Wait a minute! I’m not perfect????

Nothing has made me become more aware of my own flaws than my children. I mean, it’s not that I ever thought I was perfect. In fact I think I’ve always been aware of my flaws and quite self-conscious of them, attempting to hide my flaws whenever I could. However there are times where I feel as though I’m looking in a mirror and it isn’t always the pretty stuff that’s being reflected.

When you are pregnant, you dream about what your children are going to look like. What traits of yours they will have; will they develop a love of reading? Will they be athletic or love to bake? You don’t ever sit back and think maybe they’ll have a spiteful streak or a temper like their mother. Will they be impatient and forgetful? Your weaknesses usually aren’t the first things that pop into mind.

Mr. T. may look very much like Mr. C. but he definitely has my personality and it’s not as though there is some magic cell that wipes out all of the bad and just keeps the good, unfortunately the flaws are passed along too. I am seeing myself reflected through him and I am becoming hyperaware of not only my positives but of the parts of me that have frustrated loved ones for years.

First lesson, I whine. I never realize that I whined, until Mr. T. starting whining ALL THE TIME. Every time he doesn’t like an answer I give him, or doesn’t want to do something he’s been asked to do or sometimes just in normal conversation he whines. Have you ever seen those deer whistles you put on cars to scare the deer away so they don’t run in front of your car while driving?? Well I imagine that this is what those must sound like!  Eventually the tone started to sound familiar. When Mr. T doesn’t do as I ask the first time my voice rises up a notch and the words begin to draw out. Eventually the entire conversation is in whinese. He’s whining at me and I’m whining back.  It must sound like nails on a chalkboard to those around us. I have now become more aware that not only do I whine with my children, but sometimes I do it with Mr.C, my parents and I’ve even caught myself doing it at work!!! OMG I”m a whiner! I sound like a 4 year old boy!

Just like me, Mr. T has a need for routine and structure which isn’t a flaw in itself but it’s the reaction to the lack of routine that can be. Lack of structure or routine can lead to some very emotional outbursts.  Every morning,, the first thing he does is ask if we are staying home today or going to school. I now realize that he needs to “plan” his day in his mind, just as I do. Sometimes when our plans change from what we’ve already told him he will react emotionally and not want to do whatever it is was decided.  It was so frustrating to me until I realized…wait a minute I do that too! When I have a plan in my head and a wrench gets thrown into that plan I can become totally discombobulated and react emotionally. It’s not my intention but it’s almost like I need to be given time to reprocess this change in plans. Since this light went on I try to keep Mr. T in the loop on our plans so he feels prepared, but I also try to be a bit more understanding with him when things don’t go as expected.

I also started to notice that both Mr. T. and I have a tendency to get very agitated when we are overscheduled. When we are trying to fit too many things into a small block of time. I started to notice a pattern to some of Mr. T’s misbehaviour. When he doesn’t have much quiet time at home he can get flustered which results in him ‘acting up’. When it happens I feel what he’s feeling, the overwhelming need to just stop. I am trying my best to provide him with that downtime which can be difficult in the busy world we live in.

Next there is the temper. Ooooh do we have a temper. Mr. T. gets frustrated very easily and when he does he yells. He can be loud and it literally hurts my ears. But it was watching him lose his temper that made me realize what I’m like when I get frustrated. It was a tough lesson for me to learn. NOt an easy realization for me to come to, that I handle my frustration in the same way a 4-year-old does.

While Mr. T. has been like a mirror constantly reflecting my own strengths as well as my shortcomings, my realization that he is just like me, has helped me learn how to relate to him even more.

When I see Mr. T. getting frustrated and I notice his voice starting to get louder and whinier and more desperate I am better able to look at the situation and determine what the problem is. For example, during a recent meltdown Mr. T. was having with Mr. C. I could feel Mr. C’s tension levels rising. I sat back and observed the situation and instinctively knew what the problem was. I quietly walked over to Mr. C. and said “listen to him” as Mr. C looked at me in confusion I repeated ” listen to him, actually hear what he’s saying”. I thought of  how frustrated I get when I feel as though I’m not being heard and I was able to see  that same frustration in Mr. T’s eyes.  Mr C. bent down looked his son in the eye and  as he really heard the words coming out of his mouth the situation was diffused.

I am learning that although it is not easy for me to resolve my shortcomings overnight, especially considering I have had 30+ years to master these weaknesses, I can use this knowledge to my advantage to strengthen my relationship with Mr. T. I understand him in a way that no one else does. Because there is this part of him that is just like me.

