I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has a love/hate relationship with Mother’s Day.
Of course, I know this randomly chosen day is really just a BS marketing gimmick to sell cards, flowers and cheap perfume. I know it means nothing in the larger scheme of things, but this doesn’t stop me from feeling… just a little let down.
It’s the same feeling I get after Valentine’s Day or an arranged blind date:
Really? This is what you think of me??
Every year, instead of giving me what I actually want (a bottle of gin – the good stuff and a whole day off) I end up getting crappy home-made cards. I keep them, of course. I can’t throw out any of the ugly shit my kids make because, gosh darn it, I’m a sentimental fruit. Here is a sampling of past Mother’s Day cards I’ve gotten over the years.
I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this joke before
And then there’s the one I got from my husband as a joke/hint
But by far and away, the best Mother’s Day message I’ve gotten this year came in the mail yesterday.
download and print to prank your mom or anyone else who needs a good scare.
Modern Parenting Manual – unless you’re a Tiger Mom
You know the worst thing about being a modern woman? I’ve been trained to appreciate the potential value in everything. Like a cubist, I contemplate each situation from every angle, which makes reality seem fucked up, much like one of those paintings. It also makes it difficult to take a hard line on anything. A lack of black and white reasoning makes parenting very challenging.
To tiger mother or not to tiger mother, this is the question.
During the summer, when my entire life revolved around the summer swim club, I spent a lot of time with bonafide Tiger Mothers. At first, we barely acknowledged one another. After all, what could I ever say to a woman, with zero facial flaws, who dresses in Gucci to watch her eight-year-old swim lengths?
While I can’t imagine what she might say to a spotty looking woman, hunched over her Starbucks cup, muttering about stupid rules that prevent her from throwing a piss-stained mattress in the alley.
Swim club Tiger Moms and I come from two different worlds, but eventually, we found the humanity in one another and built a connection. After one particularly lovely exchange, I say casually, “We should get the kids together for a playdate.” (more…)
Rufus is a Maltese who was supposed to belong to my daughter, but as soon as he grew to full-size and would no longer submit to dress-up or photo shoot sessions, she lost interest, and all of his care fell to me.
His eyes say “Kill me now.”
A dog is like having a new baby. We got him when he was three months old, and I had to take a week off work, mostly because once again this new baby woke me up every hour to pee, or freak out or just say hi. I also had to be at home to toilet train him because this delightful process involved getting him on a regular schedule of sleeping, feeding, walking and pooping. When he misbehaved, like when he ate my favorite pen or chewed up my $50 throw pillow, he was testing boundaries – just like any other kid. Every few months, I still have to renew the process of reminding him who’s Alpha around this house. I do this by catching him right in the act and giving him hell. When I try this with my kids– they ignore me until I completely lose it. Then they roll their eyes because – well, Mom’s acting crazy again.
Rufus makes me feel like a parenting rock star. Unless he sees a bird. Then he forgets his name, his training and how stupid I look running after him like an idiot.
Rufus never complains about how I prepare his dinner (a scoop of kibble with a little freeze dried liver sprinkled on top as a garnish), but my human kids pretty much hate everything I make them, no matter how hard I try. And they make a big-ass deal about letting me know.
“God, mom. This is disgusting.” They couldn’t care less about the waste or how much someone would appreciate what they were given “…then you should just send it to China.”
Rufus doesn’t pretend to gag at dinner time. He just shuts his fucking mouth and chews.
Rufus never talks back or screws around when it’s time for bed. He doesn’t squirm when I give him cuddles. He doesn’t throw his clothes around. Raising Rufus has been my chance to redo all those moments I totally messed up raising my human kids. Yes, it’s true. Rufus is my kid. The only one who actually listens to me. So I arrange play dates for him with other dogs he likes. I take him to doggy daycare, so he doesn’t have to spend the day alone when I go to work. I drop $70 for his shampoo and haircut. But only because the doggy spa also throws in an anal gland cleaning. Some things about my favorite child are gross, but it doesn’t diminish my love for him. Especially since he shows his appreciation by losing his shit every time I walk through the door. While my flesh and blood don’t even look up from their screens.
