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Woman vs. Woman

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As a female, there is nothing I hate more than the hundreds of topics that pit women against women, mothers against mothers. As if there isn’t enough going against us that we need to turn on each other. It’s insane to me, the amount of conflict we create just to prove we are right, or more importantly that everyone else is wrong.

When I had my first child, a nurse came into the hospital room to discharge me and offered one piece of advice that has stayed with me longer than anything else. She said “My professional opinion is that nothing anybody offers you will be relevant unless you know that it will work for you and your family.”

Done. No friend, no article, no doctor, no midwife has said a word to me that has meant anything unless it struck a chord deep inside that I knew was the truth for me. It’s tempting to read those magazines and gobble up all the expert tips from around the world, and it’s alluring to pen down all the tricks that worked for your bestie or your sister – but unless they have your body, your headspace, your child, your neighbours – none of it is relevant. When it comes to the life task of birthing children, raising them and maintaining a life, my humble opinion is that the onus is on you. You have to be the one to educate yourself through conversation, reading material and anything that will expose you to those gems of truth that resonate with you. Otherwise you are blindly following somebody else’s path and one day you will wake up and rage against the choices you felt were done to you.

This is what happened when women woke up to the fact that the medical profession had duped us into limited options for childbirth. Rage rage rage, we took back the night and decided to get out as much material as possible about natural childbirth out there, if only to level the playing field. And why not? Such tremendous strides in medicine are to be celebrated and have saved countless lives, but if there are other options period, we deserved to know. And so began the fervour of advocating for natural childbirth.

Yet another topic to fight about.

But don’t. Don’t waste your time, because nothing you say is right. There have been countless successful C-sections and there have been countless failed ones. One person praises the success of natural childbirth and another punches them in the face with statistics about natural births gone wrong. In the latest reading this morning by the blogger Jezebel, I agree that the baby is the end to a means. Who cares how it gets out, as long as the baby is out and you get to call yourself ‘mother’. But almost everything she says is another example of winning over an audience and it leaves a taste in my mouth that sparks not a debate, but a warning and a pleading to keep your opinions to yourself. Share your experience because it leaves a mark on people and your experience could be the thing that somebody needs to hear to further investigate a topic and find their own path. The minute you try to win over a crowd because your experience somehow outweighs others is the minute you start wasting my time and I think it’s misleading, dangerous and unhelpful.

Working mom vs Stay at Home mom. Organic vs. Processed. Nanny vs Daycare. Breast vs. Bottle. Home vs. Hospital. All of it means something to you and if you have kids and I understand the feeling of wanting to change people’s minds if you think they are making the wrong choice. But more important than being right, (because you’re not right if it’s not you) is changing your language and sharing your experience instead of asserting your opinion. Your opinion divides us, separates us and that is the last thing we need. We need community, support and an understanding that choices made by others were good for them, and don’t change your own actions. You haven’t been personally attacked when your natural childbirth is compared by a woman’s hospital birth. You aren’t being forced to breastfeed when your best friend decides to bottle feed. It’s important to have different people making different decisions because it expands our knowledge.

It’s sad that mommy circles still hold a moment of shame when a mother is doing something she thinks is un-trendy. Jezebel, coming up with an answer for her planned C-section helps no-one. The truth in her post does, as we see some women choose to go that route, and that will strike a chord with some women looking to make birthing plan. Writing an article titled “My Unnatural Birth Should be considered Natural” is dumb. Your natural childbirth was natural, and your medically aided birth was um, medically aided. Do we have to argue about it? Would winning over 100 women satisfy you and make you feel better about your choice? How about 1000 women? Is there a moment in time that you would stop asserting your opinion or will you just keep going until everyone does it your way?

We all have our little secrets. I put my kids to sleep on their stomachs because they looked uncomfortable on their backs and because I was a baby sleeping on my stomach and it wasn’t right for either of my kids. I was the only mom in the circle with a baby that had hair on the back of its head. I started to tell people the truth on my first day of circle group because one of the moms looked about 1 hour away from a breakdown and I thought my secret would at least give her an option. Maybe she tried putting her colicky baby to sleep on its front, maybe she wondered if my kids were in the right hands, but that day I stopped keeping my story silent, and I never asserted my way as the right way. It simply worked for me.

