Thursday, 19 April 2012

Birthday gifts

Whenever his feelings of love for me are too enormous for his pre-schooler sized lexis to express, Deaglan says something like,

“Mommy, when I’m a big man, I’m going to buy you a fridge!” Then he waits for my reaction but before I can respond he sweetens the deal with “I mean a brand NEW fridge!”

Of course I say the typical things you’d expect, “I’d love a brand new fridge honey! But I’d be just as happy if you made me a beautiful picture or cuddled with me.”  (I know what you’re thinking. You'd want your grown son to draw you a picture or cuddle with you?  Okey-dokey.)

For a while I tried to figure out why he picked the fridge. Ours is only about four years old and works just fine. I can’t remember ever complaining about it or yearning out loud for a fancier model. Why not a new car or bigger house? And there’s also this: I beg my boys for affection almost every minute I’m with them. I tell them at least a dozen times a day that my favourite times are when I’m around them and that I just can’t get enough of their hugs and kisses.

And Deaglan is always sweet and generous, promising me “armpit” or lots of kisses when we’re together again. Naveen however is a different story. He doles his love out like it’s the day after the apocalypse and he’s holding the last loaf of bread. He’s stingy and downright arbitrary – you can never guess when he might give you one of his mushy-lipped smooches or flat out refuse you. Recently though we’ve discovered a loophole. If he thinks you’ve hurt yourself, he’ll run over with great concern and kiss the place you claim you’ve hurt. I probably should be ashamed to tell you this but I pretend to be hurt all the time.

On my lips.


My point is though; I don’t know where Deaglan got the idea that he had to buy something to show how much he loves me. But then again I’ve never been any good at math. I mean if the giddiness with which I’m looking forward to my new Ikea dressers arriving just in time for my birthday tomorrow is any indication of how not-materialistic I am – I can’t imagine why my son might think things make me happy.

I’ll tell you what will make me happy. Not having our bedroom look like the showroom at Goodwill. Not that there’s anything wrong with used furniture, I’ve been quite proud and forthcoming about my curbside finds. But I’ve been dreaming about these two charmers for some time now, swooning at the thought of having enough room for all of our clothes. And so when Shaune asked me a few weeks ago what I wanted for my birthday, I’m sure he expected me to say the usual  - I have everything I need, but I responded with only one word - "Hemnes!" 

And a few mornings ago, after disciplining Deaglan a few times about smashing Naveen's toy vacuum into the fridge, it dawned on me why he picked that particular appliance to gift me in the future with. He's made just about every dent on it's stainless steel surface. 

Sweet, practical and repentant. Some lucky woman is going to thank me one day!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Confessions of a breastfeeder - the final chapter

A few mornings ago, Shaune, exhausted and at his wits’ end that both the kids refused to eat and were crying for me as I was heading upstairs to get ready for work, spit this out:
“You’re raising these kids to need you every ten minutes!”

It hurt me a little.

I got why he said it – it’s his job in the mornings to feed Deaglan and Naveen breakfast while I shower and get ready. Then once I’m together he can get off to work, leaving me to dress the kids, take them to their respective daytime places before heading to work myself. Dealing with resistance and tears throughout this delicate yet oh so hectic balancing act?

So. Flippin. Irritating.

But his words left me guilty and defensive. Guilty because the statement implied that I’d somehow manipulated my children into needing me all the time to fulfill some inner need to be needed. And defensive because Shaune in a moment of frustration with one badly chosen accusation had taken all the good mothering I thought I was doing and twisted it into something ugly and self-serving.

I tell you this not so you can shake your heads at my husband. I purposely left out the profanities I muttered under my breath in response to his little dig, but also, I am certain you all have similar moments in your marriages where crying, uncooperative kids has one or both of you searching for someone to blame, a direction to point your weary finger because not only are you tired and questioning your decision to embark on parenthood in the first place but the sound of howling kids is enough to make you want to cry or shatter your own eardrums to drown out the sound.

Or both.

No, I tell you because his words gripped me by the throat, making manifest the trepidation that constantly lurks just beneath my surface, the fear that I indeed am doing something wrong in delaying my children’s independence. That it absolutely is my fault the four-year-old refuses to sleep in his own bed even after we moved his brother and a shiny new set of bunk beds in to keep him company. It is somehow atrocious and socially unacceptable that I continue nursing the almost two-year old, the same one who can actually ask for breast milk by name; a name he came up with all on his own because well – he can talk and you know the unwritten rule about breastfeeding a talking child don’t you?

Never mind my internal battle raging about being a full-time working mom of small kids; that it’s just plain wrong to be away from them at these ages for so long every day, and the opposing - we couldn’t afford to live on just one salary and also, I like having a career.

Every day the good and the bad of how I’ve conducted myself on this journey play out in my mind:

No wonder you don’t get enough sleep, you never set boundaries with them!

But they’re so small, how can I expect them to not need me? I work all day away from them, it’s the least I can do to comfort them when they cry.

You’ve never heard of crying it out? Formula??

On and on.

These are definitely Western-world (First world?) problems my friends. And I write about them not to complain (especially not to complain about Shaune who is mostly a saint as far as husbands go) or garner your sympathy, but to share my world for a few moments, to put it out there.

