A Graduation Gift

Someone asked me the other day, what graduation gifts I would be giving my two daughters who are graduating university in a couple of weeks. I answered, “a life”. The person giggled and said, “Yeah, you gave them life and gave birth to them, but specifically what gift are you giving them?”   I answered, “I already told you. I gave them the gift of having a life.” We gave them a safe place to grow up. Unconditional love upon which to thrive. A secure upbringing in an environment free of pain and torment. Food to eat. A warm place to sleep. Clothes to wear and the freedom to choose the education they wanted. Limits to understand there are rules in the world one must abide by. Guidance to be healthy and strong and remain that way. The freedom to work and become intelligent independent strong young women in a world that remains unpredictable and flawed. What else could I possibly give them that would compare?

Parents lament over the right path for their children. Did we do the right things along the way? Are we being too strict or too permissive? What is the right balance?

Parenting, for the most part, is the toughest gig there is. Balance between being a disciplinarian and loving mom is a guilt trip worth my weight in wine. It’s a torrential down pour of constant self-doubt and questioning whether the decisions we make when the 3yr old won’t speak, will hamper him when he is graduating high school 15 years later. The answer here: no. No it won’t…and it didn’t. He’s fine. There will always be big decisions to make and questioning whether those decisions will be the right ones. As parents, we trusted our guts. If it didn’t feel right, then it wasn’t right. If it felt like an opportunity for the person to grow, then we jumped and allowed it to happen. We were there when it fell apart, or when it culminated in a win. Either way, we were there.

We were always told by our kids that we are, and were, too strict. We had the attitude that it’s a tough world out there kiddos, better get used to it. The tougher we were the happier we were. To us, it meant they were learning something, maybe a tough life lesson or just to clean their rooms, but learning was always the ultimate goal. They didn’t have to like it and sometimes they were downright miserable about it, but they did it. Not because we were tyrants, but because it was good for them in the end. It may have been painful for us to watch, or to endure, but we stuck it out. We are their parents. Not their friends. We made that clear from the start.

Even now, the kids are adults, we still have high expectations and those same expectations carried them through. Through high school math, through tough regattas, through awful hockey coaches, and through university.

Learning ain’t easy, kids.

Neither is life.

To answer the question specifically, being a parent was the biggest gift I gave my young graduates.

And I can’t wait to see what they do!

Moving Forward Reluctantly

I was debating how to start this one, as it’s fraught with euphemisms and ‘life is like a box of chocolate’ kind of sayings.  It’s challenging and scary and moving forward is always hard.  Children become adults without even blinking and suddenly university is over and moving out is on the horizon.  And not just moving across town.  Moving across the country.  Moving to another province, another time zone, another way of life.  Ugh.  When did I give birth to adults?  This is a lot harder than they told me.  I don’t remember anybody saying that moving on would be harder on the parents than the adult-seeming children from whom I wiped snot from their runny noses and caught their vomit in buckets and chauffeured them to dance classes and guitar lessons and Tae Kwon Do sessions and even the occasional hockey-from-hell practices.  Christmas presents are no longer dolls or toys or games, but dishes for their new apartments, or new bedding for the new beds or gas cards to get them across the province.  We don’t eat supper together every night because one is running to work then class, another is running from class to work and the third one is preparing his four thousand word essay on the bombing of Hiroshima and can I possibly let him eat in his room tonight?  Gawd, where did these people come from?

The daughters will be finishing up university in the Spring which has brought discussions of Chapter 3 into the round table.  Everybody wants to be supportive, but with applications flying from one end of the country to the other, my nerves are starting to fray.   I’ve got one with ambitions of working in Intelligence and one nursing in a warmer climate.  I’ve got the other one applying for unis in Ontario and BC and then saying ‘well, you know I have to think about Medical school down the road.’  MEDICAL SCHOOL???!!!  WHO ARE YOU?!  WHERE’S MY LITTLE BOY WHO SPILLED CHEERIOS ON THE FLOOR AND REFUSED TO SPEAK UNTIL HE WAS THREE AND SANG ‘INAPPROPRIATE’ SONGS TO HIS GRADE ONE TEACHER?!!  * As a side, they weren’t really ‘inappropriate’, but when your kid goes to school singing “Save a horse, ride a cowboy” you get a call….