So the next time you feel strongly about something go ahead and share your experience. Why do you feel strongly about it? Because it was successful? Awesome. Now do you have space in your brain to hear about why my experience was successful too? If you do, then together we are building a network and community of mothers and women who support each other. If you don’t have space to hear about why my experience worked for me, then you are part of the problem and you should think about why you keep getting into arguments with people or why your friends don’t call you when they need support for something you don’t agree with. I’m including the Jezebel post as a reference. I know she’s a fancy blogger and I can barely add a link but since I referred to it I thought it important to include. Her post in response to feeling shamed and tired of hiding her C-section choice. I think it’s about time to stop the shaming entirely and just start sharing.

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A Life Unravelled

I stopped drinking in the middle of the summer as part of an inner cleanse and a personal test to see if I could even do it. I didn’t follow a particular diet, I just cut out booze all together and watched my life unravel.

It turns out unravelling is way more healthy than balling it all up. I’m in the middle of a knitting project and I find the analogy very fitting. Typically we call our girlfriends because our lives have begun to unravel, have begun to spill over and cause big messes and we panic at the potential clean up, but perhaps we have it backwards. Perhaps those phone calls should happen when we discover that we have been bunching up all our problems and it’s turning into a tight ball of avoidance behaviour and unhealthy practices. “I did it again”, she wailed into the mobile, “I avoided dealing with the problem and got drunk again” instead of “It hurts so damn much, I feel like I’m unravelling”.

For myself, I discovered many, many, MANY issues that were happily being swallowed with each delicious sip of sauvignon blanc. Upon removing the nightly wine I found myself sitting uncomfortably and wondering if I really had to think about a specific problem that I knew needed solving. Without a glass in my hand to distract me, I felt stupid not looking at what was actually sitting in front of me needing attention. Okay, so that’s a pretty straight forward lesson. Drinking distracts me from dealing with my life.

I was also surprised by some of the emotional hurdles that I went through when I took away the drink. For example, it became glaringly obvious that most friendships revolved around dulled senses and the absence of being present. Yikes. If I was honest with myself, I found that I dreaded most social interactions because I knew that without a slight buzz I would be forced to be present, which meant I might have to be honest about my life and my emotional stability and quite frankly compared to the glossy eyed conversations of long passed, I realized that I was quite unstable. Not in a frightening way, but in the way that we all try to avoid the real answer to How are you? when really all you’re looking for is idle chit chat at the dinner table or at the social gathering of the week. I found the urge to quit my little cleanse so overpowering that I wondered if I was a little more dependant on alcohol than I realized. Images of the word alcoholic haunted me at night and I wasn’t even able to pass out from a few drinks, but instead had to wait for sleep to come to me. Another reasonably predictable lesson. Drinking had become a social crutch that removed authenticity from my relationships.

Sleep. Holy moly, what a dysfunctional relationship I was experiencing with that necessity. I quickly learned that I was practicing self-destructive, abusive and toxic practices with something that could otherwise be giving me energy, clarity and fundamental health. As soon as liquor was removed, I realized that falling asleep was a huge problem. I went to bed with high anxiety (a great way to fall asleep) and had negative feelings about everything to do with the night. So strong was this reaction that it was slightly more obvious that alcohol had somehow convinced me that I was doomed without my night cap and it was almost, almost comedic. Of course after a couple of weeks I found that I was able to fall asleep on my own, that my sleep was uninterrupted, and that when I was woken by the screaming of an infant, I was not only less groggy (some might say I was hung over…?) I was also able to go back to sleep. Amazing. First surprise lesson. Drinking was having a negative impact on my sleeping. Sleeping is one of the most important things a person needs to function.

