Best Friend isn’t a person Danny, it’s a tier.
Best Friend isn’t a person Danny, it’s a tier.
When I was a kid, I would watch and read celebrity interviews with obession. The impossible questions, followed by the ready answer. As an audience member, I was held captive by their words, the seriousness of their sharing. I marveled at the gravity of their experiences. Naturally, I began to mimic my way through imagined interviews. Usually conducted by Oprah Winfrey. The confidence behind their brand of living was something I craved and wanted to emulate. I familiarized myself with key phrases like ‘I have no regrets’ or ‘Pain made me stronger’ and rehearsed them in earnest.
At 34, I still talk to myself like I’m being asked important questions; like my answers matter to a room full of strangers. It’s a delicious self-indulgent feeling, and I admit that I have these conversations on my dog walks, in my car, or in the bathroom mirror, mugging my way through the thoughts. If I can’t talk it out, I have to write it out.
Over the years, this interview enactment has morphed into a way for me to process my life. Even though it comes from me, the voice being interviewed is an omniscient one that casts an intelligent, high status light on my issues. And thank god I have one voice in my head that takes my shit so seriously. So seriously that she has no shame answering the darkest questions, is willing to give eloquence to my confusion about life, my fears about motherhood, my female wickedness and stand behind them publicly – whether through words or the right tonal inflection. All my private interviews are televised, obviously. All my writing is written with the intention of going viral. If there is an absence of audience, the process does not work.
This need to share, to fumble for the ball in front of a hungry stadium is something that has made me quietly uncomfortable. Why the audience? What void do I have that is so vast it requires strangers to feel validated? Validation – my most elusive lover. Sexy as shit. Toxic as fuck. Validation – that evil sin that keeps me from colouring outside the lines. Validation makes me feel fickle, immature, superficial, and yet, and yet! I pine for it with a gross suffering.
Then: https://tryingtobegood.com/yoga/its-okay-to-want-to-be-seen/ followed by 3 distinct emotions: 1) Intense self- forgiveness 2) Instantaneous compassion for all those professional sharers 3) Overwhelming gratefulness for the internet.
I felt like I had been pardoned for a gruesome crime. I felt like I had found water in the dessert. Sooooooooo….yeah. I have a need to be seen. I have a need to be deeply seen – almost to the point of insatiability. My guilt at needing this is paralyzingly real and therefore I tend to let the world off the hook. I spin in circles waiting to be witnessed, terrified that I have a need that must, it must come from outside myself. It has to come from you. From that group. From them. Otherwise I live in solidarity confinement.
When I don’t let this confident voice sift through the tough issues in order to one day drop it in the middle of an unsuspecting crowd, I suffocate. I bury myself alive with the weight of my toddler emotions, my hair trigger sensitivities. I slyly coax myself further out into deep water and then belly laugh at my own drowning. Conversely, if I’m not ready to write it out, not ready to be interviewed, it means whatever the topic, it’s too soon. There must be confusion or angst around it and I have to wait patiently. I have to wait for that inner voice to develop enough confidence that there is no more shame.
Finally, I am standing safely ashore. Check check, I say into the mic.
O.W. So, tell me: After all the ups and downs, after everything you’ve been through, and know you’re going to face, do you have any regrets?
M.W. Oprah, get a grip. I have no regrets.
Jerry Seinfeld once said ‘There is no such thing as fun for the whole family’. I didn’t hear him say it, but it sounds like Jerry. Dry. Witty. True.
This simple statement has become a bit of a mantra for us. We say it every time something fun goes south. It’s a gentle reminder that it’s not really our fault. It’s the cause and effect of trying to find an activity that suits the needs/moods/interests/attention/fascination/imagination of 4 different humans.
Today was one such day. Would you like to come on a short road trip with us and then spend the rest of day in our company? If you need reassurance that your family is normal, or a reminder to never have one, this could be right up your alley.