I had a long discussion with co-worker who has been through this with his son and he was very good at allaying my fears.  “She’ll be fine.  She’ll land on her feet.  It will work out.”    Okay, I’ll nod and trust you are right.

In the meantime, I’ll be around the house looking at old photos and lamenting the times the children were children and asking for friends to come over to play barbies and making snow forts in the backyard and NOT looking to get as far away from me as possible…

baby-kyle

A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Tattoo Studio…

Apparently, when you turn fifty something inexplicable happens to your brain.  Decisions are made based on what would be fun, or what could transform a little life into something exciting.  Looking down the tunnel towards old age, it gets necessary to move in a more forward thinking direction.  What have I not done in my life that I really should do?  Like, now.  Do now.   Take a plunge.  Leap. Dance.  Get a tattoo.

A tattoo?  Yes.   With Daughter.  She asked me and in an instant I said ‘yes’.  I didn’t even hesitate or flinch.  I just jumped in. No debating, no weighing the options, just jumped.  It’s only a little ink, right?

Let’s do it.  She was so excited.  I was too…until we walked into the tattoo studio for our consultation and then I realized it was actually happening. A permanent drawing on my body.  Ready?  Hmm….

Oh, sure there was a lot of checking with me to see if I was on board.  Was I sure?  Daughter and I looked over literally hundreds of designs.  What size?  Did we want colour?  How about the image itself?  There were many I nixed based on size.  There were more she declined based on simplicity. I was going for simple.  At my age, simple was imperative.  A few weeks later and we had our first appointment.

We made our way down to the studio.  A little red door on a downtown street.  Colourful art and sketches cover the wall of an old walk-up; aged wooden floorboards creaked beneath our feet; plaster ceilings and vintage crown moldings.  There was a park bench and an old tattoo chair adorning a tiny living room complete with sofa and coffee table. Directly across from the green micro-fibre sofa hung precariously from an old nail, a shrunken pirate head with ginger beard and eye patch.  Perfect.

We sat down with the artist in that room to go over our ideas for our tattoos.  She was a young woman, grey haired and sweet.  I saw no visible tattoos, however, just peeking out from under the hiked-up sleeve of her sweater I could see a black swirl like the wispy end of a tail.  Ah, there it is.

She asked questions.  Allayed our fears.  Calmed me down a bit.  We went through our ideas and she took the time to get to know exactly what we had in mind.

We chose daisies and asked the artist to do a sketch and send it to us just so we could imagine what it would look like permanently inked on our skin.

The day of the appointment arrived and Daughter picked me up.  She was so excited, how could I not be?  She went first.  Watching the tattoo artist was like watching somebody paint a picture while doing a bit of surgery at the same time.  There’s the whir of the instrument, the chatter of voices and the wincing of Daughter’s face.  She was so determined not to move, she made herself shake.  I asked Daughter what it felt like and she said it was like somebody scratching at your skin.  Nothing painful.  Huh.  That wincing face, though.

She was done in thirty minutes.  A quick change up for the room to be disinfected and cleaned up and it was my turn.  Ugh.  My brain started going into overdrive.  Was it too big, really?  Maybe she can scale it down to one daisy…then mine would be different than Daughter’s and that would defeat the purpose.  I was back in the room with the shrunken pirate head.  I think I heard him sneer at me, “Oh, whaddya ascared of a little tattoo?!  Pfft…sure if I had arms, I’d show ya all mine!  Dey were good’uns, they were.  All done by a sailor with a hook for a hand and a needle dipped in black ink.  Hehehe…good ol’ days, dey were.  A’course I may ‘ave been a wee bit over da limit wit da rum, if ya catch me drift….”  ‘Oh, my Gawd will ya shut it, pirate!  Can’t ya see I’m panicking here?!’    “Jasus, girl it’s only a bit o’ink.  Nuttin’ to git yer panties in a knot o’er.  An daisies at dat!  Pffft…wuss.  Well, if ye were on ma boat-“      ‘YOU DON’T HAVE A BODY LET ALONE A BOAT!   TOO BAD YOU STILL HAVE A MOUTH! KEEP TALKIN’ CAPTAIN JACK AND I’LL PITCH YOU OUT INTO THE HARBOUR! ’    “Take it easy, Missy!  Where’s me rum…”  ‘ NOW, you’re talkin’…..’

