"The Tightrope Walker"

"The Tightrope Walker" by Jean-Louis Forain

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sticks and Stones

Poor Sophie came home from school on Tuesday, threw herself on the couch and sobbed because a little boy at school said something that hurt her feelings.  As much as Sophie is a happy-go-lucky kind of kid she also is very sensitive.  She hates it if we laugh at her when she unintentionally does something funny, she covers her ears when we tell stories about her or talk about her with another adult, and gets angry if we call her silly, endearing names.  She also is quick to express her feelings with us, but will keep silent around others when they upset her.  So on Tuesday when the little boy hurt her feelings she didn't tell him she didn't like it, she didn't tell the teacher, or even the sitter after school.  Instead, she kept it all in until she got home and then exploded from sadness and hurt.

We had lot of hugs and a talk about what to do if this happens again.  I tried to explain that sometimes people are just mean for no reason, and now that she knows how much it hurts she should always try to be kind.  The entire time we talked I felt like nothing was getting through and maybe even like she wasn't really understanding.  Then I told her that when her daddy and I were her age kids said mean things to us too, and that got her attention.  She was surprised and had lots of questions; the most important one being, "Did we cry?"  I thought this was a strange question until it occurred to me that she wanted to be told that it was okay to be sad, angry, hurt and cry a little bit.  She wanted her feelings to be validated; not a long list of what to do next time.  Feelings validated, more hugs and everything was right with the world again.

That is until this morning.  For the first time ever she was actually anxious, nervous and very unhappy to be going to school.  She didn't want to see the little boy again and didn't want the other kids to say mean things.  I managed to convince her that everything would be okay and that her teacher would help her if anyone hurt her feelings, but the whole time my heart was breaking.  Why is it, that even in kindergarten, we find ways to hurt each other?  Is it power?  Is it testing our ability to impact others?  What?  This little boy had no reason to target Sophie.  When I spoke to her teacher she told me that it didn't sound like the little boy at all, and yet her targeted my daughter.  This is when Mama Bear comes out and wants to stomp over to the school yard to give this kid a piece of my mind!  Not productive, I know, but there is just no way to protect Sophie from the hurt of mean words and I desperately wish there were. 

This is one part of parenting that hurts me as much as it hurts Sophie.  I only hope that she is brave enough and self-assured enough to know that mean words are only words, and that being loved by us and her friends is far more important.  And there it is, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me....

Friday, September 24, 2010

Does your husband speak your native language?

After my husband and I were married he explained to me that he is actually bilingual.  I, of course, was impressed and eager to hear him speak french, Spanish or some other wonderful language.  As it turns out my excitement turned to confusion when he told me he was fluent in both English and Womanese.  Womanese?  What is that, you are asking?  Guess what, you already speak it?

Womanese is the language of those of us who care two X's instead of an X and a Y.  My husband loves to remind me that he speaks it fluently and clearly understands me every time I use Womanese.  Some of his favourite Womanese translations include: 

"It sure is cold in here, isn't it?"  Translation to English, "I'm cold.  Would you please pass me that blanket?"

"Are you thirsty, because I'm thirsty."  Translation to English, "Could you please get me a drink?"

"Wouldn't a cup of tea be nice right now?"  Translation to English, "Would you please make me a cup of tea?"

"Oh man, I'm tired tonight." Translation to English, "You sure as hell aren't gettin' any, so you better not even try!"

What my husband doesn't realize is that I'm just as fluent in Man-grunt as he is in Womanese.  For example, when he says, "Yep, uh-huh, yep, okay."  I know what he really means is, "I'm making these sounds because I want you to think I'm listening, but really I tuned you out a long time ago."  Another classic Man-grunt, "Sorry, I forgot."  Meanwhile he really means, "I wasn't totally listening to you when you told me that, and now I'm sorry that I wasn't listening because I don't want to listen to you now." 

The lesson is that for every classic Womanese request there is an equally passive Man-grunt response.  The problem is when an entire conversation takes place with me speaking Womanese and him replying in Man-grunt.  Again an example, including translation:

"Honey, does this outfit make me look fat?"
"Honey, I'm feeling crappy and grumpy."

"Do you want the truth?"
"Oh god, are you about to bite my head off no matter what I say?  Are you grumpy or looking for a compliment?"

