was it a good or bad smell?” Did I want an answer?

“I don’t know.” Miss Q paused, looking up at the ceiling fan, deep in thought. “He was always running back to the coatroom to put more on.”

“Someone needs to teach Mr P how to wear his deodorant. You only need to put it on once in the morning and then maybe again if you’re going out at night.”

“Or if you smell,” Miss S chimed in.

“I guess so,” I nodded, “but a little smell is okay.”

Miss Q pulled on her pajamas. “When Mr P was in the coatroom he showed Miss D his deodorant.”

I had a flash to my own days in grade three when the top story of 1985 was our student teacher, who kept winking at, and perching atop the desk of one of the cuter boys in our class as she read A Cricket In Times Square. Later that spring, this same boy asked one of my friends to go to the corner store with him.

Was Mr P the 2015 version of Mr J?

I knew better than to press, but itched to take Miss Q down to the local drugstore to find out what the boys in grade three are wearing these days – Axe Body Spray, Old Spice, Drakkar Noir; a combo of all three?

And so, amidst Miss Q’s fervent wish for Santa to bring her StarLily the Magical Fur Real Unicorn, it quietly begins.

RainbowBecause she’s Elsa to my Anna, Beauty to my Beast, Ginny to my Hagrid, Miss C has had a front row seat to the activity surrounding Miss S. With ears like Radar O’Reilly on M.A.S.H., Miss C was the silent witness to adult conversations at the school the day the attacks happened.

On the way to preschool, a few days later, she declared, “None of my friends ever punch me.”

“That’s good to hear,” I replied.

“I just tell my friends we’re friends, and we play.”

“As you should.”

Then Do You Want To Build A Snowman came on and we began our duet. Good news: I’m allowed to sing along now.

Miss C turned four a few weeks back, but the number on her rainbow cupcakes could as well have read 44. She is articulate, thoughtful and has a wicked sense of how the world should be.

“Have you made invitations for the boys in my class?” Miss C asked.

“No, you said you didn’t want boys to come to your party.”

“But, they need to know they’re not invited.”

I literally had to stop and stare at my junior buddy. “You want me to send letters to the boys saying they’re not invited to your birthday?”

“Yes. They won’t know they’re not invited if we don’t tell them. I want only girls to come to my party.”

Once we sorted out party etiquette: whom we send invitations to and whom we don’t, Miss C’s critical eye honed in on party décor.

She was in her element, strolling through the stores, filling her cart with only the fanciest rainbow supplies. There was a ban on all things Halloween. “Not even six pumpkins that spell out your name at our front door?”

“It’s not a Halloween party,” came her exasperated reply.

Insert pouty mum lip; however, the truth be told, it was the easiest theme any of our girls have come up with.

October was a big month for Miss C, not only because of the inch she added to her tiny frame, but also because she became a big cousin again. Unfortunately the X and the Y chromosomes didn’t ask Miss C if it was okay they mixed and after all the excitement of seeing the wee unnamed bunny with his beaming parents in the hospital, Miss C walked into Red Robbins hunched like a vulture.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“I wanted the baby to be a girl,” Miss C replied.

“Sorry, Pal, it’s too late, he’s a boy.”

“But I wanted the baby to be a girl.”

“Well, we can’t change him.”

“Well Auntie C needed to make him a girl.”

And so our conversation to nowhere continued. One joyous day, one disappointed big cousin.

A few days later, when my brother and his wife named their son, Miss C and I were driving to her dance class when she piped up, “What’s the baby’s name?”

“Mr. B,” I replied.

“Will he always be called that?”

“Yes.” I said. “Why?” I foolishly added.

“I wanted him to be named Rosetta.”

“Sorry, Friend. His name is Mr. B.”

“But I wanted Rosetta.”

Incidentally, even though she’s only seen her wee cousin a handful of times since his birth, she cannot stop wondering what he’s doing, and if his head still feels like the top of our dog’s. So I think she’s made peace with the fact he’s not named Rosetta…  I said, I think.

