Tag Archives: parenting

Getting It

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I have long watched herds of teens roaming the neighbourhoods we’ve lived in and wondered, “Where are their parents?”  “Did her mother SEE what she left the house in this morning?” “How could that boy be allowed to walk out with no coat?”  I would then make clucking noises and shake my head.

Oh, how far the smug have fallen…

Fear not, I am still shaking my head and making odd noises that no one pays any mind to.  However, this happens as I stand at my own front door (slightly hidden on purpose behind the doorway so my teenage son doesn’t see me watching) as my boy walks off our property wearing nothing but a t-shirt and torn jeans.  Beneath my feet, the furnace thrums away in our basement.

Because its bloody cold outside.

I get it now.

Herds of teens roam the chilly streets of Toronto inappropriately dressed not because they’re parentless urchins but because that is how they like it. No, let me re-phrase that:  that is how they demand it.

As I stood impotently in the foyer holding out a hoodie, my son barked at me in his ever-deepening voice, “I’m FINE!”  Which means, “Mom, if you come one step closer to me with that thing I will burn it with the lasers that will shoot out of my eyeballs, I’ll incinerate you and the hoodie right there.”

My daughter, God love her, has only this year seemed to show more common sense but with girls it’s different.  Coats, jackets, even puffy parkas, can be a fashion statement – as can warm winter boots.  Boys – a species I have lived 50 years not understanding and will probably go to my grave no wiser about – are different.  Boys have to show that they’re tough or cool or at the very least, that they can survive their own stupidity.

I think.

So, as I watch the skinny figure of my boy walk into the morning sun (thank God for that at least), I shake my head and wander off to find my fleece-lined slippers.  At the top of the stairs I look into his room, a den of computer cords, phone chargers, headphones and an unmade bed.  I walk down the hall sounding like a discontented barnyard hen.  Cluck, cluck.

Getting it doesn’t make me any happier.

 

 

Tumble Dryer

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It is well into the wee hours; the cat races after imaginary (I hope) prey throughout the house.  Sleep eludes.  I hear my husband snoring and one of the kids has a cough. I’ve tried tossing and turning; I’ve tried reading – historical fiction, usually a sure bet.  All in vain.  My eyes burn with fatigue but my brain won’t shut down.

Usually, when this happens, I can compose blog posts or entire chapters (ok, entire scenes) of The Novel while I wait for sleep to arrive but tonight, I thought I’d try something different. Tonight I will just write down all of the weird shit that is thwumping around in my  tumble dryer of a brain.  Here goes.

  • Fleas, as in does Alyss have them?
  • a woman’s name.  A character perhaps of a future story.  Her name is Tolly.  Her father is Tom; her mother Molly.  This girl’s parents think themselves very clever
  • life insurance, as in could it ever be enough to see me through in the event of the unthinkable?
  • what will ever become of me and this dream I chase through the shadows called writing?
  • parenting, as in do I suck at it or am I normal?
  • Fleas, as in do I have them?  Why am I so freaking itchy?
  • The Memory Palace – name of a book I saw in the bookstore tonight
  • maybe the double shot latte at 7 pm wasn’t such a good idea
  • why and how do languages evolve, as in: please – in English is so different from “bitter” in German.  Weird.
  • Fernando Torres’ hair cannot get more blond without him looking a little too much like Lady Gaga’s older brother and that would make me sad and slightly scared.

I’m still itchy.  I’m still awake.  The above are the thoughts that torment me.  There will be more.  I was really hoping for a good night’s sleep but then that is my hope every night.  Yet, every night thoughts creep into my room like children used to creep in asking for a glass of water or to tell me they had a bad dream. “Mommy, I’m itchy.”  Yeah, kid.  Me too.

I have things to do tomorrow.  I have chapters to write.  I was hoping to write a lucid blog post.  Now, the day will be spent careening from caffeine jolt to caffeine jolt with a quick, stolen nap somewhere in between.  I will stumble through the day feeling as though I’ve been hit by a truck.

I wonder, as I am apt to do when itchy and exhausted, if this self-inflicted sleep mess is my way of sabotaging myself – like going on a diet and then buying a box of Oreos…”for the kids.”(more dubious parenting).  Now my brain types “therapy.”  “Anti-anxiety meds.”

I will never get to sleep if I don’t close my eyes.  Great, now I’m hungry. Damn those Oreos.

 

My Mother in the Light

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I had a parental epiphany this morning.  I finally understood why my mother sometimes did the things she did.  I also realized (a double epiphany yay!) why very small animal mothers don’t hesitate to take on predators ten times their size.  It’s all about that primal instinct to protect their young.  With humans, this instinct goes into double overdrive when the young become teens maybe because the mothers realize how much harder it becomes to corral the teens and identify the foes.

