The Unrelenting Echoes of Summer

The ‘hood battles are raging and the summer days are stretching onwards and upwards. No one is immune to the reaching fingertips of ire and impatience emanating from cranky neighbours who refuse to admit their age is getting the better of them. If one is to listen to them, the kids are running amok flailing wildly among heathens and hoodlums destined to dethrone the king of badness. Nothing good happens past nine- thirty peeps, and children left to pillage and plunder the village into the abyss of indifference and permissive dismissal are future adults destined for the Presidency of an American nation. Alas how are we to survive the madness?!Calm down, peeps.

The children are children playing in the backyards of responsible professional adults paying their taxes, abiding the laws of society and contributing to the well-being of community and ‘hood alike.

There is no crime here, only that of youth being restless and young on summer nights that have magically become windless and warm. The days where summer seems to last forever, where any kid of any age can dream of digging for buried treasure, swim in the depths of a backyard pool and savour the taste of s’mores and burnt marshmallows on a backyard campfire. Tents, giggles, sleeping bags, practical jokes, stolen garden gnomes (oh, my poor Norman where art thou?) all a big part of childhood and growing up in a safe environment surrounded by loving parents and committed neighbours to raising a generation of well-adjusted, educated, intelligent, compassionate and community minded young people.

That’s what my idea of a neighbourhood is.

Watching out for each other against the rallies of the occasional late-night thievery, lost dogs, wayward cats, and kids out past the boundaries of the park at the end of the street. Local spring clean-ups, bottle drives for hockey trips, Mummering Christmases, barbeques and the fence raising- shed building- deck erecting- construction that brings friends and neighbours together.

We connect to support each other in times of confusion and debt reduction, lost jobs, raised taxes, sky-high grocery bills and illness and heart attacks and even the death of someone’s parent or relative. It’s what they mean when a neighbourhood becomes a small village.

We become each other’s indirect relative.

A communal leaning post.

Friends. Allies. Fellow compatriots in a world where we embrace differences and stand up for the underdog. Where we denounce bullies, raise up kindness and understanding and assist at all costs.

It’s in the DNA of every Newfoundlander to have this innate sense of community; to feel responsible for each other because, hey, don’t I know yer father? At least, that’s what I was led to believe.

Let’s see more of that. Community. Fellowship. Understanding.

AND FUN.

Hey kids! Your loudness behooves me!

The kids running around playing spotlight after dark, the fires in the backyard pits, the barbeques, the late night dog walking, the chatting…

There is no room for fear of being loud or obnoxious. The sounds of laughter and squealing from children should be a sign of a healthy happy environment fraught with joy and the unending bounds of childhood activity.

It should be lauded as the epitome of strength of home and family; not sullied as unnecessary and appalling.

As the summer progresses, let the children play in the streets and wreak havoc in the backyards. Soon enough they will be grown and gone and our yards will echo with their lost squeals of fun-fueled delight from summers past. Youth is fleeting.

Let’s not wish it away.

 What?! I can’t hear you! Whispering sucks. 

 

 

The Fall

Sometimes I feel like the worst mother in the world. I don’t seem to ever have enough to give or I just don’t seem to give a damn. It’s brutal the feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt that plague me. And that guilt! I think it’s a universal feeling. Mothers often question their ability to make logical decisions in the face of chaos and drama. Are we doing the right things? Are we making the right decisions? Is there enough wine in the world to get me through the next few years/decades/century?  My answer is probably not.  

Being a mom is hard.

Every time there seems to be a major catastrophe in one of my kids’ lives, I internalize it and blame myself for their struggles. If only I gave them this or if only I warned them about that or if only I was better at being a mom…it’s never ending.

Watching one of the offspring struggle with a life event is heart breaking and standing around waiting for him or her to come to his senses about it is even worse. I’m knee deep in that now and I can’t seem to get myself out; to convince myself it will all be fine in the end, it’s just a few more weeks and things will turn around. We’ll all laugh about it later.

Nobody is laughing right now.

I’m too busy stopping myself from giving in to my tendency to help; to come to the rescue; to bail him out.  

