Ending the cycle of judgment

One of the aspects of parenting that I have struggled with the most is the judgments. Sitting in a room full of people who you know think you should be doing something different with your child is not an easy thing to do. Everyone has their opinions and their beliefs when it comes to taking care of babies and raising children. I know I was warned, that other parents face the same harsh criticism and that I alone have been guilty of passing judgment however that didn’t make it any easier for me to swallow.

There has never been anything as important to me or where I have taken more pride than motherhood yet at the same time I felt insecure especially with my first. At times I feel unsure of myself and facing the judgment of others has always made me anxious.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about why we judge others. Especially as mothers. Why as mothers, do we ever allow ourselves to cause another mother to question herself in such a way when we know how horribly isolating that can make you feel? Don’t we realize how dangerous it is to judge? How quickly that could be you? You never know what the future holds for you or your children be careful of your judgments because it could come back to bite you.

I’ve come to the realization that most of our scrutiny stems from our own feelings of inadequacy. If you are a parent you know that crippling feeling that you are messing up, that you aren’t being the parent you should be. We have all been there. Agonizing over your choice to formula feed rather than breastfeed could have caused inner turmoil. Maybe you raised your voice at your child because he was dilly dallying when you were already late for work or perhaps you rushed through bedtime stories because you just needed some time by yourself. You aren’t alone. We all do things that cause us to feel shame, guilt and like we are failing, even when some of those decisions are right for your family. These feelings wage a war in our hearts, in our souls and when we can’t own our uncertainties we lose the battle and the war spills outward. Our judgment of other mothers become our weapons to defend ourselves, to ease our own tensions.

Once you stop beating yourself up over your decisions it’s much easier to be accepting of other’s differences. I’ve recently been referring often to the conference I attended, Blissdom Canada, where I heard a lot about kindness. Judging someone else for walking their own path is not being kind and it will not ease my mind over the mistakes that I make myself. I have made a promise to myself that I will be as kind as I can possibly be. I will not allow anyone else’s actions impact mine. I will strive every day to be the best person that I can be.

Since becoming a parent I have become much more accepting. We are all walking our own path. What works for me may not work for you and that’s ok. I may even vehemently disagree with you on something yet I still can recognize that does not make me a better parent. I make my decisions based on what is best for my children, what is best for my family. I assume you do the same thing. We are all just trying our best to be the best parent we can be and owning our shortcomings and mistakes actually make us better parents in the end. This is a daunting task we are facing and it is much easier to succeed if we have support. Don’t make that job tougher for someone by kicking them when they are already down. Let’s make a promise to ourselves to try every day to be a kind and supportive person and I bet our journey through motherhood will become even sweeter than it already is.

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My post Blissdom Bliss

I’m sitting here 2 days post-bliss with thoughts, ideas and inspiration running through my mind at warp speed. I’m exhausted. Suffering from a blissdom hangover. Both physically and mentally wiped. I have lists of notes that I want to pour over ignoring the outside world focusing only on this creative fire that’s burning within me. Unfortunately my family will not go for me locking myself away for any long periods of time and as wonderful as my experience was I missed them like crazy, so I’m trying to bask in my kids kisses for now.

I don’t think I could begin to tell you what the best part was for me. The info sessions were beyond anything I ever expected. I was a little iffy going in because I wondered just how much I could actually learn in such a short time. Can I just say that I think what I learned is life changing?

I walked in apprehensive and feeling like maybe I was in over my head. I walked out feeling confident that my dream is absolutely something tangible for me.

More importantly I was inspired. The speakers made me feel things I hadn’t felt in a while. They made me feel passion for what I do. They pushed me to take a risk and recognize that I am capable. While listening to them speak I wondered if I am always being the best person that I can be and I don’t think that I am.

There were moments in each talk that sat with me for many reasons.

One of the biggest eye openers for me was during the talk about social media etiquette and kindness. I realized there are many ways to bully people. They aren’t all obvious and I think without even realizing it I have allowed myself to be bullied. One of my big takeaways is that “Only those who are hurting hurt people”.  I have spent so much time and energy fighting meanness with anger. Let me make it clear that I will no longer do that. I’m putting down the tug of war rope.  I will try my best to fight negativity with kindness. If Glen Canning can do it then I sure as hell can. His story made me weep and opened up my heart. Those who don’t think much of me will longer be my inner voice. Not everyone has to like me or like what I do. What matters is that I’m happy with who I am and what I do.

It’s difficult to pinpoint one singular moment that impacted me in a life altering way because there were just so damned many of them. However, I will single one moment out right now. A line in @schmutzie’s power talk.