Before anyone has disturbing images of an urban mother wrestling an alligator while her horrified teens look on, texting their friends or making a YouTube video of said wrestling match, I’ll explain.

For many years I believed my mother to be unnecessarily protective of my much older siblings.  My brother and sister didn’t need to stay in the nest; rather, they seemed to need a big push to leave said nest.  To make more room for me, of course. My mother refused to push.

My mother knew things about my brother and sister that no one else knew.  She felt them at a primal level, perhaps.  Her protective instincts were on high alert all the time.  It was only as I got older that I realized why.  Her methods may have been unorthodox.  Her solutions might have been flawed.  But her aim is now clear to me:  protect, protect, protect.  At any cost.

Today a debate rages somewhere in the background about attachment parenting vs. the Tiger Mother.  Personally, I’m a fan of the middle ground; however, I can understand the rationale for both methods.  When women become mothers, some sort of power switch is flipped.  Admittedly, some mothers current is stronger than others and yes, other mothers do seem to have circuitry issues.  But I believe when something threatens our young, be it illness predator or stress, we all react in the same way.  Bare the fangs, extend the claws, circle the SUVs, whatever it takes.  Protect.

I watched one of those wildlife programs recently where there was, inevitably, an injured gazelle mother trying to protect her baby from a pack of hyenas.  The mother tried everything she could think of to save her child – she threw herself in the path of those hyenas over and over again.  Take me.  Take me.  Leave the little one alone.  My heart ached for her.  She knew what the outcome must be but she never gave up.

My mother never (to my knowledge) had to battle hyenas. She may not have known the true nature of the foe but she knew instinctively that it was there, lurking in the shadows.  I think she died feeling that she had done her best for her kids.  She did what came naturally.  I can’t fault her for that.

Bully For You

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As the parent of two children, I hear the word “bully” more than I want to.  The word bully is now defined as someone who is habitually cruel to others weaker than themselves or repeated aggressive behaviour used to hurt or intimidate another.

It wasn’t always so.  The “archaic” meaning of the word was sweetheart or a loved one.  The phrase bully pulpit meant using a position of influence or public prominence to espouse one’s views – a term popularized by Teddy Roosevelt.  In Roosevelt’s day, the term bully meant “excellent”and was used kind of like we use “Awesome!” today.

Oh,how times have changed.

My oldest child was bullied in Grade 4. Notes on the desk saying “you should die.”  The school did nothing.  Oh yes, they drew back in dismay as we outlined the extent of the abuse. They spouted the canned anti-bullying cry of “Zero tolerance!”  The hallways of the schools were lined with anti-bullying propaganda posters.  We knew the bullies.  I saw their mothers in the grocery store once a week, at the dog park.  These were our neighbours, our peers.  Parents were called, denials were made.  We were forced to put our child in another school; our entire family was infected with frustration and despair.

Interestingly, my child was accused of bullying a child in Grade 7.  As is often the case, the bullied at some point feel compelled to spread the joy, as it were.  We were horrified but on some level we understood our child’s desire to have the shoe on the other foot.  Our child was counseled, had to lead a workshop on bullying and had to give a speech (my child later confessed the sheer terror of public speaking had more effect than any lecture or punishment).  The school acted promptly and decisively.

Grade 9: Victim, again.  My child is now a strong, outwardly confident young person and yet I watch as years of esteem-building threaten to come crashing down.  I am stronger now – more proactive.  Not inclined to sit back and let the school handle the situation.  The vice-principal wishes she’d never heard of me.

Our youngest is in Grade 7. This child – not big, not especially confident – came home and confessed an act of violence against someone who was repeatedly harassing.  The bully has a reputation known to the school but my child will likely be punished because of the inappropriate response.  Was our child wrong to fight back?  I want to say yes; I want to say no. I feel the frustration and fear mount again.

What I’ve learned: bullying is impossibly complex.  It’s not just about bigger kids knocking little ones around. The process is deep and layered, involves every strata of human behaviour.  Schools sponsor presentations and put up posters.  Principals stand up in assembly and drone on while the majority of the audience is on Facebook or tweeting.  Somewhere, another Grade 4 student is reading a nasty note, being cyber-bullied, or getting shoved into a locker.

A powerful documentary has been made – a positive step but it has been given an “R” rating which would prevent it ever being shown in any school.  Parents of bullies rise up in indignation and cry, “Not my darling – he/she could never do such a thing!”  YouTube videos posted by victims go viral.  We gasp in horror and dismay; yet it never stops.

Children are bombarded daily with anti-bullying rhetoric – from adults, other children, pop icons. They hear but do they hear? Do any of us?  What are we missing?