Surprise lessons. They are wonderful. I rarely embark on anything thinking I will be surprised, and then I am and I am left mouth agape. Without a beer or a glass of wine in tow, I saw how much we all drink. It’s astounding. When was the last time you had a group of friends over and all easily sat in each other’s presence and talked, played games, got animated, laughed, cried, left feeling amazing and not an ounce of alcohol was consumed? Collectively we drink constantly. Sure I have friends who don’t drink very much or at all, but that didn’t mean I had to decline when it was offered to me. And there I was – declining and tightening my jaw at wanting to say yes, and everyone else was happily sipping their craft beer around me. Only at home with my husband was I able to practice the skill of maintaining a relationship without the fuzzy haze of alcohol. I learned that I was able to laugh hysterically and find truth in our disagreements and remember it all. We had a lovely evening one time with friends, meeting new people and as we drove away I realized that if I had been drinking, I would wake up the next day and second guess everything. I would wonder if I had been too tipsy, too loud, not casual enough, not something or too much anything. Instead I knew that everything that had happened had been real and had been grounded, and I discovered that I was slowly building self trust. I was regaining faith in myself and in my ability to be engaging, to be liked just as I am, not because I was uninhibited due to alcohol but because I was enough. Surprise surprise, I had some self trust healing to do. Surprise surprise, I could still have a good time in a crowded room without intoxication.

Surprise after surprise kept coming. My inner compass was aligning itself again, I was saving almost $400 dollars a month, I was sleeping, I was present, I was engaged again. Then another surprise. I met a handful of people my age doing the same thing either temporarily or permanently. For one reason or another, I was in the company of other young adults giving up drinking. Maybe a few too many forgotten moments, maybe the longing of a healthier lifestyle. All of a sudden I didn’t feel so crazy, so shy to admit that it wasn’t so much a cleanse as a need to be unravelled, to iron out some deep issues. Where had these people been and are there more of us? Maybe we are closer to a night of board games and ginger ale than I thought.

I have had a couple of drinks once the cooler weather came. They were in celebration of, not in avoidance of life. I had never intended to give up drinking forever, but have come to see how my relationship with it has changed indefinitely. Looking back, I realize that my drinking never matured past my university days. It was a given social practice regardless of my fatigue, my want, my responsibilities. I suppose this could all be poetry for I am an alcoholic, but I don’t think so. What I think it is, for me, is a most important social and personal development experiment. One that has been eye opening and truth telling. One that has unravelled my life in the best way possible. So if you get a call from me saying that my life is falling apart at the seams, wait a minute to hear the good news.

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Parks are for Kids

I’ve expressed my discomfort when visiting a park in a previous post. Allow me to elaborate for this one.

I’m not sure when it started – my general distaste for the play structure, the sand (or worse, the bouncy rubber padding) the company of other people’s kids – but I suspect it is rooted in my own childhood. Aren’t all these adult issues some sort of offgassing of past experiences that never got properly aired out? When I flip through my childhood memories, I have many from parks. I have the memorable memory of being spun off the tire swing and getting a mouth full sand. I remember getting my foot skin stuck in the cracks of the draw bridge while running along it bare foot. I remember crashes on the slide, awkward moments of boredom when I realized I didn’t want to play with the only other kid in attendance. I have a vivid and odd memory of being on a teeter-totter and a little girl telling me to get off and when I didn’t she started slapping me in the face. I knew there was something wrong with her, and it was a surreal moment for me as a 6 or 7 year old, but there I was, being slapped by a girl and taking it like a man.

Those are all memories from one specific park, if I am honest. Then I feel like I have no memories of parks at all outside school property. Cut to me as an adult frequenting them regularly again and I feel like I’ve just solved my own issue. Cheque is in the mail, this therapeutic session has been very informative.

As an adult, I experience less skin pinching and rarely get a mouth full of sand, but my intense empathetic nature makes me just as uncomfortable as my children when they come running to me for the same reasons. When I scoop the sand out of my son’s mouth half my brain remembers an article about the importance of letting kids get dirty, play and explore and the other half remembers that I don’t give a fuck. That sand travels from the park onto my floors and I spend days sweeping and feeling the grains under my bare feet that gives me a feeling of anxiety. Hidden wasp nests, falls from the stairs, how many times has my doughtier come limping over to me because there was a hole in the sand that some 3 year old idiot dug as a trap for some make believe monster? It seems barbaric that I bring my kids here and instruct them to ‘play!’.