Names are important to Miss C. She is quite a purist when it comes to her own. Like a true Scorpio, she will never forget those who place accents on her name where there are none. She will also never forget the time the boys at the bike park said, “Hey little girl you’re going the wrong way.” Because she’s not a little girl, and the way she was going didn’t matter to them, thank you very much.

Along with learning how to spell her name out loud, something she just mastered, she wants to learn how to write more than the letter ‘C’ and, oh, yeah, read. Because her dear ol’ parents don’t always want to read the entire bookcase, Miss C now sidles up and says, “How about I read the words and you tell me if I’m saying them wrong. Okay?”

I cannot believe my days of having a sidekick who tells her Granny she’s a, “strong old girl” are fast coming to an end. Kindergarten registration is just around the corner and with that, the big K next September. Thankfully, I still have seven months to bow to her requests of bubble baths, hot chocolate, over-easy fried eggs and Paw Patrol – forget school; she’s one newspaper and coffee short of retirement.

Happy year four, Miss C. May you always stick to your convictions and never ever lose your awesome.

Rainbow 2

The rainbow craft from Miss C’s party.

About the time the principal told me that it was good for children to cry because it was a stress release – their bucket was full and this was the overflow, my brain threatened to shut down. As the conversation wound its way to Miss S’s morning routine, and I heard my voice defending long-standing parenting decisions, I came to the cruel realization we were on our own; the administration was trying to find a way to blame the victim.

Zombies.  My husband and I had our Hallowe’en costumes handed to us long before October 31st. This whole ordeal has buried us six-feet under emotions we never knew we had, under brick walls and under red tape and herrings. We have emerged from this pile of earth hollow, shells of our former selves. We’ve forgotten to laugh. We’ve forgotten to live. We’ve forgotten to breathe.

We think Miss S is on her way back to fine, but it’s still day-to-day.  Tomorrow, Monday will be the yardstick. Last week she said she didn’t want to go to school, but her grandparents were in town; none of our girls ever want to leave that kind of fun. Tomorrow, Monday, with no grandparents to distract, we’ll see. It will be the start of week three since she was the victim of two separate, targeted attacks by the same child, during recess; 20 days since this whole ordeal began.

In the last 480 hours, Boy X has been given an aid for an hour a day and is supervised during recess by either the principal or the vice principal. He’s back at home by lunch. He’s not in the classroom, but the administration hasn’t waivered from the plan to return him full-time as soon as Boy X is able.

Thus far, other than wanting to know when Boy X is returned to the classroom, our only other demand, is that Boy X be seated far away from Miss S when he does return. The last place he sat was diagonally from our girl.

The immediate response was, “(Miss S) can’t use (Boy X) as an excuse for everything,” and that one day the principal hopes they’ll become pen pals as a way of smoothing Boy X’s transition back to class.

Once the shock of our daughter being hurt physically and mentally by Boy X wore off, our mantra turned to one of healing. Boy X will not define Miss S’s school career, or, by extension, her life. We know he’s not going to be the last lumpy person to cross her path, and she needs to be prepared.

So where’s the school’s assurance that they understand it was a very scary situation, and yes, we’ll make sure Boy X is not seated within arms reach of the person he attacked? Call me old fashioned, but why, at six, does Miss S have to be the one to help ease him back to the classroom?

Here, on the other side of the incident, we are no longer information gathering. The school’s code of conduct was not followed, the administration did not deem it necessary to interview anyone who was involved; not Boy X, not the first E.A., not Miss S, no one.  At our insistence, a week later, the administration finally spoke with Miss S, and her friend, but still has no plans to speak to anyone else, even after learning from the girls that they reported the punches from the first attack to the first E.A.

Here, on the other side of the incident, I feel like a dog with a bone one moment, then ashamed I still have the bone the next. This was my child. My six-year-old who was punched repeatedly; who was scared at a school she loved so dearly. I cannot rest until she’s content in her classroom again; until I know she’s safe.

