parenting


"Lesbian" wedding mock-cake at the R...

Roma Gay Pride  2008 Stefano Bolognini, June 7 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we drove into two this evening to take Dee to Girl Guides, Rob and I chatted about this and that as we often do. I mentioned that I googled … cyber stalked a wee bit … a woman I’d met by chance during a Facebook discussion on pap tests.

Yes, cervical cancer screenings. What else I would I be discussing in a Facebook thread.

I noted that most of the women I met virtually seemed to blog and they all appeared to arrive at blogging via upsetting and/or traumatic life events.

“I feel I might not to widen my circle of acquaintance,” I said.

As I recounted the various facts I’d gleaned about this blogger, Dee piped up from the back seat.

“She’s married to a woman?”

“Yes,” I said. “We’ve talked about this. Women sometimes fall in love with and marry other women.”

“No, I don’t think so,” she countered.

At ten she’s become quite contrary. She disagrees or takes the opposite stance simply because it is me, her mother, that she is talking to.

“It’s only a preview,” Rob has remarked more than once. He counts himself an expert because he witnessed two other daughters become quite militant opposing with another wife in the past.

“Yes,” I said, “we did. Remember my friend Mike on Facebook. The one with the two little girls?”

She nodded.

“He is married to a man.”

“Of course,” she agreed as though man on man marriage and parenthood was as normal as drawing a breath and why were we going back over this ordinary, normal ground.

“Well,” I continued, “sometimes women also fall in love, marry and have children. Just like them and just like Dad and I.”

“Except Dad isn’t a woman.”

“Dad is certainly not a woman,” I agreed.

Rob nodded.

“So does one of them wear a tuxedo and the other a white dress,” she asked.

“Sometimes. And sometimes they both were gowns or they both wear tuxedos.”

“I think girls would look cute in tuxedos,” she declared.

“If Edie and Silver ever get married, you can tell them you are going to wear a tuxedo like Dad’s then,” I said.

“But what if I want to wear a dress?”

“Then you will,” I told her, “but it’s nice to have options.”

 


Time Magazine jumped into the Mommy “War” fray this past week with a “provocative” cover story, which featured a good-looking millennial mom breastfeeding her big-for-his-age almost four-year old as the cover photo.

I am sure you’ve seen it by now. She’s garbed in the standard yoga uniform of the SAHM with one boob flashing a bit as her son peeks from behind it, his mouth firmly latched.

The outrage! How dare Time sexualize breastfeeding?! And how icky of them to use a hot looking mom as opposed to the dumpy beings we all know that moms are? And the kid? He’s a kid!! Kids don’t breastfeed! They eat. Lunchables and Happy Meals while drinking fructose infused juices and sodas. And finally, breastfeeding is all well and good for INFANTS (provided a woman CAN nurse … because you know, not all of us can. Failure to latch or lactate enough or you know, we have lives) but not preschoolers who can ask for a cup of milk and maybe even pour their own sippy cups. Pretty sure that sucking Mom’s teat (in front of people) isn’t something Jesus wants fully actualized feminists to do.

‘Cause Jesus loves the working woman.

Did you hear my eyes rolling on that last line?

Look, I breastfed Dee until she was a tad over four years old. Ask her. She’ll tell you that it was awesome and that breast milk is the tastiest stuff ever and she misses it … because she’s lactose intolerant and rice milk just doesn’t cut it for her, and I am mean and won’t let her have much cow’s milk. And no, she won’t be traumatized if someday her peers find this out because we have raised her to value what she knows over the often times misguided misinformation of others.

She slept with me too until Rob came along – because he is the world’s most finicky sleeper*. It’s the slippery slope that is “attachment parenting” for most of us who aren’t Hollywood actresses. Breastfeeding is an on demand thing and in pretty short order it occurs to most of us that letting the baby, toddler or kid simply latch on as needed while we sleep is the best way to not die from exhaustion.

As most people who know Dee can attest, she is neither emotionally impaired nor particularly clingy. She sallies forth into the world at her own pace, dictated more by her personality – which she inherited in more or less equal measures from me and her late father – and that no one would accuse her of being particularly effed up in terms of her ability to separate from Rob and I. She speaks up for herself. She doesn’t take crap from peers. She knows who she is and aside from her insistence that she is going to work at The Pottery Guild when she grows up (she is going to be an engineer because we’ve already decided that we can’t waste money on university without some sort of assurance that she will be employable and not destined to live with us for the rest of our lives), she is practical and – based on my observations of many of her friends – far more self-sufficient.