8am: Everything is pretty normal. Dog has been walked, tea has been made. Kids are eating their weird breakfasts (butter/peanut butter/jam on crackers followed by a plum…?) and I’m excited about the day’s events. A short drive to the Bonnechere Caves. An Ontario marvel. A childhood memory I’m excited to pass on to my offspring. Then comes the question from my daughter “Is it going to fun?”
“What do you mean is it going to be fun?’ I ask/hiss/threaten.
“Yeah, like are we running around caves, or is it like somebody narrating the whole time like those movies I don’t like” (documentaries)
At this point everything turns on its head. I explain what’s going to happen, she sinks into a deep depression, and her brother starts to tease her. I channel Jerry and recite our mantra, and my husband predicts that everybody’s “play acting bad moods will soon turn into actual bad moods.”
10 minutes later I am doing angry dishes, he’s having an angry shower and my son is stomping around trying to fit in.
8:50: I find a note on my bed written by my daughter that is an example of her character and pulls everybody out of their funk. Well, not my husband. He was the last one to join us in the actual bad mood, so he lingers there for a tad longer, making him an easy target for me and my daughter to pick on and encourage to ‘let that bad mood go’. Shameless.
The road trip is only an hour and half. In that short time period all the predictables happen.
11:30: We arrive. The activity itself is a success. The kids are captivated, the caves are cool and our tour-guide is just awkward enough to give my husband and I some good material for the ride home. We park next to a family with kids named Ezekiel, Judah, Isla and We-Think-Our-Kids-Are-Miracles and I hide my eye rolling behind my sun glasses.
1:30: The trip home goes as one would expect. A bit crankier, a bit louder, my husband a bit sleepier at the wheel and I keep staring directly at the sun to catch this solar eclipse everyone keeps talking about.
3:00: Arriving home means dividing up tasks like feeding kids, walking the dog, buying the groceries and an hour later, it’s time for me to leave the family and go for a run. I don’t much like running, but I enjoy being alone, I enjoy the slight sense of punishment that running gives me and I enjoy a quick orgasm after. After my run my husband is off to punish himself at a boxing class and I am left to make dinner. I don’t like cooking, but I do like following instructions, so if I have a recipe I’m good. The kids hated it.
6:30 – 9:00: As evening wears on, my patience runs thin, my love dwindles. I just need everybody to go unconscious now so I can scroll through feeds, lie on the couch and conjure up energy for tomorrow. In a short span of time my son breaks a wood working tool, I force him to own up to it, we start one book, he chooses another, he picks two books, I begin one, he wants the other, I start that one while he cries with a blanket over his head because he wants to sleep with the broken tool, he finally shuts down, moves his pillow to the hallway to fall asleep, creeps into my room to say his entire bottle of water is travelling slowly down the hallway, my husband and daughter are spending a relaxing few minutes with each other so I put a stop to that immediately and bark at them to clean the kitchen, I clean up the water, I tell my son I don’t want to see him again tonight, he asks for a kiss, I kiss him on the forehead, he says ‘no the lips’ I kiss him on the lips, I barrel into my room and decide now is the time to capture the day in writing.
Of course even that activity gets interrupted by the rest of the evening. It never ends. But by 10:22 I am sitting in darkness, surrounded by unconscious people who will wake up and make everything loud again in 10 hours. In this moment, I think everybody is happy.
So there Jerry.
(This post is dedicated to Shelagh, who challenged us to write one blog post a week for the next four weeks. To you Shelagh, a slice of life for you to snack on.)
The morning’s cool air hits my arm, having breezed in from the open window and I tuck it under the covers, feeling a heat wave that draw my eyelids back down to their resting place. The sleeping bodies of my son and husband offer enough heat to keep me dozey for days. A little foot is hooked between my thighs and the sweet’n’sour smell of sleep waffes into my nose. I turn my head, re-open my eyes to the bright grey sky. My son’s hand is softly open on my pillow, holds no tension and I instinctively place my thumb in the palm of his hand, wondering if he’ll still squeeze it in his ripe old age of 3. He is so quiet when he sleeps. I smile at this profound revelation. He is so beautiful – looks like my grandfather, reminds me of my father, behaves like me. I don’t want to get up, I know that moving my body risks stirring him awake and then the quiet will end. After his 3 years; my daughter’s 9 years, I am tired. I am wounded and I react badly to loud sounds.
