Who’s Turn is it to Bathe Mom?

For a living breathing person with so many progeny it sometimes startles me how little I reflect on being a human person with so many progeny. So I am taking this moment of procrastination, from the several other things I should absolutely be doing, to cast my eyes childward.10516730_10152951323348828_1940999701282850737_n

Here is what I see: I have a glorious hodge-podge of childern. Generally speaking, they have several things in common:

  • number one, they’re funny.
  • Second, they’re as verbally sharp as a dried pine needle cleverly disguising itself in groundcover (and anyone who’s walked through their yard barefoot knows of what I speak).
  • In addition, they each have enough smartassitude to strip paint off a wall, and
  • lastly, not one of them is like the other.

I have one who is an antiestablishment whipsmart feminist on the single-handed mission to school anyone who disrespects her, women, children, baby seals, our new Prime Minister, any member of her family, the Mayor of Calgary, or her 1999 Toyota Corolla name Yoda.

I have one who is so naturally kind, warm, and generous that her friends, her siblings, and strangers she meets in coffee shop lines, bowling alleys, or wedding receptions in small town community hall bathrooms unload to her their deep pain and blackest secrets. She also releases some sort of pheromone only perceptible by people under the age of 7  (we speculate it smells like cookies) because no matter where she goes or what she’s doing all nose-miners are instantly attracted to her like hornets to a hot dog roast.

I have one who was born with a preternatural knowledge of grammar and is such a talented writer that even his elementary teachers were occasionally moved to tears by his writing. In fact, a high school English teacher once referred to him as the Wayne Gretzky of writing. But his talent at writing is blindingly eclipsed by the loving tenderness and care he showers on his 2-year-old son.

I have one who is so driven that she’s able to accomplish anything and everything she decides to do: thus far in her short life she has taught herself how to do an aerial cartwheel, a front handspring, three consecutive pirouettes, speak French, play the trumpet, choreograph intricate modern dance routines, do the splits all three ways, hang from her heels in an aerial lyra hoop, and dazzle all her teachers with her wit, charm and intelligence.

And I have one that is so empathic, so sensitive, so kind and so unfailingly aware of the pain in the world that he has trouble sleeping. At 5 years old, he worried that having a night light in his room would contribute to the world’s overuse of electric energy which would contribute to the melting of polar ice which would then cause mass polar bear extinction, so he would lay in bed and alternately cry with fear because it was too dark or cry with anguish because of what he was doing to the global population of bears. At 9 years old he would painstakingly plan, driven by utter fear, how, if we were struck with a house fire, he would safely get his beloved stuffed animals out alive. And at 14, in a small hotel room filled with 3 rambunctiously overwrought young children, he managed to get his 3-year old cousin into his pajamas and quietly tucked in bed while this rubber ball in human form’s mother and grandmother stood by grateful and amazed.

In short, I have children who, if they put their collective forces to work, would simply and easily take over the world.

With five kids, a grandson, the most stunningly beautiful daughter-in-law on the universe, a too-kind-to-me husband, a full-time job, contract work, and a full-time virtual Master’s degree, I get very little time to reflect on my life and my kids–crap! I get very little time to adequately wipe myself after I pee. Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it the state of the world. Maybe it’s my uterine hormone tap turning itself off for good, or maybe it’s the constant aura of stale urine hovering around my underbits that’s addling my brain, but for some reason, today, my heart has carved out some time to look at them and really, really see what I have before me. And what I feel surprises me: I feel humble, and I feel fortunate, I feel loved, and I feel like I must have done something really remarkable in a previous life to deserve these people because I’m not worthy of them….but they haven’t realized that yet, so let’s just keep that on the down low….that and the source of the pee-smell, ’cause I’m gonna hang on for dear life until they recognize that, A. they’re too good for me and they always have been, and B.in the not so distant future they’re going to have to take turns sponge-bathing me!

Straddle-vision

 

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The Trouble with Parenting, otherwise known as, Why Mommy Drinks in the Morning

You know the trouble with parenting? 

Why it’s so exhaustingly, frustratingly comic (like an old episode of Three’s Company–you know you’re gonna cringe every time you watch but you just keep going back again and  again–I think it’s Susanne Summers ponytails–I mean, you gotta watch to see which part of her head they’ll be sprouting out of next)? 

The kids. The trouble with parenting is, in a word, kids. 

Case in point: the 12-year old boy. Here’s my conversation with one this morning:

Me (standing in the bathroom, with my pants undone, looking into toilet water that’s a shade rather close to lime green): Moses! Get in here and flush the damn toilet!


Him (two octaves above his normal tenor, from three rooms away:) Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatttt??!!! It wasn’t me! Why do you always blame me!!! Arrrrggggghhhhh (a 
cupboard slams and foot pounding ensues, not unlike an old school Appalachian country clog dance, as he approaches the bathroom). I didn’t doooooooo it!