Then there’s the added mix of the children wanting their parents to play with them. I don’t know when this trend started, but among all my park memories as a child, playing with my mother on the play structure is not one of them. Nor should it be. Last time I checked adults generally don’t fit on the play structures that are made for kids, so why on earth would I play on one? Maybe it started when people stopped having more than one kid and felt sorry for their toddler playing sorrowfully by themselves and then without thinking of the repercussions for the rest of us checked their pride at the door and began doing laps around the park. I mean, bless you if you’re one of them, but also, have you stopped to look at yourself? You’re a grown up ducking and shoving yourself through wooden or plastic doorways, lumbering down slides that you’re too heavy for, and digging in sand like a big baby. It’s not you. It’s the park.

My rule at the park for my lucky daughter is that parks are for kids, and when we attend one, I will be sitting on the bench while she plays. Am I heartless and cold when she begs me to play tag with her? Yes. Do I push her on the swings? Sure, but only as a means for teaching her how to pump herself so that I can go back to sitting. Do I buy her mud pies? Of course, but only because I insist that she bring them to me while I sit. However, these days, you can find me on the playground because of the inconvenience of my darling son who is only 1 and needs my assistance. Soon he will come to understand that mommy’s place is on the sidelines, like a trusted coach, but until then I am stuck following him up and down the stairs and going down the slide with him. I enjoy his sweet smiles as he accomplishes the small but meaningful task of getting up the stairs by himself, but I resent having to engage in conversations with 4 year old that I just met. After a long hard day and a year of fatigue it just feels demeaning.

Gone are the days of owning acreage and letting your kids run off and explore nature on their own. If you live in the city a park is one of the only places we can bring our kids and let them off their leash. It’s an important part of their development and more inappropriate than adults on play structures is the adult that gives their kid too many rules to follow. I may not be digging in the sandbox or climbing up the slide in a race, but I am allowing my kids to play as they like. Save for putting somebody else’s kid in danger, my daughter has free reign at the park and can climb as high or go as fast as likes. It’s remarkable to me that there are times I get dirty looks from other parents who stand there dishevelled, holding miniature shovels and pails because my daughter is sitting on top of the train and their kids want to copy her. I do laugh under my scarf when those parents chide their kids, listing off all the reasons why the top of the train is dangerous, and then they skulk back to their sandbox and build a castle. I may have park issues, but they appear to have playtime issues.

So in the end, as I sit on my bench and watch my kids run around, declining every now and then to my daughter’s pleas to join her, I wonder how their memories will affect them as they grow into adults. They will have memories of playing, and that’s a win. And thankfully, those memories won’t include me playing pirates, but rather sitting and watching them comfortably from the bench.

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Meet My Depression

The weather is changing. The days are getting shorter and colder. My first year with my second child is finished, and the question of going back to work hangs in the balance. There are many reasons why a person in my situation would be feeling a little down. A little blue. A little depressed.

That word. So heavy. I imagine myself walking along, light and effortless and then all of a sudden an invisible weight sits on me and I begin to cave in. Like a depression in a landscape, I sink a little lower than the people around me, I become camouflaged from far away and I am excellent at tripping people up when they unknowingly walk over me.

I wanted to glaze over it, muster something interesting out of the depths of my brain to write about on this most important blog. I thought maybe I could get some good material from my slight misery, but of course depression doesn’t work like that. So then I thought about faking it. Because we all fake it, right? But then I argued that that is the opposite of my brilliant idea of a blog that is about not faking anything. So instead I’m going to expose my depression in the hopes that with a light shone directly at it, it will scamper away. I will hold nothing back. I will simply introduce you to my pesky friend.

My depression is tired and sore. Angry to be woken and immune to caffein. The likes of a needy baby have no sway against it and there is a sharp ‘shhhhhhhhh’ at 3am when the baby wins the battle and I enter the room. The harsh ‘shhhhushing’ feels good on my lips and I want to do it again and again because it makes me feel like I’m spreading my anger and at 3am, the only thing that makes me feel better is everyone around me also being angry.