The cool air nudges me out of my nest and I breathe my last soft moments. I eye my husband lightly snoring on the other side of the bed, the cat curled around his head. When I get up I will put my socks and pants on in preparation of taking the dog out for her morning walk. I know that I will put my jacket on louder than I need to, that I will not try to stop the dog leash from hitting the wall and I will begin my day resenting that my husband is still enjoying the warmth beneath the covers. After 10 years, I am tired. I am wounded and I react badly to men lying in bed when there is a dog to walk.
Outside, the street is covered in a light frost, the bushes decorated with winter garbage. My dog lunges for squirrles. I’ve stopped reprimanding her. I duck down the streets I am least likely to run into anybody, because I do not have the energy to discipline her anymore when she whines for the attention of other dogs she is desperate to play with. I walk through the chilly air and know my husband is getting up, risking the great threat of our son waking up to my absence and having an early morning tantrum. He must be terrified every morning. He precariously gets up, having already faced one of the biggest fears we carry, and he turns on kettle. He wakes up our daughter and he makes the tea. I bring the dog to her favourite place to do her business. He empties her lunch box from yesterday. I pick up dog poo. He makes one or two or three or four breakfasts. I stroll myself down an extra street, he makes a lunch or two. We meet in the living room before 7am and I drink my warm tea. There is little to say.
Convincing the kids that the morning is chilly, and therefore requires appropriate attire, is each and every day a shocking challenge. In the moments that I wrestle shoes on unresponsive feet I curse the chill that first woke me. When I’m hunting for the only sweater that my son wears, I curse the frost that refuses to leave our city, that forces me to lose my temper. I blame it for my lack of patience, for my quick swear words directed at my shitty kids, and I imagine a world that is warm and requires no layering of clothing.
Oddity: I am unapologetic about loving hot cars. It’s my favourite moment, on a hot summer day, to climb into a hot car and just suffocate in the heat for a few moments. I am always the last to roll down my window, ignoring the shouts and chides of my family who are pushing their faces to the down rolling window for their fresh air. I wait until I’ve sat in the dead heat just long enough and only then will I break the hot weight by letting the fresh air stream in. My love for hot cars is rivalled only by my hatred for cold ones. Like a cruel punishment, we have somehow managed to get to the kids up, fed, prepped and dressed for the day; we have managed to get them down the hallway of our building – our building filled with crazies who constantly leave signs about not running, not shouting, not toddlering in the hallways – without pissing anyone off; we have literally stopped to smell the dead flowers (dead from the persistent frost) … only to be met with a cold car.
Our daughter gets dropped off behind her school – a glimpse into her growing embarrassment of her parents. ‘Drop me off where nobody can see us together‘ her eyes hiss. Her only job when getting out of the car is to say good-bye to her adoring brother. My son keeps his eyes stuck on her from the moment she unclips her seatbelt until she disappears down the path. He waves with an exuberance that breaks my heart every morning – and he cries if he is robbed of a proper good-bye. My daughter knows this and exerts her power over him every once in a while by ‘forgetting’ to wave, by ‘smiling’ with her lips tight and her eyes rolled. When she does this, my husband and I roll down our windows and shout at her to ‘wave properly! Smile! Say good-bye to your brother!‘ It is exponentially more embarrassing for her but I am committed to making her life miserable each and every time she tries to shirk her morning responsibility.
Our son gets dropped off at daycare – and it can really go either way with him. Sometimes he runs into the arms of the workers and sometimes he clings to our legs in not-so-silent protest. The exit is swift and sometimes gut wrenching.
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
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
N :Mommy, is this tomowow?