There is nothing particularly right or wrong about breastfeeding beyound the first 6 weeks or months. Once I got the hang of it, I found it much easier than messing about with formula and bottles. But I wasn’t slavish about it. I didn’t get the hang of pumping, so Dee took formula at daycare. Devilish smart wee one that she was, she figured out quite early that because she could nurse all she liked in the evenings and over-night, she didn’t need to take much formula during the day. More than once, a worried caregiver informed me that Dee had taken only 15 ounces of formula that day. She was too clever by half even as a 4 month old.

And I didn’t personally know anyone whose kid or kids didn’t take up residence in their bed. Honestly, I don’t know that forbidding this sort of thing promotes “independence” any more than letting a baby cry itself to exhaustion teaches them to sleep (which begs the question of how “sleep” – a natural human thing is “taught”). My parents forbade us to sleep in their bed. In fact, I vividly remember having to stand in the hallway outside their door and call to them ’til one of them woke up if I needed them in the night because it was literally taking life in hand to even stand next to their bed.

Most of the sanctity of the marriage bed thing stems, in my opinion, from the quaint notion that sex is why the bed exists in the first place and that a couple somehow loses precious bonding time when children “intrude”.  Aside from our days trying to conceive, the late husband and I rarely had sex in bed. And frankly, I am not at all sure how one bonds during one’s sleep. But given the fact that “bonding” for many couples consists of watching Game of Thrones on a flatscreen nearly as big as the bed – I am not really sure where the bed gets its sacred reputation. It’s a bed. Mostly you sleep in it and kids eventually will get tired of being squished and go find beds of their own. I don’t know a single co-sleeping family who is harbouring teens or 20 somethings in their beds.

Here’s what I think about the hysteria over the Time cover pic.

People project. A lot.

North Americas have  a puritanical streak wider than the Mississippi and twice as long. The media and the Pink Ribbon brigade has so twisted our notions about the female breast that we can’t see them and not think SEX. Breasts in our culture are about accessorizing, flaunting and power and not necessarily in that order. Men see breasts as enticing toys, and women pander to this view a lot more than is necessary.

Breasts are not just fatty tissue housing milk ducts, They are statements. Sexual objects used by everyone from the purveyors of capitalism to the pimps of the patriarchal religious right. More so than even our vaginas, our breasts are used to pit us against each other in pointless areola gazing.

Are you Mom enough? Time asks us. And by doing so is accused of stoking the next battle, but we willingly engage in one mom up-woman-ship all the time on our blogs, Twit streams and Facebook pages. Seldom have I witnessed Moms gathering (or women in general for that matter) where hierarchies aren’t quickly established with women knowing, without even asking, where they rank. Nothing about being female screams FEMALE as loudly as the endless competition we entered into at some point before junior high and continue to engage in to one degree or another until we drop dead (from breast cancer, if you are inclined to buy into the hysteria).

Time fed the distraction troll with this one. One could excuse it if one were inclined. I’m not. Nor am I inclined to cut much slack to the hysterical and squeamish who jumped into the fray while decrying it.

They are just boobs, doing what boobs are uniquely designed to do. I get that Mom on Time’s cover. Breastfeeders are constantly sent the message that we are freakish and should keep that shit in our homes – with shades drawn and maybe in a closet underneath a thick blanket. I’d have stuck it out there for all to see too had I been given her chance. And personally, I get a vicarious feeling of satisfaction knowing that cover is discomforting the judgemental and the timid conformers in every grocery and Target all over America. Take that, Mommy Clubbers!

Seriously, they are boobs and the kid is nursing. He’ll be fine. Get over it already and stop buying into your own manipulation by a media with a political agenda that is clearly not women friendly.

*I am lucky that I am allowed to share the bed with him because my tossing about has driven him to distraction on more than one occasion. And Dee is even worse than I am.


(Chart by the hilarious Allie Brosh.)

Over the weekend, it was suggested to me that I should join the board of the local indoor soccer league if I felt that things could be done better.