She came out to get me and we were off.

She attached the design to my lower leg first to make sure the placement was accurate and straight.  Then I hopped up on the table and she set to work.  I was on my side, so I was able to have a lovely view of the harbour while she worked.  I think she did that intentionally.  Smart girl.  Captain Jack was laughing it up out in the living room, I’m sure of it.   I asked her intelligent questions like “Has anyone passed out from this before?  Ever been accidently kicked or swatted while tattooing?  What’s the biggest tattoo you’ve ever done and how long did it take you?  Anybody ever vomit on your table?”

She answered my questions with a degree of concern making sure I wasn’t going to do any of those things to her.  Nope.  All good.  Except for that annoying scratching.  “That’s the tattoo.”  Oh.  Then I’m good.

It went well.  The tattoos look great.

I wonder what my next adventure will be…hmmm.

As for Captain Jack, I don’t think we’ll be seeing each other any time soon, although I thought I could hear a verse of  ‘Yo Ho Ho and A Bottle of Rum’ as we were walking out the door….

 

tattoo

 

 

 

 

 

Positive Parenting

With all the bad news in the world, I thought it would be a perfect time to engage everyone into tips on parenting young people.  You know.  So, we can move forward into the great unknown with a renewed sense of purpose through empowering our young people to be more positive and productive.  And because we need people to lead our universe without using the idiom of building walls or threatening minorities.  Less assholes, more leaders.  Yes, we have that power.

  1. Watch your words. They can hurt easily.  They can also provide an ongoing narrative of encouragement and support.  Your choice.   Hearing “I Love you” every day is much better than nothing.  Silence is heartbreaking.  Unless you are alone and the kiddies are safely tucked away, then it’s wine.
  1. Speak the truth. Trying to lie your way out of a question can be damning.  There’s Google and damned Wikipedia so the youngin’s think they have you covered on the information gathering.  Also, a little life truth never hurt anybody.  My quote this week of “Get used to it kid.  It’s not all lollipops and unicorns” sent D2 into a wow moment. Truth.

 

  1. A little struggle never hurt anybody. Learning anything new is hard.  Growing up is hard.  Going to school is hard.  Getting your first job is hard.  Getting out of bed is hard.  LIFE IS HARD.   We have all struggled with something.  It’s getting past that struggle and moving on that builds character.  Instead of trying to save the child, stand beside the child while he saves himself.  You will do him a grander favor by supporting, not carrying.

 

 

  1. Get a sense of humour, will ‘ya? Teaching the child that laughing at a situation instead of worrying or crying over it is a much better option.  Nothing is ever that bad, that pointing out the absence of obvious logic isn’t funny.

 

  1. Teaching compassion. We need to do this more often.  Sensitivity and learning how to be decent to other human beings is glaringly absent from social media these days.  Teach kindness.  Nice words.  Kind gestures.  Open a door for somebody.  Say something nice to your child about somebody else.  Point out something they did nice for someone.  They may have thought you didn’t notice their good deed or didn’t realize what they did, made an impact on that person.  Every action has a reaction.  Every word and deed has an impact on every other person.  It’s how the world works.

 

  1. Relationships are the crux of our universe. People need to learn how to relate to other people in order to survive.  Even something as simple as ordering from a menu, speaking on the telephone, asking directions, making appointments, etc.   If communication is challenging, then accepting that challenge and finding ways to deal with it is a big deal.  Accepting of others challenges can make and break a person’s ability to relate.  How you speak to someone stays with him for a long time.  Take your time.  Choose your words.   Young teens venture into the foray of relationships with wobbly legs and fearful eyes.  Rightly so.  It’s a jungle out there.  We can support their journey with big ears and some pointedly accurate words.  “Yes.  He sounds like he has an issue with you being funny.  Tell him to sog off.”   “Yes.  She sounds like she has an issue with you being friends with Jenny and Janet and Quinn.  Tell her to sog off.”  I joke, but not really.   Allowing the young person to tell someone when something is wrong or doesn’t feel right, is a great way to empower her.  We tell our kids to be nice and listen.  We also need to give them the right to say ‘back off’ when they need to.  It’s a balance thing.