Because, under cross-examination, i.e., deflection, the basics of my routine to get Miss S to her classroom in the morning were scrutinized, let the record show: I haven’t changed our routine since 2010, when Miss Q started preschool: wake, eat, dress, pee check, school. Admittedly, some days we’re saved by the bell, and though rare, others we’re sheepishly collecting late slips, this is life in the morning with one, two, and, now, three children: one, two and, now, three personalities.

The last 20 days have forced me to dig deep.  To grasp for everything and anything that will soothe Miss S’s soul.  I’ve stopped listening to yappy morning radio, opting to wake my children with The Complete Harry Potter film music collection featuring The City of Prague Philharmonic.

I’ve replaced, “Just pick something, or you’re going to school naked.” with, “Which pair of pants do you want?” holding up two pairs. And when Miss S picks a pair of pants that I’m not holding I say, “Great, get dressed.” Even though I was told that’s not the point and I should force her to choose from my choices.

I have loaded everyone into our van, dropped off Miss Q at school, so she’s not late, then driven back home and finished helping Miss S get ready.

I have researched private, Christian, Catholic, and the smaller independent schools; and then bought lotto tickets.

I have taken Miss S to our family doctor to be physically checked out, worrying that all this time, and Murphy’s Law, her stomach pains were really appendicitis, ulcers or gas.

I have resented my husband’s work schedule that leaves me alone to navigate the stomach troubles and tears.

I have worried that we’re making too big a deal of the incident. That left unchecked, this might have blown over, or been forgotten with time. After all, there are no tears on the weekends or for Sparks and Highland Dancing.

But then, I drop the new cellphone I never wanted into my purse.  Like an albatross, it stays with me through my day so that Miss S is assured her teacher can reach me at anytime, and my gut says this isn’t normal. Two grades up, Miss Q is having the time of her life. Different daughter, same school.

My child was attacked at school, and now I have to weigh the pros of a Thursday check-in with the counsellor, who we requested Miss S have the opportunity to speak to, vs. a file being started on Miss S because she’s now checking in with said counsellor.

My child was attacked at school and I am the one who started the conversation with the police liaison to see what empowerment tools she could bestow upon Miss S’s class.

My child was attacked at school and our whole family’s reeling.

So, here, moving forward, with our eyes wide open, my naive hope is that Boy X’s family appreciates how hard the elementary school is fighting for their child’s education, because I will never ever forget how hard my husband and I have had to fight for our daughter’s.

It’s Friday morning. Miss S sits on my lap, sobbing at the front door. Her belly hurts. She doesn’t want to go to school; doesn’t want to hear the kids in her class announce, “Boy X is here,” again.

This past Tuesday she was the victim of a “targeted attack” the principal’s words, not mine. Miss S is six.

On Tuesday at recess, she was playing with a friend when a six-year-old boy in her class ran up and, unprovoked, punched Miss S in the stomach and ribs. She and her friend ran away, and told an adult on duty. It’s hazy if this adult knew that the boy had already punched Miss S, or not, but the story goes this adult diverted the boy’s attention so Miss S and her friend could “get away.”

The boy then found Miss S and her friend for a second time. He started punching Miss S again. In the back. In the neck.

A second adult on duty saw this happen and ran to break it up.

Miss Q, who was in a cross-country meeting with the principal, heard the call over his radio, saying that they needed his help outside. The principal said he’d be there in a minute, then left.

It was reported to me by the adults at the school that the principal had to physically carry the boy who had attacked Miss S off the field. He was placed in a quiet room where he almost broke the glass windows. The district behaviour specialist was called to the school.

Miss S quietly left the situation and found her sister for comfort. Miss Q and her friends gave Miss S hugs, but then bell rang and they all went to their own classrooms, leaving Miss S to return to hers and line up dutifully for music.

In the music line up her friend told their teacher what had happened. Their teacher was heartsick. She pulled Miss S out of the line up, sent the class to music and asked her about the situation.

It is important to note that Miss S’s teacher was the only one to ask Miss S to tell her story that day. When the class returned from music, Miss S’s teacher told them that it was a scary situation and that she had been scared too.

The only way my husband and I found out anything had happened was from a message Miss S’s teacher had left on my husband’s work answering machine.

I was at home.

