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!

A Dance In The Hurricane

The other day I was cleaning out our closet.  It was time to do some much needed purging.   I decided to gut out everything and go from there.  I ended up finding some old cards from a few years ago when my mother passed away.  I opened each one and read them again, this time with five years behind me.  They were sweet and sympathetic.  My Aunt had sent one reminiscing about when she and my mother were teens and very close.  Some I kept and others I didn’t.  So much for the big purge.    In among the cards I found a letter that was written by a childhood friend of the family.  Her kids were friends with us when we lived in the old neighbourhood.  She and her husband were friends with my parents.  We used to visit them at their house after they moved away into a new house.  She wrote to say how dismayed she was of my mother’s passing and that she hadn’t realized my mother continued to reside in Chatham.  She assumed she had moved in either my brother or myself.  She was disappointed she had not made the effort to reconnect.  I think she was disappointed neither had my mother.  I don’t think it was anyone’s fault that they got disconnected.  It was just life.

Kids grow up, graduate, move on to university or not, tragic events unfold, weddings and new houses, new babies, new lives.  It’s everything that happens over a lifetime. We get disconnected. We get disjointed and enmeshed in the everyday we forget the connections that were made years ago on a summer’s day when the children were small, who later walked to the bus stop hand-in-hand on frosty fall mornings, caught “all things squirmy and squishy” (her words) and played basketball until nightfall.

letter

Those days get lost in band practices, packed lunches, hockey games and baseball tryouts.  People get older, move to other streets or to other towns.  They work, they make new friends, they move on to other hobbies, other occupations and other past times without the old acquaintances that have become a part of their past.  The present is different.  Its fluid and changes with the seasons and the ever-speeding passage of time.  We don’t notice the children becoming adults until they are there.  We don’t notice our hair changing colour until our hairstylist points it out (while saying loudly WHY ARE YOU NOT COMING HERE MORE OFTEN?!  )  we don’t notice the deeper cracks in the sidewalks outside the house,  how the maple tree has grown exponentially or how few little children are out playing street hockey these days, until all of that suddenly seeps into our consciousness and we take a look around us with open eyes.  And older eyes.  How did this happen?  When did we get HERE?

I understand her disappointment and dismay.  It seems like a sudden about-face of one minute she’s there, the next she’s gone, but really it wasn’t like that.  It was a lifetime of being, of living of surviving.  The disconnection of relationships is unfortunately, an everyday occurrence that can be prevented if we take the time.  Aye there’s the rub.  TIME.  We never have enough. It flies away so fleetingly.  If only we had more time to connect, to say ‘hey’, to reminisce, to support, to actually stop and watch everything grow and change without having to be awoken to its transformation.  It’s a difficult dance.  Maybe we don’t want to watch because if we do, then we’ll have to admit that we are getting older, life is flying by without us even moving or flinching in this hurricane.   Maybe we don’t really want to see the children getting older or the sidewalk cracking or the maple tree growing so big we can’t see across the street, anymore.  We’d rather hold on to today, to live in the present, just let me have one more day!

Connections are our lifelines.  We crave them, seek them out and some hold dear for a lifetime.  Our intentions are for connections to last as long as we take a breath, to be eternal and constant, but sometimes those bonds get weaker and grow more distant, then are suddenly lost in the gale force wind.  It’s not wrong.  It’s life.

I’m thinking after all of this time, to send her a letter of reply.  To let her know I did receive her letter and I did read it and I still have it.  That I remember everything she said was true.

Maybe, that could be one little dance in the hurricane.

The Sentimentality Of A Turnip

D2 Kindergarten grad

D2 Kindergarten grad

That’s what popped into my head today.  That and the entire lyrics to “I’m Not Afraid” by Eminem.  I think they both have stuff in common…I’m not about to go into an in-depth analysis of the song, but aside from the copious amounts of swearing (which is always near and dear to ma heart), the song talks about getting his life back together, and becoming clean….yaddah, yaddah, yaddah….yeah, whatevs.  I’m not sure why it mysteriously came flowing into my mind today.  I’m not currently strung out on meth or battling my inane addiction to vicks vapo rub or eating copious quantities of laundry detergent that I need some rapper dude to sing this in hopes it will turn my wayward behavior into more appropriately streamlined society-approved activities.  ‘Cause we all know the power of a song.  Remember Elton’s Crocodile Rock?  Sent a myriad of teens out wading around croc-infested waters seeing if those suckers would dance.  Crazy teenagers.   Left a whole population limbless and wondering what could have possibly gone wrong?  Yeah.  Back off the demon music, kids.  The Devil wants you all dancing his evil dance and drinking his purple koolaid.

The sentimentality part is just how some people are not capable of articulating their emotions adequately enough so those of us around these “emotional fuckwits” are left thinking the above phrase: “They have the sentimentality of a turnip”.  Sufficient summation in my opinion.  I came to this conclusion today when I remembered Miss H saying to me at a gathering a couple of weeks ago she became overwhelmed with emotion that her youngest daughter , who once would only wear a dress, is now growing up and leaving the dressy-dresses behind.  Miss H was sad that the little one was growing up….that’s when the thought of a family member, whom at one time scoffed at mothers who cried when their kids went off to school for the first time; that’s when I came up with the “sentimentality of a turnip”.  Perhaps she (family member, not Miss H) was suffering from the turnip disease and needed to release her inner sentimental emotional side for us peeps to see.  Perhaps she just wasn’t in tune with the rest of us estrogen laden mothers who hated to see the little ones grow up so fast, which means we in turn are getting older.  Maybe we want to hold on to their little hands a little bit longer so we can remember what it’s like to be five and seeing the big wide world for the first time. Maybe we want to be able to dress the little girls in dresses a bit more before they opt for the short skirts or holy jeans or *gasp* the Goth look! Maybe we want our little boys to marvel at how much we are a heap of mysterious information that only Mommies know like how to make the perfect PB &J sandwich and how to make his blanket smell better.  Or maybe we just like to be called Mommy a little bit longer. Maybe.  Not that it’s happened to me personally.  Not that I’ve been thinking all of that since D2 has her prom dress ready and proudly hanging on her closet door for her soon to be grad celebrations.  Not that I have been lamenting my older age, my lack of babies around the ‘hood and how fast everybody seems to be flying through life.  Not that that’s happening to me.  I’m just putting it out there for the other peeps who may be suffering in silence and hide behind the old turnip disease instead of shedding a tear or making a comment.  I’m putting myself out into the wide world so that the others can step forward and say ‘yeah, I cried when my youngest no longer needed his pacifier, or yeah I was sad when I had to give away the majority of Barbie and her Summer home to the Goodwill.  I was sad when Bob the Builder toy work bench no longer suited my son’s play time.  He’s opted for Black Ops instead.”  Yeah…I hear ‘ya.  But, sometimes a little emotion just reminds the rest of us mortals that you too are human.   Just sayin’……