 “It is not a failure to be in the middle of your story”

The path I took has led me down many roads. Some were unexpected, some dead ends forcing me to turn around, some were long winding uphill treks, but they have all landed me right here where I am today. I have many more roads to take, many more forks to come to. Those who have made my journey more difficult by trying to dim my star know who they are just as those who have helped light my way do. I’m incredibly grateful for both because they each play their role in my travels and in giving me the motivation to continue on my path.

 I’m simply in the middle of my story and only I have the power to write the end.

Why I’m jealous of the Royal Couple

Unless you’ve been living in a cave you know  all about the Royal Couple and their new little baby. I know it’s silly and they really aren’t more important than any of the other couples that had babies yesterday or any other day but I have been super excited! I must say it is wonderful to follow a nice story rather than all of the tragedy that is going on in the world.

I will admit it. I’m jealous and not for the reasons you think.

I’m jealous because what they are living right now is the best moment of their lives. The moment you first meet your baby. Those first few moments, hours, days when you get to know the little being you created. Oh to be in those moments again.

When I think of it my heart swells with the joy and inexplicable amount of love I felt the first time I saw both my children. It was two very different experiences but they were both equally as glorious. I gasped when I first laid eyes on both my babies. It felt as though my heart was going to beat through my chest, my voice caught in my throat, my eyes filled with tears. I had never before seen anything as beautiful. Their beauty literally stopped my world, if only for a moment. I gasped and when my voice finally escaped I had no words, all I could say was “Oh my God”. I said the same thing both times.

It was two very different experiences. With Mr. T. they didn’t lay him on my chest right away. They whisked him away to the table beside me. They worked on him while I desperately just tried to see him. To meet his eyes. My soul knew that something was wrong. I felt it in my heart. It was an odd feeling. I was in awe at his perfection and amazed that I created him, nurtured him, grew him inside me. At the same time I felt an emptiness. They tore him from my body and took a part of me away. It was the first time in 9 months that our hearts did not beat together. He was only feet away from me but I felt like a part of me was gone. When they finally laid him on my chest I felt whole again and I felt him relax. He was afraid and all alone on that table. Then they placed him naked on my skin and he settled into me as if he was exactly where he was supposed to be. I continued to ignore that tug at my heart that told me something wasn’t right. I ignored it because he seemed so utterly perfect, how could something not be right with this?

I didn’t realize until Ms. J was born how much I missed of those first moments. When Ms. J came out I felt nothing but sheer bliss. She was here and she was perfect. While I was nervous because of my last experience my heart knew there was no trouble with this one. I watched her come out of my body and in one swift movement she went from inside me to laying on top of my chest. I felt her confusion but as I wrapped myself around her and spoke to her quietly I felt her uneasiness fade away. She, in turn, took away my fears and eased my mind. I didn’t want to ever let her go. We stayed there for what seemed like an eternity. The whole world around us faded away. I kissed her, whispered promises to her, I inhaled her scent. There was nowhere else in the world I wanted to be. When they finally brought us into our room, I slept peacefully with her safe beside me. I whispered to Mr. C. “we did it”.

The difference between Ms. J and Mr. T. is that I got to spend the next few days, weeks, months getting to know my princess. I slept with her beside me. I nursed her in the chair in her nursery just as I had planned. There were no wires or incubators blocking me from feeling every inch of her. I bathed her for the first time in our own bathtub. Not in a basin inside an incubator. Her cries woke me from sleep whispering my name “mama I’m hungry” she called. I happily, although sleepily, nursed her in the quiet darkness of her pink nursery. It was our time together. There were no feeding tubes pumping her with my breast milk, she gulped until satisfied and then her little eyes faded back into a milk induced sleep. I couldn’t have been happier.

Don’t get me wrong. I did bond with Mr. T. just in a much different way. We formed our relationship through wires and tubes. Our touch was through the walls of an incubator. We were apart for more than any mother should be from her newborn baby. Yet I could still pick his cry out even in a room full of crying babies. He still grasped on to me and his breathing slowed and relaxed while we rocked. It didn’t matter if we were rocking in a borrowed NICU rocking chair. It just mattered that we were together.

My relationship with my babies has continued to grow and change. The roots settled during those first few moments. They were the best days of my life. Holding a newborn baby has got to be the most magnificent feelings one could ever experience. You never get those moments back. It can pass in a sleep deprived haze and before you know it it’s over. Cherish every moment of it. Don’t miss out on any of it.