“We are only volunteers, you know,” she said.

Implication being that simply the act of volunteering was sufficient and whether anything is actually accomplished by said volunteering is way beside the point.

But it’s a good point. Much of what we do is by choice when working to pay the bills and all that maintainance work involved with personal survival and parenting stuff is factored out. We take on everything else pretty much on a volunteer basis. Relationships. Hobbies. Sports. Exercise. Excessive grooming. Image maintaining. We volunteer what remains of our time each week to all these things.

So, deciding to coach your kid’s team or serve on a board or be surf the various media selections from your easy chair – all volunteer work – and being such, requires you to know how much extra time and energy you really have to devote to it. Those factors determining whether or not you can say that said volunteerism is productive or not. It also decides whether you can promote yourself as a saint, martyr or a well-rounded person, who just happens to have a bit of free time that many of us can’t seem to lay even a pinkie finger on.

Knowing your personal load capacity matters.

The sad fact (for others) of my life is that the time I have available for over-extending myself is during the day when they are all at work. Responsibilities for me are slotted in micro-shifts and aside from the book-ending of child, wife and housely stuff, my midday’s are as flexible as Gumby. If you want my assistance, you need to need it during the day. Expecting me to show up in person in the evening simply isn’t going to happen.

From Monday to Thursday, I am moving at an impressive rate of speed from 4 P.M. on til bedtime. Trying to shoehorn anything in on the fly takes considerable advanced planning and often isn’t feasible. While I am quick to point out my daytime availability, there are few who find this helpful in their quest to off-load those things that they took on by choice and now find cumbersome or don’t add to the world’s perception of them in a manner for which they hoped to become accustomed.

Let’s face it, We were designed to live in Eden that awesome carefree botanical garden/petting zoo and not built at all for a life of hard labour with too many distracting choices masquerading as obligations.

 


Two friends

Image via Wikipedia

I have never had many female friends. A handful at a time is about all I have ever been able to manage and I am not someone who carries friendships over from situation to situation or age to age. My high school and college friends don’t outnumber my fingers combined, and my workplace friendship have rarely bled over into my real life. The number of friend friends I have made as an adult is smaller than the number of friends I’ve carried from my school days when making friends was easier just given the sheer number of opportunities.

Oh, there are many women I am friendly with. I am easy peasy in casual situations. That wasn’t always so. I had to work hard to learn the small talk game and seem completely at ease among people I don’t know. My introvert self still quakes and cringes in new situations or when numbers rise. It is easily overwhelmed, but I have learned to force inner calm or to ignore the urge to cower. And it only took me not quite 50 years to do it.

I will always be more comfortable in the virtual realm. Thank the gods for social media outlets, really. The confidence I have acquired sallying forth into the boundless and ethereal place known as the Internet bulked up my introvert, who took her initial lessons in cultivating a bold exterior over the many years spent as a public school teacher.

But, for all that, I am still hopeless when it comes to making friends with members of my gender.

It’s not that I don’t try. My attempts are sincere. The results go either way but when they go south, it’s usually with spectacular effect.

Take yesterday.

The danger in trying to establish bonds with the mothers of the players on Dee’s soccer team is that our common focal point is a competitive sport. My upbringing  and my latent alpha girl tendencies prevent me from viewing sports as “fun” unless winning is involved. Partly it is a Catholic school girl thing and partly it’s my Dad’s fault.

As a young man, my father played farm league ball. He was a catcher and one of the first games he schooled DNOS and I in was catch and then Pickle In The Middle before progressing to batting grounds and pop flys to us with the occasional straight for your face to hone our skills. Because he worked 50 to 60 hours a week in a meat-packing plant, he didn’t have time for either of us to whine or dog it when he coached us, and he expected us to practice on our own as well. Practice made good players better. Inherent ability would only take us so far and practice would take us the rest of the way.

This is not how girls are coached, generally speaking. Not when I was growing up back in the 70’s nor when I was coaching in the 90’s nor now. Girls are babied and told that it’s all about “fun” and “trying” and “team spirit”.

Dad was more like Yoda. There is no try. And the “fun” of competition was about busting your hump at 110% for the win. Team spirit? That was a much a given as sportsmanship.

