Category Archives: Growing Up

She’s 10. (mic drop)

She was named in the hospital, after naming her Charlotte. After learning she was a girl (what?!). After the kerfuffle between the OB and lead nurse who took her away from me. After she had spent a mere 11 minutes in the birth canal, too fast to squeeze those tiny lungs clear. After sending my friends home because I didn’t know how long the birth would be. After an afternoon of my partner and our best friend feasting on burgers and shaving his soon-to-be-dad head. After calmly announcing I think I might be in labour, and getting a coffee down the street. After watching my belly get bigger and my ability to predict the future get smaller. After watching people shrink away, or step up. After seeing the little blue line and smiling in spite of my fear. After my boyfriend gently suggested I take a pregnancy test, and blinking at him like he was speaking a different language.

Monica. The name landed on her so hard there was no removing it. Not after all that.

Monica rocked my world. She knocked everybody I knew on their ass. Her arrival made people nervous. Her multiplying cells sped up my life. I spoon fed her apple sauce and she force fed me focus.  There was a lot of kicking and screaming, from both us. Fuck she was a tough baby. Do you remember? Do you remember how tired I was? How loud she was? She looked like a porcelain doll and sounded like a siren. Monica asked things of me I felt offended to have to answer – like Do you have what it takes Mir? Her method of communication ensured her survival, as though she knew she had been born to the un-ready. She kept me awake, kept me on my toes and kept me in line. Monica knew. She’s always known.

Monica screamed her way through infancy, like the notion of being a baby was infuriating. Her lack of control, her limited communication, compounded by her dumb parents who couldn’t read her signals – it all seemed to overwhelm her. It was like she had done this before and she knew she was shit-out-of-luck having to do it all over again, and so she raged with a fire only newborns possess. But when she stopped long enough to connect, her presence was breath-taking. Do you remember?

Toddlerhood redirected her energy. Her developing language calmed her, gave her a voice. Her developing voice empowered her, gave her a will. Her will was so strong I often found myself in a deadlock with a 2 year old that felt unnaturally balanced. My inability to maintain my authority speaks more to my wavering expertise as a young mother, but her intelligence has always been a little unnerving. It is hard to stand behind an argument when the conviction of your opponent is unrelenting and comes from one so small, with a fire only toddlers possess.

Today Monica sits on the edge of pre-teen. She doesn’t care for endurance sports, documentaries, or Danny from The Mindy Project. She loves hearing stories about herself and staying up late with her parents. Insightful, emotionally intelligent, focussed, quick as a whip and if she tries – or if her brother pins her down – she can be silly. When she flirts with the carefree I breathe a sigh of relief. Stay childish. Stay light. She has always had a tendency to know, take on, feel and understand too much.

As soon as she could talk, Monica wanted to know where she came from. You were picking your parents I said – a response that captured an intuitive feeling that I had been selected for this job. From the moment she dropped from a star and took up shop in my body, I knew she wasn’t mine. I felt the weight of being a guide, and at times I have protested hard. She’s watched me fumble, heard me apologize and still seems to like me. Every day she’s a step ahead, and every day I try to keep up.

She’s beautiful.

Smart af.

Shockingly empathetic.

Conservative to a fault. Monica.

Motherhood often feels like a bad basement party; dark, loud and somebody is always standing lonely in the corner. I don’t find I excel at the endless tasks, restrictions, stresses and failures. I shirk many conventional behaviours that motherhood demands and make an effort to dress as well as I did when I was childless.  But true to form, Monica knew what she needed and landed herself in a family that is brilliantly flawed, fiercely loving and knows she belongs to the future. After 10 years I can see the value in that, and am grateful the future came to me when it did.

 

 

 