My depression is always dieting. There is no appetite and the only thing that easily passes through my mouth is sugar. Maybe my depression longs to have diabetes, and I do worry about it as I suck on my 6th spoon of Nutella. When my depression is not hungry, it is difficult to prepare food for everyone else. Meals become less interesting, people are less happy at the table and it all feeds my depression’s thinking that ‘see? Nobody is grateful for your cooking anyway‘.

My depression becomes socially disengaged. Sometimes aggressively, peppering my thoughts with how much I hate people in general, and sometimes passively, hiding from texts or emails and peeking through my phone call logs to see who loves me but who doesn’t. One call isn’t enough. Two isn’t enough. Unless there are many calls from a single person in a row, it is proof that I am not loved and I watch my friend list get smaller and smaller.

My depression sees no future. When there is no future, there is little motivation to do anything in the present, and so the present becomes pretty uninspiring. Why plan for the future when it clearly sucks and you’re doing everything wrong anyway? The idea that everything sucks and that the future will too becomes overwhelming and my depression takes swipes at my self-esteem until I am convinced that every choice I have made in my life was the wrong one.

My depression loves media. Too much television, too many browsed websites, too much time spent on Facebook and too many rounds of Candy Crush and Majong are played. My depression convinces me that I’m ‘just relaxing’ and that I deserve a little break. But once my head is foggy from too much screen time, I realize that I need another break, and soon the day is finished and I’ve filled it with breaks. A life of breaks is not much of a life.

My depression looks around the apartment, looks in my closet, looks at my bedding, looks in my fridge and tells me that nothing is good enough.

My depression likes to spend money.

My depression criticizes my handling of money.

My depression is well spoken on the topic of failure, and showers me with praise at how well I do failure. So elegant. So convincing. My depression is very supportive of me when I pursue my thoughts of failure. Being supported feels really good, when you’re depressed.

My depression hates my appearance.

My depression is in communication with all the people in my life that I compare myself too. They seem to pop up on my Facebook newsfeed, they get jobs on LinkedIn, they post pictures of themselves smiling. My depression loves to show me these people and because of its love for media, I then go searching for them.

My depression likes to get sick.

My depression likes it when I sit and imagine what other people’s lows look like. Does Jimmy Fallon ever feel so blue? Does my smiling friend? Nothing about my lows seem to suit other people, so it stands to reason that of course other people don’t feel so blue, and that I am the only one who embodies all of the above.

My depression likes it when I am the only one.

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When I think about it, it seems obvious to me that my depression really excels in this time period. Social media, over consumption, the ability to quickly compare myself with a stranger on the internet, a huge feeling of isolation even though we are told we are more connected now than ever before… I wonder if 50 years ago, if my depression would have flourished the way it is right now. Who knows? But I will say for all those who know me personally, that I am not one who gets goes so deep into the landscape that I cannot get out. Eventually I am hurled back onto flat land, and my time in the valley seems cruel but at least short. I can’t tell yet if my act of exposing my depression has made it run for the hills, but I can say that I am a bit hungry. On this cold foggy morning, that’s something.

Friends and Family Only

I was posed the question “would you be friends with members of your family if you met them today?”. The answer is a resounding No. Not to offend the members of my blood line (and to ease the tension) let me also throw in the observation that I would likely not even be friends with my friends if I met them today.

How could I be? I look at the vast scope of what each member of my inner circle is doing and I realize that with a couple of exceptions, I have hardly anything in common with anybody. Here’s another thought: do I have anything in common with anybody, other than my husband? Not really. Sure, a few overlaps, a few moments of shared humour, but for the most part the only way I could possibly have a person in my life that I had ‘lots in common with’ would be if I spent many days in a row with them, and I have no time for that. I have more in common with my 1 year old if only by virtue of being on the same schedule and seeing the same things and being in each other’s company. I look to my siblings or my friends and realize that their lives are set to a different pace, in a different city, fed by a different diet and surrounded by different people. Daily, I rarely talk to anyone I love outside my immediate family. On a bad day I cry about that as I watch reruns of Friends, but on a good day, I recognize the magic in that craziness.