My heartfelt congratulations to the Royal Couple. My well wishes to any new parent. It is the most sublime, magical time in your lives. Breathe in every baby powder scented moment and hold them deep in your soul for safe keeping.

The importance of mummy mentors

I think my generation is missing out.

In past generations women got married, had children and stayed connected with each other. They were pregnant together. Had children together and battled the toddler years together.  They had a social network of women going through the same life experiences at the same time.

Things have changed. We all have different lives, different paths to take. While some of us married and/or had children in our younger years, others chose to wait maybe to further their education, travel, focus on their career or hold out for the perfect partner. Some had our children in our early 20’s while many of us are well into our 30’s before it’s even an option. I’ve mentioned that I was the first person in my close social circle to have children. This meant I did not have anyone to pose my questions to. When I felt odd pains in my side I didn’t have anyone to ask if they had felt this before. When my mind raced with worry over the health of my unborn child, keeping me up at night, bringing tears to my eyes at a moments notice I turned to the internet. I had my mother, true and even my mother in law who had successfully survived pregnancy and giving birth. Who were well versed in the whole baby making business and gladly offered their thoughts and reassurances. The only downfall was that the last time they had gone through labour and delivery we were still using rotary phones, cell phones didn’t exist and the men folk waited in hospital waiting rooms smoking cigars, instead of cutting the cord. Time has a funny way of dulling your memory. While I know there are certain aspects of pregnancy that one never forgets, ie: throwing up in a plastic bag in the Go Train parking lot, there are certain memories that cloud over with time. They sit there, somewhere deep inside, and while you may feel them with every beat of your heart your mind doesn’t always remember them as clearly. Things change. Recommendations change. It’s just not the same as discussing with someone who is going through it at the same time or for whom the experience is so recent they can still hear the sound of the Doppler as the Doctor searches for baby’s heartbeat.

I realized early on that this was in fact an important part of motherhood that I didn’t want to miss out on. The need to have someone to relate to didn’t stop at pregnancy. I very quickly began to search out other mothers and I met some wonderful women. Women whom have become my mummy mentors. I am so very lucky to have formed relationships with women from all walks of life. We all have different parenting practices and beliefs, but we are in the same place. We are just a bunch of girls trying to keep our sanity while raising our families to the best of our abilities. We may not always agree and we have different parenting philosophies but I know when I turn to one of them with a question about some change in MR. T’s behavior or a suggestion on how to get Ms. J to sleep in her own bed, they will listen without judgment and give me their honest opinions and heartfelt suggestions. Sometimes the suggestions are life savers other times I need to go back to the drawing board . I must admit it feels wonderful to have people to turn to when I’m worried, frustrated or at the end of my rope. I don’t feel alone. On the flip side when my own mummy mentors come to me searching for advice, experiences or just for an ear to vent to, I love being able to be a mummy mentor to them.

Surrounding yourself with your own circle of mummy mentors is something that I think is an important part of the journey into motherhood. Can you do it on your own? Of course you can! Women have been raising children since the beginning of time. But trust me it’s much easier and even a lot more fun to do it surrounded by others who are in the same boat! If you enter into motherhood being closed-minded and isolating yourself you are doing yourself a disservice. Sharing stories, swapping tricks and just having others who can relate is such a fantastic part of the journey! A deep and heartfelt thank you to each and every one of my mummy mentors, I think you all know who you are. Know that you have made my adventure even better than I could have imagined.

Soccer mum…me???

If it were a movie, it might be called Soccer Mom and I had the starring role.

I sat on the sidelines watching a group of 4 and 5 years olds play their little heart outs. The air was sticky, thick and heavy. Droplets of sweat were already beginning to bead around the nape of my neck as I unfolded my lawn chair and settled down excited to watch my little man play the sport he loves so much.

I knew there were going to be problems when I saw the team we were playing. I have spent the past few games listening to one particular Dad on this opposing team scream and holler at his four-year old boy as if he were trying out for a world cup team. I have cringed as he shouted over the coach and I watched his little boy not know which orders to follow, the coach or his Dad. I knew I was going to have to sit there and listen to this the whole game and hold my tongue as he instructed his son on the best way to beat our team.

My heart went out to the opposing team who were so short of players that they didn’t have anyone to sub in. Ten minutes into the game these little ones were red-faced and sweating but giving it everything they had. I sat cheering on both teams, congratulating whoever was doing a good job.