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Suck it up, Buttercup

Suck it up, buttercup was a well used phrase by a friend of mine. Without fail, every time she used it, it surprised me. Coming from such a generous, empathetic, warm woman, it sounded shockingly harsh. With those four words I would suspiciously wonder if she had a dark side that I had never seen. I recognize the hilarity in that. It’s such a gentle instruction. And yet when she said it, it made me worry about the day she would use it on me. Oh, she used the phrase in passing, during a meal we ate or something. ‘Is there any balsamic dressing? No? Shoot.’ Suck it up, buttercup. Nervous smile. That’s about as dangerous as it got.
I’ve lost track of all the things I suck up – either willingly or begrudgingly. There are so many. Keeping a list is not an act of woe, but rather a triumphant war cry of my goddamn accomplishments. I get through because I suck it up, like a buttercup should, and I am learning how to see it as winning, not whining.
It wasn’t always like this. Quite the contrary.
I spent a decent portion of my adult life trying to fight this battle without protective gear. Decked out in honesty and vulnerability I forged my way through enemy territory and wondered why every altercation left me wounded. I wanted to fight with my soul bare, staying polite, beautiful and giving. No wonder my depletion levels got so low I came to a sputtering stop. No wonder my wounds are lasting; scar tissue for days. My depletion left me in a paralyzed shock and as I lay in wait for somebody to come and carry my unarmed body away to safety, I realized the hard and simple truth. There is a lot to suck up.
When I realized this, I spent another healthy portion of my adult life mourning. Then pouting. Vines grew over top of me, earth weighed me down. Spiritual decomposition at it’s best. It’s only been recently, inspired by buttercups that I had the brilliant idea to change my fighting tactics. Maybe I could protect myself in this life battle. Maybe I could stop baring and start conserving. Maybe. Battered and bruised, laying there in my beautiful nightgown, heart open, I heard her whisper in my ear.  
Ripping myself free of the overgrowth has been awful. With each torn root, I wonder how it is that I let this drag on for so long; continuing to believe that my bareness was an effective weapon. Digging myself up feels as though I’m making a tremendous mess for others, and I’m worried that I’m disturbing their garden. My nightgown is torn to shit. But things always gets worse before they get better. I read that once. The surprising news is that my amour is thick. It’s uncomfortable, for sure, and I have urges to shuck it off, crawl back into my cotton nightgown, and run out into the night and assault my loved ones with my tender self again. But I’m practicing life in this new armour and am learning that some positions offer less chaffing. There are some moments that I even forget I’m wearing protective life gear. Baby steps.
Because there is a lot of sucking up to do. Everyday I catch myself, and instead of it sanding away layers of my vulnerability, I slap it onto my armour and watch my protective layers grow. I need this radical shift in my life for a decent period of time. While I am not turning my heart-felt vulnerability off, I am removing it from plain sight. You need an access code now. That’s right, buttercup.
My friend passed away before I had the chance to experience receiving her most frightening, gentle ass kicking. Instead, probably more true to her intention, I hear her every day, carrying her words with me and seeing her animated hand gestures and shoulder shrugs as she uses this most complex metaphor to encourage my growth and survival.
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The Night Before Four

On the eve of my son’s 4th birthday, I managed to give him the present one boasts about as an adult. The present that outlasts, that outdoes, that outshines all others. I didn’t even know that I was going to give it to him until he had unwrapped it.

It’s hard to predict how a day goes. There are nights I get very little sleep. These are not nights to complain about. There are nights I get even less sleep than very little and it’s hard not to moan about those. There are familial stresses and tensions. My daughter has taken to telling me very long, very boring stories with no climax and I have to nod dutifully to be supportive but I am actually memorizing cracks in the sidewalk. There are parental and marriage woes, mostly to do with the lack of time, the lack of grace, the lack of 2 bathrooms. Breakfasts, lunches, backpacks, flyers, agendas, behaviour, fatigue, rivalries, meals, lessons, hobbies, video games, laundry, dog walks, social texting, cleaning – it’s all a bit much.

Come bedtime, my kids are lucky if I still look human. They’re also lucky if I have the energy to do the right things, like read books, tuck in, and give a kiss.

But tonight. On the eve of his birthday there was just enough in the tank and I made it. The glorious moments I had with him. His laughter. His hilarious observations. His facial expressions. His ability to follow impulses and watch him recognize that they got a laugh, then milk it a bit more. His laugher at himself.

His present was that I was there. I let bedtime go on too long, and his reward was watching his mother relax and release with giggles. He so rarely sees that, and it was a joy to let him experience it after a tough slog of uphill battles.

The memory will escape him by tomorrow, he’ll have no recollection of this night we shared. But it’s there somewhere, tucked in both our sub consciousnesses, ready to fuel us when we’re running on empty.

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Mom whats it going to feel like?

What?

My birthday. How long will it take you to set up?

It’s not your party tomorrow. It’s just your birthday.

It’s my birthday on this day?!

No, my sweet. Tomorrow. It’s your birthday for the whole day.

A whole day? And then I’m going to be 4?  (so many vowels jammed into that word. I don’t know how he does it)

That’s right. When did you get to be so big?

Hmmm, I got so big because I eat all my dinner. 

Sometimes.

Can I smell your armpit?

Sure.

Will it smell bad?

Probably.

We don’t want things to smell bad. Not our penis, not our feet, not our belly button, not our…

Just smell it.

Okaaaaaay!