There are so many moments of Mr T’s life where I wonder how I possibly could have created something so utterly perfect? To me, he is perfect in every way. He is brilliant. He is kind and thoughtful. He is loyal. He is loving and affectionate. He is wonderful. I am however, not blind to his flaws, in fact I might be more aware of them because we share so many. None of us are perfect, in fact all of the complexities, both positive and negative are what make us interesting. I think the best thing that I can do is use my personal in-depth knowledge to guide Mr. T through some tough times. To better relate to him and build on our relationship as he gets older. Hopefully I can help him accept his flaws rather than him spend his life trying to be perfect. He is already probably as perfect as they come.

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Me the traditionalist?

I have never really considered myself a traditionalist. Although, when really examining myself, it’s not that far-fetched of an idea if you take into consideration how deeply rooted I am in routine and structure. It may be that this need for memory building is becoming stronger because I’m getting older or perhaps it was the birth of my children that brought out this side of me. Regardless, something has turned me into this sappy mess that is completely obsessed with my family traditions and building memories for my children.

With the holidays coming up traditions can become a point of contention amongst many families, and mine is no exception. Trying to balance my family traditions with Mr. C’s family traditions has, at times, kept me up at night worrying and stressing. As my children are starting to get older I’ve realized that while it is important for Mr. C. and I to carry on our family traditions it is equally important for us to start our own family traditions.

Recently, I decided that I was going to start a custom with Ms. J and her grandmothers that is all ours. I wanted Ms. J and I to be able to share a special moment with both my mother and my mother in law, along with Mr. C’s grandmother.

A tea party was born.

Tea Party

The ladies gathered around a table covered with little sandwiches, scones, pastries, jams and creams. We brought out the old tea cups that have been passed down from my own grandmother and shared an afternoon of delicious teas, treats and good company.

While Ms. J is still just a toddler, she behaved like such a little lady. She sat at the table sipping her caffeine free strawberry rhubarb tea and happily nibbled on her tasty scones and cakes. I am fully aware of the fact that she didn’t have a true appreciation of just how amazing it was for her to be sitting at a table containing 4 generations of women in her family tree, but I think she knew it was something special.

Family Tree

My wish is that I have started a new tradition for my own family. A special way for Ms. J to spend time with her mummy and her grandmothers. Something that she will look forward to as she grows. Perhaps one day my mother will be able to pass on the beautiful tea cups and tea pots to her granddaughter as a memory. Perhaps one day Ms. J will carry on the tradition by sharing a tea party with her own daughter and myself.

I’m not fully sure why keeping, building and making our own traditions has become so very important to me but it is. Rather than try to figure out the why’s I’d rather just enjoy the moments. Build as many happy memories for my children as I can and hope that they appreciate it…one day. As we move into the holidays building on both of our family values I can sit back and smile at the thought that maybe…just maybe…we can bring back the tea party.

Lest we forget

In my part of the world tomorrow is Remembrance Day. A day to honour those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

My grandfather sacrificed his life to World War II. I say that he sacrificed his life because, although he returned, I think it’s fair to say he was never the same. I think the things he saw and experienced prevented him from being the person he could have been. I believe he spent the rest of his life battling the demons that chased him home. I remember as a child wondering why Pappy got so grumpy sometimes. Now, as an adult who is a little more aware of the horrors he must have endured, I wonder how was he was not grumpy every second of every day?

In his last years, as he was descending into the dark abyss of Alzheimer’s, he still relived his war days as memories that confused themselves with reality in his cloudy consciousness. He never spoke much of his wartime life with me as a kid. In fact, as I got older, on one of my annual Remembrance Day phone calls with him,  I recall asking why he didn’t attend a ceremony and his response shook me; he said “because I don’t want to remember”.

I think it’s important and necessary to point out that not all of his memories were bad. Mr C. giggled, when he asked my grandfather what he did on his leaves during the war and my grandfather smiled a sly smile giving a quiet answer that spoke of alcohol and women. I blushed and my grandmother, who met and married him after the war chastised him as he gave Mr. C. a little wink. I think as he spiraled deeper and the illness took a tight grip on his mind his soul protected itself by remembering the good; the men who fought alongside him, the friendships, the camaraderie.

My grandfather is gone now. He passed away almost 4 years ago, the day Mr. T. was baptized. The only indications of the years that ultimately shaped his life are short notes written in his tiny black bible  given to him right before he left “Mum,I hate it here. I just want to come home” he wrote. Pamphlets given to him by his government upon his return “Your return to Civvy Street” conveyed the expectation that he was just supposed to return to life as normal.  Medals and a uniform he left locked away from our eyes and his.

While I wish I would have had more time with him as an adult to delve deeper into who he was, I take comfort in the thought that his demons are no longer chasing him.