It started slowly. With the same particular Dad hollering at his kid, instructing him to get the ball, face the net, take it from that guy, do this, do that. It moved on to another Dad going and standing behind the net where his daughter was goal tender. The rules in this particular soccer league are that parents are not allowed to be on the side of the field where the coaches and players sit nor are they allowed behind the net. This, to me, is a logical rule. Mr. C. who is the coach was asking the Dad not to stand behind the net and this seemed to start a vicious attack on my husband and the other team.

I sat quietly, rocking in my chair, talking myself down. I told myself not to get up, not to take it personally and just to ignore it. As the chatter continued my blood pressure began to rise. My heart began to beat faster. This is my husband they are talking about after all. As the people beside me complained loudly I couldn’t hold my tongue any longer. I calmly explained that was the rule of the game, what would happen if every parent stood there helping their kid? It would be chaos and the coach and ref would lose control. It was up to the coach to direct the teammates. This didn’t seem to help because the chatter continued.

Without going into every minute detail let’s just say I didn’t stay totally quiet. I was much quieter than crazy Dad screaming at his son, but I did vocalize my disappointment with these parents attacking a coach; who was giving his time to work with these children, a ref; who was just a preteen kid doing his job, and 10 4 and 5 year olds; who in the end really just wanted to play soccer.

How do I stay calm in these situations? This isn’t going to be the last time my husband is attacked for his decisions as a coach. I will probably have to hear people trash my son and/or daughter during sports games, especially as they get older and it gets more competitive. There must be a technique to this right? A technique to keeping my cool during these heated moments. To be perfectly honest my initial reaction was to jump this guy. To smack his smug little polo shirt framed face. To tell him to sit the f*&#k down and let his little boy enjoy a game. To kick him in the shin as he stood in front of me blocking my view of the game oblivious to anyone but him and his own son. Instead, I tried to rationally explain the rules to an irrational group of people. I tried to remind that this was not a world cup qualifier but little boys and girls who just want to play soccer. When one particular father started bad mouthing my husband I made sure he knew the coaches wife was right behind him.

It was my first experience as a sport parent in general and I honestly don’t know how I’m going to do it. I want my kids to have a positive experience playing sports. Mr. T. is athletic. He loves playing any sport. I am worried about parents making his sporting experience stressful in any way.

I know that watching my kids lose is not always going to be easy but that it’s a part of life. If they give their all I know I can walk away from it proud of their effort. Where I’m going to have a problem is when I feel like my family is being attacked. Today I felt like my family was being attacked and I fought back.

New task to add to my list of parenting challenges: Being a good sports mum.

First year of school, check!

Another huge milestone. First year of school is done and gone!

Where did it go? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was swaddling him in soft fleecy receiving blankets? Wasn’t I just rocking him to sleep, quietly singing lullabies as his little eyes fought the sleep? These memories feel like they were just moments ago.

I walked him to school for his very first day and the first year has flown by! I watched him grow this year into a little boy. Gone is the chubby little baby who overcame such huge obstacles. I said goodbye to the curious and mischievous toddler and I welcomed a real little boy. A little boy who loves to run and jump. Who played basketball at recess with the new friends he made. A little boy who came home excited to tell me how he learned about butterflies. A little boy who occasionally got into some trouble and needed a little reminder that hands are not for hitting.

While I know that this is just his junior year of kindergarten it is so important to me that I pass on my love of school to him. I adored school.  I was one of the strange ones who was sad when the school year ended. I loved classrooms and chalkboards. Those school hallways felt safe to me. I can still hear the sound of lockers banging shut. To this day the smell of a library book makes me smile especially when paired with the crinkly sound of the plastic it comes wrapped in. As an adult I’ve returned to school and I still get the same giddy feeling when walking into an educational institute.

I want Mr. T. to have that same love of school (with the exception of chalkboards since now they have smartboards). I want him to get up on the first day of school excited to meet his new teacher and classmates. I want him to feel at home sitting behind his little desk, pencil in hand eager to learn.

I think I am starting off well as I seem to have passed along my love of reading. Mr. T. can sit for hours reading books with me. He’s learning to read himself and is able to read some of the simpler books on his own. He will snuggle up tight, head on my shoulder, and listen to story after story.

While I do want to pass along my love of education and instill the importance of schooling, my biggest fear is that I will take it too far. I want to encourage both my children to pursue further education but I need to ensure that I support them in following their dreams. I need to be able to pick out their passions and direct them down their own path. I do not want to make their education about my dreams. I don’t want to push them into going down the path that I didn’t take but perhaps wish I did. I want to avoid pushing them into something that I feel might make them the most money or have a lot of perks. They need to understand that doing something they love is what will make them happy in the long run. Following their passion is the beginning of it all, the rest will fall into place. I hope, as they get older, I can remember that money isn’t everything. They will succeed if they are doing something they love. I hope I can look at them and see their strengths as well as their weaknesses and help them get to where they want to be based on that.