Being An Adult

Sometimes I forget that I’m older then when I last checked 10 years ago. I seem to eternally hover in my mid 20’s, and often it’s surprising to see my friends celebrate their 30-something birthday and then realize I’m next. It’s not that I don’t want to age, it’s that sometimes I feel that I’ve missed it’s happening. I look in the mirror and I look older. I come home and there are two kids waiting for me. There is evidence that I have been adulting, but the things that I thought would make me an adult while in my youthful 20’s are perpetually out of my reach. I wrote out the list, ad lib, and realized that not only do I seem unable to check off the items, but I can’t seem to make a new list, one that is probably more realistic. Here is what I’ve been banging my head against, in all it’s miserable glory:

Signs of (Unattained) Adulthood That Plague Me On a Daily Basis

  1. I need a big(ger) apartment. No. I need a house. I need a house so that I can have people over and cook dinner for them and tell them it was no trouble at all!, and then it will look like I’m doing okay.
  2. I need matching sheets and sham pillows so that my adulthood is validated, like I’m winning at this adult game. Also, those matching bedside tables. Maybe an accent wall. Definitely a dresser.
  3. I need at least one piece of leather furniture, Miriam Come on!
  4. I need to stop using cinder blocks and wood planks as shelves.
  5. Laminate flooring is for losers.
  6. Towels that are older than 5 years is a sign of life dysfunction.
  7. The filling of my pillows must match. One feathered, one foam? Jesus, when did I become such a failure?
  8. The cupboards are disorganized. Tea and medication on the same shelf? Spices and a cheese grater? Canned food and a cat brush? This is an all time low.
  9. I need to start planning for a successful life right now. Why didn’t I start right now 10 years ago?
  10. Google has the answers. “What should I be when I grow up?” There are a surprising number of hits. “Changing careers”. Too broad. My husband tells me I’m too vague when I Google. “Best careers for Miriam”. I end up taking an aptitude test that has 71 questions of multiple choice and then I have to pay twenty dollars to get the results. Hang your head and go back to scrolling through everybody else’s PPL (projected perfect life).

I try to conjure up my blessings, a quick substitute for a new list of what it actually means to be an adult. I mean, if there’s one thing Western Society is great at reminding me, it’s to Be Grateful asshole – accompanied by photoshopped images of somebody’s zen travels and tanned skin hiding under GAP Body underwear. It’s hard to fail daily at the one piece of advice constantly thrown at me over newsfeeds, petition emails and viral ad compaigns. But I keep trying. So I made a list. I’m good at lists.

A List of Things To Be Grateful For You Ingrate

  1. Keep it Simple: You have a roof over your head. You eat fresh food everyday. You take hot showers, and cold showers, depending on your mood. You have family, you haven’t experienced deep trauma and you aren’t isolated or alone physically or emotionally. Simple. Stupid.
  2. Your son thinks you know everything. Proof: “Mommy, how come you know everything?” (I will shamelessly nourish this delusion for numerous years)
  3. You have 2 beautiful healthy children, and a handsome, hilarious husband. (Screw white picket fences, you tell yourself while staring at real estate listings and comparing the impossible with your bank statement)
  4. Your husband makes you laugh to the point of tears running down your cheeks or legs at your expense, his expense, your kids’ expense, and neutral life observations. He knows you so well it’s scary. Honey, please remember to read the labels when buying things; I always know you’re wrong when you say your 99% sure about something; No matter how amazing your life is, I know you’ll only post about how imperfect it is. Too true honey, too true.
  5. You have wild, beautiful friends all over the country. Some are artists, some are new mothers, most are more successful than you. All of them are unapologetically authentic, which is really your only criteria for friendship, and one of the hardest things to find. All your friends seem to really like you, which gives you tremendous strength while you forge ahead on this adult path.
  6. How many more of these do I need?
  7. You have a job that is in the arts – and as a graduate of one of Canada’s top theatre schools (out of…5?) this is huge. As a trained actor who has made people laugh and cry (remember when I made you cry Jessica?) because of your insane talent on the stage (your words KShaw, not mine – also she never said that but she was thinking it) it is a miracle that you are working in the arts. You’re not the artist, but you’re part of that world. Yes, you are doing more admin work, more IT support, more stamping and mailing, more supply ordering, but still. You get to say you’re working in the  –  Never mind, can I move this up to my first list?
  8. You still need to listen to music loudly, alone, dancing, singing to ground yourself. You still have fun moving your body in different ways to music and are slightly convinced it keeps you young. In spirit. Nothing is stopping the physical decay.
  9. No major health issues – you know how quickly life can turn around when you suffer from light illnesses. Kids continue to need you, money still needs to be made – there is no amount of gratefulness that can sufficiently amount to how grateful you are for this. Should probably be #1 on the list you numbskull.
  10. Despite a visceral aversion to parenting, you do have some excellent mothering qualities. Mostly just being present and honest. Your kids won’t have memories of veggies cut into little shapes in their lunches or super organized birthday parties (See blog post titled ‘Let Me Invite You to (Judge) My Birthday Party!’) but your kids are emotionally intelligent because of your emotional demand, will ask you tough questions and have a sturdy self esteem. Take that adulating!
Ultimately, I have the unnerving feeling that I might be wrestling with these lists forever. Maybe there is no ‘ah ha!’ moment when an adult finally becomes an adult. Maybe adulting is just multiple lists of what you are failing at, and what you have to be grateful for. In my true youth, I wouldn’t have thought to make these lists. My youth was a blissful ignorance of lists. I can’t imagine the other lists waiting for me around the corner…I should stop now, or I’ll start making a list of possible lists that I’ll be making in the next 10 years.
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She Lives Another Day

