Category Archives: Motherhood My Way

A splash, a dash and an anxiety attack

One of my deepest #shames, #lifefails, is my paralyzing inability to cook for my family.

Yikes. There. I said it.

I instinctively equate this issue with having a real disinterest in nurturing my family, for which I suspect judgement is in right order. Oh, I can emotionally feed my children home cooked guidance that has marinated in years of experience, observation and are tender, delicious and nourish the soul – but put me in front of an oven and I argue the kids don’t really need to eat. Do they? On top of the mommy shame rests a heavy weight that socially, I place a lot of value on the women who can cook. It’s a symbol of  having had the time and space to practice; it’s success, generosity and maternal instinct all rolled into one tasty dish and I worry that my life has manifested by way of sucking at it.

In an effort to make me more comfortable in the kitchen, my husband has purchased as many self-cooking appliances as possible. Rice cookers, slow cookers, blenders, bullets, and most recently the Instant Pot. However, due to my aversion to manuals, these appliances tend to cause me anxiety and I have managed to reverse cook rice, burn steak and slow cook chicken to death in these machines. I know one setting on the Instant Pot, and everything shall be cooked using that setting, whether it’s meat, vegetables or yogurt. The embarrassment is deep when something simple goes wrong, and I often feel like I am making things worse just by showing up. I have served my children uncooked batter, salty pie crust that nearly hospitalized us for dehydration, and really. bad. bread. And so I cook wearing heavy armour, protecting me from when the kids get that look on their face. I don’t want to experience The Deep Hurt. I’m too old to be set back a few childhood issues.

Believe it or not, I’ve made a lot of progress in that last 10 years. Ask my husband. The fact that he fell in love with me while I was eating a balanced diet of canned soup and alphaghetti and tolerates my incredible disappearing acts when it’s time to cook supper, is a miracle. I love when he talks about that early time – about how much he loved the decor of my apartment, how beautiful and alluring I was. How one day he opened my cupboards and blinked into the darkness, having his first second thought about our relationship.  He still laughs about how simple and salty my diet was, and I remember feeling like I had stepped through the wardrobe into Narnia when I walked into his apartment and it was filled with spices, rice and cooking pots that only my grandparents had.

However, I have recently discovered a chink in my own armour, and there may be a way into the world of cooking for my battered and bruised self-esteem. I have stumbled upon these magnificent pieces of writing called recipes, within which structure and safety is offered. Yes, I’ve screwed up some meals even though I followed a recipe, but because I’m following direction, when there is a screw up it’s the recipe’s fault. It didn’t say to cook the dough. Inside the world of these recipes, I am able to pretend I am a cook, and I have moments of relaxing just prior to the brocoli burning, or right before I taste the sauce. I’m not yet ready to interpret and improvise, but I can already imagine a time when I will be. And these moments, built carefully on top of each other, will one day result in a tower of confidence in the kitchen. Maybe. Hopefully.

One recipe at a time.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 3.23.25 PM

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.

 

 

 

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.

20171010_184105

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!

Chronicles of a Single Parent

INTRODUCTION

Successes, mistakes, regrets and lessons are the themes of this chronicle. It will be a month long project, aimed at keeping me creative and armed with a sense of humour. It’s not a long time, I recognize that and I’m excited for the challenge, I’m excited for the change. As my mother texted, ‘A change is almost as good as a rest’.

My goal will be to write every day, an odd thing to fool myself into thinking I will have time for. I will be transparent, ruthless and will record 2 things each day that were awesome. I am hesitant to make it more than 2 – anything more than that seems wildly unrealistic.

To set the stage, I dim the lights, draw the stage curtain and invite you into a minimalist scene, where 4 people stand centre stage. A family. Tired, but well fed. A slideshow of images, cataloguing the last few months plays behind them. The typical: family tensions, relationship woes, toddler power struggles. The unusual: a couple of car accidents, depleted bank accounts, a job laid off. The slideshow ends with an audio text of a young man asking the man of the house to leave for a month and help him with his new business. Lots of work. Good money. The man walks off stage, waving and downloading new apps on his phone to make video chats easier. The woman of the house and her two kids stand in the spot light. Their faces grow in tension and the light fades just as all three are about to wail into the darkness….screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-5-20-47-pm

The #mommyfail High Striker

Just a few Christmas moments. Because all those pictures of smiling kids,  stockings, and all the stories of gaily coming together were really starting to depress me.