 

  1. Bad things happen to good people. Tragedy is as much a part of life as breathing.  Unfortunately, it will touch everybody at some point.  Grief is a part of letting go.  Allowing them to grieve and feel sad and cry is allowing them to be human.  Emotions should not be put down as a sign of weakness or strength, but as a part of being a human being.

 

  1. Rise above.  By this I mean to remember to be better than the small person talking smack about somebody else.   Rise above that shit.  Be better than that.  Remember that if someone is saying something negative, return with a positive.  Like a tennis match.  She lobs a negative remark, you return with a positive.  She strikes back with a ‘but she’s a bitch’ and you hit the ace with ‘she’s had a rough week with her ex and needs our support, not our shit.’  YOU WIN.  Too often we are quick to judge or quick to put down without knowing the full story.  Get the story or say something supportive. Kids learn by example.  If you try to remember to remain positive and it becomes your reflex, your kids will follow suit.   It really is that simple.

I know I’ve spouted a lot of stuff here, but the basic message is to remain positive.  Even if the arse end has fallen out of ‘er, try to rise above.  Be better.  Be respectful.  Remember kindness.  Human dignity.  Compassion.  It can still exist.  We are all capable of rising above the small shit.  

 

Talking to Teenagers Mother’s Day Edition

18870-the-walking-dead-the-walking-dead

NOT a teen prom pic. although, it would make those grad pics a little more interesting…

Since Mother’s Day is drawing near and there are some mothers out there who need your love, I have compiled a list of tips for dealing with the strangest and complex of animals, the Teens.  Read it.  Frame it.  Present it to her on a silver tray with her FULLY PREPARED BREAKFAST, FLOWERS AND CHOCOLATE and you will be her favourite person EVER.

You. Are. Welcome.

Teens don’t want to talk to you and often appear dazed and confused at the best of times, so having any kind of logical coherent conversation is a minefield of babbling randomness or total silence.  It’s a crapshoot, really.  AND, they would rather be connected to their phones than anywhere in your vicinity.  They don’t even want to acknowledge your existence in the universe let alone in their sphere of the world, so having any kind of repartee demands skill on your part…and actually paying attention, which let’s face it, to some of us is quite difficult.

Here are some tips when talking to teens to keep in mind:

  1. They think you are lame and so far from knowing any of the real shit that goes down that it amazes them that you are able to operate a motor vehicle or any other major household appliance, so keep whatever you want to say short and to the point.  They already think you’re dumb…don’t make it worse by trying to expand your street cred with them by going on long explanations of the mechanics of making paper airplanes.  I’m begging you.
  2. Feed them first. They respond well to food of any kind and are more likely to talk to you whilst downing their fourth hot dog, than after said meal and The Walking Dead comes on.
  3. Trap them in the backseat of a motor vehicle with their friends by offering to drive them wherever they want to go. They often forget you’re there and will start spilling stuff with their bestie, unknowingly giving you fodder and further gossip for later wine dates with the other moms…not that I’ve done that of course.
  4. Don’t try to be their friends. Seriously, they have those already.  They need parents.  Do that.
  5. Try not to trivialize the drama that they have going on. My eldest is a total drama queen, while my middle child is more level headed and logical.  We see the drama emanating from D1, but instead of making fun of her, we try to be listeners and silent supporters.  She just needs to vent most times.  She vents and moves on.  AND THEN we roll our eyes and mock her endlessly…we’re allowed.  We voted on it.
  6. Humour is awesome. I think we’ve been through this before.  There’s ALWAYS a good time to use sarcasm and puns to prove a point.  They realize they’re being silly…and maybe a bit DRAMATIC.  AND then they’ll stop it to save the onslaught of mockery and endless teasing they’ll have to endure later.  Because that will happen…oh, yes it will.
  7. Using the dog as an excuse for your overprotectiveness is quite okay. For example “I only texted you a million times last night because the dog was obviously worried you would forget to feed her the next morning and was up all night pacing and panting.  So, really.  YOU NEED TO BE HOME TO TAKE CARE OF THIS DAMNED DOG.”  See?  Like that.
  8. Guilt is in your repertoire for a reason. So use it.  “You’ll be sorry for that when I’m not here to take care of you anymore because I’m locked up in some home for the insane due to the torment you and your brother and sister did to me for all of my adult life.  And THAT is why I need wine.”
  9. Hone your poetry skills for those late night texts that go unnoticed by your little darling and are spread around the bar at 2:00am to her friends who now think you are either A) a poetry genius or B) as drunk as they are. Either way, you win.  AND, don’t worry about coming up with something original.  Using Dr. Seuss rhymes and other children’s authors is highly recommended.  It makes them remember their long forgotten childhoods of you reading Hop on Pop for the millionth time when they were four. They get all sentimental and want to go home…or will text you begging for you to stop.  Yay you!  Epic win…
  10. Distraction is your friend.  Learning the art of distraction is so much a skill I highly recommend.  You can use it during an argument with Hubby: “I know, the Visa bill is high this month and Oh MY GOD ISN’T IT YOUR MOTHER’S BIRTHDAY NEXT WEEK?!  We so have to get something for her.  GET ON THE PHONE AND CALL HER RIGHT NOW! When was the last time you called her?!  WE NEED TO KNOW IF THERE’S ANYTHING SHE NEEDS. YOU MIGHT HAVE TO DRIVE OUT THERE!”   The visa bill is forgotten and it’s his fault his mother’s birthday is next week and he callously forgot…bastard.  Anyways, you can use this ‘technique’ on the kids too: “You are so right.  I had no idea that it was so difficult being you.  By the way, did you know that Sephora is going in the mall?  Have you SEEN their new website?  Maybe you should apply for a job there!  Let’s see if you can apply online…”       So, so easy….