Me (irritation-level ratcheted up to match said 12-year old octave change): Get. In. Here. NOW.


Him (he enters the bathroom, rigid, grunting, stomping and pre-teen-want-my-parents-to-hear-me-mumbling-mumbling): I SAID I didn’t do it! Why do you always say I do it?! I flushed. I didn’t even go!


Me (eyes narrow, lips compressed, blood pressure rising. Pointing ominously into the bowl): Look in there and tell me: Is there any toilet paper in the toilet at this particular moment? 


Him (fiercely not looking in toilet): I flushed! It wasn’t me. I didn’t even GO!


Me (fiercely looking at him not looking in the toilet): Hmmmmm. Well as you haven’t looked, I’ll tell you. There is no toilet paper in the toilet filled with pee. There are exactly four people in this house right now, and three of us have vaginas. If it wasn’t you then one of us is walking around with a drippy crotch. Girls drop your pants for a pantie inspection.


Him (round-eyed, horrified, and ready to flee): MUM! I didn’t do it!!! You always blame me!! I always get left out!


Me (wondering why the Hell I didn’t just flush the toilet myself): Left out? Left out of what? Having a vagina?


Him (with previously unregistered volume and turning a new shade of My-Mom-is-Horrible purple): MUM!


Me (realizing that my coffee is getting cold, my pants are still undone, and my bladder is not getting any emptier): Oh! Just go brush your damn teeth! (Flush).

Him (yanking open a drawer, pulling out a dry, paste encrusted toothbrush that looks like it hasn’t seen the inside of a mouth since Christmas, slamming the drawer, and storming out of the bathroom): I already diiiiiddddd!! Why do you always say I didn’t brush my teeth!! I already diiiiid!!!

10-year old daughter (bouncing into the bathroom wide-eyed and innocent, ready to pounce on the I’m-the-good-kid-right-mom? opportunity that has just presented itself): I brushed my teeth mom, (baring her teeth in grin that might be considered threatening in the animal kingdom) see!

Me (eyes glazed, bladder bursting): Yes babe, I see. Very nice. Now go get mommy the green bottle in the cupboard that says Tanqueray on it, okay? 

The Myth of Motherhood, otherwise known as, How to be a Quintessential Mess

I ran into a friend yesterday. We don’t see each other very often. We both have these insane lives filled with jobs, kids, partners, drama, passion, boredom, boogers, and occasional body secretions our mothers curiously forgot to warn us about when we dreamed of having kids.  But we have this funny reoccurring meeting place: summer camp.

We don’t see each other all year and then out of the blue there we are hugging and laughing at the fact that in a city of over a million people we’ve registered our kids in the same summer camp in the same week, again, completely unplanned and unscripted. Every time I see her I remember what kind of woman I always hoped to be: smart, elegant, classy, thoughtful, accomplished and absolutely beautiful (yes, she is real! She is not my imaginary friend!) And every time I see her I’m excited to catch up on what she’s doing and how she’s doing it. And then invariably, like most mom’s, even smart, accomplished, thoughtful, gorgeous ones (her, not me, I can barely dress myself!) our conversation turns to kids.

Her youngest is four and in his first year of camp. Those are glorious and terrifying days when your children are finally old enough to go to pre-school or kindergarten or camp, in fact, any activity that doesn’t have them stuck to you like a wad of Bucky Balls to the fridge, and I commented on it.  She breathed out that praise-the-Lord-I-finally-have-10-minutes-to-myself breath and said sheepishly, “Yes. It is. Ya know, I kinda found out, I’m not really a baby person. I didn’t really love when they were little.” Then she paused and looked at me from under her naturally lush eyelashes and said,  “But I shouldn’t say that to you….you’re the quintessential Mom.”

Wait. Stop. Just wait. Queue screeching car tires a la Dukes of Hazard.

Quintessential mom? Me? No, no, no, no, no.

No.

Not really at all. Nope. Not at all. I’m not that woman and I’m not that mother, but it wasn’t that that made my tires squeal. It was this beautiful, accomplished, amazing woman looking at me, concerned that I’d judge her, that really hit me squarely in the uterus.

I know that for many, many women motherhood is a spectacular, life-enriching endeavor. One that fulfills them and makes them truly happy. They make it look easy and beautiful: through tantrums and teenagers, through poop and puberty.

I am not one of them. I’m one of those women who makes motherhood look hard, and messy, and entirely unkempt (you’d recognize me: the one in pharmacy line up with the tube of Yeast Infection cream, the red wine stain on my shirt, just over my left boob, the smell of gin on my breath, and the cart full of frozen french fries and cheese string).