A few days before Christmas I caught my daughter eating chocolates I had hidden away for her. She was all gangly on the counter, trying to hold her balance, and had a chocolate smear on her chin. She looked like a wreck. I was upset that she looked like an animal, unable to control her impulse for yet more chocolate and that she had found something that I had looked forward to giving her. I lost all composure and ordered her off the counter, scaring her into the other room. I gave in to the urge to just spray anger all over the place, and yanked the chocolates off the shelf and brought her back into the kitchen so she could watch me throw them all out. I asked her if she was happy now, and then I threw out some more things, I don’t know what, I just do that when I’m really mad. I told her “I fucking hate Christmas” and slammed some cupboards closed, opening some so that I could slam them again. I could feel my #mommyfail High Stiker puck rising, and I dared it to reach the top, so I launched into a speech about consumerism, capitalism, war, gratefulness and religion, and heard the DING DING DING of the bell, proving I was indeed the strongest of shitty mothers.

***

Our tree was supposed to be a Charlie Brown replica, one from the country and small. Instead, we picked a tree that looked tiny under a giant maple, but turned out to be far too huge for our small apartment. Lesson: “We’re not supposed to be living in an apartment, get me the fuck out of here” – Jason. Of course, before we had the tree up in our apartment, we had to drive with it strapped to the roof of our car. The mechanism used to keep it secure were two pulley straps and it wasn’t long before we reached the speed of 60 km/hr and found that the low humming sound of the wind through the door frame was picked up a notch. All of us had crossed eyes at the sheer volume of the noise. Our options were to either give ourselves migraines, or drive at just under 60 km/hr and mostly we opted for the latter. This meant being the asshole at the front of a long line of traffic on a two lane highway and getting death glares when we finally moved over to the right as we approached a passing section. Once the tree was in the city, and dragged into the apartment building (cleanup ensued; broom and dustpan down the hall, in the elevator, entry hall) we discovered that our Douglas Fir was prickly, sharp and gave us hives. Swearing and with shielded squinting eyes we raised it up and stood back scratching our arms as we took in it’s size. Out comes the saw, and there in our living, we saw off a good 4 feet of trunk, prune away the bottom branches and set it back up. More hives. We begin the decoration process and in a desperate attempt to show I have some Christmas spirit, I turn on youtube and play a Christmas carol playlist. Mariah Carey, Wham!, and others grate on my nerves and then…. ‘WATCH OUT!’ The tree slowly begins to fall toward our toddler, and without having understood my exclaim, he somehow managed to walk out from under the falling tree unscathed. I almost threw the computer across the room in rage. Back go on the oven mitts, and we reposition the tree. 4 strands of lights. 1 doesn’t work. We don’t realize that until they are all on the tree. We remove the broken set and do it again. For what seems like a small tree, it seems to consume all of our decorations and lights. Later, as I tend to my itchy arms, I sit and wonder how all our decorations manage to kind of disappear on the sparse branches. Most of the needles have been whipped off from the trip into the city, the dragging through the hallways, the sawing of the trunk, the falling down, and yet, somehow, I can’t really see any of our ornaments. “Next year I’m making a Christmas tree again, I don’t care what you say. Anything would be better than this,” I say, arms crossed and bottom lip pouted.