So though I acknowledge Dee’s efforts, I don’t sing sunshine up her bum when she dogs it or quits. I praise the outstanding rather than the givens and I point out those things that need work. Because she swears that soccer is the game for her and she wants to someday play on club teams – I treat her ambition with respect and provide realistic feedback or kicks in the backside – depending.

I am also not someone who thinks that rearranging my life around hers is just what parents do. I will not cart about a child who doesn’t try or work to improve. Her social life is not a big priority. In fact, the idea that children have social lives is too perplexing for me to even spend much thought on.

For all of the above, I am not the mom in the locker room spooning out sugar and I have garnered more than a few disapproving looks as a result.

And it probably isn’t going to win me any playdates at Starbucks either.

But Coach’s Wife took my inept attempts at “chatter” personally.

“You have such a way with pointing out the obvious,” Rob said.

And the trouble with the obvious is that it’s usually a proverbial elephant which no one cares to acknowledge. In yesterday’s case, our soccer association board really, really wants our kids to be competitive at a tourney level, but not much is provided by way of making this happen. The U10 Girls get a measly 1 hour of pitch time a week to practice, and the team is too large to give the girls much playing time during their once a week game. There are no camps or clinics scheduled at all during the season, and no camps during the summer.

To top it off, the board bemoans lack of parent volunteers but doesn’t make meetings accessible with their usual slotting of them in the evenings during the work/school week and doesn’t make much use at all of even the simplest of social media to engage parents and kids.

But to be  fair, it’s not just the board. A significant number of parents aren’t interested in extra practices or even the once a week practice.

In our neck of Alberta, the winter sport of choice involves ice – hockey or Ringette. Both are bloodthirsty competitions which parent and child alike take to like followers of Attila. The less aggressive gravitate towards soccer.

When we arrived at Servus Place in St. Albert for today’s game, the other coach greeted me with news that Coach’s Wife wouldn’t be attending because of yesterday’s conversation with me. She was miffed.

“But it’s okay,” I was told. “She only sits and texts anyway.”

Which she does. but that puts her into good company because I have witnessed many a parent thumbing it on the sidelines.

I was tempted to apologize for my faux pas to her husband today as he and I chatted about tomorrow’s competition in the locker room after today’s game. He’s an easy-going guy and in retrospect, his frozen smile yesterday as his wife and I conversed, makes much more sense. But I let it go. She could have fed me a heads up about her being on the board and I would have changed the subject. It was a bit underhanded to withhold that and then git snarky about it later.

On the bright side, some of the other mom’s are giving it a go to engage with me despite my awkwardness with it. Perhaps they feel a bit sorry for Dee? Whatever the case, I am working hard at curbing my blunter edges though – admittedly – this is a Herculean task.

 


The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been reading a mythology based fiction novel to the child again. She simply can’t get enough Greek mythology. She’s discovered that our library has the entire Percy Jackson collection on cd and even though I have read them to her, and she has read some of them herself, she’s decided to start at the beginning and hear them again.

The book I am reading to her places the Greek gods and goddesses in a special high school where they are supposed to learn about their gifts and to be “better” deities. It’s a series and this particular volume deals with Aphrodite trying to atone for her faux pas with Paris and Helen, which launched the Trojan War, by helping a young sculptor named Pygmalion find true love.

Of course, the story of Pygmalion and Galtea has nothing to do with the Trojan War (or the Egyptian Goddess, Isis), and I have to give the author an “A” for her knowledge of myths in general and the clever idea of plucking them all in a high school setting. The gods of Ancient Greece were nothing if not teen-like in their demeanor and outlook.

Aphrodite is a fitting Valentine’s Day topic. Her Roman son, Cupid, after all, is one of today’s symbols and his arrows are supposedly the root cause of what we call romantic love. She herself, however, is not such a simple creature. To the Greeks she represented more than just love and superficial beauty. She is in fact one of the oldest deities in human history and might be among the first gods human beings worshipped.

According tot he Greeks, Aphrodite’s birth was the direct result of Kronos’s gelding of their father. As his manhood sunk to the bottom of the sea, semen and blood mixed with the salty waves and Aphrodite rose from the stew riding a conch shell. Like the goddess Athena later on, Aphrodite has no mother. She was sired only and as a result is quite a forceful deity who wore the pants in all her relationships.