I came to this understanding about myself rather ungraciously, and I fought the knowledge for years (which incidentally, the fighting-self-knowledge part, I’m convinced is the real reason for stretch marks). I grew up, like many little girls with the insidious belief that my life would be full and complete when I found a partner (a male partner to be exact), got married, and had children. I couldn’t have been older than 9 when I started choosing names for my future kids, or writing my first name with the last name of some cute boy in my class, or planning my wedding, or deciding how I’d decorate my first family home.

I didn’t even have pubic hair and my entire future happiness hinged on this glorious family life I planned and carefully constructed.

Then, I had what I spent my entire life dreaming of. I had a husband, three beautiful preschoolers, a nice home, and the financial option to be a stay-at-home mom: in essence, I had the life I believed was perfect. The only snag? I was hanging on by my broken, tatty fingernails (and shocking cuticles).

I wasn’t happy. I had a lovely life but I wasn’t so lovely. I was frustrated, snappish, tired, and overwhelmed. I loved my kids like the sea loves the sand, but I was miserable. I believed for years that something was wrong with me. Really, really wrong with me.

It turns out, there was nothing wrong with me exactly (actually there’s plenty wrong with me but I’ll save those tidbits for other blogs, shall I?), though it took the collapse of that marriage, years as a hungry, tired, absolutely flat broke single parent, and the ensuing fall-out to teach me that it wasn’t me, it was us.

All of us.

Especially us women. We have a secret language, we women, one that carefully rewrites and revises the truth about motherhood.

The Vatican Library (not unlike the motherhood vaults)

And our secret language comes from our secret club where we store all the dirty little secrets in a vault and demand silence from our members. We may laugh or sigh or commiserate at the stories of diaper rash days or throwing up nights, but we don’t allow each other to say the really troubling things in our hearts. Things like, “I’m not really a baby person” or “I really hate being pregnant” or “If I hear one more person tell me they’re bored, or I make one more pot of macaroni I’m going to stuff the little buggers in the coat closet and hoof it to Mexico where I’ll live on the beach with my Latin lover eating crab and sipping tequila all day!”

The truth is we don’t tell each other the truth. The truth about how devastating it can be to become someone else’s everything.

The truth about how unfulfilling it can be to stay home day after day changing diapers and wiping bums. The truth about how tedious it is to make supper and wash floors and clean toilets. The truth about how lonely and hard and emotionally challenging and intellectually depleting it can be to be a mom. And we certainly don’t tell young women and girls these truths. We perpetuate the myth of motherhood: the myth that says we aren’t complete or whole women without children, and so another generation of girls are brought up believing that their lives will only be complete when, not if, they have a husband and a baby.

But, and here is my fervent hope, we can unlock the vault and start being honest. We can start telling each other it’s okay to not love the baby stage: that it doesn’t make you a bad mother. Just another entirely human mom, loving her kids and struggling with them at the same time. We can start by listening to each other and hearing the frustration, anguish and loneliness, and instead of reacting with judgement because we’re afraid of those feelings in ourselves, acknowledge them and expose them to the light so we can learn to support each other through this gorgeous, filthy, joyous, overwhelming, exhausting endeavor called motherhood.

So let’s rewrite the myth to allow for motherhood to be everything it is: fulfilling as well as not nearly enough to make a whole woman, wonderful as well as devastatingly hard, joyous as well as heart-shattering, uplifting as well as endlessly challenging.

Let’s blow the doors off the Motherhood Club House and invite in all the amazing, brilliant, exhausted, fed-up, frustrated, elated, angry, thrilled, resentful, less than perfect moms. We can use one of my own Mom’s phrases for our motto: “Motherhood is a life joy, a life challenge, a life pleasure, and a life sentence.” 

But damn! I have to run….my 10-year old daughter just dared my 12-year old son to swallow 27 Buckyballs, so this quintessentially harried mother is off to emerg! Just another day in paradise.

The Reluctant. Otherwise known as The Great Kitchen Knife Fiasco

wiffle ball? why?

Know what I’m not good at, besides rollerskating, wiffle ball, knife-skills, and deep frying? Owning things. As an owner of things, I earn a complete and epic fail. Go straight to Jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.00.


Take for instance, my car, okay, less car more Dodge minivan (oh sweetbabyjesus save me now). It has, since the day I cracked open the dual sliding doors, smelled like 2-day old hamster shavings (don’t ask me how or why. I don’t know!)

Or take my glasses….OH! So it was you who took my glasses!! I haven’t been able to find them for the last 4 hours, and here I was thinking I’d misplaced them when you had them all the…..crap. Nevermind. I have them. They’re on top of my head. 

Or, or, my house. I love my house. I REALLY love my house. Love like we were separated at birth love. It’s what Goldilocks would say is juuuuuussssstttttt right. The right size. The right colour. The right neighborhood. The right rightness (never mind that the old fella that lived here before died in it and had to be removed rigor-stiff, with no Will, leaving crazy-ass relatives locked in probate for 3 solid years to get a piece of my little heaven), I love it.

our actual house

But. 