***

My daughter received a few books for her birthday and for Christmas, and I decided that whatever my level of laziness, I was going to read a whole book with her. No arguments. We picked A Wrinkle in Time, because it’s obviously the best, and began together one late morning. She really enjoyed the first chapter, and I felt good about this new project. In the middle of the second chapter a day later, she got fidgety and started to slither down the couch as I was reading. “Sit up and stop moving around” I barked. She sat down next to me. The chapters are long in this book and I convinced myself to stop in the middle of the chapter in order to keep her interest. I resented the way she breathed a sigh of relief and turned on the TV. At bedtime I convinced her to finish the chapter with me, and I was delighted when she asked that I go on the next. It wasn’t until I was kissing her goodnight and she eagerly asked me what time it was, “9:00”, and saw her face light up, that I realized it was staying up late that was exciting her, not the book. “You know it’s really important to read stories, and to have this time together!” I bellowed, remembering the ease at which I would rest my head on my dad’s chest and listen to him read stories to me and my sisters. I went to bed and told myself to stop making so many loud statements about enjoying herself, because obviously it wasn’t helping. The next day, we sat down to read and she was asking lots of questions, “good good!” I’m thinking, “she’s paying attention!” and then she starts asking questions about things that happened a page ago, things that she had obviously not been paying attention to. My patience started to stretch and I caught the eye of my husband who motioned for me to relax. Okay, I’ll answer her questions. “Well we just learned that Mrs Whatsit and Mrs Who are in the haunted house, so….” She thinks for a moment. “Okay, but who is Mrs Whatsit again?” I grabbed the lever, raised it up, smashed it down on the target pad and waited for the bell. “You’re not paying attention! I’m trying to give you a memorable childhood experience and you’re throwing it away by not being interested! So nevermind! I’ll read the book myself and if you want to read it when you’re older, fine!” Ding ding ding ding ding.

***

My son woke up at 5:30am and was insistent that we leave his room and go into the living room. I objected because other people were sleeping. We should have been sleeping. He hit me in the face. So I hit him in the shoulder. Ding ding ding ding.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 12.26.43 PM

How I Talk To My Daughter About Her Body

How I Talk to My Daughter About Her Body

An article went viral a while back. Then it went viral again and I had to sit through the comments of praise and revelation all over again. It was called ‘How To Talk to Your Daughter About her Body’. The second sentence of the popular article was ‘Don’t Talk to Your Daughter About her Body’.

I don’t take blunt instructions from strangers very well, even if they get published on Huffington Post. I acknowledge their advice the way I acknowledge the barking comments from the lady on the street who tells me my son is underdressed/overdressed/uncomfortable/too tired as I walk by. I ignore it. When this article first crossed my news feed, my first thought was ‘don’t tell me how to raise my daughter.’ I read the article – it was too tempting a title – and it made me feel like crap. Now, I have a strict rule as a mother than any material that shakes my confidence in my parenting style is better suited for the give away pile. Maybe I read it on the day I told my daughter she looked stunning in her new dress and felt guilty for having given her a compliment, or maybe it was that the article was a bit preachy and if I wasn’t a follower I would be sent to mommy hell.

Black and white doesn’t exist in my human experience. To me, the nuances and muddiness is what makes life so complex. It’s what provides the beauty in my world, and as I look around, extremes are often what get us into trouble.

My daughter is a bright 7 year old who attends school. She has friends who are from Canada, others from Sudan. She speaks french, plays sports and watches too much Netflix. She is a typical kid and as a parent, I am sensitive to her experiences. I am cognitive of her watching me put on make-up. I remember the first time I let her watch me wax my legs. The truth is, life happens, whether you address it or not. In my opinion the more open you are, the better the happening is. The safer. The more authentic. As my daughter has grown into her little girl self, she has come across friends with different approaches to body image, she has watched movies rated PG 13 and she has had questions. To avoid or spin those questions so that I am only addressing one aspect of those questions (the health or pure function of her body) is doing her a disservice. I am not arming her with the knowledge and wherewithal to make good choices, to know there are many choices and to respect the choices of others. The truth is, those questions include the frankness of talking about her body. Healthily. Functionally. Socially.

