Tag Archives: family

Being An Adult

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

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

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

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

A List of Things To Be Grateful For You Ingrate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Winter Parenting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Finding Peace at Night

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In my new parenting book, to be published by me when I have lots of extra cash and time to write it, I talk about the craziness of not freaking out when your 16 month old is still waking to nurse through the night. There are other chapters. Chapters titled “Ask your African Neighbour What She Does for her Baby – and Then Copy Her”, “How to Lie Down in the Tub While Having a Bath with Your Baby”, and “How to Wear Your Food Splattered Clothing in Public with Pride”. For now, we will focus on the chapter called “Maybe Your Baby Wakes up at Night – Finding Peace Within”. 

As with all the chapters in my book, they are based on my own experience, and an inclination that other mothers are having or have had similar experiences. I have no PhD or degrees in anything legitimized by society, but I do have 7 years of motherhood under my belt, which is over 60,000 hours of work put toward this topic, which is why I felt qualified to write a book. I understand that anything I say can be poo pood by somebody with a formal education in this field, after hours in labs and studying other people’s babies to write reports on the importance of sleep so that these reports may be published by a journal and then I really look like a moron because I don’t have any reports, unless you count my sobbing diary entries as reports or my midnight text messages to my friends as controlled variables or something. All of this to say, the theme of my parenting book is very much about my own experience with my own children, because I heartily believe that if we all just stick to I statements, we  all might actually learn something, instead of all of us following the advice of a few people unconditionally.

This particular chapter was written with the intention of healing my own inner conflict at failing miserably because my child was still waking and nursing at night at 16 months old, and my secret feeling that this was actually not just okay, but necessary. Necessary for what? I asked myself. I first noticed the differences between my oldest daughter and my new son um, on the day he was born. The two of them could not have been more opposite. My daughter was born with an independent streak built right in, and the day she started walking, she never searched for my breast again. It was a quick break, but it made sense for her, and I barely questioned it, even as a young first-time mom. With my second, I found myself a little puzzled by his need to be close. He had independence, this was true, but he also had a clear need to check in with me more frequently. You still there mom? Can I get a little nursing to make sure? This room is really crowded, can I just put my hand down your shirt to make sure we’re still a team? I just woke up and am feeling a little cranky – 5 minutes of nursing? It was and continues to be a strong aspect of his development that persists throughout the night. In the spirit of ‘whatever works’, the truth is is that getting up to cuddle and nurse my son isn’t so taxing on me. He typically goes back to bed without much fuss and I have even come to trust that when he fusses as I put him down, if I give him another 2 minutes, he will then be ready. He knows. But this is in stark contrast to what the world around me expects. Every book and website I go on chides me for not having trained him to sleep solidly throughout the night. It’s the topic I like to avoid with other mothers or older women. Ironically, if I look back to my daughter’s sleeping, it took her 3 years to learn how to fall asleep. Once she was out, she was down for the count, and even at age 6 slept through the birth of her brother happening in the room next to hers. 3 years of back rubbing, of sitting with my back to her crib so she could see me, of hand holding, of trotting back to her room for the 11th time. Just last night she went through the same routine, only this time with words. For the most part she be put to bed and she can fall asleep on her own, but her instinctual need to resist sleep has remained, and yet, I don’t even question that. Then I hear the baby crying and I go in to comfort him and I have a million voices in my head questioning me about my motives, my perseverance, and my ability to ‘sleep train’ him.

Mob mentality is powerful stuff, and finding peace with something outside the parenting norm is hard. Parents who co-sleep with their kids are met with their share of awkward questions and glances, but there is a decent amount of material out there now that supports co-sleeping that one can easily say ‘Let me send you the link to The Benefits of Co-Sleeping’ and be done with it. So far I haven’t found much about the okayness of parents still comforting their babies at 16 months old – hence the chapter in my likely award-winning parenting book.

Key word in that last sentence is babies. This is a baby. Yes he’s walking and has a toddler presence, but if I’m totally honest with myself, the kid is a baby. He falls and needs his mom, he wakes and needs his mom. Everything in me says this is okay, because you know what? I watched my daughter go to school when she was 5 years old and I was shocked at how young she was to be out in the world and I thought long and hard about how quickly we take away the baby years from our babies. So why am I so conflicted when my baby still acts like a baby in the middle of the goddamn night? Once I made that connection, I found a little peace.

Parenting is 24/7. That includes nighttime. I started to look at my own angst towards having to get up at night, and I wondered when I started to draw a line between my role as mother during the day and during the night. I know that sleep is important and when it’s absent, things are hard. Like, really hard. But everything about parenting is hard the thing that nobody tells you us that you don’t get a break, and you are only given what you can handle. So when I started to put in my mommy hat at night fall, and trust that I would live to see another day, I found a little more peace.

I started to wonder if one training style met the needs of all people. Now, I know there are lots of different ‘sleep training’ methods out there, but they are all geared toward getting that 1 year old to sleep through the night. But what if some babies need a different method entirely – one that involves practicing reassurance, patience and comfort for longer than what is widely accepted? Is it possible that my baby needs to be comforted for longer during the night in order to develop a healthy relationship with sleep, something he will do for the rest of his life, everyday day, until the day he dies? Is it possible that I need to allow for perhaps a year, 2 years, 3 years to develop and nurture that relationship in order to create that foundation for him? When I realized that, and realized that there is nothing crazy about that concept, there was more peace waiting to be found.

The chapter ends with the observation that despite still waking, my son sleeps for longer stretches at night, while still waking and needing to be held and nursed. More often than not, he sleeps for 5-8 hours at a time, but there are the nights when I am up every 2 hours to prove that I am still there, or to reassure him that there will always be comfort when he needs it. At times I remember that between the two of us, this little human has a clearer sense of what is needed than I do. His head is not clouded by the words and advice of experts or published studies. He survives day to day with the purity of understanding what his body and soul need. In the dark, he knows that he needs the familiar hold of the woman he relies on for everything. The depths of sanity of that fact have sealed the deal for me, and I no longer harbour the inner conflict of getting up at night. It’s hard, but now that I don’t fight it, it is at least peaceful.

You can look for my book on shelves in 2020. National book signing tour will commence on July 7th in Ottawa ON. In the meantime, stay tuned for other exciting non-advice blog posts.

When Toddlers Slap

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

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

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

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

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

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

Woman vs. Woman

community

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.

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?