But I hate owning it.

Owning something suggests responsibility toward it: you care for it. Look out for it’s future. Have hopes and dreams for it. Oh Lord. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. 

Just give me one little sec (and some Listerine) while I regroup.

I’m not an owner. Just the idea scares me. I don’t own jewelry…too much responsibility. I don’t own art…what if I tripped and spilled coffee–alright smartass, Scotch! What if I tripped and spilled Scotch on it. I don’t own fancy cars, I don’t own lake front property, I don’t own designer dresses. Hell,  I don’t own more than one bra! It’s just too much responsibility. 

Now I know that doesn’t make any sense. I am now and have been for more than 26 years responsible for lives–human lives! Yet here I am: a reluctant mom. A reluctant wife. A reluctant home owner. 

Okay…take a breath (and yes, I’m talking to you). I did not explicitly say, nor did I imply in the previous sentence that I was unhappy or unwilling in any of those endeavors. In fact, I jumped in merrily, eyes wide open, and with both feet. What I am is reluctant and poop-inducing scared. 

Let me explain what I mean: the other night was I night I was looking forward to for weeks. My delightful, truly wonderful husband had an over night, out-of-town business trip. Lord! The glory of sleeping, diagonally, in a king-sized bed with no one (except me) rolling themselves burrito-like in the blankets or snoring like a hibernating grizzly sang to me like Adele Dazeem. I had the entire night planned out and it was breathtaking. 

Idina Menzel (otherwise known as Adele Dazeem–by John Travolta)


I executed my plan, with CIA-like precision: kids, in bed. Wine, chilled and at the ready. Sheets crisp. Blankets turned down. Classic novel, open and ready. Clothes, off and piled on the floor (ooooooh, too much information, sorry ’bout that). 

I crawled into bed, book and beverage at the ready. It was glorious. 

Until….creeeeaaaaak. 

What was that? What the Hell was that?! Oh! Lighten up dan (that’s what I call myself when I’m talking to myself, dan, and yes, always with a lower case ‘d’) it’s just the house going to sleep.

So I went back to my book and beverage combination. Until. Until the water ran through the pipes, a motorcycle raced down a nearby street, a cat howled outside somewhere within my hearing, a 10-year old bellowed at her brother in her sleep. And each time I jumped like a 4-year old chocolate addict at Easter.

I decided the best course of action was to, of course, polish off the bottle of wine and top it off with a night cap of muscle relaxants (stop judging!). As I was drifting off to sleep, something startled me. I don’t know what it was…but I was suddenly wide and suddenly completely awake and absolutely terrified. And it was just after my heart decided to settle back near the upper middle of my chest that I realized that what I wanted more than anything was to know that if something was going to happen, I had someone there to protect me. 

But, (oh that awful but!) but, it dawned on me in the very next moment, I didn’t have that: I was that. I realized that when my beautiful kids wake up scared in the night, they fall back asleep in the knowledge that if something is happening I’ll protect them. 

I’m the safety net. 

How did that happen?! I can’t even use kitchen knives safely!

So here I am. Responsible for people, responsible for property, responsible for myself, and it’s a strange and scary place to be. I wonder: do other parents feel this way? Do they long, like me, for their mom to bring them baby aspirin and a cool cloth for their forehead when they’re sick rather than dragging themselves out of bed to tend a sick and sticky child? Do they long to wake up from a bad dream and fall back asleep in the knowledge that someone will protect them no matter what?

Maybe. Maybe not. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. I’m here, at the front, at the head of a family. A loud, raucous, maddening family. And I love them, each and every one of them. And maybe that’s enough, even when I’m scared. Because while responsibility may not come easy to me, it comes. And as long as I get to bring them a little comfort, I’m okay with it…just, please don’t let me near the knives, ’cause if you do, all bets are off…asking me to mince something just puts everyone (and their digits) at risk. 

The Work-From-Home Blues otherwise known as the Trials, Tribulations, and Triumphs of a Homer

not me. my editor, Belinda.

 

I work from home: I’m a Homer. My office, which I share with assorted guitars, a drum kit, and an overly large painting of a cow is in the north-east corner of a bright, chilly room in our house (which is no surprise to any Canadian. Every room in the north-east corner of anywhere is chilly. When I tell people I work from home they always say, “Oh! You’re so lucky” or “Oh! You must love that!”

Well……..okay. I see where they’re coming from:

my commute consists of 17 steps (only 6 of which hold any difficulty: I have to walk past the laundry room and the odour occasionally threatens to overpower me. But don’t worry, that’s easily fixed, I just hold my breath and walk briskly). I’m not cemented to my chair by the eagle-eyed, steely gaze of an OCD-suffering manager (I’ve had one of those….not pretty!) And my work attire is similar to my just-rolled-out-of bed attire (similar in that it is my just-rolled-out-of-bed attire). 