That’s the beef, right? That there is only benefit in talking to our girls about the health and function of their bodies, but not about their social place. I whole heartily disagree with that, and I can only explain why from my own experience. I can only explain from my 32 years of living as a woman, from having female friends, from having a daughter, from having a son. I disagree because it’s not whole. My human experience has been wholly social, and we accept that we are a social species. We need each other. We engage with each other. We compare, we celebrate we criticize each other. We always have and we always will. Health is about balance, and that balance includes how we function socially. When my daughter comes home and feels embarrassed that the other kids were making fun of her leg hair, that’s a social issue. It’s a social issue but it intrinsically involves her body, so what am I going to do? Not talk about how others will evaluate her as grows up? When she’s a teenager it will be about her breasts and when she’s a young woman it will be about something else. We measure ourselves against others and we can sit and wish for a time and place that that doesn’t exist, but I suspect you will be waiting for a long time. Maybe about as long as I will be waiting for the article to come out ‘How To Talk To Your Son About His Body’. Ain’t gonna happen. 

No matter what I do, my daughter will develop a relationship with her physical body, the way I have- the way we all have. She will develop a relationship with her body and the way it functions socially in the world. I owe her the ability to know that and be aware of the times it will effect her. She will have friends who have unhealthy body image and sexuality perspectives and friends with healthy ones. She will meet boys who have been educated on the topic and boys who have not. She will live through fashion trends, trendy revelations from new studies published in the most prestigious of journals and she will still continue to have a relationship with her body. The way she relates to her body will highly influence how she chooses to use her mind, body and soul in this world. So I work hard to make sure she knows there is equal weight in the knowledge about how to eat right, how to play strong, and how to feel comfortable in her skin. In her body. That hopefully she feels beautiful in. And sexy. And nuanced. And strong. And know that those things are okay. Important. Part of being a woman. (gasp! I’m raising a girl to feel like and celebrate being a woman?! I’m allowed to do that nowadays? Well, I’m gonna raise my son up to be about the best damn man you ever met, so you can bet your butt my daughter is going to be something fierce of a fine woman)

Compliments about a girls’s body and appearance are not the problem. Using compliments to fill a void in her self esteem is a problem. That is not what I’m doing, and it’s not what I’m advocating.

I don’t validate material that is written with the intention to prove a point, one point and only that point. Especially if it’s not written in I statements. I can stomach blogs and articles that are confessionals, that run so personally that what they say is so clearly their own experience that it had to be written. I don’t feel like those articles are trying to convert me, or scold me for doing it differently. My intention with this piece is to acknowledge for myself and maybe reassure others that if you’re talking to your daughter about her body, telling her that’s beautiful, giving her handfuls of compliments that are not about her diet but are just off the cuff observations about how awesome her body is, that maybe you’re not the worst parent out there. Maybe you’re not making things worse, but actually making things better. By raising confident, aware girls who will know how to talk about their bodies and know that how they use them in their life is a tool and an asset and that it’s okay to be conscious of that.

I’m not a stranger giving you advice. I’m a stranger sharing with you how I do it. You do it how you like. But if you publish an article instructing me to do it your way, I will likely blog about it after it goes viral. images-3

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.

image-4

Lucky Girl

I love this.

I love this. That my son is sick and needs to be up every hour in order to have his nose wiped, to be held in an upright position and that I have nowhere to be to. I love that I can be exhausted, at the end of my rope emotionally and physically, and I have no boss to answer to, no co-worker to get along with and no customer to satisfy.

I love that my apartment is messy with toys and clothes everywhere. I love tripping over scooter cars and hearing a battery powered animal call from the living room while I make my tea. I love that everything sort of smells like wet towel and that the garbage reeks of dirty diapers, the dishes are stacking up on the counter and the recycling needs to be taken out. I love that as each of these things get taken care of, I feel lighter and more capable. I love the look of an empty garbage can, I love the smell of clean clothes, fresh towels and I love having a counter clear of clutter.

I love this. I love picking up after my daughter who leaves her clothing lying on the ground after furiously pulling out all the possible outfits in the morning and finding socks under her bed, under her carpet, strewn on a jewelry box. I love re-hanging all her shirts and and re-folding all her pants and re-pairing all her clean socks. I love making her bed, making it just the way she likes, the top folded down so that the covers don’t ride up too high onto her face while she tries to fall asleep. I love picking up hundreds of tiny elastics from her Rainbow Loom set that her brother or the cat stuff in their mouths and putting them all in an old baby bottle tightly sealed and out of harms way. I love finding markers and crayons absolutely everywhere and placing them in the garbage so that one day we will have to start fresh again and buy a full set and begin all over again. I love that we can argue about cleanliness, about responsibility and about learning to keep things organized. I love that we have come so far.