That’s not my job, but it sure feels like standing around waiting for her to grow up is taking way too long. And he sure doesn’t understand why I’m just standing here waiting and not putting out my hand to help.

I am helping. Just not her version of help.

I know what the issue is, but if I give in what would be the learning life lesson; the character building experience; the chance to grow from struggle?  

There wouldn’t be one.  

The child/adult needs this to happen. Consequences from actions. That’s how life works.

I just wish I didn’t have to be the eye witness to the fall and the struggle to climb back out.

But that’s my job.

I’m a mom, after all.

Summer Days Can Be Noisy. Bring Your Headphones. And Gas Ovens. 

The summer is spinning on and I’m trying desperately to hang on without randomly sticking my in the oven…It just occurred to me that even that wouldn’t be effective, as I have an electric oven. I guess when you see the old lady-with-her-head-in-the-oven gag, she actually owns a gas operated appliance, which obviously would do one in. An electric one would only be harmful if it was simultaneously touching water…or plugged in whilst out in the rain. But then, why would you have an oven OUTSIDE IN THE RAIN. No one would need to bake a cake outside during a monsoon. Unless you wanted to have a baked goods sale on the side of the road instead of the usual lemonade stand and having the oven outside is both convenient and a sales pitch, and people would be too excited and cause mass riots in the ‘hood since, BAKED GOODS.    Then some people would think y0u are trying to sell the oven instead of the baked goods, which would cause more discussion and chaos.

No oven outside is what I’m saying. Totally useless and makes too much noise in the ‘hood which apparently, is an issue what with all of the children home from school because ITS SUMMER HOLIDAYS AND THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS IN THE SUMMER.

And no need to stick one’s head inside it, since it would also be pointless. And kinda creepy looking. Unless, cleaning. Ugh.    

What was I saying?

Right. Summer.  

It’s happening and really I just want to sit outside in the sun. It’s the best.  

Unfortunately, there are people in the universe who are not happy well-adjusted human beings who, for some unknown reason, decide that living in a neighbourhood full of children and families is a great idea until the children decide to, God forbid, laugh and play then it’s all STOP THOSE CHILDREN FROM HAVING FUN I’M TRYING TO BE QUIET HERE! And we’re all like YOU LIVE IN A NEIGHBOURHOOD WITH FAMILIES. And they’re all WELL THAT’S NOT MY FAULT. GET THOSE CHILDREN TO BE QUIET. JEOPARDY IS ON AND I CAN’T HEAR ALEX’S QUESTION! And I’m all like IT’S ACUTALLY THE ANSWER, YOU NEED TO COME UP WITH THE QUESTION GAWD DO YOU NOT WATCH JEOPARDY ON A REGULAR BASIS?! And they’re like NO BECAUSE I CAN’T FREAKIN’ HEAR IT WITH ALL THE FRIVOLITY AND FUN GOING ON!  

Hence, the oven.

Maybe I will have a baked goods sale with ovens and children and lemonade stands and garage sales and carnivals in the streets. Mags can be outside and bark at all the joyous crowds gathering then we could have firetrucks and police cars sounding their sirens and in the evening have fireworks and a bonfire and…

DID SOMEBODY SAY BLOCKPARTY??!!  

 THIS LOOKS AWESOME.  AND SCARY.  HANG ON KID! But don’t scream. That’s way too much noise.  

18th Birthday Story – Rock Star Edition 

Today is my son Kyle’s 18th birthday. A milestone in any young person’s life, I thought I would re-post this story in honour of him. AND, for purely motherly love and embarrassment, because nothing says HAPPY BIRTHDAY better than an awkward story about when you were 3years old.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KID!!!

To celebrate this momentous occasion, here is a special story about the first time my son learned to speak. It’s all very dramatic and tears at your heart strings so get out your tissues…okay, it’s actually an embarrassing tale of music and Walmart, but still. It was traumatic for one of us. Maybe two of us. The innocent lady who witnessed my child’s descent into the debauchery and the morally deficient world of rock music and was probably scarred for life and myself, who led him there.