He didn’t get the message until 2 p.m.

At least someone from the school called.

When I called in at 2:01, I was told I needed to speak to the principal. After waiting, I was told he was unavailable and would call me back. I drove down to the school with Miss C in tow.

At the school, I was told that in the event of an emergency they would have called, tracked me down, and used our emergency numbers. If one child assaulting another doesn’t constitute an emergency what does? I guess they needed to see some blood.

It’s Friday morning. We are alone in the house, Miss S and me. She sits on my lap sobbing. I contemplate calling my husband, my family – anyone who can take the decision of whether school is going to be safe for her today off my plate. But I am alone. I am her mum.

Every fiber, every cell, every follicle on my being screams not to send her. The deep baritone of the principal telling me once she stops going to school, her mind is closed. Miss S’s teacher declaring Miss S has a right to her free education. My baby’s blue eyes filled with giant tears. Everything swirls in a nauseous circle.

It took Miss S 48-hours to tell us, her parents, the whole story from her eyes.   48 hours and she still couldn’t use the word ‘punched’. She had to stop mid-sentence, whispering that she couldn’t say the word. We coaxed her to demo it on me.

It took the school 21-hours to allow the boy back in. He left the school on Tuesday around lunch after losing control and punching our daughter in two separate attacks, and was back through the doors on Wednesday morning, unbeknownst to us.

Wednesday morning, Miss S woke early. She ate. She dressed. She put both her shoes on without stopping to say, “Mummy? My tummy hurts.” She said good-bye at the classroom door with a smile.

I felt foolish to be the one holding my breath, and like a doomsayer waiting for the other shoe to drop, but knew I should embrace this new light that had washed over her. Miss S was her old self for the first time since the second week of grade one.

After school, unprompted, she even volunteered, “It was a great day, because no Boy X.”

I held my tongue, because the other shoe had already plummeted, when, out of earshot from Miss S, I learned the boy had been allowed back to school that morning, but the kids in Miss S’s class didn’t know because he’d only lasted 10 minutes in the front foyer before being sent home.

Thursday morning, another great start for Miss S – no stomach aches.  We didn’t know what the plan was for Boy X, so we continued on with our life and didn’t tell her one way or another.

But after the bell, the boy made it into their classroom. Miss S said she heard her classmates say, “Boy X is here,” and she got scared. When she saw him, her tummy started hurting.

Boy X was seated in his regular seat, diagonally from Miss S.

Boy X only lasted 10 minutes in the classroom. The principal escorted him out.  There’s no funding for him. The teacher is heartbroken with the situation.

It’s Friday morning. Miss S sits sobbing on my lap.

My husband and I have a meeting with the principal on Monday at 8 a.m.

Thus far, the administration seems to be trying really hard to keep Boy X at school; trying hard to find him the resources; money, but where is the support for Miss S, her classmates and teacher who have had to live for 6 weeks with him throwing chairs and sharpened pencils, tossing desks, blocking their way to music, yelling, running away, and emptying classroom bookshelves?

I have empathy for Boy X. He’s so very lost and he’s only six.
My heart crumples for Miss S. She’s scared and she’s only six.

If I say she can stay with me today, will she learn that crying is a way to stay home? Once this ordeal is settled, will it be harder to get her back into school if I keep her out?

On the other hand: is it fair to send her back to school, knowing she has such a physical reaction to this boy and he’ll most likely be in her class again, because, oh right, that’s part of the master plan.

Is this boy the only reason she is having a physical reaction?  Could it be something else?

Unlike those long ago lazy days of her babyhood, I can’t sit cradling Miss S all day.

I have to choose.

It’s 8:43.

I can’t send her.

I feel cheated. For the last four years, I’ve bought into this education system. I’ve dropped my children off to their classes, baked cakes, signed forms, bought raffle tickets, made sure the girls were prepared for the day’s events, signed daily agendas and volunteered at Spring Fairs. What was all of that for if I am now sitting with a sobbing child who’s afraid of grade one and I don’t know what to tell her?

I’m the adult and I don’t want to choose.

