Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Rules of Inheritance - a review

I've never done this here, but I couldn't resist an opportunity to do two of my favourite things - read a book and write about it for you while getting compensated a little. This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

I felt two things after reading Claire Bidwell Smith’s book The Rules of Inheritance: fear and envy.

Before I was a mother, I rarely thought long on my own mortality. I tried my best to stay in shape but also regularly sabotaged my life expectancy by smoking cigarettes, and drinking questionable quantities of red wine. When Deaglan was born, I realized for the first time that I cared about how long I lived. Because parenthood comes with it the fear of twin terrors - losing your children and having your children lose you.

After holding your baby for even that first second, it is unacceptable to imagine a life without each other.

In her memoir, Bidwell Smith recounts what it’s like to lose both of her parents by the age of 25, before even meeting and marrying her husband and long before giving birth to her daughter. I felt the sharp pain of her loss not only because I’d spent an entire lifetime losing people – my birth parents and sisters at age seven and then my brother at age 39 – but also because I read her story through Deaglan and Naveen’s eyes.

I lamented the prospect of leaving them before I could share in their wedding days, hold their babies, or simply, give them the kind of mothering grown men need. I felt the loneliness that would envelope my boys should they have to continue their journeys without us, Shaune and me, who exalted their arrivals into this world, dedicated every second from then on to their health and happiness.

And I felt envy.

I yearned for that kind of closeness - the kind Claire and Sally shared. I’d always dreamt of it, open honest relating without fear, only acceptance and wisdom. Some of my favourite parts of the book were when the author relayed bits of her mother’s journal, letters she’d written in preparation of her impending death, advice to her daughter based on a lifetime of learning: 

Have a plan, Claire, have goals, and I don't just mean material but spiritual as well. Get to know yourself deep, deep down, where no one knows you. Listen to that well, because that's who you are...Listen to your real voice...

I finished the book last night and breathed deeply. I missed my family even though they were laying in bed beside me, the littlest in his bed down the hall. I let the past stay where it was but I got ideas for the future. And because it was late, I did the only thing I could think of.

I kissed each sweet face and turned in for the night.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

What little boys are made of

That’s it.

I’m bottling up my little Naveen’s bursting-at-the -seams cuteness and sending it to all of you. Just a warning though, it won’t be all sweet cream. There might be traces of souring, tainted from the way he holds us hostage these days with his volatile tantrums, throwing himself full body onto the floor at even the faintest hint of noncompliance on our parts, shrieking with discontent.

Like a few days ago when he got it into his head that he needed a cookie, and so started with an endearing little question “Mama? Ki-Ki?” And then when I didn’t respond immediately enough for his liking, because well, I was driving, he turned it up a few notches, “KI-KI!!!!!” A warning that someone had better get him a goddamned cookie or some major shit was gonna hit the fan and he wouldn’t be held responsible for the aftermath.

We’ve been riding the kiddy rollercoaster of ecstasy, times where we can barely contain our urge to gobble him up, and agony, wide-eyed shock that this screaming, kicking banshee is our babiest boy.

And you should see the three of us – yes even Deaglan has learned that it is best to just comply with his royal highness – racing around, doing his bidding, torn because he’s too young to discipline but sensing that he understands the power he wields over us, like a sloppy drunk holding a loaded gun.

Oh Toddlerhood, you are bittersweet.

They did a photoshoot at daycare a few weeks ago. Can you see the equal parts slugs and snails and puppy dog tails in those mischievous eyes?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

How many kids do you need to homeschool?

My beautiful friend T Rex Mom gave me one of my favourite compliments a few posts ago. She said: I am still trying to figure out how you write about your tough childhood and yet it does not come off sounding like a "poor me" attitude or ever complaining. You do a beautiful job…

Good lord! I’m so grateful that people take the time to read what I have to say but to get me on this level, well that speaks to my writery soul.

The thing is I could sit here and tell you about the magical moments till the cows come home, I’m a bit on the poetic side in case you hadn’t noticed; I can spin most things into a Hallmark moment if I put my mind to it. But that doesn’t always feed us as humans, does it? I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that some days I don’t see the beauty. Some days I feel sorry for myself even though I know I have it better than so many people in this world. Some days I can’t crawl out of the pit I’ve fallen into without some major help.

This weekend I was knocked off my well-adjusted high horse. I was sitting there feeling all self-sufficient, like finally I’d gotten my hands on the reigns and had figured out how to drive this old gal called My Life when Deaglan’s report card threw me into a ditch full of quick sand.