When Life Was As Simple As a Peanut Butter Sandwich

There was no internet, or iphone or i-anything. We had jump ropes and played hide-and-seek. Lunches were packed in paper bags or plastic lunchpales. We had milk tickets and rarely drank pop. We played games outside like tag and dodgeball and tether ball. We went to the park and organized softball games or climbed the monkey bars. We played Red Rover in the space that belonged to the person who had the biggest back yard. We went swimming at Jaycee pool and walked a mile or more to get there. We rode our bikes, skinned out our knees (and in my case, my face), and threw a ball against a brick wall when we got bored. We climbed trees, made forts outside and chased butterflies. We went tobogganing in the winter, threw snowballs and built snowmen. We sucked on icicles (nature’s popsicles), chewed bubblegum until our jaws ached and dared somebody to eat a worm. We went fishing, threw rocks in the river and played truth or dare. We had sleepovers, went to drive-in movies and knocked on our friends’ doors to come outside. We ate dinner in under ten seconds, had summer jobs and after school ones, too. We walked or took the bus everywhere and hung out at the mall.
That is what childhood looked like.
Now it looks like this:
Talking is through a cell phone and it isn’t with your mouth, it’s with your fingers. Video games are played indoors. Jump ropes are for the ladies at the gym. Bike riding is for the people on TV or for people who don’t have cars and need to get to work. Organizing outdoor games is unheard of. What’s Red Rover? Climbing trees is illegal, I think. Balls are a part of a guy’s anatomy. Lunch is going to McDonald’s and coffee at Starbucks. A bagged lunch means you don’t have any money and it basically sucks to be you. Fishing is for dads on the weekend. Outside in the cold?! Maybe if there’s snowboarding or somebody has an ice rink in the backyard. Icicles are frozen acid rain. Snowmen are too heavy to build. Tobogganing means climbing back UP the hill. Ugh. Walking anywhere is dangerous. Throwing a snowball means you have aggressive tendencies and anger management issues and will require counselling. Truth or dare is played on the internet and is called Facebook. Hanging out at the mall still happens and the crew you hang with is the Bloods. Selling a ‘pip’ is not candy. After school jobs require a curriculum vitae and a multitude of references. A young person working through University or College gets a disparaging look from the instructor.
Generation gaps aside, there’s a big one here. We are to blame, but let’s not discount the kids just yet.
They work hard to get good grades, they work their part-time jobs in spite of adults barraging them with complaints and cynicism, they do their volunteer work, play team sports, take music lessons, and drive mom’s car to pick up the siblings at the after school tutoring program. They take out the garbage, do their own laundry, buy their books, pay for their gas, clean their rooms and feed the dog. They battle peer shit, try to side-step the drugs and the alcohol, tone down the drama on Facebook and keep their wits about them. They spend their money on i-tunes and at Starbucks, buy Christmas presents for their friends and remember birthdays. They know about the bullies and try to steer clear, defend their friends in the face of that mean kid in math and learn that as much as life sucks sometimes, they’ll always have that guy on Youtube to make them laugh. They love their parents and think they’re lame sometimes and they have no sense of humour at all. Home is a great place to hang out and eat everything in the fridge. Their bed is their refuge. They know a lot about fashion. They think they’re invincible.
So did we.
We are raising a totally different generation of beings. In spite of, or despite all the technological advances these kids are still producing ideas and generating a whole new set of problems…but maybe solutions too. Let’s not judge too harshly. Sure our childhoods were completely different, but so were the times we lived in.
They’re alright…
We three