She has many aspects that run the gamut of female existence, but she also held dominion over male potency and war. Currently an exhibit of her history and the art it’s inspired is running at a museum in Boston. One of the sculptures has never been out of Italy before and depicts Hermaphrodite, her son with Hermes. From the back it appears to be a sleeping woman but walk around to the front and there is a penis protruding from between the sleeper’s legs.

Dee is a bit young for Aphrodite’s full history. Rick Riordan, who authors the Percy Jackson series, deftly works around the fact that his demi-god characters are all products of adultery. Last night, Dee and I discussed the fact that Percy’s father was married but had girlfriends. She didn’t seem to think this was too awful until I asked her what she would think of Dad having girlfriends on the side. She wrinkled her nose in her most disapproving manner,

“I wouldn’t like that.”

I wouldn’t care for it much myself.

“So that’s why Hera is also so angry at Zeus then,” she continued as more pieces fell into place.

“Exactly,” I said.

“But why does Hephaestus need to spy on Aphrodite all the time to catch her with Ares if he has girlfriends too?”

“He’s just being mean.”

More puzzled forehead frown lines and pursed lips followed but no more questions – yet.


Master Yoda - origami.

Origami Yoda via Wikipedia

Yoda was right. You do or you do not. It’s not a shady issue. Succeed and be rewarded. Fail and suffer the fall-out.

It reminds me a bit of that old saying “no good deed goes unpunished”, which stems perhaps from the idea that good deeds often depend on the favored to achieve success and it’s never a good idea to gamble too much on anything that’s so far outside your own sphere of influence.

DNOS is chuckling like Mrs. Santa tonight because N1 is heading back to Iowa this weekend. It’s been a costly gamble. And not just monetarily. But it’s time to admit defeat and send the troops home to regroup.

I’ve lost yet another day in damage control and I am mightily weary. I have a life and commitments of my own that need my attention and resources. Yet I find that I can’t work up any real emotion over it aside from a heavy sigh. I am not disappointed because I am beyond that where family is concerned. They are who they are. I am not surprised when events end up the same time and again.

But I am not inclined to be sorry either. True. It is do or do not, but you can’t “do” anything until you are willing to “try” something. In some cases, anything.

As I was walk/running at the track today, it occurred to me why I have never won the lottery. If I had that kind of obscene money, I would use it to help people avoid learning the lessons they were born to study and master. I couldn’t help but use my good fortune to give others the opportunity to realize success of their own. Being happy,and really without any serious needs or even wants, for the first time in my life these last few years, I just want everyone to know that same feeling.

Destiny, however, has seen fit to put me in a position that makes it impossible for me to do anything but spot people toward their goals thus forcing them to do the rest of the work themselves. And it’s for the best. You don’t learn anything when life just hands you things, or when people in your life hand you things without requiring anything from you by way of effort. A little help is okay but I think there is also some quaint old saying about the universe helping those more who are willing to also assist their progress with personal sacrifice and hard work. I might be paraphrasing a bit, but I am sure you understand.

Rob, and my mother, both think that I should pat myself on the back for at least doing something because there are those who do nothing and then sit back and nod sagely when precisely nothing else happens. CB, I think, has earned a pat or two himself even with his implosion taken into account. He has less than I do in terms of resources and yet he offered all he had and then some and gained little from it.

But still I think Yoda was on to something. There is no try when try is all you have to offer. If you aren’t willing or don’t believe that something meaningful can result, it’s better not to bother.


Terry Fox statue in Ottawa

Image via Wikipedia

Terry Fox Day, week, month, millennium – take your pick – is upon us again. Being a Canadian hero/icon, it’s hard to get away from the fundraising done in his honor/memory during the month of September, but Dee continues to be unsettled by the nation’s adoration and determination to carry on the fight against cancer – via money – in his name.

As I do every fall, I sent numerous email reminders to the school asking that Dee be allowed to opt out of all the assemblies and/or information sessions about Terry. They nearly all include some sort of visual representation of Terry, and she simply can’t see the guy without it conjuring up negative emotions. I have told her that someday it won’t bother her as much to which she replied,

“It will always bother me.”