It took me a long time to find where my love lied.

It was never a question for me if I would attend a post secondary institute. The question was more what would I take. I didn’t follow my dreams. I took what was expected of me, what I was good at but not necessarily what I loved. I didn’t have the internal strength to be honest about what I wanted. I was afraid. Afraid of failure, afraid of disappointing, afraid I wasn’t good enough. Would I be in a different place if I had pursued my passion for writing from the very beginning? Possibly. To be honest I didn’t even consider writing as a profession then. I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason. Maybe I wasn’t ready at the time. The important thing is that I’ve found it now. I need to continue to work on improving myself and not give it up, if only to show my children that it’s never too late to find your place in the world.

This is just the beginning for Mr. T. I have a feeling he’s destined for greatness. Whatever his greatness is meant to be. I want to encourage him. To support him. One day I will stand at his graduation, teary eyed, cheering him on. Most importantly I want him to know that as long as he’s giving it his best and being true to his own heart I will be one proud mummy.

Lessons from my children

This Mother’s Day has me reflecting on some of the lessons that I’ve learned just a short 5 years into my journey through motherhood. Lessons taught to me not from other mothers, or family members but from my own children.

The list of lessons is longer than I could possibly get into however there have been a few that have stuck with me, impacted me and changed who I am forever.

To appreciate simplicity

I’ve often joked with Mr. C. that he’s a lucky man because I’m not a fancy person. I’m more of a beer and pizza kinda gal than a champagne and caviar lady. While this has always been who I am as a person, my children have made this even more important to me.

Recently I threw a “potty party” for my little Ms. J, to celebrate her potty training success. It was very simple, pizza, cupcakes and family. Mr. T. and I picked out 4 pink balloons to give to Ms. J. as a congratulations. As Ms. J gasped and I saw her little eyes light up with such excitement when Mr. T. passed her the helium filled balloons, it hit me how little it takes to make them happy. 4 pink balloons made her day. I can spend hundreds of dollars on fancy party decorations and catered food or on hiring an entertainer for a party in their honour but at the end of the day a cupcake, a balloon and their family/friends will make them just as happy.

Children are simple. They want hugs and kisses, cuddles and love. They want you to play with them, read to them, make time for them. They don’t care about a big house or a fancy party. THey don’t care what kind of car you drive or how many zero’s are on your pay cheque. It matters more to them that you are there. That you eat dinner with them every day and put them to bed with snuggles every night. You can spend thousands of dollars taking them on fancy trips but they will love you just as much if you giggle with them on the swing at the local park.

To be consumed or impressed with the fancy cars, expensive clothes and big houses is something that is learned. It is now how one is born. I don’t ever want my children to lose that appreciation of the simple joys in life. I watch them marvel in watching a bunny in the backyard, get excited over a movie night in our basement with microwave popcorn or see their eyes light up from a simple balloon and I realize just how important the simple things really are.

A lesson in patience

I am not the most patient person around. I hate waiting in lines. When I ask for something to be done I expect it to be done right away. I want what I want when I want it. This is not something that I didn’t know about myself. HOWEVER, I did not realize just how important patience was until these two tiny creatures entered my life. It started from day one, I had to be patient while Mr. T. fought his health battle. Hour turned into hour, day turned into day and week turned into week. There was nothing I could do except sit beside his little incubator and cheer him on. Many a time did I want to just pick him up and take him home. I wanted to scream at nurses and kick doctors. MAKE HIM BETTER NOW! That’s not how it worked. It took time, but we made it there. My first lesson in patience.

They don’t sleep when you want them to sleep. They don’t eat when you want them to eat. It never fails that a diaper needs to be changed right when you are walking out of the house or as they get older you hear “mummy I have to poo” after spending 20 minutes getting on snowsuits in the middle of winter.

Crayons on the wall, spilled milk, poo in the bath it all takes patience. A great deal of patience. I’ve cried, I’ve begged, I’ve even given myself a time out in the bathroom as two sets of eyes stare in disbelief wondering if they’ve finally made mummy crack. Perhaps this is a lesson in progress but it’s a lesson I have to put in practice. If I’m always impatient I’m going to raise kids who are impatient and anxious. I’m learning to take my time. To try not to rush through everything. To know that if we are 5 minutes late no one is going to die. I try not to cry over spilled milk or apple juice. I take a lot of deep breaths and every now and then a mummy time out is the only solution!