"Of course I want the truth because I want to know whether or not I should change." 
"What is that suppose to mean, the truth? Does that mean you would lie and tell me that I look great when I don't?  Does that mean I do look fat and you don't want to get in trouble?" 
This is where things get dicey for my husband.  If he answers yes he knows he is going to hear about it and I'll spend another half hour attempting new outfit combinations, but if he answers no he is going to be forced to listen to "Are you sure?  Are you telling the truth?" and I'm probably still going to spend another half hour trying on new outfit combinations.  Which is all really womanese for, "How can I believe you know?  Why would you ask me if I want to know the truth if you were just going to say I looked fine anyway?  That's it, I just want to stay home in my sweatpants!"

The solution to this problem would be to just speak plain old English.  But, since English isn't either of our first language what are the chances of that?  I don't think I should be forced to speak anything but my mother-tongue while in the comforts of my own home, so I guess my husband will just have to continue translating.  I figure with two daughters it is probably good for him to maintain his Womanese language skills; otherwise the teenage years are going to be a very bumpy ride.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Househusband.

Since I left my job about four years ago I've described myself as a student, a mom and so much more, but never have I used the term "housewife" to describe myself.  So yesterday when someone else grouped me with what she called "desperate housewives" I was a little taken aback.  Not offended really, just surprised.  To me the term "housewife" has always seemed a little antiquated.  I feel like it undermines and minimizes all the things that woman do in (and outside of) the home.  Being a "housewife" to me somehow implies that there was no conscious decision made to work in the home versus outside the home.  And, I think we all know that most women who choose not to work outside of the home likely did not come to the decision lightly or without doing some serious soul searching. 

This got me to thinking about the roles that my husband and I have in our home.  Yes, I'm the primary caregiver for our children, I make most of the meals, do all of the grocery shopping, pay all of the bills, do all the laundry and so on, but my husband does his fair share too!  He works full-time, is the primary child "entertainer", does most of the floor mopping and vacuuming, is usually the toilet cleaner and garbage taker-outer.   One of his many nicknames is "Poo-Daddy" because his main responsibility when home is diaper changing, especially the #2 kind.   He is mister fix-it, the house painter and dry-waller, the garage cleaner and....I could keep going but I won't.  My point is that if a housewife is someone who cares for most of the family's needs and tends house too, then I think I've found myself a "househusband" who also happens to work full-time.

I bet most couples are just like us; and as often as we (women) shake our heads in astonishment and annoyance at the mystery that is our husband we probably should be saying, "Thanks!"  Thanks for working full-time, engaging with our children, and helping with chores!  Thanks for evolving from the man of the 1950's to the one who changes a poopy diaper, washes dishes, reads bedtime stories and maybe even buys tampons.  So JD and other hardworking husbands/wives, thanks for everything you do! 

(And honey, you might want to print this, read it carefully and highlight all the tasks you need to add to your honey-do-list because yes I have been speaking womanese.)  ;-)

Monday, September 20, 2010

He and I.

Warning to the reader:  I'm going to try and dedicate my next few posts to my marriage and being a wife.  So if your stomach gets queasy when you watch a sickly sweet romantic movie with lots of extra cheesiness you may want to stop reading now.  You've been fairly warned!

My husband and I are about three weeks from our sixth wedding anniversary, and have been together for almost 13 years.  After what already seems like a lifetime I find myself taking stock of our life and marriage.  For example, I've reached the "old-age" of 30, Sophie is almost FIVE (what? already?), Molly is creeping into toddlerhood, we have a home, two cars, jobs, debt, bills, schedules, and all the other married adult stuff too.  All that stuff is just the window dressing though, so what do we really have?

We love each other, and I would say we like each other most of the time.  ;-)  We argue, but have learned to navigate our way through even the most heated "discussions".  We don't have much in common when it comes to hobbies (and never have), but we support each other and enjoy talking about each others interests.  We both love our children and love being with them.  Family time is a must for both of us!  We give advice to each other and do our best to help each other navigate work, parenting and family life.  We have date nights and love them.  We still cuddle, hold-hands, say goodnight with a kiss and "I love you" is part of our daily dialogue.  We have dreams, goals and memories.  We laugh together, cry, smile and tease.  We miss each other when we don't see each for a few days, and get sick of each other when we don't spend a minute apart.  We often hold hands when we fall asleep and enjoy being together (wink, wink) more than ever before.  I still think my husband is sweet, sexy and kind; while, he still pays me compliments and tells me he is proud of all that I do.  We can finish each other sentences, laugh at our ability to "read" each others' minds, and have our own married couple's language that includes "You know, the thing at the the place".  We are tired together and energized by each other.  We love quiet Sunday nights and sneaky PDAs.  We love lots of things and share even more.  Notice I say "we".