I can’t take her anywhere
But here in Yaletown, where some of the world’s cleanest, most pampered fur-children live – the Health Board will not allow me to bring Rufus into my favorite coffee shop. But they place zero restrictions on my other kids, even when they obviously haven’t bathed in a week. Even though they’re the destructive ones. If Rufus and I went to a restaurant, he would sit quietly on my lap, while my other kids have, from time to time, screamed their heads off, or raced around the room like wild animals. They’ve spilled hot chocolate, splattered spaghetti sauce and left smears of stickiness for the wait-staff to clean up. They’re the ones who should be tied up outside.
My devotion to this dog has not gone unnoticed by my friends. The other day, Alice and I tried to catch up over coffee. But I was distracted. Rufus was barking plaintively outside. The same mothering instinct that made me cry when the public health nurse vaccinated my babies by holding them down kicked in and I could barely hear what she was saying.
“Why don’t you apply for an emotional support dog license?”
Since I suffer from a wide-range of emotional issues including anxiety, low self-esteem, and occasional insomnia, I can register my dog and for $70 get a card which will gain Rufus admission into any public place, including grocery stores and the library – so long as he’s kept in a purse.
Now, the next time I hand over my credit card to pay for $300 worth of groceries my kids won’t eat, I can just pull Rufus out of my stylish dog-purse and stroke him until everything is right with the world again.
When I was in my early 20’s and my Grandmother was still alive, she tried to impart her best advice to me.
She knew what she was talking about
It’s too bad I was scornful. But that’s mostly because she was very old and extremely proper and exceedingly capable. In other words, we were nothing alike (though she was my favourite person in the whole world)
I wish she was still alive because back then she was talking about stuff that didn’t at all apply to my crazy, 20-something, hard-livin lifestyle. But now as I go about my day, I can’t tell you how many time, I stop, slap my forehead and say, “So that’s what she meant.”
I remember one Sunday dinner, when I was around 12.
I tried to help my grandmother as she bustled around in the kitchen, cooking a stuffed chicken, baking homemade rolls, setting the table and prepping dessert. While, my grandpa, her husband, sat on the sofa reading the Globe and Mail. Like he did every Sunday. In that same tradition, he’d frequently shout from the living room: “Dinner ready yet?”
Grandma turned to me and said, “Never get married.”
Later she amended that advice to – “Only marry someone who’ll divorce well.”
Now that so many of my friends are separating from their husbands and life partners, I understand that advice to mean: “if your chosen mate shows a hint of vindictiveness – use him for sex – but never, ever marry him.” Watching how shitty people can behave when divorcing, I believe that unsolicited advice is absolute genius. I will impart it to my daughter…but only after college.
She said a whole bunch of super intelligent shit – most of which I remember. When I repeat these little sound bites with anyone in her 40’s or older – I sound super wise and insightful. (thanks, Grandma. I couldn’t have done it without you.)
Here are some of my most repeated examples:
- Poor people can’t afford cheap stuff
- Three things you should never cheap out on:
- Food, shoes and mattress. (She once said in way of a caution: “Every time my mattress started to sag in the middle, I got pregnant.”)
- A lady always knows when it’s time to go (If only I’d taken this advice after drinking
- A wise woman always knows when to keep her mouth shut (if only I’d EVER taken this advice)
- Gardening is the best stress reliever – nothing beats unmercifully pulling weeds, for working out aggression
- Money is never a reason not to do something important (so when I use that excuse I know I’m really freaked out about something else)
A few years ago, I volunteered at Hospice. Sylvia MacNeil asked me to write her life story. She was 94 and dying from breast cancer. I won’t go into the details except to say that her life was inspiring and remarkable. I felt very lucky to have known her.
As Sylvia got closer to death, I could sense she had something she wanted to tell me. One day, when she was drifting in and out of consciousness, he waved me into close so I could hear her hoarse whisper. She said, “Sex in your 80’s kicks the crap out of sex in your 30’s.” And then she fell back on her pillow, unresponsive.
If it hadn’t been for the nurse in the room, I would have grabbed Sylvia by the shoulders and shaken her awake, yelling. “What do you mean? For God’s sake. How? How?”
Photo credit: Jean Malek
But I’ll never know exactly what she meant.
Although, after some thought, I think she was talking about gumming.