But (notice I said but? You saw that coming, didn’t you?), but, there are challenges, even considering I love what I do and the people I do it with (and no, I do not work as an underwear stylist for Hugh Jackman! Though I would if he offered me the job! Sigh……Hugh Jackman in his underwear…..insert dreamy music…….Where was I?)

Oh yes, working from home. 

There are some real struggles and challenges to working from home, and when I name them: the struggles, challenges, speed bumps, hurdles and roadblocks sound eerily like the names of my kids.

Let me elucidate:

6:45 am: David and Angela wake me, ever so gently, with their bright voices and amusing banter (and for those starry-eyed among you, no, David and Angela aren’t my kids. They’re the hosts of the CBC Eyeopener. Kids waking you gently! Oh you comedians!)

7:45 am: I consider getting up.

8:10 am: I roll out of bed, slide on my best sweat pants for the day, and attempt to wake the kids only to find them attached to technology like an infant to a breast (and just as hard to detach).

8:40 am: I hustle them out the door to school and work so I can start my day. 

Oh you crazy optimists! That’d be too easy. No. One of them has diarrhea and is pretty sure she just pooped her pants, which wouldn’t be insurmountable if she had any clean underwear–Tide Stick where are you? One of them is ever so slightly hungover and late for work and wants to borrow the car again, but it has no gas, so do I just have a $20? ’cause all she has is a roll of quarters. And one of them needs to have a full-sized scale model of the Universe by 9:30. 

10:30 am: I have a Skype meeting and am just signing in when the phone rings. It’s the grade 4 teacher saying explosive diarrhea is strictly prohibited on school grounds and I need to scrape my daughter (and assorted bodily secretions) off the cot in the nurses’ room immediately. 

10:40 am: Drive a ripe Saran-wrapped 10-year old home while Skyping on my phone with my boss about my looming deadline, hands-free of course, while repeatedly and silently shushing the assorted moans, nosiy gas expulsions, and rabid borborygmi.

11:15 am: Daughter showered, dried with a pillow case (refer to earlier reference to ongoing laundry challenges), large dose of Imodium administered, and latest episode of House of Anubis (choice TV for only the best home-from-school-sick pre-teens) teed up, I head to my office to work.

11:45 am: Brush my teeth.

12:00 pm: Rewrap 10-year old in Saran and pick up 12-year old for orthodontist appointment. 

1:30 pm: Drop now hangry 12-year old with sore teeth back at school with a bag of french fries and caramel coloured lumps of somethings that are purported to be a protein source and hurry home for a conference call at 2:00, with only a brief stop at Wal-Mart to get new panties–size 12, 14 new towels, and an industrial roll of plastic wrap. 

1:50 pm: Comb my hair, after all, I do have some self-respect! 

nataliedee.com


2:00 pm: Attend conference call where I sound informed, thoughtful and professional while cleaning feces from under my fingernails with an HB pencil, and try not to hear the poo-cano shouting, “Maaaawwwwmmmm! I need some toilet paper!! Maaaaaawwwwwmmmmmmm!!”

3:00 pm: Start to work. The actual work that I actually get paid for so I can buy toilet paper. 

4:00 pm: Hear the front door slam accompanied by the unmistakable 12-year old stomp, and the bickering start almost instantly. Decide to be a responsible employee and ignore it. 

4:30 pm: Head to the kitchen to make healthy snacks, check backpacks, distribute hugs and accolades and….no, wait, that’s Leave it to Beaver’s mom. I stomp to the kitchen, ping a couple of fruit snacks off the nose-miners heads to stop them bickering (if they pick them up fast enough they get a snack), rifle through school notices, and tell them that while I love them more than the grass in the fields and a cool breeze on a hot day if they don’t pipe down I’m going to duct tape them to the apple tree in the front yard. 

4:45 pm: Head back to my office, put in ear plugs, and work.

6:45 pm: Am interrupted when my office door opens and my fresh-as-a-daisy, handsome, well-dressed husband walks in and asks, “Have the kids eaten yet?”

6:45.21 pm: Watch my husband run for his life.

7:25 pm: Hear the doorbell ring as the pizza guy arrives.

7:30 pm: Am interrupted again as my office door opens. Someone slides 2 pieces of pizza and an extremely large glass of wine on a tray through the opening with a broom handle. I hear footsteps retreating swiftly.

8:30 pm: Realize I’m out of wine and that everything I’m writing is absolute drivel, so give it up for another typical day. 