Because it’s crazy.

It’s crazy to me that the only thing that keeps the burning fire of loyalty burning amongst my friends is the time we spent together in school. A few short years of shared partying, shared hang overs, supported breakdowns, encouraged successes and heartbreaking good-byes – and we seem to be set for life. It’s crazy to me that I look at my family and see differences in life choices so stark and sharp that I wonder how we came out of the same house, same parents, same lessons. Time as children and adolescent beings seems to have sealed the deal that we will sit and wear foolish crowns together at Christmas and help each other move and ask for advice when nobody else will offer it. Because of time spent together, there are a group of people out there that I can rely on for midnight sob sessions and beautifully awkward family reunions.

So no wonder I can’t make any new friends. I have no goddamn time.

Ever since I left school and started wearing my mommy hat and stylish mommy clothes, I have found it exceedingly difficult if not downright impossible to make new friends. I have pondered this frequently, wondering if there was a social button in me that had been switched off, clearly by motherhood, and wondered why people were just so annoying or different from me. A glimmer of hope now and then in the frequented park by the same people supervising their children but by conversation number 4 I was usually crossing them off my list as a potential pal because their sense of humour was odd, their timing was off, or they shared too much. I’m sure I was crossed off many lists, and rightly so. It got to the point that I simply assumed that every adult I would ever meet again is weird and has bad social skills and my friend making days are behind me. And who cares? I have all the friends I need and I have a family that visits me and feeds me on holidays.

But then again, maybe there is something important to the skill of making a new friend. Maybe there are habits to be maintained and thought patterns to be exercised as we get older in case the tight hold of time loosens its grip. I’m not habitually thinking of ways I can improve somebody else’s life for a moment, and have not allowed for social time in my schedule. So it is with gratefulness that this question a)first annoyed me and b)sat with me for long enough that I feel like I understand that time is the answer, and it must be created now. All the time in the world exists as young adults take on school with massive student loans and boyfriends and life paths to forge. All the time in the world exists when weekends bring your family together and holidays fly people home and cousins want to play together. But as captain of a young family, time is scarce for little else than getting through the day and making sure everyone is fed. But seeing a friend today, a new friend who has not had time to burrow a hole into my heart but who made me smile with the commonality of our lives, made me feel the importance of creating that time.

Because really, when I see friends that I haven’t seen for years, or I see family that I can hardly relate to, aren’t we all kind of strangers? And if we’re all kind of strangers who just happen to have a bond because of the time we spent together, then aren’t we all actually inner circle friends, with all that time waiting to be spent?

Remember your Please and Thank You’s.

From the earliest age we teach our children to say ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’. It’s perhaps the first routine we teach our kids. It’s the first set of manners we teach and use to prove that our kids are well behaved. It’s arbitrary in the beginning stages, and I felt silly and guilty making my daughter say ‘please’ for food that she needed and that I was happy to give her. Sitting across the table in her high chair, pointing at a glass of water and there I was repeating ‘say please!’ and hearing her baby attempt and then rewarding her with a sip of life-sustaining liquid. I felt it was a bit misleading, since I was her mother and didn’t want her to think there was a catch to asking for basic things from me. ‘If you don’t say please, you won’t be fed, clothed, passed an item, read a book, tucked in bed etc’. Not only did I wrestle with the idea that she needed to say a magic word for these necessities but I felt like after spending 18 months knowing consciously that my role was to provide without question, without a thank you, without acknowledgement of my giving – all in a bid to build her sense of security and lay the foundation for a strong and unyielding self-esteem – all of a sudden I was changing the rules of the game and demanding that she perform for all her givens. All in the name of manners.

I didn’t like it when her grandparents withheld something until she said ‘please’. I felt that we over used the word and that we diminished the sense of what family is, a tribe that gives and takes care of each other no matter what. I began to loosen up about the rule and would gasp! pass her the ketchup when she simply asked for it. I would get her a glass of milk when she simply asked. I would do her hair when she simply asked. That’s what family does.