I love paying off debt. I love paying it off because all my demons and all my bad habits have a huge party in my head and try to get me to do things like buy new boots and new sheets and a new watch and they throw things at me like ‘you’re so irresponsible’ and ‘you’ll never amount to anything’, and I ruin their fun by kicking them out of my head and all of a sudden it’s quiet and I’m left sitting with myself. I love it because sitting with myself is really hard and it makes me eat a lot of chocolate and I evaluate every square inch of my life and I’m a Taurus so I remember everything which means evaluating everything takes a long time, but time is what I have.

I love having a pimple on my neck. I love it. I love it because it makes me feel like 16 years old again and I’m almost about to cover it with make-up and then I remember that I’m not 16 and I have nowhere to be. Fester away.

I love nursing my 16 month old. I love not feeling conflicted about nursing past a year, and I love how surprisingly loving it is. I love that my son is old enough to know when something funny is happening and can laugh while at my breast and we giggle together. I love that he is aware of what he needs and can point, hop or clap for it. I love what he needs is something physically provided by me, and will wait if I’m busy, or will laugh his way to the sweet spot if he gets it right away. I love that I think by nursing him longer, he is learning more about sharing than he would if he was sent into a playground and told to share all his toys. I love that I watch him restrain himself when he gets very excited and has to remember not to get so excited that he accidentally bites, and I think he is learning about self regulation and having respect for others regardless of his own feelings.

I love not having everything I think I want right now. I love watching my jealousies and insecurities battle it out and I love knowing that so much of what I want has nothing to do with me but has more to do with all of you and how I want you to see me. I love removing that hold over myself, and seeing that I make things very complicated by hosting a civil war. I love the image of myself at war with myself and then I can see how wasteful it is and I choose wholeness for a moment and I think to myself “I’m going to live from this place more often” and the moment passes and I watch myself get split down the center again, but it’s okay because over time wholeness will last longer than a moment and there will be less inner conflict.

I love winter. I love it. When temperatures drop to -30 and I have to bundle the baby up and push the stroller through snow because the city hasn’t cleared the sidewalks, I remember how much I love it. I love when my lungs ache and the cold triggers my asthma and I feel out of shape and embarrassed that I’m not tougher, I remember that I’m tough in a different way. I love when strangers don’t move over for me and the kids but instead plough straight into us and I’m forced to move to the side because I take the opportunity to explain to my kids that that is the perfect example of how not to be. I love getting inside and the mad dash of removing outter wear and the snow on the stroller melts into salt puddles and kids are crying and cold and look to me to take off mitts and boots and I’m cold too but I remember how much I love the feeling of sitting on the couch with a cup of tea and seeing my kids faces bright red with cold and they look healthy and happy and I love that.

I love it.

Mother Files Criminal Charges Against 1 Year Old

To an outsider, it looks like a normal apartment. Tidy, colourful, furniture well placed. But behind the facade of togetherness, a darkness has unfolded here, and has now made national news. There is a publication ban on the plaintiff, the woman who has filed criminal charges against her one year old son. For this reason, I will refer to her as M. There is also a publication ban on the child for his own protection and future reputation. For this reason, the child will be referred to as N. There is a publication ban on which city this case has been filed in, and so there will be no mention of where this apartment is. There was almost a publication ban on this article, but at the last minute I said ‘freedom of speech’ to my boss, and I am now able to write about this odd and all too familiar tale.

As I make my way inside, I see the hints of a happy family. Framed pictures on the wall with smiling faces behind the glass. The beds are made and the stuffed animals are lined along the window sill of the older child’s room. As I sit down and accept a cup of tea, a one year old comes toddling out, seemingly out of nowhere, and I jump at his sudden appearance.

“He does that all the time. It’s like he knows when you’re not expecting him. Watch your tea or he’ll dump it all over you.” M has positioned herself at the back of the room, sitting up straight and holding her teacup with white knuckles. From her position I see that she has an optimal view of the living room, and is watching her son with every fibre in her body. She looks like a cat ready to pounce.

