Ever have one of those days where you majorly question your skills as a parent? Where you ask yourself things like, Do they learn ANYTHING I’m teaching them? Do they have ANY manners whatsoever? Am I a total pushover? Am I too hard on them? Why am I being such a cow? WHY WON’T THEY LISTEN? Why is he kicking me in the face?!
You have? Great. I had one of those days last week.
After my ‘one of those days’ days, I put my two boys to bed and flopped on the couch with a big sigh. I envisioned myself clocking out of a hard day at the ole job site, wiping the sweat off my brow, ready for a cold one with the Mister, leaving all my work problems with the setting sun.
Alas, the job of Parenting is not like the job site.
One of them got out of bed (again) and asked for a drink (again). Then the oldest one got up (again). Except this time he said, “Mom, I brought home some jewels for you…they’re in my backpack. I mean, they’re not real jewels, but I brought them for you.”
“Um…okay Finn. Thanks, Love. Goodnight.”
Then he went back to bed, this time for good.
Curious, I got up, checked his bag. I didn’t find anything but a soggy student planner, from when he left his backpack at the playground at school and it rained that night. I put it on the counter to dry out, and I went back to my spot on the couch.
Except there was this nagging feeling in the back of my head telling me that I had to check his bag again. So I did. In the tiny front pocket was a folded up brown paper towel. I put it on the carpet at my feet and unfolded it.
There sat a pile of sparkling, faceted, plastic sequins. Every colour of the rainbow.
I started to bawl. Like, lips curled, puffy pink eyes, ugly cry.
While at school, doing some art thing first graders do, he saw these”jewels”, and thought of me. All the frustration and temple-rubbing I did that day sloughed off. I was then reminded of when Jesus rubbed mud in the blind man’s eyes and the scales fell off, and he could finally see. For me this was a holy moment – like God saying, “See? He really does love you. He sees you.”
I am going to keep these sequins forever, brown paper napkin and all. Next time I feel like an invisible parent, I will pull these sparkling plastic jewels out, and remember that I am loved and seen by the ones I love and see the most.
Recently, there was a story in my city about a woman that was sexually assaulted while at work. She was a real estate agent who was at an open house by herself, and a man came in and took advantage of her. Thankfully, she was able to fight off her attacker, but I can only imagine the lingering scars she will have to live through for some time.
Sadly, this is not the first instance.
Or the last. I wrote that paragraph a few weeks ago. Since then, there have been more news headlines of women being attacked, beaten by their partners, raped, murdered.
I find myself asking, almost weekly: Why?
Why can’t a woman go to work, or take her kids to the park, or go to a party, or go for a run while listening to music, or walk to her car, or enjoy a walk through a forest, or ride the bus, without looking over her shoulder? Why can’t a woman go to bed without wondering how she would fight off an attacker, should one break in while she is sleeping? Why should women walk to their car with their house keys poking through their fist as a makeshift weapon?
Why should women be taught to be the ones on alert like it’s a sixth sense?
How do we change this? I don’t want to claim to have all the answers, but I might have some ideas. Ready? Here goes:
Let’s teach our little ones, especially our boys, how to really treat a woman.
How is that? Easy: like a human.
Let’s continue to tell them, and show them, that girls have worth. That they are not mere playthings or property. Let’s show them that women are partners and equals. Yes, let’s teach them to open doors for ladies, stick up for, and never hit, girls. (Aren’t those also ways we would like them to treat everyone though?)
I believe we also need to teach our little ones that they are not simply entitled to everything they want. Cause you know what? Sometimes you can’t have it. That includes our fellow human beings.
I don’t know – my kids are just 6 and 3 at the moment. My mind is at the place of what I can teach them now, today, in this moment, that just might make a difference for when they become young men. Because, when they are men, teaching them then will be too late. Right now, that includes the following:
If our sons tell my husband or me to stop tickling them, we stop.
If they tell us they don’t want to talk right now, we wait until they’re ready.
If they tell us they don’t want a hug or kiss, we don’t force them to receive it from us.
Sometimes, we tell them no, because the world will not always say yes to them.
(Hey, I know we are not perfect parents. Life is a series of trial, errors, and sorry’s. We are trying our best and learning as we go)
Years ago, I read an article written by Trisha Baptie on SheLoves Magazine. In it, she writes of how she teaches her son to see the world from a woman’s perspective.