Our identities have become so entangled that sometimes it is hard to tell where he starts and I begin. That's the great thing about us though.  We are sort of like two different vines that grew up different sides of a wall, met at the top and continued to grow but in a big tangled mess.  We have different roots and little side shoots that go their own way, but one vine supports the other.  The higher the tangled mess grows the harder it is to imagine pulling apart, and so we stay comfortable, in love and forge our own way.  Good or bad?  I'm not sure, but we work hard each day to be who we are and to be together the way we are.  That's how I know all we have is worth it - because we are both willing to put effort into our marriage.  We work for it with energy and pride.  I couldn't ask for any thing more.  (Well, maybe a tropical, kid-free holiday but that too shall come! Right, honey???)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What Mommies Say.

In making my way deeper into the blog-o-sphere I have come across some really terrific mommy blogs.  Stay-at-home moms, working moms, traveling moms, first-time moms, moms of many, homeschooling moms, and so many more all seem to be out there in the world of blogging.  I have found true pleasure in stumbling across a mommy blog written by someone completely different than me yet having similar experiences parenting their children.  It is grounding and reassuring to know that most of us face the same joys and challenges while navigating the world of kids.  I tip my hat to all those moms out there who are working hard every day to "get it right" in their own way!

Every time I come across a new blog about parenting I am not only struck by the common themes of happiness, joy, frustration, puzzlement and wonder, but by the amount of "mommy talk".  Although, I am happy to find these little gems and feel connected to others, I am also reminded that sometimes we Mommies do ourselves a real disservice by leaving the other parts of ourselves behind.  So many times moms complain that people only seem willing or able to ask them about their children.  I myself have made this very complaint; after all I'm still an intellectual person who tries to be knowledgeable about world events and the community around me.  And yet, many times I find myself only discussing my children or topics somehow related to them.

Here in lies the problem, as much as we want to be recognized as a whole person, an adult, and not just a parent we do ourselves a disservice by bringing most topics back to our children and how the world at large relates to our lives as moms.  I know that I will never stop sharing my children and mommy-life with others because for me it is my MOST important role.  However, I am going to try harder to engage the people around me in conversation that reflects the other parts of me.  After all, if all I put out there for others to see is my mommy-side how will they know that I am more than that?  How will they know that my life is a balancing act of wife, mother, daughter, sister, teacher, student, community member and of course just being me?  Its my job to show them by sharing all of me!

I look forward to continuing to read great mommy-blogs and can't wait to learn all about the whole person that each mommy is!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Kids Say and Do the Darnedest Things.

Me:  Ugh, why do you guys always make a mess faster than I can clean up?!?!

Sophie:  Oh Mom, kids eh?

Me:  Yep, kids!

Sophie:  Well Mom, maybe you should just pack-up and get your own house and then you can keep it just how you like it!

Side story - the day before I had reminded Sophie that the couch cushions weren't for fort building, and we had a chat about when you have your own home you make your own rules, etc.  Guess this one came back to bite me in the butt.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Anonymity and a Little More About Us.

As most of you know or have realized I am trying my best to keep some anonymity while keeping this blog. I've been doing this for a variety of personal reasons and also to increase my own comfort level with writing on a range of topics. It is important to me to be able to be open and transparent, and having a bit of a disguise helps me do this. All that said, I'm finding blogging to be getting a little complicated because I haven't shared the names of my family members. I have decided that the easiest way to solve this problem is to use pseudonyms for my family, as I did for myself. For those of you who know me I hope it isn't too odd reading about my kids and husband with different names. For me it is very strange to be re-naming my kids and (especially) my husband, but I'm looking forward to using names instead of "my oldest", "my baby", "my five-year-old daughter" or some other descriptive for my family members.