I notice that her finger has a bandage on it. When I ask her what happened she holds her hand close to her chest.

“I was making lunch for us the other day. I was so tired and he had decided not to nap that morning, so I was feeling especially out of it. Some sauce sort of spilled out of the pot and landed on the burner, and without thinking I used my finger to quickly wipe it up. 2nd degree burn. I’ve included it in charges against him”, she says glancing over at the child who is now building a tower with blocks.

In what is a first for Canadian courts, this is hardly news to mothers across the country. The internet is peppered with mommy blogs about the trials and tribulations of motherhood. Parenting magazines and movies are always giving tips on how to handle the tantrums, the breakdowns, the conflict. Rarely though, do we see it reach this level. A level that involves lawyers, court fees and the amazing twist that the criminal is still a dependant of the victim.  If this case goes all the way through the legal system, it will forever change the traditional relationship between mother and child, and quite frankly, the kids better watch out.

“It’s about time we end the stigma about mothers. Everyone looks to her to have the answers, to have the patience and to know how to handle it all. I think it’s about time we place the blame where it belongs. These kids have no respect for us and they abuse their power to get what they want. They put us in a state of vulnerability by taking away our sleep, depriving us of a social life, demanding our constant attention, and then they walk all over us. It needs to stop.” Sipping her tea, M looks like a woman who has been broken and then broken a few more times. Her court documents outline everything she is accusing her son of. She has claimed she is frequently hit by large kitchen utensils. Spatulas most often, though sometimes whisks and sometimes serving spoons. She goes into detail about the day her son threw so much Lego at her that she had to hide in her room until supper time. For days she was finding Lego throughout the apartment and experienced what she calls PNSD – Post Natal Stress Disorder. M has stated that her blood pressure has risen to the point of needing medication because of the constant non verbal requests of her son. “Nobody prepares you for how maddening it is to communicate with somebody who has no way of communicating except by screaming, pointing, whining, grunting, and with no obvious intention to learn how to make it more clear. It’s not like he doesn’t understand. He does. He just can’t, won’t use his words”. M’s voice quivers and she takes a sip of tea. Her eyes are still on the child.

In its own paragraph, M has outlined her biggest grievance against N. Sleep deprivation. “When it happens at a government level, it’s called torture. When it happens at the family level it’s called parenting. When did that happen? There are nights that I am woken up every hour by screaming. It’s gotten to the point that when I hear his cry, it actually triggers my fatigue and if I’m driving or cooking I have to stop because my eyes literally droop closed. I’m like Pavlov’s dog, only instead of salivating, my eyes dry up, and instead of a bell, it’s a baby’s cry.”

M’s case is using the term “a systematic breakdown of the psyche” as grounds for charging N with criminal behaviour. As M points out, it’s not one particular thing that has resulted in her shell of an existence. “It’s the combination of all these things that has really pushed me to this point”, and she has hopes that her move to bring her son to justice will inspire other mothers to come forward too. “There are so many of us. We can’t let these kids get away with this tyranny. If we don’t shine a light on it now, when will we finally say enough is enough?” For her part, M is footing the bill for her own legal fees, as well as her son’s. She is also transporting him to and from court hearings when need be, and is of course, still mothering him. “It’s a complicated situation, to say the least.”

As I begin to leave, I see that the child has moved on from blocks to the shape sorter. M looks tired and escorts me to the door. She hands me a leaflet of support groups she’s trying to get up and running for Mother Victims. “We’re hoping that when this is all over, Mother Victims will have a place to go and take a nap in a clean room. No dishes, no laundry, no kids. Just a refuge for women suffering from PNSD and a place for open discussion about how to move forward. I’m hoping in the next couple of days my twitter tag #stopthetyranny will start trending.”

I look down the hallway to the child sitting on the floor and he flashes me a big smile. I can’t help but smile in response. When I look at M she simply whispers “calculated manipulation”. She closes the door behind me and as I walk away, I know that the kids are alright…but not for much longer.

image-3

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.

images-1