As I read the article, I had some ‘me too’ moments as I thought back to the times (as a teenager) I had been humiliatingly catcalled, whistled at, or honked at, from passing cars or porches as I walked down streets. The times I was leered at by male passersby, or simply stared at as I walked passed a crowd of guys. These instances made me feel uncomfortable, unsafe, and vulnerable. This is merely a Lite version of what some women and girls experience and feel.
“May my son be a man who lives life profoundly aware of the space he takes up in the world and what he can do to make women feel safer in it.” -Trisha Baptie
That right there is my prayer. I pray that my sons grow up aware of how women feel, of what their world looks like; that it is not always the same world they live in.
And, in turn, if one day my sons have sons of their own, they will teach them these same things.
And if some day my grandchildren have sons, they will teach them, too.
Typically, December 1 is the day that Christmas begins in our house. Decorations, holiday tunes and movies, Pot of Gold chocolates, and Bailey’s over ice. I always love this day: It’s the set up, togetherness with family, and the anticipation of the days to come. The hauling out of cold rubber bins from the garage, the sifting through items that have sat waiting in the darkness for their time to shine for an entire year. We pull out the ornaments and reminisce about them – who the giver was or how old we were when we received them.
My husband untangles the lights we are to hang outdoors that frame our garage, and he ventures out in the coldness and frost and ice, our little ones supervising his efforts. And when it’s all done and set up, our dark living room bathing in a soft creamy light, the babes sleeping upstairs, we sit back and smile with a warmth that is set apart for this season. You know the one. It’s a feeling that we have a hard time putting a name to, but one that many of us just know.
For me, despite all this goodness, the season can often feel like one big roller coaster. Not the entire ride, just the part when your car is slowly climbing up, up, up, then in one second and one big rush you’re propelled down at lightning speed, and you’re smiling and laughing through the thrill and excitement.
Then all of a sudden, it’s over.
It’s time to get off and carry on with your day. After the holiday is done, and we are standing in a mess of wrapping and tissue paper, toys and boxes, we come awash in a kind of sadness that The Event is over. Do you? Maybe it’s just me.
I think that perhaps, we get this feeling because we focus so much on the things of the holiday. It’s so easy to treat it like an event or show. At least, that’s what it feels like for me. When I am focussing too much on what to buy for whom, when I’m rushing around the sales and stressing out that I may be going over our budget then the dryer breaks and needs repair (true story), when I worry that the gifts that my husband and I chose for our sons and each other won’t be good enough, and when I feel myself being embarrassed that my house doesn’t look like a Pinterest-worthy winter wonderland, I feel the build up is getting too high and I sense it will come crashing down.
It’s then that I feel a tap on my shoulder. A tap that when I turn around, reminds me that gifts and stuffed, overflowing stockings aren’t what this holiday is about. They’re absolutely fun to give and receive, but it’s not the goal. Feel me?
A couple weeks ago I was perusing Psalm 119 in the Bible. Not a Christmas themed passage by any stretch, but one of my favourites. When I got to these verses, I knew they had be my Christmas mantra; my prayer and my goal:
Give me a bent for your words of wisdom and not for piling up loot. Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets, invigorate me on the pilgrim way.
Psalm 119:34-35 (MSG)
This verse is taped on the wall in my kitchen, below the clock where I can see it constantly. I have written it over and over so I can memorise it, and it is currently the wallpaper on my phone. I want it to be dark indigo dye, soaked in to the white fabric of my being.
Divert my eyes, Lord, from the rush and stress, from the surface things, from the selfish things that masquerade as selfless. Open my eyes to these things. Help me to keep my eyes focused on the things that count and the things that will be ever lasting. Help me to see the needs of others, those that struggle during this time that is supposed to be joyful. Help me, Lord, to give and to receive with a heart of thankfulness.
Question: How do you keep yourself focused on the things that matter during the Christmas season? What are the things that matter to you?
It is Remembrance Day today and I didn’t want the day to go by without adding my voice to honour soldiers and military members, both past and present. I am confident that all of us have someone that has served in the military, and to me that seems incredible. All of us have been touched some way or another by another’s selfless sacrifice.