I look at my 7 year old from across the table. She is talking a mile a minute, forgetting all her manners, bouncing from bum cheek to bum cheek and speaking nonsense. Her vocabulary is actually mighty good for 7 years, but she’s incorporated into her speech phrases that mean nothing but that carry intonation she’s picked up around her. A simple response like ‘you’re right, I never thought of it that way’ is turned into a ludicrous sentence like ‘that’s true, I’m dead’. It’s constant, the illogic. Ironically, this particular 7 year old is literal to a fault and if I say it’s 20 degrees outside and it’s actually 21 degrees, I get yelled at for ‘not telling me the truth!’. Her energy is spastic and emotional, her body is beginning to gangle, and her teeth are starting to fall out. I mean, what the fuck? How did I end up with this?

I wonder – as she has yet another breakdown, or tells another bad joke, or sings another long made up song, or has another need to tell me a story she’s told me a hundred times – I wonder how any of us made it out of our parent’s house alive. It’s amazing me to that we put them through the evil, repetitive, draining experience that 7 year olds do and that we didn’t get whacked off in the process. I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to an endless stream of knock knock jokes and pictured shoving her into on coming traffic. Just to make it stop. I don’t of course, and I shock myself by answering ‘who’s there?’ and spend the rest of the day wondering if she’s bewitched me somehow.

I have come to the conclusion that the only reason she is alive today and will thrive tomorrow, is because she was once an infant.

From the moment my son was born, my daughter has seen me coo, cuddle, rock, laugh, kiss, sway, nurse and verbally gush about her brother. She has seen me burst into tears when he hurt himself diving off the couch. I have a never ending supply of British accented phrases and nicknames for him; jingles and jokes; physical and emotional energy. His needs usually come first (don’t wake the baby! or too bad, your brother needs me right now as I saunter into his room where he cries mama in his crib) and hers a rational second. She has indeed asked me why I love him more than her.

I wondered if she had caught me in a shameful truth. I have thought about and observed myself from a hundred different angles. I have hovered over myself looking to see if my love stops at age 7. I looked to my actions toward the baby. They are exhausting, but they are gentle, giving and patient. From the cooing to the cheering to the gentle whispers of good night, they are the picture of love. When I look at my actions toward my daughter, I see a hardline for following rules and having manners, semi-intellectual conversations that quickly get confusing and end up in arguments, no energy for physical play-time, and abrupt kisses good night. The contrast of my outputting love towards my children has left me concerned that I am inept in some monumental way and I began searching for proof that my love for my daughter is just as strong now as it was then.

The answer is of course it is. Beneath the impatience about getting homework done and the insanity of her socks being everywhere, there are things I do with my 7 year old that the semi-functional 1 year old can’t even dream of. Singing to Fleetwood Mac at the top of our lungs in the car. Laughing hysterically in bed at a joke that strikes both of us as hilarious. Explaining and apologizing to each other after a fight and really feeling like we understand each other. Talking. Nurturing her independence. Watching her learn. At times I feel like my love for my daughter is in the silent art of observation – and that outside of still providing food, shelter and guidance for her, my joy comes in the form of simply being with her. Sometimes we get along, sometimes we do not.