Sooooooo, basically all the stuff you leave behind when you go out the door to work every day: dishes, laundry, appointments, distractions, and the full-time responsibility of kids in all their messy neediness, are a daily inextricable parts of the work-from-Homers life. 

countrycook.net

But, considering that all these things are the things working moms do whether they work out of the home or in, I suppose I really have nothing to complain about: except the lunches. My business lunches typically consist of scrounging a two-day old baloney and mustard sandwich from the back of the fridge. Oh! And the fact that regardless how many times you explain that you have a REAL job with REAL deadlines, and repeat loudly and often, DO NOT interrupt me when I’m working, every single breathing entity in your house thinks your just playing, ’cause they just have to ask you this one little thing, just this one little thing!
Then benefits though? The things that makes the struggle and the long nights of working to make up for all the hours I should have put in during the day? The things that makes it worth it happened today, on the last day of school (a day that strikes terror in the heart of all Homers everywhere! Kids home all day for two (yes 2!) solid months–goodbye productivity!): 

I got to sit on the couch and with my arms wrapped around my broken-hearted 10-year old daughter as she cried her eyes out because (sweet girl) she’s going to miss her teacher. 

And this Homer? I wouldn’t trade that chance for all the power suits or martini lunches in the world. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Peter Mackay

not me. my left eye wanders, remember?

Sooooooooooo, I’ve been reading again. Which is bad news for my hapless and hungry family (they’re still waiting for dinner), the blogosphere, and the general vicinity of the local laundry facilities (meaning my basement), with the lingering and ever-present scent of mildewing bath towels on the laundry room floor (as there they will remain, to mold another day).


This time my wandering intellect (and left eye, but my optometrist is working on that) took me to the comically ridiculous musings of Federal Justice Minister Peter Mackay; Canada’s answer to Dr. James Dobson, the doctor who’s penned such stirring sentiments as:

“My observation is that women are merely waiting for their husbands to assume leadership.”

and

Our own fresh faced Justice Minister is fresh off of a fierce and rousing defence (on Facebook no less: that sassy, social network savvy politician) of his remarks that there are are a lack of women in Canada’s high court because, naturally, women have a special, special bond with their children so are obviously reluctant to leave their them, especially to pursue a career populated by the “ol’ boy’s club.” We girls being just too unsure and fragile to look the cigar smoking cronies in the eye. 

But wait! There’s more! ‘Cause Peter steps in it again (Poor stupid, stupid man! He keeps this up he’ll needs to make sure his internal surgeon is on stand-by to remove assorted footwear and shoelaces from his esophagus). 

Sean Kirkpatrick


This time Pete proved himself to be not as web-wise as he imagines: he thoughtfully and warmly offered, through email, both Mother’s and Father’s day wishes to about, oh, a thousand or so of his employees….you know, just a smattering of folks. Just a full grand of them. 

 
And oh, what wishes they were! 
He singles out the moms with his kind regards by empathizing with their busy, hectic lives. He says, 

“By the time many of you have arrived at the office in the morning, you’ve already changed diapers, packed lunches, run after school buses, dropped kids off at daycare, taken care of an aging loved one and maybe even thought about dinner.”
Mighty thoughtful of him. I mean it warms the cockles of my heart to hear one of the lofty ol’ boys himself recognize a parent’s daily struggles.
Then he sends an email to the hard working dads, and says, 
“[You’re] shaping the minds and futures of the next generation of leaders.”
“Needless to say, it can also be daunting to consider the immense and lifelong influence we have over our children. Our words, actions and examples greatly mould who they will become. We can only hope that the moments we spend teaching, guiding and loving them will sustain them throughout their lives.”
 
Ah, again, how kind to recognize the shared struggle of parentho…..wait! What?! Thanks moms for changing diapers and chasing after the bus? And thanks dads for shaping the minds of the next generation of leaders? Sorry. That can’t be right. Give me one sec. That can’t be right! I just have to go back and read that again….
 
Nope. That was right. In black and white and read all over Justice Minister Peter Mackay reduced my role and the role of every mom, working for pay or working (for no pay, and less regard) at home with kids, to diaper changers and dinner-planners. 
 
I’m not sure I need to tell you this, but I’m incensed. I’m burning like a patchouli-scented hippie stick.
 
Now I could rant, and I mean I could really rant about how demeaning those statements are, spilt as they are on gender lines. I could go on and on about what it means to all women to hear that we should be proud to be ass-wipers while our partners get to shape teach, guide, love and sustain our children. But frankly, I’m too sick to do it. I’m too sick to my stomach. Too sick at heart. Too overwhelmingly sick to rage against the machine. 
 
No…..Hold on…..Got my second wind.

It is absolutely unconscionable for anyone, let alone a person in a privileged position of power to define and differentiate the struggle, hardship, joy and fear of being a parent based on what we keep clean and dry tucked up in our underpants. What a monumental bloody jackass! 
 