For my family, we honour Cpl. Richard Pocha. He was my great grandfather, and he served as a Sapper in World War 2. He never talked about his experiences overseas, the day he stormed on the beaches of Normandy. The more images I see of these events, I understand why. I will always remember his love though.
I will always remember him as a happy man, always greeting with a smile. But what did he think of when no one was looking? When he went to sleep at night?
Each Remembrance Day, I post this same photo of my great grandfather. Sometimes the thought crosses my mind that it may be getting repetitive – but then I think no. That is what Remembrance Day is for – to remember, to preserve their memory, and to honour their bravery and sacrifice. So I will continue to do this each year, to share his photo. I hope my sons will do this each year too. I hope this photo and his name will be remembered forever.
I love how kids don’t give a rip what people think.
The fact people might look at them or remotely care what they do does not register in their little toddler brains.
They don’t fear sideways looks from other people, even when we secretly kinda sorta wouldn’t mind if they gave it maybe a second thought; for instance, when you’re at the mall and he decides that the ground in the parking lot is a great place to lay down and lick the asphalt (see #3). I mean, sure, who hasn’t wondered what something that hundreds of people walk on every single day with questionable materials attached to the bottom of their shoes tasted like? Well, this particular toddler knows.
Below are five places my youngest kid has laid down in. I want you to know that these are just five of the places he’s done this – there are many more that have gone undocumented.
1. The dollar store
2. The grocery store
3. The mall parking lot (steps 1 and 2)
4. The craft store
(He was “playing cars in the basket”, apparently)
5. In the dirt
Sure, this one isn’t a public place, but he does it all. the. time.
Question: Where have your kids just laid down without a care in the world? Did you do this when you were a kid?
Have you ever been served such a large helping of humble pie, you thought you might have to eat the whole bakery?
Let’s think back to high school for sec. You know, the period of life in which the bulk of your most humbling experiences occur?
Do you recall the kid that every one made fun of, teased, or just generally was called names because that’s “just what everyone did”? The one that could never do anything right to save his life? I remember that guy. For the sake of privacy and whatnot, we will call him Paul.
My heart seriously went out to Paul. He was generally kind and decent, and I did my best to be kind and decent to him in return. But, there were some other people that were pretty horrible to him, calling him the worst names in the book and at times physically pushing him around.
Not long after we graduated, and everyone went their separate ways, I was working at a cafe. At the time, my mom was cleaning houses for a company. One day, she picked me up from work and said she needed some help with this one place, that it wouldn’t take long and she would pay me. As a teenager always in want or need of cash, I of course obliged.
As we drove and chatted, she mentioned that the lady who’s house we were about to clean said her son went to school with me. Upon asking who it might be, my mom replied, “I think his name is Paul?”
My eyes widened. Paul. “Paul Smith?”
I went kind of quiet. I was going to Paul’s house to dust the shelves his trinkets sat on and to Windex the mirrors he looked in; to wash the floors his feet walked on.
I will never forget entering Paul’s house, removing my shoes like it was holy ground. That day, perhaps it was.
I saw his kitchen table, and the couch in his living room. I saw the place he shared meals with his family and where he watched TV. I saw the photos that lined the hallways; pictures of him hugging his mom and dad, pictures of him laughing with his sister. He had a home filled with love.
I will never forget thinking of the fact that this was his sanctuary from the adversity he walked in every day at school. I wondered if he had felt relief when he entered the doors and threw his back pack down. Was he glad high school was in the past now? If I were him, I probably would be.
After we were done cleaning the house, my mom locked the door and we got back in the car. I closed my eyes, pretending I was tired. I was actually praying, thanking God that I offered a hand or word of kindness to Paul as often as I could. Let’s face it though – there were likely times I hurt him too. I wasn’t, and am not, perfect.
That day, it was like God had to physically bring me to this house and show me where this person came from. Where he ate, where he slept. Where he brushed his teeth, where he sat down to eat with his family.
So often we just see a person in one single environment. It’s easy to see people as a stereotype – the geek, the loser, the nerd, the jock, the bad girl, the prude – and treat them as such. But, as they say, even a dead fish can go with the flow. Maybe we need to swim against the current a bit more. Maybe we need to go against how we are expected to treat some people.