Then, from out of nowhere, my mouth starts speaking, “You might not feel it right now, but you’ve got an amazing life ahead of you. You’re smart. You have a good heart. You’re beautiful and kind and funny. And what Boy X did to you was very, very wrong. It’s okay to be feeling upset about that. But, in order to make your life amazingly awesome, you need to go to school, and get a good education. Even though I know it feels yucky. You can’t let one boy who needs a lot of help stop you from going to school and living your life. If your tummy starts hurting, all you need to do is tell your teacher. And if it really starts hurting, tell your teacher to call me and I’ll drop everything I’m doing and come get you. Your teacher can even call Costco and they can make an announcement for Miss S’s Mama to come back to the school.”

Miss S looked at me. I slid her to a standing position. She clutched her wad of Kleenex, and waited for me to get up.

And so we stepped together out our front door and into the adult world of no funding for kids who need it the most; the politics of who’s right to a free education is more important: the attacker’s or the victim’s? And questions of trust directed squarely at a school system that I used to trust so deeply.

Life When You’re Six

The teeth are flying in grade one this year, but Miss S’ grill is still in tact. She’s trying hard to keep up with her friends though, one of whom lost a tooth at our house during a playdate and fainted after seeing the blood, but Miss S’ roots are firmly cemented to her gums.

Molars? Well there’s a different story. She’s getting a full set: all four at once. “I guess that’s why my mouth’s been sore,” she told me after inspecting her new chompers.

Grade One feels like it’s come in like a lion. There has been excitement over the first days of school one week, and then the lows of not wanting to go to school the next.

Last Thursday we hit rock bottom with a full-blown tear-fest that followed me into the cloakroom and stayed for 10 minutes until I had her settled at her desk with her pencil in hand and bottom lip threatening another you’re the worst mum for leaving me here flood. This was followed by lip quivering on both Friday and Monday.

There was some comfort in knowing that my friends had been there, done that, when their children were in grade one. But it still sucked. Royally.

It also made me question how many activities Miss S was in vs. sleep vs. teeth vs. anything else I could rationalize for her sudden irrational behaviour.

Of course, as I’m ready to pull the plug on everything – clearly the rational thing to do when faced with adversity. Miss S jumped out of class, bursting. “Guess what language I’m learning?”

“French? I learned how to speak French when I was in kindergarten,” Miss Q answered.

“No. Not French,” Miss S sang.

“English?” I asked.




“Okay, I give up. Monkey?”

“Nope. Not monkey.” Miss S grinned wider than a jack o’lantern. “Coast Salish. My teacher is Coast Salish and she’s teaching us how to speak her language.”

When I told her how cool that was and that she was learning a language that no one in her family had ever learned, even Miss Q, she flew over the moon.

That night she made Mason jar candles in Sparks. Yesterday she made Coast Salish canoes. She got to check out two books in library. Her teacher sang Happy Birthday in Coast Salish.   The Terry Fox run is today.

Even though I’m still holding my breath through our morning routine, and groaning at the lice alert we just received, Miss S’s world has gone from zero to hero in a matter of hours. Now if only she can lose a tooth at school so she can march down to the office and receive the coveted tooth treasure box.


Miss S’s Coast Salish canoe. 

Change Partners and Dance

Our fall schedule was beautiful in August. If you could have seen the pristine, white paper – yes paper – wall calendar, you would have seen the words ‘soccer’, ‘highland dance’, ‘Brownies’ and ‘Sparks’ embossed in colorful ink betwixt the squares.

I was proud of my carefully balanced schedule; so very proud of my organizational skills.

First of all, we’d actually gotten our act together and registered early for soccer, saving ourselves some shekels – though two girls still cost us $425 for the season (Sept to May). We’d been able to satisfy nostalgia and tradition by registering for Brownies and Sparks. And the minute registration opened for highland dancing, Miss Q and Miss S were top of the list… yes, I was THAT mum.

Not to be left out, Miss C was number four for her preschool tap, jazz and ballet.

But above all that, I was excited that they had such diverse programs to explore while having lots of unstructured playtime to create and daydream.