It’s no wonder my daughter compares the time spent with her brother to the time spent with her. But I have come to see that without the gentle bond that begins to grow in infancy, there is perhaps not enough strength to keep that bond sure and tight during the tormenting years of age 7, 9, 15 and whatever other age-hurdle is waiting for us. The years spent responding to a child because it’s sick, tired, hungry – they must cement an emotional attachment that will last when the needs change. They must make deeper the trenches of unconditional mothering, even though the demands change over time. I can confidently assure my daughter that she is safe, warm and able to complain to me about how little I love her because she got everything her brother is getting when she was an infant. I can assure her that there will be eye rolling and yelling when he hits the absurd age of 7. And when she hurls yet another knock knock joke at me and I want to throttle her for having no repertoire of jokes to change things up a bit, I realize I have no one to blame but myself. I guess I just loved her too hard as an infant.

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Winter Parenting.

Facing 10 days in a row of my husband working means fending for myself against the likes of my children. You know you have hit a new phase of life when your kids legitimately scare you and you imagine hiding from them for realsies, because you know what they need from you is likely going to kill you. Parenting in the winter is a different kind of hell than parenting in the summer. It’s something that should offer support groups and safe words for when you are at your wits end. As a general rule, I do not like to be cold, so the winter offers challenges that I am not always up for.

Today my daughter foamed at the mouth when she learned that the canal in our glorious city is open. Skating! Can we go skating? I neeeeeed to go skating! You said we could go skating when the Ottawa River opened! It’s not the Ottawa River. Fine, the Ottawa Canal, you said it, you said we could go! Much like a hostage situation, I had no choice, and I didn’t want to make her mad. She can be unpredictable when she’s mad. I looked at the clock, did some quick nap math, and decided that we had a small window of opportunity to head to the canal and do the traditional winter fuck outdoor skate thing.

You know what the best part is about going skating on the canal with two kids? Nothing. I don’t care who posts fun pictures of themselves with their kids on Facebook, I don’t buy it. It’s hard as fuck and yes, I’m swearing in my blog today. We have to drive closer to the canal because having grown up doing this as a kid, I know that at the end, there will be tears and signs of frostbite, so it’s imperative that we get the fuck out of there when the time comes. But driving means dressing the baby in sweater layers for the car ride and putting on his honking snow suit on the side of the road so he will be warm in the stroller. Driving means finding parking, which means likely having to walk anyway so that’s what car dumb means. You get a car, you get dumb. Now I don’t have skates. I don’t care for skating and I refuse to spend money on skates. The baby can barely move in his huge snowsuit so here we are, bundling and unbundling and peeing and rebundling all so that my daughter can skate while me and the baby walk behind her. Talk about low status. But you put on your stupid parenting hat and you do it.

You know, even when it’s good, it’s bad. Yes, I had a moment when I felt like the world was a tiny bit okay because a stranger offered to help me and the stroller down the stairs. Yes, I had a moment of feeling grateful that the sun was shining and it wasn’t freezing. But I’m not fooled. I know that in about 30 minutes the whining will begin, the toes will ache and that’s not even including my stress that the baby won’t stay docile, but will scream or be too cold, so I snap with my awful mom voice “When I say it’s time to leave, I don’t want to hear one single word of protest. We leave. Do you understand?” Oh mom, you’re so fun.

So my daughter skates. I walk. The baby strolls. My black heart experiences a tiny bit of remorse for being so impatient, when I see my daughter smiling and laughing even though I’m shooting her death glares. The innocence of childhood. She seems to barely notice my foul mood and I think it’s probably a survival instinct. Children must have a way of blocking out their shitty parents’ behaviour in order to enjoy life a bit. We make it to the fence, the barricade that means we have to turn back. I’m about to tip my hat off to myself for not insisting we turn around sooner, but then we change directions, and it becomes clear why the skate/walk there was manageable. Now the wind is slapping us in the face and what seemed like decent weather was actually just shoving us along making the skate/walk seem nice and now we have to walk the 3km against the wind. Any minute now.

One too many drops to the knee, that whole stupid helmet thing means her ears are freezing cold, and the baby has had enough. She wants to stop. Nope. Nope. Not stopping. Now you skate goddamnit. My face is frozen into a permanent scowl and my once strong stride has become slippery and shuffled. It’s now that I notice all the people. Of course I notice them because they’re all skating toward me, with the wind, and they don’t know what’s coming. I see the 12 year old girls in matching coats. Skate clubs. I see the older couple in stride unison. The speed skaters that truly make the rest of us look like fucking idiots. I see the confident woman skating forward while her confident boyfriend skates backwards and I feel sort of aroused. I see the university guys in their hockey gear and sunglasses and I kind of hate them but I also really love them. I see the token Asian tourist, who have skates on, but lets be serious, aren’t skating. I see the functional skaters, the ones with those tiny backpacks on that are definitely filled with bottles of water and solar blankets or something and they are literally skating from one side of the city to the other as transportation. I see the families. I see the singletons. I see the paramedics. I even see the grouchy mom, pushing a stroller and every now and then giving her daughter a thumbs up when she gets back up from a fall, but is really just doing it so she won’t have to head over there and coddle the sore knee because it’s so fucking cold now and we just have to power through.