Tomorrow, I plan to take my children to a Remembrance Day Ceremony in our city. A parade of veterans through the main street, speeches, readings all culminating in a moment of silence. It is my small way of saying thank you to those who have lost their lives in service. It is my way of keeping my grandfathers memory in the lives of my children.

There has been some controversy in our greater city area in regards to parents choosing to remove their children from school during Remembrance Day ceremonies and some schools cancelling the ceremonies altogether. As you can imagine, I think this is utterly disrespectful and so insulting to all those men and women who have given their all in times of great need. You are doing your children such a disservice by not teaching them this part of our history, our heritage.

As proud as I am of my Grandfather for the sacrifices he made, for purely selfish reasons I hope my children don’t ever join the military. Although it needs to be said that if they so choose, my heart will simultaneously break and swell with pride. I wish that none of our children ever had to go off to war.

I will teach my children to pay their respects on Remembrance Day. I will ensure that my children learn of the history and honour those who have served and continue to serve us.

I leave you with this powerful poem written by A. Lawrence Vaincourt and I hope that you all make time for one minute of silence tomorrow in memory of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure your freedoms.

JUST A COMMON SOLDIER

By A. Lawrence Vaincourt

He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.

And tho’ sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we’ll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer, for a soldier died today.

He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
And the world won’t note his passing, though a soldier died today.

When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land,
A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?

A politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives,
Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.

It’s so easy to forget them for it was so long ago,
That the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know
It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?

He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier’s part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honour while he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.

©1987 A. Lawrence Vaincourt

A letter to my 14 year old self

Dear 14 year old, teenage angst filled me,
I am writing to you from the learning years of our thirties. You think you know it all. Take my advice, you don’t. You’ll know you’ve matured when you finally figure out that you know nothing!

Life will kick your ass. You are going to fall. Many times. Know that you will also get back up every time. Each tumble you take is going to make you stronger. Some falls will be harder than others and you may take longer to get up but you will always get up. Falling does not make you a failure, getting up each time is what makes you a success.

Try not to focus so much of your energy attempting to be perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist. You can spend the rest of your life trying to get to something that is unreachable and you will just be disappointed. Your flaws are what make you perfect. Own them, accept yourself for who you are.

Boys. Boys are just boys. They will come and go. Do not lose yourself for a boy. Do not chase a boy. A boy who is worth anything will not allow you to chase him. A boy who is worth your time will do the chasing. Demand respect, demand to be treated well and if he doesn’t treat you well in the beginning he never will. *Spoiler Alert* Eventually a wonderful one will walk into your office and will spell your name wrong…pay attention to that one..he’s a keeper 🙂

You will meet people who will try to pull you down because it makes them feel better about themselves. Be better than that. Don’t be a mean girl and don’t allow someone to mean girl you.

Follow your own path. Do not try to live anyone else’s dreams, your dreams are what matters. Do not exhaust your energy trying to make everyone happy. You will never be able to please everyone so don’t try, it will drive you crazy. Focus on pleasing yourself even when that means you might be disappointing someone else. Being happy will make those who love you happy.

Try to be nicer to your mum, she’s not the crazy person you think she is right now. In fact you are more like her than you have yet come to realize…probably the reason for the constant butting of the heads. Believe it or not a time will come when you won’t fight with her and you will be so thankful to have her in your life. She pushes you out of love because she wants life to be easier for you than it was for her. Go easy on her.

You are beautiful. Stop caring about the size of your jeans and for God’s sake please stop trying to fight your hair!! Just leave it be what it is! You don’t have to look like everyone else to be beautiful.  Who you are is so much more important than what you look like. I know people say this to you all the time and you pretend to agree but you waste too much time feeling ugly. Don’t be so self obsessed. As you get older you will become comfortable in your own skin. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you are less than gorgeous.

You are not an imposter. You are smart, you are kind, you are special.

I will give you a heads up, life is going to throw you a major curve ball, the biggest hit we’ve taken so far in our thirty something years. You will feel as though your world is collapsing, coming to an end.I need you to know that you will survive it and you will come out the other end with the most beautiful gift you can imagine. Take it one day at a time and rely on those who love you, you won’t be able to get through it without them. Try your hardest to search for the sun through the fog and clouds cause it’s rays will be shining down on you, even though it might not feel like it in the moment.

The surprises that life has in store for you will blow your mind. Treat life as a journey not as a destination. Stop and smell the roses a bit. Life is beautiful, try to live in the moment and know that you wouldn’t feel the ups without the downs. And those ups are sooo worth it!

Finally, don’t take a single thing for granted. Love yourself. Be kind and enjoy the ride because the years are going to fly by!