What good advice were you given that you’re only really getting now?
One of the reasons I keep freaking out is because I’m aware that something irreversible has happened to my brain. Something untreatable.
I think like someone’s mother. And now it’s permanently affected the way I see the world.
The most obvious example:
I never used to think about food. Except in the most pleasurable terms.
Now, food anxiety invades and overtakes my mind at least 10 times a day. What to make my kids for breakfast that will keep them full until recess without any sugar crashes?
What to pack for lunch now that every other kid has an annoying nut allergy?
What to make for dinner so I won’t have to listen to a constant whine about how gross dinner is?
How to go to Costco without wanting to slit my wrists?
How to go to Whole Foods without hyperventilating over the price of organic grapes? (more…)
It was unusually chaotic this morning. Which really got things off to a good start.
In retrospect, this day was a by-product of human error.
Beginning with the ill-conceived idea that my husband and I could get a few moments to enjoy a small luxury – like coffee in bed, maybe a little light petting -by putting on the Wii and letting the kids play a tank game.
I know… We are the worst people in the world. Within 5 minutes I’m forced to race into the living room, topless, in full view of the street below and condo windows across the street, to pull my son off my daughter, who was just going for his eyes. All while my husband runs around screaming that someone in the building will call Social Services for sure and have our children removed from our care. Naomi begins to have an anxiety attack. Just as Felix decides to teach us all a lesson about what the future will be for us all if we don’t side with him over Naomi: He starts hyperventilating. Yells something he knows will be very offensive, then starts shrieking,”No. Daddy No,” while running down the hall into his bedroom. All because my husband has finally lost it and yells, just behind our thin front door, that Felix had better stay in his room or risk being killed. Maybe for real.
Poor Brad Pitt. I am instantly filled with gratitude that we cannot afford to have staff since one of his staff was certain to have reported his “child abuse” to the LAPD. This is a complete reversal from my earlier position, which was that the only thing standing between me and complete happiness was shortage of staff.
Brad before people found out that he is a normal parent
I have to accept a ruined Sunday morning as punishment because really this was all my fault. For breakfast, I allowed our daughter to finish off the last of Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie (Sure. Take as much whipped cream as you like). And Felix pretty much finished off half a box of cinnamon buns, under my direct supervision. Just because I was just a tad hungover (just one double gin and tonic – I hate getting old) and didn’t want to make anything for breakfast or do the dishes after. So how can I be mad at the kids for my own idiocy?
To celebrate this amazing mental breakthrough, I reward myself by leaving. (Don’t judge me. I made eggs first)
“Bye. Just running to the store. Love you. Take care of each other.”
Since Amsterdam, I have been orchestrating and savouring these moments of true Freedom.
I float down the street to the chocolate shop so I can shoot the shit with Heather, the owner and my new life-coach. She has an idea, easy to execute, that will make me look like a rock-star with the PAC for my kids’ school. I just love her.
Then I wander up the street to the grocery store, where I try all the samples. And also pick up the ingredient I need to prepare a glorious Family Sunday Dinner, which is going to become a weekly and mandatory thing – but hopefully in a happy, quality time sort of way.
As I walk home, I look up and am rewarded again with the most beautiful cloud-shaped shades of grey and purpley black. I let the rain patter down on my face, soaking up all the negative ions. Feeling my heart open and grow patient again. Feeling the tightness in my neck and shoulders. Then holding onto a tree trunk for a little stretch. I drink in calm and the beauty of a peaceful, glimmering city by a gorgeous body of water. Thank you. Thank you. My church rocks!! I just have to figure out how to incorporate a little sip of wine during my service and a little more “body” (if you get my meaning…) And I’ll be ready to apply for tax-free status.
I invite you to join my congregation and take a little time away to savour something that makes you feel free. (and make it a news-free day. Unless it’s John Oliver, then it’s ok.)
Please share a time you’ve found magic in the mundane…
And also I’d deeply appreciate it if you’d subscribe. This way I can send you this new thing I’m trying:
I’ve got two lines of snappy little quotes you can print off and stick on your fridge…
1) Unsolicited Advice 2) Weird Shit I Overhear
I can also let you know when I’m doing a storytelling gig near you and want to crash on your couch.