Tag Archives: humour

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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Mother Files Criminal Charges Against 1 Year Old

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Winter Parenting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Omigod I’m Just Going to Give you a Standing Ovation Right Now

I binged on youtube videos when I should have been showering and cleaning.

On a healthy day I think celebrity culture is insane, and we would all be better off just living our own lives instead of checking in to see what our favourite actor was wearing or what they said about anything at any time. My personal experience with it has led me to believe that too much of it can cause a huge gap between real life and the tactfully projected life through pictures and statuses, and can make one feel lacking in just about every aspect of life.

Today I saw celebrities get standing ovations for raising their kids without the use of a nanny. I saw women clap and cheer at a man who was working, while his wife stayed home to raise their new baby at home. I saw Ellen Degeneres learn that an epidural didn’t mean ‘natural’ in the birth world. I heard people with more money than some countries talk about the hardship of planning for their kids’ future. I watch these videos like I’m watching a train wreck – I want to look away out of respect because what I’m watching is so terrible, and nobody should be seen like this, and yet I’m forced to look because it’s so unbelievable that it’s hypnotic.

I imagine that if I were a celebrity, after having lived my non-celebrity life up until now, I would likely be too embarrassed to talk about some of these things as though they were so novel. If somebody cried because I discussed my decision to have a home birth, I might feel more compelled to send them some information on continuing education rather than the remarkableness of my decision. If Ellen Degeneres learned that my husband and I had decided to raise our kids on our own without money, but with a blind understanding of the importance of quality of life, I fear she might fall off her chair and give away more iPods than she’s allowed. I wonder if being at a gala of great importance would be overshadowed by a cluster of people hanging on to my every word as I explained things like grocery shopping without a car in a Canadian winter, or nursing in public or my daughter asking if she can wear a head scarf one day because she has so many muslim friends at school. I’m not sure I would be able to take all these people seriously if parts of my life that seem so simple, so necessary would be celebrated as though I was the only person in the world doing it.

I’m sure there are celebrities who grin and grit through their teeth at these stories they have to tell, knowing that a great many people have also opted to not have nannies, in less comfortable circumstances, and I have a lot of admiration for them. It can’t be easy to talk like you are the first person to discover that breastfeeding can speed up weight loss after pregnancy, but there she is, enlightening the audience, and you have to hand it to her for having the balls to maintain the interview rather than get serious and tell Katie Curic that her questions are stupid.

All of this to say, today if you are working and budgeting, or raising some kids or getting into a fight with your partner, just imagine the applause an LA audience would have for you if you had more money, a couple of red carpet pictures in People Magazine and had dated Chris Pine. As I scrub the slow cooker and try not to slip in the oily bathtub because my daughter decided it would be fun to put baby oil in her bath last night, I will be imagining the reaction of a room who can’t believe I live this way, and how hard they would be clapping at my strength and endurance. If I have a room of applause following me around in my head all day, I might actually be able to get through it a little easier. God Bless LA audiences.

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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.

Ode to Bev

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

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

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

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

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