Strength Through Adversity

Our knee jerk reaction as parents is to rescue our struggling children.  It’s hard to take a breath and a step back and lay witness to the battles, all the while feeling helpless and useless.  That’s not what we are conditioned to do.  We are the parents and as such, are responsible for the well-being and care of those innocent little beings that we brought here. The urge to protect, shield them from harm and difficulty is innate in all mothers and fathers.   We’re not supposed to throw them to the wolves knowing full well they’ll be hounded and forced to fight back; made to stand up and withstand the baring teeth and the all out assaults of those that wish them harm.   It’s hard to listen to them cry and shout in frustration, fear and anguish.  Fear of failure, fear of hurt, fear of losing.  All valid and all the more reason for us to retreat into the shadows and wave our flag of support.  

The adults in this world are nodding their heads, knowing the struggles are real and totally worth it in the end.  It’s enduring the struggles and watching them unfold that’s hard.  It’s the knowledge that ‘this too shall pass’ and fighting one’s way to theend is the only way to finish, that holds us back from donning our Superman capes and flying to their aid.  “Sorry, kid it’s in the wash” I said in an email to D2.  The email to inspire her to move onwards and upwards despite the late night crying and homesickness and the “I hate I can’t…”   Me too.  But, it’s your attitude through this difficult patch that will make or break you.  It’s your positive keep-that-chin-up and soldiering-ondespitewearingthatbootonyourleg-that-youhate; despite not being able to do what you innately feel you must do.  Be the bad-ass I know you can.  Lead the damn parade anyways.  March in drill class like you own it.  Remember, hard work and dedication gets you winning regattas and your name in a history book.  That same hard work will get you through this, too.  

I can do nothing but sit here, several provinces away, and hope you hear us cheering you on.  I hope you know you have the guts to do it.  You are strong enough, brave enough and smart enough.  Feeling sorry for your current predicament does nothing but waste precious time.  

Parents are put in the unique position of witnessing progression, triumphs and failures simultaneously.  Struggle is a part of being alive.  It’s through adversity that we truly learn how strong we are.  Taking away that struggle, or trying to diminish it in any way from our children, leaves them with nothing to gain; upon which nothing to build character.  I hate being a spectator to battles and I hate being here, not taking on my Sheldon-like traitof patting her back with a sympathetic ‘there, there’ and offering her a hot beverage.  Of course, I want to hold her hand and tell her it’ll be fine and to just come home.  But what purpose would that serve, if only to make myself feel better?  None.  She learns nothing.  

Struggle on, little bird and kick some ass.  Show your character by fighting through this with your wit, sarcasm and smarts.  If that doesn’t work, march, yell and lift the heavy weights.  Do all the push-ups, do all the chin-ups and do all the rowing.  This whole battle can be won or lost depending solely on how you respond.  This has nothing to do with me or your father; this is your war.  Your struggle.  Your life.  So win it.  

I’ll be over here in the shadows intently watching, laying out my Superman cape to dry knowing we’ve done everything we can, waving my flag of support and cheering you on.  Now, it’s your turn to fight for what you want.   Struggle on, my darling.  

Good luck parents.  Staying in the shadows is the hardest part, but will make the successes that much sweeter.  Let me know if you need a fellow spectator, I have LOTS of coffee….

Easy to watch when they are winning…

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Letting Go

The absence of D2 is strange.  I walk pass her room and see it empty and surprisingly, clean. There’s no coffee mugs on the desk, or clothes thrown onto the floor in a frenzied panic.   The car we shared is still filled with wanton coffee cups and rowing materials, tossed on the back floors reminding me of her once fluid presence.  In the trunk of said car, I found a cap, a sweater, a yoga mat and coloured tissue paper used for a friend’s gift, now forgotten and abandoned.  She’s still here, but isn’t.   I went through her drawers to find a top I could ‘borrow’ for work.  Instead, I ended up emptying the drawers, organizing pants and tops and putting some questionable things in the laundry.  I didn’t find anything to ‘borrow’, but she now has neat folded clothes organized in an efficient manner for when she returns.