And then something strange began to happen. I got a little busier, a little more tired with my second child, and she got a little older. When she simply asked for something now, it wasn’t as easy for me to do. I would do it, and then I would sit down just a little more tired, a little heavier with the burden of everything else I needed to do. With a new baby it’s his turn to have 18 months of unthanked work, and so my level of giving is at a new high. As my 6 year old simply asks for a glass of milk and I place it down on the table, I feel like she should recognize the effort I put into getting it. She should thank me. But she doesn’t and I go to bed and wonder why it’s sitting on my chest like a weight and think about what family means. I think about how her age is changing things and try to gain clarity about what my role is and how I want to influence her. I toss and turn trying to decide if my daughter has no manners, if she’s rude, if she’s mean, if she has no compassion. It’s hard to sleep with a weight on your chest.

There were many moments like this, many heavy sleeps, and then finally the issue became clear to me. I think. I feel like the more I know the more I don’t know. But perhaps, in the case of please and thank you, it comes down to gratitude, not manners. Okay. So how do we learn that? Is it something we are born with? When I look at my 1 year old I can tell you that it is certainly not. If we are lucky, the first couple of years of our life is void of gratitude. We are cared for and given all the things we need without question if we are born into such a circumstance. So it must be learned. It must be practiced, right? I think. I pick my daughter up from school everyday and I ask how her day was and too often she goes straight to the negative. I steer her into a different direction and tell her Start with 3 good things about today. Her natural state is a little darker, a little more skeptical. That’s how she was born. So we practice looking on the bright side. Maybe we have to practice gratitude with pleases and thank you’s.

How many kids do you see demanding things and tacking on a ‘please’ and then getting what they whined for? There is little substance in that kind of please. So I place the glass of milk on the table and she takes it without a thank you and I know that I have to teach gratitude, not manners. A thank you now would mean that she recognizes that it took time and energy for somebody to do something, and acknowledging that the words ‘thank you’ is a practice in gratitude. I am grateful that you are so busy and yet you still had the generosity to get me a glass of milk, even when I can do it myself. Thank you mom. While I wrestle with my child rearing skills and shake my head that my daughter is 6 and I have to re-teach the habit of pleases and thank you’s, I have a glimmer of hope that I’m on to something new and important – not just for her, but for my second child as well. With each please and thank you, I can teach them the deeper meaning, and avoid the words being an empty, learned manner. I think.

You know those days when….

You know when it’s 1:30am and your partner is coughing from a cold and keeping you awake, and then you finally resolve to ‘just be direct’ and end up hissing in the dark “Why don’t you just sleep on the couch?” and then kind of pat yourself on the back for improving in your communication skills, and kind of hate yourself for still behaving like a 9 year old?

You know when it’s a few hours later and your accumulated fatigue barely warrants mentioning, but then you see your partner on the couch sitting with his eyes closed because he’s so tired, and you can’t help but bang around the kitchen and snap at the kids and then finally make an underhanded comment about how he doesn’t know what it means to be tired?

You know when you see your partner helping the kids get and eat their breakfast, and you know somewhere in your cold heart that he is sick and even though you hate when he’s sick because men are the worst at being sick, you still kind of realize that you love him and that you would be a mess without him?

You know those days when you realize you got your hair cut a week ago, and you’ve been pushing the envelop to see how long you can go without washing it because for some reason no matter what you do, it will never look as good as it did when you left the salon, and you know your self esteem is walking on thin ice and you don’t know if you have it in you to risk the washing and look way worse then you have for the last glorious week?

You know when your logical side kicks in and says ‘you look greasy’ and you wash your hair and then as you dry it and stand in the mirror you think about all the things you hate about yourself and know that you made a huge error and probably should’ve stuck to the greasy look, and you have a moment of understanding those 80 year old women in the 80’s that your grandmother was friends with who would go to a salon just to get her hair washed and blow dried and it never made sense until this moment that you hate yourself in the mirror?