Guess what? This is not just the stuff of teenagers – there are people in our world as adults, at our workplaces, in our families, in our coffee shops, in our circles, in our churches, that are in need of a little more compassion and thought.
So how about it, friends? Let’s all have a piece of that humble pie. Let us show more compassion, more love, more understanding. Open a door, look in their eyes, say hello. Smile. Share. Offer. Invite.
Have you ever thought of how hilarious we adults are when it comes to babies and kids? For this week’s Five on Friday, I give you five things parents do to their children that would be creepy if done to adults:
1. Taking a long, deep whiff of baby’s head with their eyes closed
We all love the smell of a baby’s head. But picture yourself doing that to the person in front of you at Starbucks? “Excuse me sir, but your shampoo is just…delicious. Mmmmm….”
2. Sneaking in to the child’s room at night and whispering ‘I love you’ in their ear, then staring at them while grinning for a bit
We have all done this. I still do it and probably will continue until my sons move out. Which may or may not be the reason why they would move. However, picture yourself waking up at three in the morning with someone staring at you, a streak of moonlight resting gently across their eyes…
3. Telling the baby, “I just want to eat your face” (see also toes, cheeks)
I dare you to try this to a stranger. Actually I don’t, because you would probably get arrested.
4. Putting their nose up to baby’s bum for the purpose of smelling for poop
This would make a terrific party game at your next holiday bash! Admittedly, sometimes this needs to be done for the greater good; often when there are a bunch of diaper-clad little humans in a large group. There will always come the time when the Dreaded Aroma makes an appearance and each parent will have to bend down and take a whiff at their baby’s behinds to see if they won this cruel lottery.
5. Rejoicing when they poop on the toilet, then doling out rewards thereafter
Yay! You did, babe! Your 342,938th poo poo on the potty! Let’s go for ice cream!
Some of you may know (and if you don’t, now you do!) October 15 is Infant & Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day. For a while I have been wanting to share my own story of pregnancy loss, in hopes that it will speak to someone that has gone through the same or similar situation, and what better time than now?
Before I had a miscarriage, I didn’t think much of it. I had a few friends that had gone through it at various stages, and my heart absolutely ached for them, and yet it still seemed so far off. It was so foreign to me. It felt like I was reading a newspaper article: I read it and sympathized, then when it was all done, life went on. They got over it. Maybe they got pregnant again and started, or continued, building their family. Miscarriage to me was like a speed bump – you slowed down for a second, then kept driving.
Then it happened to me.
It happened to me, to us, and my perspective completely changed. It wasn’t like a speed bump – it was like crashing head-on in to a brick wall. I survived, but emerging from it took a lot of work, support, and help. It didn’t happen in days, a week, or a month. I didn’t “get over” it, but I got through it. I found peace through my friendship with God, and my reliance on him. I clung to the life-giving words in his Book. I bawled. I grieved. For months.
For a long time, I even questioned if I had the right to grieve. I wasn’t that far along in my pregnancy, and the baby didn’t even look like a baby. I wasn’t sure if I could share the same air with my friends that I felt had suffered more, so I hesitated. I brushed off what I felt. I edited my feelings and what I told people when they asked how I was doing. I told them I was “okay”, gave them a half smile and changed the subject. Truthfully, while I felt a strange peace, I also was hurting. So much.
Dear friend, if you are reading this and you feel or have felt the same way, I want to tell you: your grief matters. My grief mattered, and so does yours. There will always be someone that goes through more, loses more, or seems worse off. But loss is still loss, it is a wide spectrum, and we all fall somewhere on it. But we’re all on it.
One day, a while after it happened, I had an urge to write about it. I had not written anything in a long while, perhaps years. But I sat down at our computer, fingers poised on the keyboard, and the words spilled out like I knocked over a glass of milk. After I felt it was done, I felt like the burden was a little less, and the open wound started to scab over.
I had a hard time coming up with a title for it, and I settled on Your Story, as I felt it was my only gift I would ever be able to give that baby.
So, here it is: Your Story.
How should I begin your story? Perhaps in the way you made your way in to our lives: abruptly, with no introduction. On one single day, in the matter of seconds, our lives turned another page and began the next chapter.