The importance of me

My kids come first. That’s easy. Their needs supercede anything and everything. Then comes my husband, then work, then the house, then extended family and so on and so on and so on. I’m overwhelmed. As are most mothers in today’s world. IT’s easy to forget about me. I’ve skipped meals because there is so much to be done. I”ve missed family functions because of sick children. I rarely get 8 hours of sleep and have eaten pasta every day for a week because that’s the only thing they’ll eat. I’ve even avoided bathroom breaks because guaranteed the second I walk into that room in the house all hell breaks loose elsewhere.

If I don’t take time for myself I will crumble. My seams slowly start to crack and I can’t give my best to anything or anybody. So I take time for myself. I write because I love it, because it allows me to vent without feeling guilty, because I can find comfort in other mother’s who are walking similar paths. I admit when I’ve met my limit. I try my best not to feel guilty about it. When I start to feel like a bad mother for not having anything left in that particular moment I think of how much better I do at this whole motherhood thing when I’m relaxed instead of anxious and stressed.

I acknowledge that I matter and that I am important and I make sure to do something just for me once in a while. That may be an evening spent on the couch writing. It may be an afternoon getting my hair done. Sometimes it’s even getting up at 5am for an early morning run on the treadmill in the basement of a quiet house. Whatever it is, I make sure that I make some time for me and ask for some help when I need it. I’m a better mother because of it.

Even the best laid out plans are made to be broken

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m a planner. I schedule and plan almost my entire life. I know that if I want to be at work at 8am and that if I have to drop the kids off at daycare then I need to leave the house no later than 7:12. . Ask any parent and they will attest, children don’t understand the meaning of plans. They don’t know that you have to leave the house by exactly 7:12 if you don’t want to be late for work so they can’t comprehend why you are getting so frustrated that they are taking their sweet time putting on their shoes.

More than just planning my life, I actually have ideas in my mind of how things are going to work out. When they don’t work out the way I had envisioned I can become quite discombobulated. This lesson was taught to me early on. Within 24 hours of having my first child actually. I had an image of what having a baby was going to be like before children actually entered my life. I remember when I was pregnant, imagining myself in a hospital room with my baby beside me sleeping peacefully in a bassinet. I envisioned leaving the hospital with my precious bundle snug in the back of the car.  I imagined a chubby screaming baby. Never in a million years did I think it was possible that my child would be born barely able to cry. It didn’t cross my mind that before his second day of life my child would be rushed by ambulance to Sick Kids or that by day three he’d be in an operating room fighting for his life. Yet that’s the path that we were destined to walk. It may not be exactly as I had expected but it’s made us stronger and given us a tighter bond as a family.

Kids are unpredictable. I’ve learned to go with the flow. To try not to be so concerned when things don’t go exactly according to plans. Sometimes those change in plans actually lead you down an even more beautiful path. Maybe my plans for dinner are curtailed by heavy traffic so instead we decide on a pizza picnic style in the basement while watching a movie. Maybe my busy work day has to be put on hold because a child is sick and rather than dealing with work stress I get sick baby couch cuddles (sometimes those are the best kind of cuddles).

Let’s face it, my personality is to plan. I will always be a planner. My children, however, have taught me that there are times when plans are made to be broken.

How to have fun

Since having kids fun has changed. They have taught me to enjoy a run through the splash pad on a hot summers day. How giggling under the covers before bed is the best way to end a day and waking up to snuggles is my favourite way to start the weekend, even if it isn’t yet 7am.

Fun doesn’t have to involve spending a lot of money or even leaving the house. We can make fun out of anything and everything. I haven’t had fun like this since I was a kid myself. I know it won’t be long before they don’t want to play with me anymore. Until that day comes I am going to continue to have tea parties dressed in princess clothes and race on the Wii over and over until my arm feels like it’s going to fall off. I will dance like no one is watching  just to hear my babies giggle and I will watch Brave for the umpteenth time because they want to. I will have fun with them!

That I am capable

I haven’t always been the most confident person. I have often doubted myself and wondered if I could have made a better decision. In fact, I’ve often turned to others for reassurance that I am making right decisions.

I am now the one who needs to offer the reassurances. My kids turn to me and if I’m unsure of myself they can sense it. They almost have a sixth sense. So I have to be sure or at least appear sure even if I’m not. I’ve learned to trust my instincts. I learned that I actually know what I’m doing.