By the time we get off the canal, lifting the stroller up the stairs on my own because the world is not so okay anymore, my daughter is crying because her ears are so cold and the baby is screaming because it’s nap time. Now we undress him so he’ll fit into the carseat but I don’t take off his snow pants so I drive home with him unbuckled, and I hear the whimpering of my daughter in the back who between breaths asks if she can have a bath when we get home, and I know this is just the way it will be forever. It will always be hard. But we did it. We did it and we get to say we did it. But lets not pretend it isn’t the hardest fucking thing in the world.

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When Toddlers Slap

On a typical day, in a good mood, my son will play, hug, laugh and show affection in the most endearing of ways. Most recently, he responds to my “I love you” with a giant open mouth as he leans in for a kiss. Wonderfully slobbery, his kisses lack any form, but their intention is clear as day and I relish in the expression. While nursing, the little guy will gently stroke my face, as many nursing mothers experience and it is a form of love that touches the deepest part of us. My face is the first thing he came to know, the first thing he saw without fog because of Nature’s amazing deal with mom. The distance between our face and a nursing baby’s is the perfect distance for his new eyes to see us clearly, while everything else in those first few weeks remain hazy. When he needs comfort after a fall, after a crash against something hard, the first thing he needs is my eye contact, my assuring face that everything is alright.

You can imagine my dismay then as he has entered a new phase of feeling so frustrated that my face and his need to destroy it is the only thing that makes him feel better.

As he learns that not everything he needs is going to be given to him, he is experiencing huge blows to his ego. Our fun game of walking, stopping, hiding – walking, stopping, hiding down the hallway to our apartment doesn’t fly when mommy has to be somewhere at a certain time. In those moments I use my words to explain why I am about to pick him up, and then the flailing arms and surprisingly accurate face slaps start. I have to be honest, in those moments I pray that nobody is looking. I never intended to have a baby that slaps me in the face when he doesn’t get what he wants. I am a waaaaay better mother than that. As I buckle him into his car seat and duck the blows he tries to plant on me, I remind myself that I have to cut his goddamn fingernails.

I drive through the streets and I think about how insane it is that the thing this boy loves the most, my face, is the thing he lashes out at when he feels he’s losing control. But there is something sane inside that insanity, isn’t there? I remember tearing up my artwork as a child, and I felt more release if I targeted the pieces that I was really proud of. It’s an expression of self destruction, at the heart of it, and I believe technically my son still thinks that he and I are the one and the same. I start to imagine that left unattended and unchecked, this need to destroy something you love becomes an issue far greater than I’m qualified to discuss, but I feel a deep calling to ensure my role as mother teaches him the important lesson of learning how to express his frustration. He doesn’t understand all my words yet, nor does he understand all his feelings, so it requires patience and trust in myself that everything I am doing is somehow ironing out all his jumbled emotions and clearing the path for their release in a much more acceptable way. Most of all this will go away on its own, as he gains more understanding, more language, and his frustration now will largely be quelled with age. But there are golden moments in parenthood when I get these rare glimpses of how important raising a child is and how I can be so instrumental in his understanding of the world.

Gross, we hear that all the time. But when it’s right in front of you, slapping you in the face, it has much deeper meaning than you thought it had when you read it in your parenting magazine or your 4th edition parenting book. I may not respond to his panicked slapping in the same way each time, but that’s because each time is a different circumstance. I respond differently in public than I do in my own home. I respond differently when I know I have given him no time or warning to a change and he is reacting out of loss of routine, rather than out of ego-centric thinking. I believe a child has the right to know the difference between those intentions, and while I do not allow him sometimes to hit, I allow him sometimes to be frustrated in a supported way. Like when he throws himself on the floor in utter defiance because I have *gasp* taken away his apple core, I think it’s okay to let him flip and flop until he is done and then needs a hug. My poor neighbours.

Patience and trust moms. With each day comes the giant opportunity to shape our children, and while we may be too tired or busy to respond to every single moment, we are doing the work of angels. Although I doubt angels ever get slapped in the face.

A Letter From Beyond

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Dear 31 year old Miriam. Here I am, your 98 year old self, writing to you. You need a little boost.