M: Hmm, no, this is today.
N: But we go to bed and say ‘See you tomowow.” So it’s tomowow.
M: Right, but that’s because when we wake up, it’s not tomorrow anymore. It’s Today.
N: So there’s no Tomowow?
M: No. Tomorrow is always the day after Today.
N: Do I go to Daycare today?
M: No, you’ll go to Daycare tomorrow.
N: Oh. And when we wake up it will be tomowow?
M: Yes, but we’ll call it Today when we wake up.
N: So we go to Daycare today?
M: No. Tomorrow.
N: What?! Why?!
M: Because it won’t be tomorrow anymore. It changes to Today. The Day. The Day we are in.
N: It changes?
M: Yes, the words change.
N: I want to make a dinosaur.
M: Okay. So is this today or tomorrow?
M: And when is tomorrow?
N: I don’t know.
M: Hmm. I guess that’s true.
N: It’s true? You don’t know when tomorrow is eefer?
M: I guess I never know.
I wrote this yesterday, on Day 11, when I was feeling particularly fond of my children. Currently I am sitting with my back against the door of the bedroom and the toddler is yelling out in the hallway because he wants the computer. I have barricaded the door with my body, and feel especially proud of myself for not swearing yet today.
An entry on Love
I spend a lot of time griping. To be honest, it’s my comfort zone, and I’m largely irreverent. I don’t hold much outwardly dear, which can be judged as lacking sentiment, or perhaps lacking respect for the sacredness of parenthood, but you would be a judgmental tool if you continued to think that after getting to know me. My inability to view the world with a sense of awe is part of my intelligence, and while I have been deeply moved by art, friendship, love, and parenthood, I do not function with the lightness of a butterfly wing, marvelling at the dew in the morning and watching the miracle of the sun rise. Barf. That’s simply not my style.
My sense of the world, my sense of humour, and sense of self is dipped in vinegar and if you are lucky enough to see me be moved, you will know I am capable of awe. If you are not so lucky, I am just kind of funny, kind of insightful and mostly sarcastic.
So that’s my preface to why my writing might not be very gushy, or very generous about my feelings towards to my immediate family. But something interesting has happened over the last 11 days.
I have found myself quietly surprised at how wonderful my kids are. Yes, there are loud moments, some naps on the counter, maybe even some sleepless nights, but overall, my children have been kind, cooperative and positive about this experience.
My daughter is, simply put, phenomenal. She is wise beyond her years, spunky and independent. Yes, her sense of humour is developing which creates some very awkward story telling, joke telling, and other forms of telling, but her understanding of humour is quirky and solid. She is sensitive, inclusive and knows when another kid is being a shit. There are so many shitty kids on the playground, and I marvel at her ability to put words to the actions of others and to her own reactions. Nothing makes her more mad than when somebody says a girl can’t do something a boy can, and she is equally satisfied and disinterested in school to assure me that she has her head on straight. Over the past 11 days my daughter has stepped in when I sound exasperated, and she has gone to bed 15 minutes earlier than her regular bedtime without complaint when I need to be alone. In return she has asked for a non-negotiable schedule of sleeping in my bed every other night, a jean jacket, and to make tea for me on the weekends without any help. I’m not sure I will come across a better deal than this one. Ever.
My son is, in the best of sense of the word, an imp. He is cheeky and intelligent, mischievious and kind, sweet and strong. He wrestles till he takes you down, begs to be tickled and is thirsty for new things. He is handsome, built like a tank, expressive and snores. He is so young, there are no stories yet to tell about how he functions socially, he just wants to play with his buddies and to build guns with LEGO. But he has a sensitivity that I will cultivate, an awareness about others that is remarkable for his age. He has feelings that get hurt, and he understands when his actions have hurt others. His sister is his most important compass, and I thank my luck every day that he is able to learn from her.
