Saturday, January 11, 2014


My husband and I parent exactly the same way, about totally different things.

As much of a frustration that is, I've come to realize that it's more of a blessing. We live in a household that does not spank, slap, use name calling or any other form of physical or verbal abuse. This is something J and I never really had a conversation about. It just is. And I am so thankful for that.

I had a conversation with a client the other day in which she told me about how her boyfriend (read: NOT the father of her child) had started trying to discipline her son in an effort to become more of a parental figure. She talked about locking doors and belts, and I felt ill. No way. No. Effing. Way. would that ever happen in my house. And thank whomever that I don't have to worry about establishing those kinds of boundaries with my husband. I trust J completely when he's alone with E, and when he's disciplining her, and I've come to realize that that is a luxury that a lot of people don't have.

When it comes down to it, most of the time, my "talks" with E are much more stern than J's, but I still can't help but go into mama bear mode when I hear him coming down on her. 98% of the time she totally deserves it, and 100% of the time J is well within anyone's definition of acceptable behaviour, but I can't help but panic at the thought that her psyche is being damaged if anyone but me is handing down punishment. It's one of my very few faults. Although I prefer to call them "intricacies".

In any case, it never ceases to amaze me how riled up J gets about mismatched socks and which movie to watch, while he easily turns a cheek at getting sassed up the wazoo or being deliberately deceived. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten the subliminal eye roll for enforcing polite and respectful behaviour while he loses his schmidt over the thought of being forced to endure an episode of Caillou. (Okay, I kind of get the Caillou thing.) I guess we can chalk another one up to the whole Mars/Venus theory.

So what was the point of this? Well, I suppose it's this: J gets mad about the weirdest stuff.
But at least we get mad the same way. `

Let Me Explain

This is (hopefully) not going to be a soapbox rant shaming well-meaning people for being well-meaning, or creating awkwardness and sensitivity around a topic that doesn't necessarily have to be awkward and sensitive. Rather, I'm trying to take the "education" route. I want to make conversations easier, not harder. I want to open up, not shut down. Well, let's see how it goes.

I want to have another baby. Now. More specifically, about a year ago. My husband would be happy with one baby, but is open to having another. Just not now. More specifically, in about two and a half years.

This is our very own, personal situation. And, in my opinion, we are the only ones who should be making this decision. That's not to say that I don't want to talk about it with anyone. But there's a certain kind of conversation I'm open to, and another kind that I'm not.

For some reason, I seem to talk about this a lot. And for the life of me I swear I'm not the one bringing it up. Part of the problem is that I work in an environment where I'm locked in a quiet room with one other person for one-hour blocks of time, and while some people use this time to catch a snooze, others like to make conversation. People ask about my daughter, and her age, and the next obvious question seems to be if we're having any more. I don't mind that question at all. I'm perfectly capable of answering a yes or no question, and I personally don't find that particular question intrusive. But here's where the problem starts. I'm a rather open and honest person, and I worry about making people uncomfortable by clamming up if they want to talk. Usually I'll offer a brief explanation about being uncertain on timing and try to leave it at that.  Sometimes I can redirect a conversation before we get into murky waters, but in my experience, if someone really wants to know something, they'll find a way to get the question in there.

So here we are. And what, you may be wondering, are these murky waters of which I speak? Well, I'll tell you. My own personal issue with these conversations is the "advice". If you're my friend and I'm asking for advice, lay it on me. If I just met you and you have no knowledge of my history, please keep your advice to yourself. And if you fit into some other category, then let's keep it simple. Did I ask you for your opinion on how my husband and I should navigate a disagreement on the inner workings and ultimate expansion of our family? Yes? So, what are you waiting for? Give me the answers I seek! No? Then, how 'bout we talk about something else?

I can't imagine that J and I are the first couple on the planet to disagree on the timing of having a second child. If we are, then by all means, someone step in and give us the golden key because we're obviously missing something. But if we're going by the advice I've been given so far, which largely consists of relieving my husband of any input in the matter and forging ahead with one of numerous devious pregnancy-inducing schemes that have been suggested to me, then I think it's best if we just keep the matter between my husband and I. Lots of people have made similar suggestions in a joking context, and I can take a joke. What I can't seem to swallow, is crazy-assed advice from gravely concerned half-strangers with all kinds of "knowledge" about my situation.

"You're healthy. You'll have no problem having a baby at 40."
- Oh good, I'm healthy! Whew. And you know this because...I'm thin? You just met me, so unless you've been perusing my medical records and conducting fertility tests without my knowledge, ease up on the diagnoses and clairvoyance.

"Don't wait. You'll regret it."
- Fear-mongering. Awesome.

"Just get him drunk. He'll do whatever you want."
- Let's flip the sexes on that one and see how you'd sound. Also...tried it.

"You don't want just one. Only children are never normal."
- Let's make sure to have the follow-up back-pedalling conversation if E turns out to be solo.

"Why are you giving him the choice? You're carrying the baby. He doesn't have to do anything."
- You're an asshat.

"You should just wait. Then you'll have lots of money and it will be great."
- Yippee!!! There's that magical future of mine again, popping in to say hello! Money still takes away all of our problems, right?

…and it goes on. And on. On almost daily basis.