You know when you live in a co-op and you have no income, and so you apply for subsidy because that’s why you moved into a co-op in the first place, and you’re told you need a bunch of documentation to prove you have no income and you wrestle with a sense of shame for having no income but try to remind yourself that you are home with the kids and that’s ‘priceless’ but then you actually kind of picture a price on your kids’ heads and wonder if you are pricing them high enough and then wonder if you’re a bad mother for coming up with what seems like a reasonable price for a child and then have to deal with a couple of 20 year olds about how you have no income and you again hate yourself and wish your kids were actually worth money?

You know when you have 15 minutes to spare before your partner has an appointment so you browse through some shops in a trendy neighbourhood and you see a cool calendar that your husband really likes and as you leave he makes a cute little comment about how if you loved him you would have bought that for him, so then when he’s at his appointment you do one better and not only buy the calendar but also go into the trendy frame shop and somehow agree to have the 12 pictures from the calendar placed on a board and framed so that he can always have the cool pictures to look at even when the year is over, and you pay $307 for it and leave feeling like you’ve made a huge mistake and wonder if this is how you have no assets and start feeling a little panicked about whether you should tell your husband or not because you think you should-so he can tell you to stop the order-but you also want to give him this present even though now you’re thinking it’s kind of dumb so you do tell him and he tells you stop the order! and then you get teary in the car because he didn’t like your present and then he calls you out and says ‘you wouldn’t have told me unless you knew it was mistake’ and then you get even more mad because he’s right, but you can’t let him know that so you say he’s wrong and he says ‘please don’t let this ruin your day’ and you want to hold on to all the bad feelings because you feel embarrassed and awful for spending $307 and so you agree to go and stop the order and it’s awkward and you leave knowing you can’t go back ever again?

You know when you go to city hall to figure out how to prove you have no income and you tell your husband it will take 2 hours and you’ve already convinced yourself that this day is the worst and he forgot his phone so you can’t text him when your done so you send him away mad and he makes a joke about how it always makes you feel better to leave mad at him and that breaks the hold of the awful gift mistake you made and you finally feel light, and like you can face any damn 20 year old that needs proof you are unemployed and you head into city hall and instead of 2 hours it takes 5 minutes and you wish you hadn’t sent your husband away because now you have to walk home but as you do you realize you don’t walk enough and it gives you the chance to people watch and you can’t stand how university students take up so much swaggering space on the sidewalk and you pass a police officer and wonder why you never had any police officer fantasies as a younger woman and as you walk through the streets of downtown you feel so grateful not to be part of the hoard of students trying to make friendships and love connections and fulfill fantasies and go to classes or skip classes and have a skewed sense of what’s important and party too hard and then when you think you’ve listed everything you’re glad not to be a part of you remember that it’s important for people to experience life and that it all gives you character and you feel enlightened for a minute and then an Asian person cuts you off on the sidewalk and you feel secretly racist because Asians are always cutting you off on the sidewalk?

You know how when you get home from a day that was full of errands you just want to sit and drink tea, so you do, and then you realize you’ve eaten nothing all day and have only consumed tea and you know you should eat something now that you recognize this, but then argue to yourself that it will take too much energy to prepare something and you’re already weak with hunger so why not just push through to dinner?

You know when you agreed to do some simple yoga with your neighbour down the hall for $30 a week and halfway through you feel like you’re going to faint because you’re so hungry but she has autism and you can’t really explain yourself so you end the session a bit distant and rushed and feel bad but then also feel like fainting isn’t worth the $6 session today?

You know when you make it through the day, after enough ups and downs that you feel kind of winded and the kids are finally asleep and you tell your husband to get off the computer because he’s getting that crazy look in his eye so go do something with your hands and you know that you have just helped him and wonder if you are helpful enough or if you are just wrapped up in your own selfish needs and you want to take part of the day back and tell him you should have laughed earlier in the car and you shouldn’t have sent him away at city hall, and you should have eaten something and you should have remembered to buy cough syrup for tonight and you should go to bed early but you feel actually kind of okay now and feel like as your husband makes a weird design on a piece of wood and the kids are asleep that today wasn’t so bad?

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