I wish deep fatigue for you. So deep and so layered that when you manage to get a solid 8 hours of sleep you feel even more exhausted because your body has been teased with the notion of being rested. A little sleep at this point will almost kill you, like a meal for the person who hasn’t seen food in months. This fatigue is so heavy you negotiate the pros over the cons in closing your eyes at a red light. Just a little shut eye because your eyelids feel like they weigh more than your brain – which isn’t saying much because your brain feels like feathery mush – but you get it. They’re heavy. I wish this exhaustion on you so that you may come to understand yourself on a whole new level. A new personality exists under your rested self, and guess what? That personality is pretty shitty. Angry. Unreasonable. Stupid. So stupid you would catch a few winks at in intersection. If you suffer for as long as I wish upon you, you will have time to turn that shitty personality around. You will have time to tweak it, to reason with it, to find a place of peacefulness despite the lack of sleep. This new you will come in very handy for when you are rewarded with a decent nap, an uninterrupted night, a weekend away. You will find you have new depths to your patience and you have a deeper appreciation for everything. Everything. You will notice that the sidewalk is made of cement and you will be thankful. So long you have gone without noticing anything, that now the world seems like an undiscovered planet. It is my wish that you wake up because you have been awake for too long.

It is my wish for you to have to care for another person. Child, parent, distant relative. A person in need. A person who would die without you. Once in your whole life. I wish for this for the sake of learning what you are capable of. To learn what sacrifices you are willing to make. To be turned into a mad hatter because you cannot do what you please, but rather must respond to another person’s needs. For this wish, it must last long enough that you begin to think about how you can provide self care within limitation. Limitation creates space, and what used to look like a need to party; a need to shut people out; a need to shop; a need to run away – turns that need on its head so you can look at the real issue. It is my wish that by virtue of your being needed by another human, the first thing you do in the morning is something for somebody else. This must last long enough so as to create a habit of giving first thing in the morning. This allows that on the days you miraculously have nobody to care for, coupled with your new thankfulness because you have woken up due to wakefulness, your day begins with utter gratefulness. To begin your day either by giving, or by being grateful is the result of having another person in your care.

I wish for you to be taken down a peg or two. I wish for you to come to a moment in time when you see all the things around you as things. Whether it’s your house or your car or your clothes or your job or your mismatching dish set – one day you will finally see them as separate from you. This moment will be hard, and everything will lose it’s value. Everything you have worked for will be meaningless in the material world and you will feel lowered. But then you will hear that your house is full of laughter. Or maybe your favourite song will come on. Maybe you will feel filled up for no reason and not worry about how you just realized everything else is worthless. Maybe you will feel alone, or lonely, even in a crowded room. This moment, this awareness will change how and what you value. Knowing what you truly value will give you a meaningful life.

Calm down Miriam. With any luck, all my wishes will come true and you will be fine. Love, Miriam

Ode to Bev

This afternoon, in the balmy heat of late November in Ontario (wtf) my daughter was outside playing in the courtyard. Her friend was with her, a quiet, shy french girl named Bev. Bev is entirely awkward and likes to repeat herself and I get a huge kick out of her. Typically she ends up crying because she has gotten dirty, or because all the other kids are playing with worms. To look at her, you wouldn’t think those things would bother her. She has short hair, extra weight around her middle and I’ve never seen her in a skirt. On more than one, two or three occasions, it has been Bev who has unwittingly stepped on the one piece of glass that mysteriously sat in the grass for months. One time she stepped on a nail and it went right through her flip flop. There was no emergency, no skin was broken, but Bev shrieked and produced tears faster than a faucet pouring water. The courtyard isn’t even dangerous. It’s a community garden, a compost centre for our building and how Bev manages to find glass and nails just speaks to her energy. One day when some of the kids made my daughter cry by excluding her in the group game, it was Bev who left a note for her explaining in choppy english that she ‘hopped everitig was beter tomoro’. It brought a tear to my eye and I threatened my daughter with things like cutting the wires of our tv, or poisoning our cat if she didn’t make sure she thanked Bev at the end of day when they got home from their schools.

When Bev knocks on our door to ask if my daughter can play, I am pretty sure she is about to start crying. The courage it takes her to come over is met by me throwing my daughter out by the ear as her reward for being so brave. I feel protective of Bev, but I am also always on the verge of laughing when I see her because she is such a caricature that I can hardly believe she is not putting on an act. From my theatre days, I can safely say that Bev embodies every essential aspect of a clown, and she would put Mump and Smoot to shame (sorry guys).