Helpful Tips To Survive The Impending Arrival of School As Mothers Everywhere Collectively Sigh

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As school approaches, some young ones are entering the halls of academia with bated breath and a full back pack with shit nobody needs. Parents watch, teary eyed as their son or daughter board the crammed school bus teaming with like-minded juveniles waiting to trade sandwiches and securing the best seat for the rest of the year, all the while thinking their teacher is going to resemble the wicked witch of the west and be the meanest thing since Gordon Ramsay yelled “Get the hell outta ma kitchen!” 

IN my house, my youngest son is entering his last year of junior high.   It seems like he’s been there forever.  D2 is starting University and is quaking in her proverbial rubber boots and D1 is beginning nursing school.  She seems to have grasped the phrase “shit-wiper” very well.  Ahhh…the future looks very interesting for ma brood…

In starting the school year off right, I thought I would dispense some tips to assist with all the scheduling, fighting, crying and air-punching that may occur in the coming days…and with the kids’ having to watch us do all those things. Yeah.   Let’s not forget the kids.  It’s not always about you.  Geesh.

1.     *It pays to pay.  That’s right. Pay somebody to get all the school supply shit that your kids need so you can spend more time shopping for important things like wine.  And, shoes to wear to the 10 minute parent’s meetings at report card time.  ‘Cause really, what else are you gonna talk about to the twenty-something teacher just out of university and worried about going to the bar on Friday night with her boyfriend?  Pfft…

2.     *Don’t stress about what ‘other’ parents are giving their kids for lunch.  Throw caution to the wind and give them the healthy non-allergenic, peanut-free, organic, sugar-free, soy-based, gluten free shit we all grew up on and loved.  That leaves a tossed salad with fat free dressing and an apple.  YUMMY!  Don’t forget the tofu cookie with carob chips!  A kid’s gotta have some fun.

3.     *  Fashion…where’s Stacy London when you need her?  The kids are concerned about shit that we have no clue existed and NEED us to buy it for them.  It’s like our God-given duty as parents to wander the earth in search of the latest this or that to make them look…like what exactly?  Like a super-model from California?   Puhleeease.  Throw them a pair of jeans from Walmart and tear off the dreaded George label, affix one you made with pieces of fabric from hand-me-downs that their cousin gave you like a dozen weeks ago and voila!  An instant ‘new designer’ label from New York that the Olsen twins endorse, and you bought off the internet that ONLY YOUR KID has.  She thinks you’re fucking awesome and you get the Mom of the Year Award for Originality and Creativity. Win- Win!  You rock!

4.     * Homework…we all know this sucks royally, but the kids have to do it.  So let’s all take a breath before submitting to the dreaded homework duty like an addict before random drug trials, and take stock in knowing that homework will NEVER go away.  And besides…we all have Friday drink nights to kill a few more brain cells, so when we do go back to assisting our kids with the homework, we can answer honestly that we have no fucking clue how to do any of the math they have placed in front of us.  Google it, kid.  It’s the new encyclopedia. 

I hope you have all found these tips useful in the coming days.

Good luck and good schooling.

May the bus be early, the clothes be clean and everybody be smiling so mommy can get back to her shit, because really…it IS all about us. 

He's probably sitting at the back of the bus. Good thing.

He’s probably sitting at the back of the bus. Good thing.