Once upon a time, in a land called Grand Falls Winsor, lived a nice little family with a mother, a father two daughters and a young son. They all lived happily in their house playing and frolicking in the meadows. ( okay, there were technically no meadows in GFW. AND we don’t frolic as a rule. Only on very special occasions like Christmas, or when some of us are really drunk. No pointing any fingers, just sayin’. ) Anyway, the boy, who was three years old, had not begun to speak any language intelligible to any human life form. The mother, being very concerned, took said young boy to a Speech Pathologist. The Speech Pathologist was a young woman of very good bearing and simply stated “There is nothing wrong with the boy. He will speak when he’s ready. Go home and rest your head, lady” 

So, the despairing mother took her young boy home and after a lengthy car ride listening to the young son speak something akin to the Cantonese and Ancient Tibetan Mongloid tongue , wearily escorted young child into the house. It was during this phase in the young mother’s life that she began experimenting with music. Music she adored when she was young and single and had somehow lost in the day-to-day tedium of Barney and Caillou episodes (it should be noted here that Caillou was seen as an evil child full of whininess and annoying shit that led the mother to bouts of anxiety and desperate pleas of “LET’S ALL GO OUTSIDE AND GET SOME FRESH AIR BEFORE MA HEAD EXPLODES!” ) Yeah.

One day, while playing her music very loudly, she noticed her young son sitting very attentively. The daughters, heard the rendition of Bryan Adams’ “I Wanna Be Your Underwear” and asked repeatedly to hear the ‘underwear song’. Mother was happy to appease her young daughters as she found this tune particularly humorous, obliged…often. After the young daughters had ventured off to school, the mother took young son to Walmart for a bit of shopping in the afternoon. The son, being very sleepy and ready for his nap at that time, was readily dosing in the cart and humming a tune the mother recognized as Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself For Loving You”…Joan rocks. The mother, knowing the son was unable to speak, allowed the son to sing the song at will, while all the Walmart staff looked on adoringly saying how cute the little boy was singing to his mother. Yeah.

As the mother approached the checkout line, she noticed a woman behind her who seemed particularly taken with the young boy. She was smiling and cooing to the child as the mother flung her intended purchases on the conveyer belt. Knowing the young boy was securely occupied, the mother paid close attention to her groceries when suddenly she heard a most familiar sound. “I WANNA BE!” being sung behind her. She went swiftly over to her son. Could it be? Was that him? Had the spell of the Cantonese speak been broken and replaced with the x-rated lyrics of an old Bryan Adams song? The lady who had been occupying and smiling at the young boy thought the boy to be speaking to her. So, she replied “What do you want to be?” The mother, knowing the son was merely repeating the words to a raunchy song, attempted to intervene by pointing to a random balloon and distracting the boy. Alas, the boy could not be sidetracked. Again, he sang out “I WANNA BE!!“. Full of fear for the next line, the mother hurriedly began to throw her groceries onto the belt all the while, the nice lady said again, “What do you want to be?” and leaned closer to hear the boy. The young boy looked innocently up at the woman, his sparkling blue eyes dancing with joy as he sang, quite in tune I must say, “YOUR UNDERWEAR”.  

The lady, aghast and shocked by what she had just heard, recoiled in horror and glared at the young mother. Washed with embarrassment, and stifling a laugh, the mother simply retorted “Oh, it’s a song his father taught him” and pushed the cart out of the store, praising the child for his speech and promising to teach him more ‘appropriate’ songs. Like more Joan Jett, whose song son repeatedly sang henceforth as “I hate myself for lubbing you….” yeah. 

The son, now thirteen and three quarters has had a varied singing career. I have been called regarding his poor song choices including the popular titles “My Humps” by the Black ‘Eyed Peas, “I like Big Butts” and the infamous “Save a Horse Ride A Cowboy” which I am totally not responsible for. That last one was definitely Hubby’s country music influence. I did teach son how to do an awesome rendition of Blue Rodeo’s Bad Timing when he was four. I wish I had recorded it. 

Brought to you today in honour of son’s 18th birthday, and to all the women and men who care for their children everyday unconditionally, allow them to sing dirty rock songs to stranger and endure endless episodes of Caillou all in the name of love. 

Speaking and not singing. So proud!

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!

Talking to Teenagers Mother’s Day Edition

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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