The Heroism of Growing Up

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When my daughter was very, very small – so small, in fact, I did not realize she could speak in full sentences – she laid upon me some words of wisdom that I’ve never forgotten.  Strapped into her car seat, her chubby face streaked with juice, she said, “Mommy, life is hard.  And a little bit tricky.”

Today a bronze statue was unveiled in London’s Trafalgar Square as part of something called The Fourth Plinth Project Series.  It is a simple thing – not glorious or imposing like the lions – a boy on a rocking horse.  The minute I saw it, tears filled my eyes.  It reminded me of the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens.  Captured very simply but very powerfully was the innocence of youth.

The article describing the statue, the artists, and the series said the statue “acknowledges the heroism of growing up.”  Growing up is hard.  I watch my children struggle with it daily; hell, I am struggling with it still at the half century mark.  Today’s children are faced with so many choices, so many paths. I can hardly keep up well enough to do the bare parental minimum. 

Every now and again one of my children will inform me that they do not want to grow up; that in fact, they want to go backwards.  My daughter swears her best year was when she was five.  Life was good, fun, and very simple.  My son wants to be my little boy forever.  His way of putting it: “Growing up sucks.”  I can’t always disagree.

 I think back to my own childhood and marvel at how simple everything was.  I rode bikes, played  games, lay in hay fields staring up at the sky for hours while a dog napped next to me. I remember having a rocking horse just like the one in the statue.  It was made of pale wood with a painted red saddle and real leather reins.  One of the rails got chewed up by a dog but it still rocked.    

Growing up takes courage, especially these days, for kids and parents.   Put one foot in front of the other, every day.  Don’t look down.  Find a park with a statue.  Sit.  Gaze. Enjoy. Remember.  Watch out for pigeons. Chase them like you used to.

Clarification Needed

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This is what I get for writing on a Friday at the end of what has been a crappy week.  Certain readers of Write or Else misinterpreted my previous blog, thinking that I was publicly lamenting the end of a love affair.  [Insert hysterical laughter here].

I wonder, if George Clooney and I ever embark on our long-overdue love affair (once he sees reason about dating someone his own age), if I would ever lament the end of it in a public forum.  Well, writing about it is way more likely than me going on “Dancing With the Stars,” so…well, we’ll have to see won’t we?  [Oh, for God’s sake, I. Am. Kidding. ]

Here’s what I was actually going on about:  parenting and how absolutely unbelievably mind-smackingly difficult it can be sometimes.  “The Rock of Truth”  was fiction as in a make-believe product of my sick, exhausted little mind.  The metaphor, truth as a 1,000 pound rock, is something I made up.  I have not been hit by an asteroid and there is no need to call the Mounties.

Whew.  I hope everyone’s on the same page now.  I hate causing kerfuffles with my writing but it’s happened to me a lot lately.  I don’t set out to write controversial pieces; in fact, until lately, I shied away from even reading them.  However, as I’ve gotten older, I have become less sensitive to controversy.  It’s what my mother used to call the “I-don’t-give-a-rat’s-pattooty” mentality that comes with age.  I apologize if I’ve misspelled “pattooty.”  I wouldn’t say I actively court controversy; I just don’t give a rat’s  ass (much easier to spell) if someone disagrees with me.  Misunderstandings, especially personal ones, I will still work to correct but that might change in two months when I turn 50.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Reality Weighs In

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A while back I wrote a piece of flash fiction entitled, “The Rock of Truth.”  Although it hasn’t met with wide public approval (read: it hasn’t been published), it is still one of my favourites.  It outlines the a very brief trajectory of a love affair gone awry.  The turning point of the piece is when the narrator talks about being bashed on the head by the rock of truth.  “The rock of truth weighs about a 1,000 pounds.”

Turns out the rock of truth weighs a good deal more than a 1,000 pounds regardless of why it hits.

Having the rock of truth score a direct hit tends to hurt; it positions itself directly on the heart. The term “heavy heart” keeps floating around and around in my head. My heart is a lump in my chest that drags me down and makes it hard to breathe – quite the opposite of the life-giving organ it usually is.  The opposite of “light-hearted” is what I am.

Circumstances dictate that I carry on; pretend that I’ve not been felled by a 1,000 pound behemoth.  Although the heaviness remains, life goes on.  One of the hardest parts about getting hit by the rock of truth is the painful process of crawling out from underneath it.   I have to look forward and not flinch every time a cloud passes overhead.

The bruises remain on my heart; they will fade, eventually.  The shadow of the rock will shrink as time works its slow magic. Until the next time.  There’s always a next time with the rock of truth.