One of my great fears was all of us getting sick at once. Specifically, all of us getting a tummy bug at the same time. Last week it happened. It was one day after the next. I had it, Ms. J got it, Mr. C got it and lastly Mr. T. got it. Mr C. was not functional for a week. I barely had time to recuperate before I was helping a two year old deal with her first major bout of vomiting. I was terrified. Guess what??? We survived! Yay! I did it. The child vomit was mostly assigned to me and I survived!

I am capable. After the tough start we had with Mr. T. I know that I can face pretty much anything that motherhood throws at me. I don’t have all the answers but if I’m honest, I think I’m doing a pretty good job at this whole mummy business.

The true meaning of unconditional love

I am perfectly aware of how cliché this sounds but I’m going to say it anyways. I have never felt love like this before. They have peed, pooped and vomited on me. They’ve punched me, kicked me, and torn my cornea! They wake me up at 6 am on a Saturday jumping on me demanding waffles and cartoons. Sometimes after a long day all I want is to veg on the couch yet I lay beside them in bed tickling them until their breath slows into a steady rhythm. Their little bodies soften and I feel their warmth leaning into me and I know they feel loved and safe. What they don’t know is that I feel loved and safe too. They are needy. What they don’t know is that I need them so much more than they need me.

Sometimes, when they do things they aren’t supposed to do, and they are getting in trouble I can see fear in their eyes. I have come to realize it isn’t always about my reaction or about getting in trouble. They are afraid of disappointing me, especially Mr. T, he doesn’t want to disappoint. I can not imagine one single thing he or Ms. J can do to make me stop loving them. My love for them is pure. I love until my heart aches. Their pain is my pain,their disappointment is my disappointment and their happiness is my happiness. I’ve always been emotional but thinking of them can literally bring me to tears. I miss them when I’m away from them for even an hour. For the first time ever I love truly unconditionally. They can do anything, need anything and demand anything and I love them. I make sure to let them know that every chance I get.

I entered motherhood thinking that I was going to teach my kids all these things. I would teach them to talk, to walk, to ride a bike and to read a book. I would teach them lessons in life such as respect your elders, nothing that is worth anything comes easy, always give your all then you have nothing to be ashamed of. I never realized the lessons they would teach me. I haven’t come close to listing everything they have taught me and I know I have not even touched on the lessons they have yet to put forth.

This whole journey is one long life lesson and it makes me a better person every single day.

Adventures with Mr. T.

He’s starting to ask questions. Our adventures to Sick Kids aren’t just him trailing along for the ride, waiting for the treats and surprises, dealing with the unpleasantness in stride. He’s remembering. He remembers last time he was here he had to have needles, blood drawn, tests that hurt him. This time, the entire drive, he asks “no needles this time right Mummy?” “No needles this time Mr. T.” I assure him.

He makes me proud. He smiles at the child in the wheelchair, he says hello to the bald child pushing the IV around, he doesn’t even flinch at the severely disfigured child in the elevator as they both peer out the window marvelling at how high they are going. He makes me proud.

We sit in the exam room waiting for the Doctor with the results of his xrays. The xrays we just had done down the hall. We play I spy. We tell stories, each of us taking turns telling one line of the story at a time. An hour goes by. I let him play with my phone and he teaches me the game on his leap pad.  Another hour goes by. He’s tired and bored. He lays on my lap and asks me to tickle his back. I don’t know when it happened but at some point his body has turned into the body of a little boy. No longer the chubby little baby or even toddler that fit quite snugly into my lap, his gangly legs now hang over the side while he tries to figure out what to do with his torso, eventually settling with arms around my neck as I rub his back. I’m in heaven as these moments don’t happen as often as they did when he was that chubby little baby. As the third hour approaches the first doctor comes in. She asks us questions, tells us things look good, assure us she’ll be back with the other doctor. The next doctor comes in, examines Mr. T. Again, I’m proud. He does as he’s asked. With no sign of fear. The doctor speaks to the intern. Showing her; “see minimal change, which is good” he says. I smile and breathe a little sigh of relief. He looks at me and says the same but then adds “there is quite a good chance he will need surgery again in the future” My ears ring, as though I’ve been slapped in the side of the head. My head spins as I watch his mouth moving but barely hear the words coming out of his mouth. I hear “we can’t know yet” “‘everything as is for now” but I’m stuck on “surgery in the future”.

We get up and I thank the wonderful doctors.  With an awkward smile on my face we shake hands. Mr. T gives them a high five.

As is our routine, we go for lunch, Mr. T. opting for a cheese bagel and cream cheese and a fruit smoothie. We chat. He asks questions. “What room was I in Mummy?” “That room right up there” I say pointing at that 3rd floor window that was my home for countless hours. “And I was very brave when I was a baby in that room wasn’t I Mummy?” “You were one of the bravest boys I ever knew” I respond watching the smile spread across his face.