As a mother, I have spent more than half my life sweating tears to help guide and shape my children to be kind, compassionate, intelligent and inclusive members of our society. And my really, truly remarkable husband has spent months worth of nights covered in spit up walking and crooning to sick, angry, sleepless babies and distraught teens (though they spit up a good deal less than infants). It does both of us such a disservice. It diminishes the hope of equality that men and women, mothers and fathers, have been fighting for for decades. I don’t say this very often, but shame on you Peter Mackay. Shame on you. 
But perhaps, just perhaps I should think again…..how do politicians put it? Sober second thought? Maybe Pete and Jimmy Dobson are on to something….maybe we need to turn back the clock to a better time: when women knew their roles and revelled in baby poop and bottle feeding. A time when having a vagina meant knowing your man was boss. A time when the right to vote was reserved for individuals with a grasp on difficult concepts, like thinking. And a time when women were illiterate. At least then, I’d spend less time on these pesky habits like reading and writing, and my family could bathe knowing there were fluffy, freshly laundered towels available at a moments notice!
 
 

Am I Pretty? Yes, Babe. Pretty Awesome!

I read another parenting blog recently. It’s smart and interesting and earnest. Mom-blogger’s post (we’ll call her Mom-blogger to protect the innocent) was about her 8-year old daughter asking one afternoon, “Mom? Am I pretty?”

Am I pretty? Am. I. Pretty. 

Insert hearty sigh here.

How do you answer such a loaded question? On the surface, it seems innocuous. Every child is pretty to their mother (when they’re sleeping! Most other times they’re sticking, smelly, noisy, nose-pickers…..Oh! Alright, I’ll admit it! Every child is gorgeous, nose-picker or not.) But what’s bubbling and seething beneath the surface of this question terrifies me to the bone–and it terrified Mom-blogger too.

We’re so awash in these pervasive images of physical perfection that our sense of beauty is skewed. Hell, our sense of “normal” is skewed.

So, with her daughter’s weighty question dangling guillotine-like, Mom-blogger asked: how can we make sure our girls feel pretty? How can I make sure my daughter feels pretty?

Her answer froze me to the marrow.

Okay. Quick disclaimer (Alright!! maybe not so quick…I’m writing after all!): I am not, do not purport to be, and have singularly given up trying to be a perfect woman, wife, person, or parent. Hell! Most days I’d settle for mediocre woman, wife, person or parent (so would my therapy-bound kids and increasingly twitch-developing husband)! So I am in no position to judge Mom-blogger. Instead I’m going to judge and shout and rant and rail against a culture that objectifies us all, but worst of all our little girls.

I know Mom-blogger means well. She cares enough to blog about it for cryin’ in a bucket. But how can we expect to create a world where girls and women are judged by the weight of our intelligence instead of the weight in our bras? Judged by the width of our compassion instead of the width of our ass? Judged by the fullness of our independence rather than the fullness of our lips?

I think Mom-blogger misses by epochs when she worries and laments her daughter’s doubts about her attractiveness. After all she’s asked her precious daughter all these years, “Who’s the prettiest girl in school? You are!”

Sigh.


My heart hurt a little when I read that.


We: mothers, women, people, have to do better. We have to do better by our children!

I mean, how can we expect our girls, our daughters, to see themselves as more than a collection of features when we, their mothers, define them that way? How can we expect our daughters to ask us instead, “Mom? Am I smart?” when we, their role-models, allow their highest ideal to be tiara-wearing Prince-Charming chasing? How can we expect our girls to define themselves by what they can do rather than what plastic surgery could do for them?

There are all kinds of people, and all kinds of marketing campaigns, trying to answer this question (and pocketing a fair amount of money in the process!), but it won’t do to wait for someone else or something else to provide the answer.

It just won’t do!

I have to provide the answer to my daughters. I have to define them and myself by our intelligence and humanity. I have to ask them, on the first day of school, “Who’s the smartest, bravest, kindest, funniest kid in class?” And answer, “You are darlin’, you are….but that little girl over there looks pretty smart and brave too. Why don’t we go introduce ourselves and find out.”

My love…

I have only one thing in my heart and on my mind. It’a simply the most beautiful thing any one, any where could ever possibly imagine. It’s life: and the life I’m celebrating is a new one. My grandson. Isaac. The most perfect, most precious thing anywhere.

Straddle-vision

Okay……..

Sheesh…….

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged that I almost forget how. Almost. But as Oscar Wilde (or maybe it was General McArthur, no wait, I think it was Rocky Balboa…..oh, forget it!) once said, “You can’t keep a good man down.” Of course, none of them were the mother of 5, with a full time job, a bad attitude, an inability to pay bills on time, an increasing struggle with unruly facial hair, and the looming terror of a long, slow preteen filled summer, so what they know about a “good man” wouldn’t fit in a hot dog bun.