Our four-year old is enrolled in all day kindergarten, a test program for our province where kids his age go to school the full day everyday just like first graders. I’ll be honest, before we even read about the curriculum, when we found out that our daycare bill would be cut by five hundred bucks a month, we were all sign us up yo!

But little things keep creeping up, making me question the value of the program. Like the five pages of homework our small boy is required to complete each weekend, the pressure we feel to get him reading ASAP, and the thing that set me loose in CrazyTown a few days ago - the early identification form they sent with his report card listing two areas they’d identified as problematic, an implication that our recently turned four year-old is not meeting their development schedule.

I don’t want to spell it out for you, I’m sure you get it but I.WENT.NUTS.

And it was the weekend so there was nobody to strangle. Only Shaune and me plotting those teachers’ demises for making this first year of school stressful, for introducing the notion that there might me something not absolutely perfect about our child, for daring to suggest that we could be doing something wrong.

I spoke to the principal yesterday and she was able to sedate me. She apologized on behalf of his teachers, felt strongly that they should have explained what this form was ahead of time but that’s not the point I’m trying to make. The point is, I realized how fleeting my sense of security sometimes is. That being human isn’t about reaching a stage of actualized growth and staying there in a bliss of constant. 

Nope. It's getting somewhere and accepting that you might not be staying long.

An old picture of Deaglan but in my heart this is how he still looks.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Good Dad

Last night after dinner, I watched Shaune repeatedly slam Naveen against the back of the couch. Each time he began by pretending to grab a handful of my 21 month old baby's hair (a wrestling move no doubt), then swing his entire body with seemingly full full force into the cushions. Even though I flinched every time his little body made contact, it was hard to ignore Naveen's ecstatic giggles.

Learning to keep my comments to myself during this kind of play has been a work in progress.

I've read plenty that even though Dads parent much differently than Moms, their styles are just as good if not sometimes better for the kids. I don't doubt it especially being the mother of two boys. I never admit it to Shaune but I'm often impressed with his ability to play with the kids. His mad skillz at machine noises, how easily he rolls up his sleeves and gets right into being a robot, how the phrase "You must be destroyed" (said as if he was Optimus Prime*) sends both boys running wild through the house hoping their Dad will catch them - well it's hard not to feel a little outdone. 

My friend Shannon and I were discussing this phenomenon of Dad preference in toddlerhood and how for us Moms who are  used to being the go-to parent, it's a little like someone ripping the band-aid off the hairy part of your arm when you're least expecting it. It stings at first.

These are shots of a belated birthday party for Shaune last weekend at his parents'.

But you get over it when one of them crashes willy-nilly into the corner of the couch and runs to you for a kiss and hug. You thank God your kids are blessed to have such a fun Dad. After all, how else are you gonna find time to keep up with your favourite blogs? 

*Optimus Prime is a transformer. That's all I know - you'll have to google him if you want more detail:)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A mother's dream

The first time I felt like I was a part of something greater than myself was when I had my first baby. That’s late I know, but most of my life before that was spent rejecting the people and places I was connected to.  My childhood was peppered with varying degrees of turbulence so that by the time I was old enough to be on my own, I shut most of the world out. My therapist and I think it was a defense mechanism. We discussed my years of phone screening, my preference for email or the written word over face-to-face, my reluctance to participate socially in family functions and concluded it was an appropriate reaction to sometimes very inappropriate circumstances.

I remember with too much clarity the stress of my childhood.

Lately my four-year-old has discovered that he is a part of something larger than himself. Just yesterday he ran into the house bursting with excitement and announced that he had a special surprise for his “whole family”. In his hands he held a Dixie cup with four pretzel sticks – the last of his snack from the after-school program. He’d saved these for us. He could barely contain himself so we followed suit. We feigned enormous delight at being thought of this way, bit into our pretzels as if they were generous hunks of decadent chocolate cake, shook our heads with disbelief at the kindness of the act.

I love that Deaglan will not remember with painstaking exactitude his childhood. I hope that he will think back on it fondly but that it will be a blur, one long continuous ride, filled with

Love not pain.
Joy and only minor loss.
Kindness and comfort.
Giving not taking.

And the feeling of home, always home.

Thank you my friends for your wonderful comments on my last post. I still feel a bit raw from   the boldness of my act - I mean who do I think I am posting so many pictures of myself for the world to see? And yet I received some wonderful messages from even my high school friends telling me it was okay, that they understood where I was coming from. And even the ladies at BlogHer ads gave me a nod. See up there to the right under the heading More from BlogHer - that's my post! Every few weeks they pick something and it increases my traffic, brings other bloggers to my site, shares my little stories with people from all over the world. 

Kind of a thrill for an oddball like me.