But, if all goes according to plan, she won’t be returning.  She’ll be moving on.  On to another province and another life.

It is a good thing, of which I am reminded daily after everyone tells me she’s supposed to move on.  She’s supposed to get a life and have a career and not be in her room on the second floor.  The room that was once decorated with lilac walls and flowery wall paper; dolls lying everywhere and shelves with Beanie Babies strewn upon them.  Book shelves with Disney covers and old Dr. Seuss stories she should have given her younger brother ages ago.  The bunk beds she shared with her sister, a tv on the dresser, her stark white Tae Kwon Doe gee and colored belts strewn in the corner along with her guitar lying lazily on its side.

All of that is gone, except for the guitar.  It’s now in my room, hidden behind her grad dress and boxes of old photographs.

I am reminded that I shouldn’t be lamenting my loss, but delighted in her gain.  I should be happy for her, that she is doing something she wants to do and is securing a future for herself.  Yeah, yeah.  Easier on the other side when kids are still home and tucked in bed at a reasonable hour and you still make the rules and the meals and discuss how unfair math homework is.

It’s supposed to be easier when they get older, isn’t it?  Not so, dear friends.  Not so.  There’s university, then jobs, then careers, then…gasp, WEDDINGS, BABIES, HOUSES IN NEW TOWNS, NEW PROVINCES?!  WHEN WILL IT END?!

Aye, there’s the rub.  It doesn’t.  It’s the never-ending cycle of having babies and watching them grow up and move on and become the people we always hoped they would be.

And when they DO do it, you’re surprised and proud and sad all at the same time.  Surprised that you actually pulled it off.  You managed to raise a human being that contributes to society, is intelligent (although when she was 3 and proceeded to on the toilet backwards because “my friend Lucas pees this way” you kinda wondered…) has common sense, the ability to laugh and that ever-biting sarcasm.  Proud because she fought her way through school and work and negative old men who doubted her abilities.  Sad because she is gone.  How did that happen?  Hubby and I look at each other, full of wonder.  Wasn’t she just turning 4 yesterday?!

Then the worry of did you teach her enough, did you make her tough enough to fight back, did you give confidence to believe in herself and not to listen to the nay-sayers?  Did you fill her enough with knowledge of that big bad world, compassion enough to listen to the unfortunate, and creative enough to solve the problems she will face?  Did you?

Beats the fuck out of me.

I guess time will tell.  At some point, I have to say we’ve done all we can do.  It’s now up to her.  It’s all in her hands, not ours.  If she succeeds, it’s all because she wanted it bad enough to work her ass off to get it.  If she doesn’t, it’s all because she chose not to; she chose to walk another path and it’s ultimately her choice to make.  Not ours.

In the meantime, I’ll wait.  I’ll continue to walk passed that empty room, dust the furniture every once in a while, fold some more clothes that I won’t ‘borrow’, knowing we’ve done our best.

Soar on, little bird.  Soar on…

Turn On The Light

It seems as though the world is turning on its head.  It’s imploding with people condemning each other to friendship hell if they vote the wrong way, and other people tormented by inner demons to the point of taking their own lives; a ‘c’ word broke up a country and caused a wide divide, and the rest of us are left clinging for dear life hoping the assholes of the universe will suddenly realize by some divine intervention that the real logical courses of action exist and will redeem themselves with unbelievable compassion.  And humanity.  We hope.

We are missing something.  We are missing the spark of human conscience that guides every person on the planet to do and be in the light.  The positive voices that were once abound with energy and forethought are being

drowned out by deaths and guns and hate.

We are missing thoughtfulness and

mindfulness.

The once thoughtful intelligent discourse that filled the air is being pushed aside by social media insta-posts denigrating anyone who disagrees, anyone who takes a side and anyone who says the sun will come out tomorrow.   Guess what?  The sun will come out, people will disagree, there will be sides and the positive voices will sing.

Humanity has taken a big punch in the gut.  Compassion has taken a backseat to shaming.  Truth is a lost art.  The gun debate rears up and then fades away as fast as it arose.  People’s attention spans are at the ultimate minimum since we repeatedly seem to forget our own history. Allies are not allies anymore.  We would rather be at each other’s throats than by each other’s sides.