So here it goes! The big reveal: Sophie is my oldest daughter, and almost five years old. She is in Senior Kindergarten this year, enjoys putting on dance shows and concerts, loves animals and is going trough a questioning phase right now. Sophie likes to be a big helper, is a bit of a drama queen and almost always asks permission before doing something naughty.

Molly is my "baby" and well on her way to being a year and a half old. She is learning how to run and will likely be talking before too much longer. She loves her big sister, cuddles and puppy dogs. Molly is an adventurer and known to make trouble.

JD is my terrific husband. As you've already read he works shift work and long hours which means he isn't at home as much as we would like, but when he is here he is a great dad and husband. He is always up for an adventure, loves to be physically active and hates to read. Pretty much we are polar opposites, but somehow we work anyways. We've been together since we were teenagers, married for six years and make it through most days by talking about EVERYTHING. Literally there is nothing we won't say to each other. Mean, kind, loving, brutally honest, disgusting and romantic we've said it all and we think that's the key to our success. No topic is off limits and honesty is the name of the game, add a date or two to the mix and you've got us as couple!

So there you have it. My blog-o-sphere family: Sophie, Molly, JD and Sadie. Weird, but wonderfully mine!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Encyclopedia of Sleep Positions.

At our house we often discuss the unusual, funny and sometimes uncomfortable sleep positions we find our children in. Over time I've started to wonder if each position is our child's attempt to send us a message. For example:

Curled up tight at the top of the bed right next to the pillows = Hey, I'm freezing! Warmer jammies tomorrow please.

Pressed against the crib rails with legs and arms tangled in them = I tried hard to escape this cage tonight, but I just didn't make it!

Sideways in the crib with head pressed tight against one side and leg sticking out between the rails = I NEED a bigger bed already! Come on guys!

Spread eagle with arms and legs stretched right out = Thanks for the busy day today, guys. I'm extra tired tonight!

And my personal favourite, fetal position with bum right up in the air = Humph, see if I'm going to be nice to you tomorrow! This position also takes on a somewhat cheekier meaning when you have a daughter that likes to wear nightgowns. :-)

How do you perceive your kid's sleep positions? Have any to add or modify? Love to hear them!

Back to School.

Yesterday was my daughter's first day of Senior Kindergarten. She seemed happy to be going and only expressed the smallest amount of anxiety. Me on the the other hand? I easily went pee five times before we left for school yesterdat, didn't want to leave the school yard until I knew she was safely settled inside and literally counted down the hours until I could pick her up.

I spent the day wondering if she was making friends, did she eat all her lunch, was her teacher kind, did she remember to go to the bathroom, did she get lost, did she have playmates at recess, was she polite and were her classmates kind to her too? Of course everything was fine and she came home happy, tired and ready to go back. Phew!

Ironic how my own child's return to school brings up many of the worries I had as as kid going to school. Some things just don't change!

Monday, September 6, 2010

All Part of a Balanced Weekend.

This afternoon my husband and I had a quiet moment by ourselves to reflect on our busy weekend. Saturday we spent a rainy, dreary day at home with our girls. Napped, read, TV watched, bike rides, library visits and general relaxation were all on the schedule. We literally had a day with a little bit of everyone's favourite activity. Sunday my husband left early for the beach to go surfing. When the girls and I woke up a few hours later we made the sponatneous decision to head to the beach too. It was windy and too cold for swimming, but we spent most of the day just hanging out and having fun while Daddy spent time doing something he loves. Monday the girls went to my Mom's house and we managed to sneak in a date at the movies. It was lovely to be away and have some time together. Movie dates are one of my favourite activities. We capped the weekend off with a great dinner with my parents and everyone went to bed tonight tired, but happy.

While reflecting on our busy, fun-filled weekend my husband and I came to the conclusion that we had finally managed to create a balanced weekend. A balance of fun activity and peaceful quiet. We included a little bit of something for everyone and not one of us could say that we didn't do something just for them. I started wondering why we don't have more of these weekends. Why don't we all feel this sort of satisfication every Sunday (holiday Monday) night? The most obvious reason is that a holiday Monday offers a whole extra day, but still there must be a way to create the same balance on a regular weekend. So what's holding us back?