Then September hit.

Soccer was the first to ruin my schedule. Miss Q’s practice day depended on which team she ended up on.  Of the two possible days given, one collided with her Brownies and the other, Miss S’s Sparks. As the weeks marched on with no decision, the narrower the window for a Girl Guides of Canada refund.

Patience was not my strong suit.

It ate me up that Miss Q, at the age of eight, was being forced to narrow her scope. Why couldn’t she do both? Our whole goal as parents was to give them a taste of everything life has to offer.

Around and around I went until I couldn’t take it any more.  I asked Miss Q what she would choose: Brownies or soccer. Without blinking or missing a beat, she said, “Soccer.”

“Even if Miss S gets to wear her uniform to school and you don’t?”

“I’m not Miss S,” was her reply.

Point for Miss Q.

The calendar did a doe-see-doe: Brownies erased; soccer practice replaced.

But our soccer woes continued as Miss S’s team practice was scheduled for an hour before Sparks. Now, there is a chance it can change, but if it doesn’t, things will get murky for our six-year-old. Again, I say, she’s six – are we really forcing them to specialize at six?

Then, in the last 24-hours, my calendar has gone from doing the tango to doing the jitterbug.

Miss Q started school cross-country and choir and is super excited about both of them – even with the early cross-country mornings.  Hooray for being in grade three.

It is here that I wonder when I’m supposed to work, and how I can squeeze in a mother/daughter pottery class. You’d like to think I was kidding.

So, 17 days into September and my beautiful mum calendar looks like a dog’s breakfast. Looking forward to when Miss C gets to elementary school, I may have to invest in a Harry Potter clock that tells me where everyone is as they move about the city; or just talk to the air traffic controllers about buying one of their systems.

It goes without saying, watching our girls expand their repertoires and discover what they like and don’t like is one of the best things about being a parent. My hope is they’ll continue to attack new activities head on, even if it’s at the expense of my beautifully crafted calendar.

Surprisingly, this blog post about the first days of grade one and three is not full of sap, mistiness, and all ‘round nostalgia. Though my pride for these amazing girls and, their enthusiasm for life, overflows like a reservoir in November, the surprise we received after school today has trumped everything that has happened in the last two days.

Tomorrow Miss Q will be handed a bag of candy and driven to grade three in a limousine.

The Ocean 98.5, a local radio station, held a contest called ‘This Carpool Rocks’ just before Labour Day weekend. All this week they are driving the lucky winners and five of their friends to school in a limo (LA Limousine). Miss Q’s friend won and picked Miss Q as one of the lucky six.

Details are still hazy on the actual deets other than Miss Q needs to be at her friend’s house at 7:30 a.m. Note: this would be the actual time I start getting everyone ready for school. Tomorrow is going to be earrrrrly.

Of course there’s been soul searching. There is always soul searching when ones child is about to have a big adventure. The big question of the night has been whether we’re comfortable with Miss Q cruising around town in a limo with her peers, the radio personality and driver. The mum of the winner told us tonight that if she goes, she would take the place of a child –odd, but like I said details are still coming in.

Even though the premise of accepting a ride from a stranger offering candy DEFINITELY sends alarm bells ringing in this mum’s brain, and goes against EVERYTHING we’ve been trying to teach our girls, we’ve stamped this adventure with a cautious ‘OKAY’… there may or may not be a grey-blue minivan in the professional driver’s rearview mirror.

The flipside are the pictures of today’s lucky winner’s trip: the kids are all buckled, and delivered at the school on time; the principal of Miss Q’s school knows it’s going on; and Mel Z (the radio personality) should be giving updates on the radio. So all that, weirdly, adds a layer of comfort.

Taking the experience at face value, there is no wonder why my eight-and-a-half-year-old was giddy as all heck. Her fanciest outfit, complete with necklace and hairpiece has been picked, a second more comfortable outfit for school has been packed and she has managed to fall asleep.

‘Tis the season of letting our children fly, even for briefest of moments. I suppose the bonus of this flight is Miss Q might actually beat the bell tomorrow.


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