It’s painful and exhausting trying to wade through the muck of negativity and shameless heartlessness that seems to be waiting around every corner.  My generation, those of us in the throes of our fifties, are looking around baffled and bewildered by utter lack of empathetic voices.  What happened?

We forgot.  With all of the technological advances at our fingertips, with self-driving cars and instant cooking pots and ultimate quick efficient non-thinking gadgets, life got easier.  We got lazier.  We forgot to take care of the little things that we once thought were insignificant, but really are the most important.  We forgot people’s feelings; we forgot that people wage war with themselves that we know nothing about; we forgot to take care of our relationships, our friends, our family; we forgot what if feels like to struggle, to extend a hand to someone, to be neighbourly; we forgot what it’s like to be scared, lost, and alone; we forgot that someone else’s thoughts and life are as just as important as our own.  We forgot that whatever personal battles we are enduring, there is always someone else battling their own shit just as hard.  We became a self-involved, altruistic society with a big ego and multiple platforms on which to perform and display that ego.

We’ve forgotten how to think.  We’ve forgotten how to care.

The screeching tires that you hear in the background is the future of humanity revving up and getting ready to careen carelessly onwards.  It will run over anyone who stands warily in the road, waving her arms pleading for a hand with a flat.   If everyone stands in the road together, maybe we can get it to slow down a bit.  And help out.  And care about the girl with the flat tire on the side of the road.  Maybe.

If you are battling something that’s too big

for you to handle, there is always a choice.

The suicide hotlines are listed here.  http://www.suicide.org/hotlines/international/canada-suicide-hotlines.html

Take care of each other.

Because She Said So

Two years before she died she told me that she was proud of me.  That, after reading a report I had done on a child I was seeing, she thought I was an intelligent independent woman and I would always be a little bit hers.  She said that. It was twenty eight years ago.  More than a lifetime and I still hold that near and dear to me.  I still carry it. I hold it in my hands as if it was a fragile rose ready to lose its petals.   I wasn’t hers in the blood relative sense, but hers in connection.  She had watched me grow.  Held me in her arms as I sobbed for my father.  Laughed when I couldn’t walk barefoot on the gravel at the cottage.  Washed my clothes. Washed my hair.  Let me swim in Lake Erie even if the water was freezing.  Took me for rides in her two seater convertible with the top down and the wind whipping my hair.  Let us search under the beds for the miserable cat we loved but didn’t love us back.   Christmas dinners, backyard barbeques, birthday cakes and an appreciation for evening games.  Cross border trips that included border guards looking in the backseat with me sandwiched between my dark haired, dark eyed brothers the European lady in the passenger seat and the black man driving.  The questioning look on the border guard’s face as he said “These kids yours?” We laughing hysterically as we drove on.  Fishing in Lake Erie and getting my line stuck in the rocks; halfway through a road trip to Toronto then realizing we didn’t have the tickets to a much anticipated game; a speeding ticket once we got there; singing Jesus Loves Me in the car, then me throwing up on the floor of the Ponderosa restaurant while we were in line; games of Sjoelbak (we pronounced it shoola), rummy, and my first introduction to poker.  My first drink (rye) during the move after my mom moved, my first job at her law office, my first grown up piece of jewelry, a watch when I graduated highschool.  Me picking ABC gum from underneath the tables at the Fiesta restaurant when I was five and everyone telling that story over, and over and over…..

A lifetime of memories from a woman who died too soon and she gave them all to us for nothing but by simply being a ‘little bit hers’.  And I am.  Because she said so.

Parenting Tips For Surviving The Teen Years With Grace, Dignity and A Little Less Drunkenness

Adolescence, otherwise known as the slow descent into madness, or those lost years mommy raided the liquor store in search for more wine, or when the little darlings morph into bigger versions of Teletubbies gone awry, is a trying time for everyone; parents, teens, grandparents, teachers, babies, the dog, the mail-delivery person, the librarian with the big ass mole, the nice policeman who escorted you home after being caught outside the liquor store after hours banging on the doors pleading for them to “PLEASE OPEN I NEED WINE! I HAVE TEENAGERS!!!”….