This afternoon, as I checked in on the girls playing from my balcony, I saw Bev blindfolding my daughter as they played some sort of hide and seek tag challenge. I went back to cooking dinner. Later, I saw them squatting over a pile of leaves and when I called out to make sure they were doing okay, Bev shouted something that partly got lost in the wind, but that partly was just literally gibberish. Tossed the salad. Since I had noticed that the wind was getting stronger, about 10 minutes later I perched myself on the balcony chair and gave my daughter the 5 minute warning that it would be time to come in. In an instant, a gust of wind picked up all the leaves and a cardboard box from god knows where and hurled them into the air. A delighted shriek from my daughter as the wind picked up again and her sweater got tossed into the air and thrown closer to the gardens. Another blast that had me sitting up and taking a closer look as the strength of the wind awakened my goosebumps and I took quick stock of branches and anything around that could blow into the girls. The smile on my daughters face was in stark, violent contrast to the look of utter concentration and borderline panic on Bev’s face, as her body stood rigidly and took the slaps of the leaves in her face. For minute the wind died down. I could hear a couple of sighs of relief coming from Bev’s face, since her body was in full rigour mortis. And then the rumblings of wind coming from somewhere, and all the leaves were being whipped into mini tornados. I was standing again, calling for the girls to ‘get out from under the tree!’ They couldn’t hear me, and I could not hear them – for a minute, I was genuinely scared. And then – as if by comedic magic, Bev decided now was the time to run. She took a ginger step, giving the slightest movement to her stiff body, and the wind pounced. I’ve never seen somebody thrown by the wind, but I can assure you it is as hilarious as it sounds. Half her body looked light as a feather (clearly riding the wind current) and the other half was as deadweight as tends to happen when we take a fall. Out of kindness, the wind landed her relatively softly on her front, but her feet gave a thud. The wind bowed out, and I could hear the exclaim that didn’t even end in an exclamation mark – ‘The wind just threw me.’

I couldn’t stop myself and had a decent long laugh. I continued to laugh throughout dinner, and when my daughter kept asking me what was so funny, I had to shake my head. I don’t know how to explain such deep humour. But I do keep hinting to my daughter that she should stay friends with Bev as they grow up. I’m pretty sure she is a comic genius and will be a grounded friend to have. Despite the wind.

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Beer And Boyardee

That’s right. I took off my organic hat today and turned on the stove top to heat up some Chef Boyardee. I am proud to say that I was more excited for my lunch today than I was to nap, nap twice and then go to bed. I believe it to be the first can of Chef Boyardee that my son has enjoyed and I wanted to remember the moment with a beer. Reasonable. It was fantastic, and as I scooped the pasta and ‘beef’ from the pot into the bowls, I was careful to ensure that I took a mental snapshot of the moment in order to remember it for years to come.

As I ate each spoonful I thought of the little corner store that I bought it from, and how wonderful it is to support local businesses. I thought of how smart they are, to carry such products, when they also carry much fresher, more ethnic goodies cooked right in their kitchen – but that they are in a neighbourhood of students, and how many students must grab at these comfort foods canned and ready to go? Smart.

I thought of all the commercials I have seen of mother and baby enjoying their Chef Boyardee and how if there was a camera on me, I would be giving those happy actors a run for their money. Here I am, truly smiling and chit chatting with my curious son who hears trucks reversing and listens to the beeping and then reaches out a hand for another tasty bite. Here I am, listening to some new music, feeling refreshed to have something on other than Raffi and enjoying a sudden burst of sun from the window. I look to my cat and allow him to keep eating the plastic bag on the floor, ‘Go ahead Jimmy, keep eating that bag, lets see what happens‘.

I think of all the things I’ve read or conversations I’ve been part of, of the importance of eating healthy, of eating fresh, of making sure your baby gets the best of everything. I couldn’t agree more. As we spooned the last of the bowls into our hungry bellies, I thought, this is the best. Son, you just consumed enough salt to last you to Monday, and isn’t that amazing? We shared a lunch of ease – of pure and utter ease, and that is the best. That is worth more than anything these days, when I am tired, sick, not very engaged, contemplative and self absorbed about a hopeful future, and for 40 minutes we got to sit and gibberish back and forth and then wait for the sugar crash to hit and it’s off to bed. We are the 1%.

So as you pre-prepare your kid’s lunch; chopping, rinsing, cooking, sautéing, I don’t know – stop and consider the possibility of a Chef Boyardee Lunch. Who knows. You might find yourself enjoying a moment of bliss. I threw in a beer because I’m an adult and while I gave my son organic milk to sip, I thought there’s gotta be line here somewhere, so I’m gonna sip on my organic beer. (Much thanks to Shelagh and Cam).

Off to bed. Sugar crash: check. Unknown