On that cold January morning, I sat there with my snowflake-print pyjama pants pooled around my ankles, still half asleep, and waited for this little plastic stick to reveal a mathematic symbol: A ‘plus’ would indicate an addition to our life and my body; a ‘minus’ would mean no change. I carefully placed the stick on the counter and gathered myself, washed my hands, trying so earnestly not to steal a look that would prematurely give me my answer.
I dried my hands. I closed my eyes for a moment, took a breath. Held it. Picked it up. A plus. The addition that would equal the source of the joy, and the change we wanted and longed for.
From that moment, we began to prepare for your arrival. We bought soothers, tiny onesies, and began poring through gigantic baby name books to find a name suitable for you. Dad and I threw around many suggestions, many vetoed by one another. The one name we both liked equally was Charles, and although nothing yet was decided, in my heart you already were our little Charlie. Even in those dawn hours of pregnancy, I felt you were a boy. A spirited, lovable, curious boy that would grow up to be a strong, loving man, full of integrity. I dreamed for your life.
Weeks wore on and we began to tell those close to us of your presence in our world. Everyone was in love with you already. My belly slowly began to swell and soon enough, I was trying to find creative ways to hide the evidence of you: flowy tops, baggy t-shirts, leggings, and long coats. I felt that, even though no one could tell, I had a sign around my neck that said, PREGNANT!
Maybe it was the smile I couldn’t wipe off my face.
One day in February it was raining very hard. It was Valentine’s Day. The wipers on our car could barely keep up with the sheets of water dancing around on the windshield. I had an appointment with a doctor to listen to your heartbeat and see how you were going in there, your little home. My heart could hardly contain the excitement of listening to the proof of what we had been expecting.
When I arrived, I laid myself down on the table, butcher paper crinkling beneath my body with each move. The technician put that familiar warm goo on my belly and began to search around on my stomach with the Doppler.
I could hear the sound, like the ocean inside a shell. I waited. I waited a bit more.
I looked at the technician, a furrow in his brow. Then he asked me the most bizarre question that caught me off-guard: Are you sure you’re pregnant?
What? Of course I was sure…how could anyone mistake that? I thought back to January, the plastic stick: the sign of addition. Then later, the nausea. And of course, my little growing belly. Is it possible I imagined it all? Could I have dreamt it?
I turned to I look at the screen that showed the inside of my womb: darkness. Shadows. Empty and hallow, like the shell. The technician saw the obvious confusion in my face and told me not to worry too much. Maybe it was too early to hear anything, or maybe I got my dates wrong. I would need further examination, just to be on the safe side. But his question burdened me.
In the next examination room, I laid down on a second strip of butcher paper, again crinkling beneath my nervous shifting. A new technician bustled her way in. As she continued her exam I propped my head on the back of my arm, eyes focused on the wall beside me.
I counted the chips in the wall and read the flyers hastily taped to it. I listened to the quiet hum of the lights and machines. I tried to be somewhere else.
Still, the sound of a vast, wide, lonely ocean in this tiny little shell filled the sterile room. I felt stranded on that ocean, my raft dismantling beneath me.
After hinting at what the previous technician had suspected, that you were gone, she asked me if I wanted to see what was on the screen. I think she expected me to say no, to decline the chance of further heartache. But I had to see you. You were worth the risk of it all.
She turned the screen to face me, and there you were: A tiny little circle, attached to my womb. Clinging to me.
The days that followed were full of silent waiting, and quiet pain. Waiting, because I didn’t know what was next, and there is always pain in waiting. We tried to carry on with our day to day tasks: caring for your brother, making dinner, going grocery shopping. All the while, there was the Cloud of Unknown hovering above me, following my every single move.
Then one day, it was time.
We came home from church and a dull ache began in my belly. Later that day, in the twilight of the evening and when the people of the world were preparing to sit down to dinner and share in a meal, you left me. The pain in my body and the pain in my heart were that of the same, but I was never angry. Not at you, not at God, or even myself. I don’t even know if it was or wasn’t meant to be…it just was. And you just were. And to me, you still are and forever will be.
After a little while, when I was able to think of you and not cry an ocean, I looked up the meaning of the name we chose for you: Charles. It means full grown, a man. I had to catch my breath when I read that. That’s when I knew: you had a name. You would forever be Charlie to me. Even though in this life you only grew to be the form of a beautiful unending little circle, in my mind and in my heart you are my full grown little man.