The brains of average teenagers are still developing and pushing the limits. It’s one of the many fun and interesting ways they determine their place in the family; their role in the world and their intimate social circle. It’s also annoying as hell.

Limit setting and parents sticking to them is the key element to any good survival during this emotional roller coaster. They will yell, scream, slam doors and then use the ever favourite “Jan’s mom let her do it”. “AGAIN WITH THE JAN’S MOM?! I’m not Jan’s mom! I don’t care what Jan’s mom let her do! WHO THE HELL IS JAN?! Jan’s mom can stick it!! “ Natural and understandable responses to an illogical and peer-pressure kind of tactic that only ensues argumentative combative behaviour. BAD FORM, TEEN. But that’s what they know. Knee jerk emotional responses to having their asses slammed into a room with nowhere to go but to a ‘Jan’s mom’ kind of response. Stick to your guns! Not literal guns, but your limits. Stick to your decisions. You get it. DON’T CAVE!  

I could say here that communication is the key to any good relationship and speaking in quiet tones and providing a caring and open environment for them to participate in mature dialogue will assist in curbing the emotional upheaval….but that would be utter bullshit. Seriously. Teens are a ball of emotional crap wrapped up in a brain-fugue ire that speaking at all will only escalate the already shitty attitude they possess. I tend to throw my hands in the air and say “Jesus, help me with this child! Give him the necessary good sense that he needs to see the light!” and then proceed to speak in tongues. This generally confuses the shit out of the teen and he is so freaked out he turns around and goes to his room to try to call his father saying “Mom has lost it! Come home now!” And will never ask to go to another party/borrow the car/jump off a bridge, again.  

As a mother of three teens who are now adults, I can say you will survive. Motherhood be damned, the adolescent years are the most trying times; following of course after toddlerdom when the word ‘no’ was the prompt to put more toys in the toilet; the righteous pre-teen years where buying the right shirt was a major meltdown affair and of course the roaring twenties where there’s university exams, classes and staying out all night. Actually, now that I read that statement, being a parent kind of sucks. There is no decade safe where you can really sit back with your feet up and relax and say, ‘yep. We did it. We raised our kids.’ A parent’s work is never done and even now that my kids are no longer ‘kids’, I can say I still worry. We still argue (yes, Miss H even with Son), we still have to set the limit and toe the line and all that parenting lingo you read in all of the Parenting 101 books that kinda only work when the kid is already well-adjusted, graduated with a PhD and on his way to his own wedding. All those nice parenting books you bought will surely serve better as a nightstand where you can lay your bottle of wine after an afternoon of endless pleading and begging with the mail-delivery-person to please rescue you from your torment only for him/her/neutral to pry your death grip from his/her/neutral arm and run madly up the street….damned mail-delivery persons! (being politically correct is wordy, but not expensive)

Suck it up, Mommy/Daddy you’re a lifer now!

Ahhh, think back to the day when that adorable little pink baby was first placed in your arms and you promised him the world! And now, well now, he’s still kinda adorable and you would still give him the world if he wasn’t so damned stubborn like his father and have the intelligence of a snail. Then he comes home with decent grades and you think “Yesss. Finally, he has turned a corner. He is growing up” then he dents the car, or floods the basement with the garden hose or goes bowling with a frozen turkey and throws it through the front door.  

Yup.  

A teenager. The universe’s way of reminding you that young people can be stupid. We are the force that guides these young impressionable teens into adulthood with common sense, values and a wealth of information to make solid decisions; like bowling with a frozen turkey is way better suited in the basement using the hockey net. Duh…ANYONE KNOWS THAT.  

That’s why we also have wine. For when those guidelines are a little skewed, those decisions are a little off the mark and we struggle with guilt, ire and Jesus.

Good luck, fellow parents. You are not alone during this traumatic and challenging time. Remember, they will be around FOREVER. Also, the liquor store is open daily until 11pm. Make sure to get there early.

You. Are. Welcome.

 

    

 

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.