-- PAUSE --

And once again this blog proves itself and more therapy for me than entertainment for you.

I got interrupted while writing this post - because who can write an entire uninterrupted blog post anyway? - and have been thinking about it ever since. About how I can't seem to distill my thoughts down enough to make it not a rambling, flip-flop of a stream of consciousness. And as I've been mulling it over I've come to a very important conclusion.

All of you aren't the ones that need to be re-educated. It's me. As I thought about what I wanted to say, I found myself asking the same kinds of questions over and over:

Do I want to tell people what they can and cannot say? (No.)

Do I want people to feel like they should or shouldn't talk about certain topics? (No.)

Do I want people to be so afraid of offending or upsetting someone that they don't bother starting conversations? (Absolutely not.)

Do I want people to walk on eggshells around me? (Please, no.)

So what is my purpose here? Who is it that needs to understand how to behave? Do I really think everyone else needs to align themselves with my needs and way of thinking? If so, then I'm more of a diva than I thought. No, I guess I have to admit that maybe…juuuust maybe…I need to stop letting the opinions of others have such an impact on me. Was it Eleanor Roosevelt that said "What others think of me is none of my business"? Someone did anyway, and that's the truth.

So I suppose I should wrap it up with a quick "As you were!", but if you don't mind, enough with the advice. Do we have a deal?


Monday, January 6, 2014

Another year, more reasons to smile.

I have such an amazing kid.

If I felt the need to qualify that statement, I would make sure to point out that there is no comparison or judgement intended, no thoughts of superiority or boastfulness, just an overwhelming and sincere adoration of the little person that sits across from me at the dinner table every night.

But I don't.

Lately, and often, I find myself struck by her thoughtfulness, her empathy, her eagerness to be kind and sweet and generous. And I tell her. Because if there's one parenting philosophy I subscribe to, it's that you can never say enough of the good stuff. And she loves to hear it. She gets almost shy as her eyes light up and a smile just tickles the corners of her lips. And I swoon. There is no other word. I swoon hard.

Yesterday we came across the word empathy and she asked what it meant. I explained that it had to do with trying to imagine how someone else is feeling as if you are the other person, rather than thinking about what you would do in their situation. Immediately, E responded with "Oh! I do that all the time! I do that with Noemie and Ayan, and Olivia!" It was as if being empathetic is just a natural thing you do with your friends. Because for her, it is. And I love that.

A few days ago she had an uncharacteristically long and intense meltdown in regards to the peeling of a clementine, which involved several (unsuccessful) trips to her room to calm herself down before re-entering society. Eventually, what began as a suggestion became a sentence, with the cell bedroom door closed, not to be opened except by the warden mom. I can only think of one or two times in the past when I've had to resort to outright imprisonment. There were a few moments of wailing, some pleading, and one request for Kleenex. But then all was quiet. She was in there longer than she has ever been before, and I won't pretend that I didn't relish the uninterrupted chore/shower time. But after about 30 minutes or so, I decided it was time for "the talk". I hate that part. I'm never confident that I'll get the important point across. There's so much pressure for this "moment of truth", when impacts can be made and behaviour can be molded, and more often than not I find myself yammering unintelligibly to a confused looking audience. But I went in boldly and calmly, and was…humbled, what I saw. I expected E to have found something awesome to play with, completely unconcerned about this alleged "punishment", throwing it gleefully back in my face as she announced that she was not ready to come out yet because she was having sooooo much fun. But instead I found her standing there, looking hopefully up at me, a once-pyjamad lunatic, now perfectly calm and fully dressed. All she wanted to do was tell me about the outfit she picked out because she knew I'd like it. The gold zippers on her pants that matched the gold buttons on her shirt. The shirt she knew I liked because I had bought it after noticing the little heart details in it. She was standing there so proudly, hoping for my approval. And she got it. I told her how proud I was that instead of pouting or playing, she had obviously thought about what had happened and had come up with something that would show us that she wanted to do better. That she was thinking not only of herself and her feelings, but of her place in the family and the role she could play. And we still had the talk, and I probably still talked too much, but I know she could see that she had figured out a way to make things right.

On another day, she mentioned wistfully that she couldn't wait to be a grown-up. It's not the first time she's had this ridiculous notion, and I always tell her the same thing. That while I get the frustrations of being a kid and not having a lot of control over things, most people I know would go back to being a kid in a heartbeat. And not necessarily because being a kid is so much better, but because once you're an adult, you'll never get to be a kid again. But kids are in the enviable position of having it all. They can enjoy the good parts of being kids, and look forward to the good parts of being adults. It's a win-win. I asked her why she wanted to be a grown-up on this particular occasion, and her answer was "Because then I can tell people what to do." Hm. I told her that that's one of my least favourite things about being an adult. "Really?" she asked, baffled. "Why??" And all of a sudden I got a flash of how she might see me…

…happily presiding over my minions, ordering them around freely to do my bidding.

I tried to think of a good explanation that would make sense to her. "Because it makes me feel like I'm bossing people around, and I don't like to be bossy." And, just like a good minion, she had the perfect response. "I don't feel like you boss me around, Mom." There's that swoon again. Can swoons be violent? Because mine are.

The next morning, I was presented with this lovely surprise in bed:

You never boss me
I always love you

God, I have an amazing kid.