Life is tricky, don't you think? 

I have had such a good run of breastfeeding and yet lately I dread the four AM call to task when our pint-sized Naveen, the monkey boy that he is, climbs out of the lower bunk, walks into our room to my side of the bed and asks ever so sweetly, “Mama? Milky-da-da?”.

I spring awake, move Deaglan to make room, sigh,  look  over at Shaune who is often helpful in the night if I ask but is likely snoring very loudly, and think,

What the hell does Da-Da have to do with this?
This was at Easter dinner last week - Shaune's family were sweet in remembering my upcoming birthday this Friday.

If by chance you're interested in what else I had to say about breastfeeding my boys please go here and here.

Monday, 9 April 2012


Tonight after dinner when Naveen caught me at the freezer, sneaking the ear off of a chocolate bunny, he ran fast to where I was, looked up with his enormous brown eyes and pleaded,

“Chocate? Chocate please Mama.” I rolled my eyes, peeled the electric blue foil wrapping off an egg and handed it to him.

A few minutes later, when he’d swallowed the last bit, chocolaty spit coating his chin and shirt, he gestured the sign for “more”. Again with those eyes. But this time I refused to let them stir me.

“Nope. Chocate all gone!”

When he asked a few more times, the fingers on both hands scrunched together, repeatedly making contact with each other, something he’d learned at daycare eons ago and saw that I still refused, he walked closer and began slapping my legs.

“Go ‘way Mama, you go ‘way!!”

This is how he deals with us lately when we deny him.

He then launched into a tantrum right there on the blonde laminate in our kitchen. Slightly detached from experience, I walked around him, tidied the dinner dishes and went back to helping Deaglan with his homework, keenly aware that this smallest of my boys was now howling my name and crying real tears.

I thought about how he must have felt: crazy wild with frustration and desire. I understood it – knew that it never goes away; we just learn to express it civilized.

It was such a contrast to my day. I’d been quiet inside, wordless. There was a desert-like quality to my thoughts, barren of the usual lush emotions, lost from my own needs, as if I was in a dream; one of those voiceless screaming dreams where no one hears my panic. And I felt the tightness in my throat, an achy thirst, aimless in its search for just the right thing.

It took a while to find it though – I’m slow to understand even after all these years with myself. I read a bit of her and it revived me. I remembered again for the gazillionth time that I need to feed my soul regularly or I will not thrive.

I gently coaxed Deaglan through connecting the dots, coloured the triangles yellow while he worked away on the red circles and eventually Naveen quieted, found my lap and snuggled into me.

This was yesterday morning. The Easter Bunny left Deaglan a scooter which he lost interest in within three and a half seconds. However, he refused to take this helmet off. Naveen received a bubble-blowing lawnmower which he lovingly referred to as "Vakoom" all the way to the park.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

On loving yourself

I don’t know why I said it that first time.

Well I do but it’s a long, drawn-out story that you might just not have the time for. See I think about things like that – things like if you’re going to land here, how long can you afford to hang around? I always underestimate on purpose. It makes me feel like I’m somehow under-promising and over-delivering.

To myself.

That way I’m pleasantly surprised that you (a) came here at all and (b) stayed long enough to read the whole thing. Does that even make any sense at all or should I have kept that inside my head?

Anyway, back to that first time I told Deaglan it was important to love himself. You should have seen him; he cocked his head to the side, giggled and said,

“That sounds silly Mommy.”

We were having a rough morning; I was tired and he was not listening. By about the fifth time-out in two hours, my voice hoarse from yelling, guilt crept in and reminded me that he was four, to cut him some slack. I forced myself down to his level, grabbed his chin to direct his gaze and told him that even when we’re mad at each other, we need to remember that we love each other.

“Even when Mommy is acting upset with you because you’re not listening or doing something naughty, I want you to know that I love you and that you’re still a good boy. And more importantly I want you to remember to love yourself.”

“Love myself?” he laughed at the notion. “That sounds silly!”

“It’s not silly at all. You need to love yourself all the time.”


I tried to find four year-old words to explain it.

“Because you’ll always have yourself even when you’re a big man and don’t live with Mommy and Daddy anymore, you will always have yourself and it’s important to love yourself and know that you're a good person.”

“Okay Ma.” And off he went.

It was a rare and shining moment for me. My naive mother heart reasoned that maybe I could cushion his teens and twenties a little if I let him in on this life lesson now. Maybe he wouldn't spend as many years as I did, at odds with himself, led by the need for approval.

“Toni Morrison said, "The function of freedom is to free someone else," and if you are no longer wracked or in bondage to a person or a way of life, tell your story. Risk freeing someone else. Not everyone will be glad that you did. Members of your family and other critics may wish you had kept your secrets. Oh, well, what are you going to do?
― Anne Lamott

Something has shifted inside me this last year. Tiny bits floating on the horizon, easily mistaken for dust or nothing at all if it weren't for my searching. Whisperings really. Telling me that I am loved, all of me even when circumstances convince me that I'm unacceptable, failing. Mediocre.

It can't be that easy though, can it? Passing these hard won lessons to my boys?