The answer: expectations. My husband and I have this sense that other people have expectations of us and our time. When it comes to the weekend we feel a strong pull to spend time with our parents, to clean our home and to do a million fun things with our girls. This weekend we spent a limited amount of time visiting, we didn't clean a single thing and although we didn't focus 100% of our time and energy on our daughters they still had a blast. I think this is what people call a light bulb moment, actually a few light bulbs. First light bulb, our kids can and do enjoy the things we like to do. Second light bulb, yes we need to visit family but not every weekend because we have our OWN family. (This is more of a reminder than a light bulb.) Third, our home did not crumble and no one cares that we didn't clean the bathrooms or mop the floors. Priorities shift, and a lovely, enjoyable weekend becomes possible. As it turns out those so-called expectations are likely slightly self-imposed. I am not surprised, but certainly intrigued to have discovered yet another self-inflicted phenomenon that causes imbalance in our lives.

I'm not so deluded as to believe every weekend can be this way, but I certainly am comitted enough to my family to see the importance and value in creating well-rounded family time. I'm looking forward to including our daughters more in our hobbies, to incorporating more do nothing days into our weekends and feeling a sense of satisfication on Sunday night as I fall asleep. Cheers to a great weekend and many more!

Friday, September 3, 2010

To the Person Who...

Sometimes when I'm out and about I play this little game with myself. This game has become my tool for self-editing because anyone who knows me well is likely to tell you that I'm typically blunt and honest to a fault. Most people might even describe my bluntness as "witchy". I have to say it isn't my intent to be mean, but for heavens sakes some people are just plain crazy!

The game usually starts when something grabs my attention that is just a little off or sometimes outright annoying. I don't specifically look for things out of the ordinary, but every once and a while you just see or hear something that makes you look twice or listen harder. Once the item has caught my attention I write a note in my head to the person involved. Here are some samples:

"To the man in the grocery store: I realize that you are impressed by your bird tweeting talent and that you are expressing yourself in a way that you find pleasurable. However, for the 5 minutes it took you to pack your groceries the rest of us were trying to figure out if there was a bird trapped in the store. Once we realized it was you we were all just irritated. Next time, please pack faster or save the tweeting for the car and/or shower. Thanks!"

"To the woman out shopping today: I hope you realize that you are an attractive woman with great legs, but white shorts with large elasticized leg holes is not a good look. In fact, from the back they sort of resembled an adult diaper. It is called the "Junior Department" for a reason. Time to move on and find some shorts that will flatter your great legs!"

"To the woman walking UP and DOWN the big hill: I assume the barrel strapped to your back is an attempt at an environmentally friendly backpack. I'm just wondering though, what do you do when your keys fall to the bottom? I know my arms would be too short to reach right to the bottom and get them out. By the way, I drove past you twice today and the second time I was wondering why you didn't take your barrel off, put the desk on top and roll it down the hill rather than carry that big desk all the way to the bottom. And by yourself too! Yep, rolling it on the barrel-backpack would have been far more practical."

"To the couple stopped beside me at the traffic light: I know as parents we are always rushing around, but for your safety and that of your children please buckle them in. Just because they are big enough to ride in a booster seat doesn't mean they are mature enough to understand the importance of buckling. Please buckle them!"

So, you get the idea right. I vent my frustration, puzzlement and wonder using my "internal voice". I suspect that my notes likely sound judgemental, but I would argue that I am expressing confusion, distress and annoyance in a socially acceptable manner. (In other words, keeping it to myself rather than running around yelling out at people.)

I know that so many of us, including myself, strive to be fashionable, environmentally aware, prompt, sensitive to the less fortunate, musically talented, athletic, passionate or whatever it is that we value as important. BUT, do these things have to come at the expense of practicality or common sense. I mean common on...a barrel as a backpack...let's get real, there must be a bag made from hemp fabric or bamboo fabric that would serve the same purpose. If any of you who know me well EVER catch me doing, saying, or wearing something that lacks common sense and practicality, or is just down right obnoxious I invite you to call me out. Do it, please!!!

Oh yes, and one more note I've stored in my brain for many months now: "To the man who parked beside me at the mall: I am sorry that you found the sight of me nursing my 12 week-old baby in the relative privacy of my own car offensive. However, I found your staring and snide comment to your friend offensive. Let me point out that you did not see my nipple, any breast you did see looked no different than my arm, and that's what breasts are for. Grow the f*$& up, and look away if you don't like it!"

Common sense and practicality, come on now!