I consistently feel conflicted about my role as mother. Sometimes I feel like I do really well at it, and sometimes I think there is nobody less suited to the job than me. But if the last 11 days are any indication of being on the right track, I will take it, and try to remember that when I want nothing more than to plunk my kids on a bus and watch it drive off into the sunset.
International Women’s Day.
Don’t spend money. Don’t go to work. Strike. Do march. Do wear red. Do not acknowledge supportive men. Do acknowledge supportive men. Celebrate the strength of women, but also remember to include those that need support. Be strong, be loud. Post, share stories. Be sexy, but not too sexy. Be be be be be FUUUCK YOU.
Passing the time so I don’t give my kids the stink eye every time they ask for something means I have to pay attention to the little things. Not always the nuances of how precious they are, but also the nuances that life presents to me and that make me feel equally crazy and sane. I’ve compiled short a list of things that are holding my attention and pass the time efficiently.
Slightly less patience today. Panicked that it’s all downhill from here. Gotta stay on top of things. Left the dishes overnight. Fail. Did them first thing this morning. Win. Boy didn’t want to wear pants, distracting him with LEGO was helpful. Daughter complained about carrying skates, didn’t make fun of her. I’ve come a long way.
A) Either I’m getting better at making smoothies, or my kids are simply out of options and have to like mine the best.
B) The boy ate 3 helpings of dinner. My dinner.
DAY 4. The Cup of Tea that Changed the World
Another night of musical beds. The traffic level in our little apartment in the middle of the night resembles rush hour.
The kid comes to my bed too early, I walk him back; I fall asleep in his bed, wake up and go back to my bed; He wakes up and comes back to my bed; I send the other kid who was already asleep in my bed back to her bed so that the two of them are together and I go back to my room; One of them sneaks back into my bed before the sun is up.
I can’t sleep with my son. I love his little body and I stare at his face while he sleeps. I touch him on the belly and smooth away his hair. I smell his skin and curl up to him. I love him so much. But the dude snores, and I am such a light sleeper that we are incompatible co-sleepers. I’ve learned that my sleep is precious, that without it I am a raging cussaholic, and it’s not good for anyone. Without my husband to be another warm body for him to wake up to, this will have to be the month that I break the cycle of him crawling into bed with me. I need my sleep.
Last night the traffic was bad. I didn’t sleep from 2am until about 5:34 and when I drifted off, so tired that I could finally block out his sounds, there he was at 5:55 telling me he has to pee.
‘Then go pee, I’ll be right here.’
‘No, I need to pee with you.’
‘Okay head to the bathroom and I’ll be right there.’
‘No, I need to pee with yoooouu.’
‘Oh for Fucks Sake!’ is my mature, delicate reply, and I know my daughter will begin her day with her mother’s cussing ringing through her ears.
It’s at 6:23am, that I hear the distinct sound of the kettle being filled and the click of the ON button. Could it be?
My daughter is attempting to make her first cup of tea after waking up to her mother’s poetic expression of exasperation, and brings my nauseas fatigue to its knees. I strain my ears as I hear her climb up on the counter and look for my morning mug. I hear the bang on the cupboards as she jumps down. She slides into my bedroom doorway and asks ‘How do you like it?’ I want to tell her that she could do whatever the hell she wants to it. Too much milk, not steeped enough, no sugar, lukewarm – anything, and it would still be amazing. Her gesture has woken me up and made me feel rejuvenated.
But I answer ‘Milk and sugar please’ – because it’s still my morning cup of tea for crying out loud.
A) The Tea
B) The Tea
DAY 5 and 6 – The Weekend
Lord help me.
It was bloody cold this weekend so I forced my kids to stay indoors and watch TV. A sleepover, a playdate, some adult time for mom on Saturday night and that was all I could muster. My painted rock looks like crap. A grocery shop on Sunday proves I am still keeping it together. Started to feel a little antsy, a little bored, a little deprived for adult conversation. An early night.
A) Dumped a mug of water on my cat at 5am to shut him up. Asshole.
B) Slept in until 7:30am. Score.