Perhaps this is due to the fact that her first encounter with him occurred shortly after our moving up to Canada from the U.S. when she was dealing with all sorts of adjustments and readjustments, and poor Terry was swept up into the emotional stew never to be released. Whatever the reason, neither Rob nor I feel that Dee’s participation in Terry Fox Day is important enough to force it on her. It’s just another made up holy day. She is happy to take her toonie and walk with the other kids during the walk/run in his name and that’s fine with us.

Inadvertently, however, one of the staff showed her class a video about Terry last Friday. When she informed me, all I could do was sigh. I can’t run interference 24/7 and I told her that. Sometimes these things will happen and she is going to have to open her mouth to object herself or suck it up and deal.

“It couldn’t have been that upsetting,” I told her.

“It was,” she insisted. “It makes my tummy feel uncomfortable.”

“Not that much,” I countered, “or you would have spoken up, and you would have said something as soon as you got home from school.”

She couldn’t refute that because she didn’t mention it until later that evening as we were on our way to shop for birthday presents for upcoming parties to which she has been invited.

“I still didn’t like it,” she replied.

And I don’t imagine she did. I can’t stand watching movies or television shows that depict death or grieving. It’s just not entertaining.When you haven’t experienced something, seeing it is enlightening and gives you a chance to mentally try it on and live it, but once you can call an event your own through first hand experience, the vicarious thrill isn’t so thrilling anymore.

Terry Fox reminded me though that although Dee is a bit over experienced in the dealing with death department for someone her age. She still needs to be prepped in advance of  incoming where death is concerned.

Rob and the older girls have another funeral up north to attend, and as I was explaining to Dee why were weren’t going (Rob and I are agreed on no more funerals for Dee unless she had a relationship with the deceased), she inquired as to whether or not she and I would be taking care of Edie’s dog, Loki.

The dog is getting on in years and has been suffering with diminished mobility that’s gotten worse over the past year. He can’t be left home alone even if it’s just overnight, and he is getting to be too much work to ask someone to take him in for a couple of days here or there. Still, we’ve taken Loki before, soDee’s question was a logical one.

“No, honey, ” I said, “Loki is a lot of work now, and he is more comfortable being with Edie anyway.”

“Because of his legs?” Dee said.

“Yes, his legs aren’t getting better, and Edie knows best what to do for him.”

“They aren’t getting better?” the tone and not the words contained the actual question.

“No,” I said, choosing my words very carefully. “Sometimes, doctors can’t do anything, and they can’t do anything for Loki. His legs will get worse, and then he will not be able to use them.”

She nodded thoughtfully and said, “That’s why Edie is getting the wheelchair thing.”

I nodded, “But that’s just to make things a bit easier. Loki isn’t going to get well.”

“Animals don’t live forever,” she agreed, “and neither do humans.”

And that’s where the conversation was left. Later on, as I retold it to Rob, I pointed out that it was only in the moment I realized that Dee needed advance preparation for the inevitable where her sister’s dog is concerned.

The dog, in a twist of ironic fate that makes me dislike the universe’s odd sense of interconnectedness, is suffering from a demyelinating illness that is slowly paralyzing him. Once it’s done its dirty work on his lower half, it will travel up the spine and leave him essentially trapped in a useless body. It’s very similar in effect to the disease that killed my late husband, Will. It’s not consciously painful, but the collateral issues can cause discomfort and anxiety. There isn’t much that can be done because science just hasn’t found a way to replace the damaged myelin sheath that covers nerves in people or animals. Once the protective covering is gone that’s it. What’s left is no more or less than a prison made of flesh. To say that I am not eager to bear witness to that, or to the pain it will cause Edie, is understating and understatement.

Though Loki’s issues are not new, the diagnosis is and the game plan is in early days. Progressive degenerative illnesses vary from according to the individual, and so everyone waits, watches and hopes – but it’s never to early to begin to prepare. I am a Boy Scout in this matters, and so I laid a bit of the groundwork for Dee.

Tomorrow, she will hang out in the library while her classmates watch yet another inspirational video about Terry Fox, and then she will join them as they run or walk to raise money to beat a disease that will never be beaten. Death comes to all things and cancer or degenerative illness are but two of its avenues.

I wonder if the organizers picked the last month of summer on purpose? With its fading, falling retreat to pre-winter here, it’s a fitting season for such an event.