And hot dog buns are all my family are likely to see for the next few months is someone else in this family doesn’t take control of the kitchen! I so badly want to be good at this mother/wife/happy housekeeper thing, but after 26 years trying my hand at it, you know, dabbling here and there, I think it’s time to admit defeat! I really and truly am an epic underachiever.

And there’s no one to blame but myself.

It’s a sad admission. But true. However, (let me say that again more emphatically) HOWEVER, there are significant extenuating circumstances. And those? Bad decision making.

It all comes down to bad decision making (you might have already cottoned on to that little flaw in my make up by noting my inability to pay bills on time–clearly it takes me somewhat longer to make the connections!) But it isn’t my monumentally questionable decisions that I need to discuss, it’s where they’ve landed me…and by landed me I mean stranded me.

Ever since I gave birth to my first child, a beautiful bouncing baby boy, more than 26 years ago, I’ve been straddling worlds. I was 20 when he was born (stop gasping! I know I was young. Refer back to previous mention of bad decision making). I was standing with one foot firmly planted in motherhood and the other dangling somewhere in footloose fantasies of my friends. I would sit, on a Saturday night, in my little basement apartment, feeding chicken noodle soup and playing this little piggy with my little piggy knowing that my friends were out at parties and night clubs. They were going to school, doing homework, sleeping late. I was going to playgroup, doing dishes, and not sleeping at all.

Then at 28, with 3 kids and a failed marriage in tow, I went back to university and my contortionist routine changed. I sat in classes, drank coffee, and did projects with kids little more than half my age. I thought I was cool. Funny, sarcastic, erudite: a regular Ellen Degeneres. They thought I was old. This was made abundantly clear one night whe I was sitting in the university bar with a bunch of people in my program, having a beer and listening to a band (don’t worry! the kids were with their Father! I did’t leave the little ankle biters to fend for themselves! That time at least.). I was really having fun: laughing, flirting, imbibing, and feeling entirely free when a girl (when I say girl I mean Girl! She was probably wondering if her Dad was there yet to pick her up to make it home in time for curfew!) turned to me and said, “Don’t you feel old hanging out with us?” All I could say was, “Ummmmmmmmmmm. I do now.”

Time passes, kids grow, and I fall in love. I meet the best, kindest guy on the planet and for some reason (silly man!) he kinda likes me back. We buy a house, get pregnant, get married (yes I know those seem out of order….stop paying such close attention!) and suddenly I’m straddling different worlds again. I have an infant (a really cute non-sleeping one again) and teenagers. I attend playgroups and I’m too old to be one of the cool moms (that suggests that there was once a time I was a cool mom. I choose to leave that possibility open, thankyouverymuch.). I meet old friends for a glass of wine and they’re horrified at the spit up on my blouse and the faint scent of baby poop that surrounds me.

And now. Now that my kids are grown and growing. Now that I am finally seeing the light at the end of my perpetually spread-eagled tunnel, now that I’m not always the only mom or the youngest mom or the oldest mom, life throws me a beautiful, breath taking curve ball: my oldest son, my lovely, lovely Jonah, has made me a Granny. I’m a grandmother. A grandmother.
I’m a GRANDMOTHER! Aaaaaaaaand, I have a 10-year old.

Shit. This straddle nearly dislocated a hip!

So, because of a decision I made 27 years ago (and one I thank my luck stars for, though it wasn’t the easy one: I always just have to be a little difficult!) I’ll spend my life straddling worlds: always with one foot in one world and one foot in the other. I’m never just one woman. Never just a girl, or just a mother, or just a crone. I’m always a little of each. It’s a strange place to exist: it’s a little scary and a little lonely sometimes.

But, there are perks (if not perk-y anymore!): if I’m too old to jump on the trampoline with my 10 and 12-year olds (at least without bladder protection undergarments–you try squeezing 5 human beings out of your body and see where your bladder ends up! Somewhere around your inner thighs, with mine I expect) at least I’m still young enough to hold my precious, priceless grandson steady as I twerk without breaking a hip.











Make Me Your Poster Girl

Parenthood: The overwhelming conundrum of finding oneself joyfully loving nose-picking-bum-scratchers who whine, refuse to listen, insist on blaming you for everything, and ceaselessly tell poop jokes.

What a mad combination of emotions is parenthood. I very often stand on the brink of throwing myself on to a reasonably sharp object from a moderately high place (in my most desperate imagination these are a rusty old pitch fork and the rather low peak of my garage, but where I’ll find the pitch fork is yet to be determined). Then, in the next instant (alright, who am I trying to kid? It takes me way more than an “instant” to get down from anywhere these days) I am so in love with my family that I’m overwhelmed.

Talk about bi-polar parenting. I should be the poster girl.