Question: Have you experienced a miscarriage? What helped you get through it?
As a kid, I was raised on classic 80’s and 90’s music. My parents listened to Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, U2, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac…you get the idea. I loved listening to that music with them. Saturdays spent with the stereo cranked and dancing = bliss.
Then there were tunes that I loved listening to that made me cry laughing, because as you know, six year olds love to laugh at silly crap. (I don’t think my parents shared my enthusiasm though.)
Here is my list of five 80’s and 90’s songs I thought I would die of laughter for this week’s Five on Friday:
1. Eat It by Weird Al Yankovic
Weird Al, you guys. I could have listed so many other songs (Like a Surgeon! Amish Paradise!), but this one is at the top for me. I think almost every child in the 80’s and 90’s spent a portion of their childhood listening to this master of satire (and polka). Get yourself an egg and beat it was totally my favourite line. Also, there’s fart sounds at the beginning. I don’t feel I need to go on here.
2. Apples and Banana’s by Raffi
The legendary Raffi – a staple of the 1980’s Canadian child. For me, it was sitting at the music listening station with my little buddies in Kindergarten, heads encased in those giant ear phones, laughing at the utter foolishness of singing eeples and baneenees, and the best part, bar none, ooples and banoonoos.
3. The Streak by Ray Stevens
It’s about a guy running around with no clothes on. Is there anything funnier for a first grader? Kind of creepy now that I think about it.
4. Faith by Alvin and the Chipmunks (originally by George Michael. Obviously.)
I had a whole cassette tape of pop songs as performed by the legendary Alvin and the Chipmunks. Looking back as a parent, I give my parents full kudos and perhaps a stiff drink for not ramming their heads through a wall as I listened to this entire album on repeat 24/7. Love you mom. My favourite part was the ‘I gotta have faith, a-faith, a-faith, BAY-BAY’.
5. ? I couldn’t think of a fifth! Sorry y’all. I guess it’s technically a “Four on Friday” this time…
Question: Any songs from your childhood you thought were hilarious? Help me come up with a fifth!
We have all heard it from the mouths of parents: Where has the time gone?Where did my baby go?How did she/he get so big?
These questions are often attached under photos posted of our little ones’ latest birthday, their first day of school, or eating macaroni by themselves with a spoon instead of wearing it on their face like a pasty powdered-cheese-and-butter beauty mask. Some of us probably roll our eyes and think, dear Lord, get over it…kids grow! So what?
So, why do we parents say those things?
Here’s my theory: when we look at our little rugrats, we see them as babies and we see them as adults, simultaneously.
We see the moment we found out we were going to be parents, whatever that might look like. We see the moment they came in to our worlds, the first time we held them: slimy and squirming, or swaddled and soft. We see them in tiny diapers and we see the first gummy, toothless smile. We see them sleeping with their fat arms and little fists balled up, raised above their heads. We see their first attempts at writing their names: shaky, crooked, and perfect.
We also see them grown. When they graduate, when they get their first job, when they move out, and when they may have their own families. Or, God forbid, when they might possibly move away from us. (Don’t worry, it’ll never happen, ever) We see them go through heart aches and disappointments, and we see them cry with happiness when they conquer giants. And we cry with them.
We see time slipping through our fingers every single day.
It’s like trying to collect all the sand on all the beaches with a fork and a bucket with a hole in the bottom. At some point, we just have to stop digging pointlessly and run our hands through these gorgeous minuscule pebbles, wonder at their warmth and softness, the sheer volume, and gaze at the eternal beauty across the water.
Perhaps that’s what parents are doing when we stand back and ask ourselves where the time has gone: we are trying to just let time happen. Maybe we are trying to bask in The Now, while attempting to let Yesterday just be.
We are trying, so hard.
And we don’t need to be parents to know that sometimes, going with the flow in life is tough, because we don’t know where it’s going to take us. We don’t know where the river ends. Every wave and ebb is new territory.
That’s why, when we snap that Back to School photo and wonder where our baby went, we have to take a breather. We sigh, we smile, and we send them off. We prepare ourselves for tomorrow, for when they come back, for next time.