As we eat I remember those hours spent in that room. I remember each night I had to leave him there and how horrible I felt doing it. I watch his little face oblivious to my memories or my fears for his future. I realize something sitting at that table. That every moment of those first 6 weeks of his life has shaped every decision I have made since where he’s concerned. Mr. T. is four and a half years old and has never slept anywhere without us. Not that there hasn’t been offers, the grandparents would love to have him. Mr. T. and Ms. J. just haven’t seemed to want to. What I realized sitting there in that hospital looking up at that room, is that I’m ok with that. After the pain that I felt leaving Mr. T. in that hospital every evening, my heart tells me his place at night is with us. Sometimes I would like to sleep in past 7:30am but it’s a sacrifice I agreed to make when I had children. If the time comes and either of them want to have a sleepover I will have a decision to make. Until then I will snuggle them goodnight every night that I have with them. For all those weeks I had no choice but to leave him all alone, and go home feeling an emptiness inside. If I don’t have to do that now why push it?

For now I hang on to each second of this beautiful ride. It’s flying by. Gone is my baby. He’s been replaced by this incredibly strong, intelligent, beautiful little boy and is morphing, as we speak, into a young man. What the future holds I don’t know. My heart wonders how I will get through another surgery but if that’s the path we are meant to take we will get through it together. He is strong and he makes me stronger.

Until we get there we will continue our adventures and I will answer his questions. “Which Doctor saved me Mummy?” “Dr. C. and she was amazing” I say. As his questions grow more complex so will my memories. They will intertwine with each other retelling him his own tale. Together we will put together the pieces of his puzzle.

Learning to accept myself;the good, the bad and the ugly

I recently blogged about seeing my own flaws through my children, more specifically Mr. T. who is so much like me it’s scary. Thinking through that post, writing it and now re-reading it has caused to think about my flaws from another perspective. I am finally beginning to not only accept my flaws but to be ok with the world knowing what they are. I am beginning to lose the need to be perfect all the time. I haven’t quite figured out if this is another side effect of having children or if it’s just a normal part of getting older, perhaps it’s a little of both?

I’ve spent much of my life focusing on my flaws in some way or another. From analyzing them, obsessing about them or trying to hide them, my weak points have been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. While I think this is probably quite a common by product of ‘growing up’, I really do think that seeing my failings reflected through Mr T is helping me to accept myself for who I am.

When I look at Mr. T, I don’t automatically focus on his weaknesses. I am aware of them and I do see them when they rear their ugly heads but I don’t think any less of him because of them. I kind of look at these parts of his personality and think so what? They are a side bar to his positives.

For every part of him that isn’t at it’s strongest he has multiple wonderful traits. He whines, true, but he is also extremely caring and generous. He will not think twice about sharing anything and everything he has and he always thinks of others. He is emotional which can be so trying at times but his passion transcends to everything he does. He loves with every breath he takes and he makes sure you always know just how much he loves you, never shying away from showing his affection.

Examining Mr T, and seeing myself in him, made me realize that if I am perfectly aware of his flaws yet I adore him with everything that I am then why am I so concerned with other people seeing my own failings??? Those who truly love me will not stop loving me because I’m not perfect and those who can’t accept my weaknesses will just have to move on.

I am not perfect. There I admit it. There are so many things about me that are so very far from perfect. Who cares?  Yes I am sensitive. My feelings get hurt easily and sometimes I will lash out because of that. I am a bit short tempered and have been known to get quite snippy and sarcastic. Sometimes my anxities can cause me to say and do the absolute wrong thing in certain situations and I spend alot of time trying to get people to think I am without flaw. I have too many shortcomings to even begin to list.

To that I say oh well!

Just as with Mr. T. for every fault you will find a positive.

As I get older I realize that perfection does not exist and I have wasted enough time struggling to try and achieve the unachievable. I am who I am. You gotta take the good with the bad. I’m am learning that the complexities of our imperfections mixed in with our accomplishments is what makes us beautiful, what makes us interesting, what makes us human.

I don’t want my children to beat themselves down for having faults. My hope is to teach them to own who they are blemishes and all. I want them to know that their downfalls will not define them, they will in fact make them even stronger. To try and learn from their mistakes, build on who they are and be the best that they can be, is a lesson I want to impart from early on. I will always love them and anyone worth anything will not allow the imperfections to blind them and miss out on their beauty.

 

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