Sturm und Mom

The Storm & Stress (& Joy) of Motherhood

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Happy Birthday Sweetheart!

To a guy who carries the whole world on his shoulders.

Who teaches what he knows.

Who puts up with a whole bunch of stuff and never complains.

You leave some very big shoes to fill.

So, have a very, very Happy Birthday.

We all love you very much.  I love you very much.

Now, go have what you really want for your birthday treat.

February Ashes

February discontent is rattling around my chest, blown by the icy wind to bump against my heart. Too many days inside, too little sunshine, no holidays, no presents, no big family dinners for months. Every year it’s the same thing at the same time. One professor I had announced to the lecture hall, that universities noticed an increase of suicide among students which peaked during the second month of the year. And spring break was born. That seems too cynical even to me, until I peer outside the window to see a sky the same shade of gray as the asphalt sidewalk.

It’s because of this that I so look forward to Ash Wednesday Mass, the beginning of Lent. It is probably my husband and my favourite. Why? First, it seems so Medieval — the immolated blessed palms from last year’s Easter season, turned into a remembrance of our mortality and sin, and marked on our foreheads. What modern would suggest doing that? It might hurt our self-esteem. Lead to anxiety.

Which also leads to the second reason: In this culture of Self Actualization, Self Realization, Who Ever Finishes with the Most Toys Wins, Shred It, Own It, I Did It My Way, and Branded People, it is refreshing to remember that no one is getting our of here alive. And it is beyond anyone’s ability to save her own soul. It is a stark reminder that everyone’s days, from the moment they take their first breath, are numbered and counted out, and that my life should not be taken for granted, and that my faith should not be taken for granted. It reminds me that what’s really important in life cannot be “achieved” through human will. And that Easter celebration will follow Lenten penance, like spring rebirth will follow winter’s long cold sleep.

Waiting is Empty

Waiting is an activity robbed of its activity.  Anticipation is waiting plus joy.  Dread is waiting plus fear.  But sheer waiting itself is empty.

But this is what we are doing now, with the house spic and span and the pictures on the Internet, we wait as the white and black For Sale sign swings on the front lawn.  And I ramble about the empty house with its echo, and scrub stray fingerprints off the barren fridge.  No pictures, no knick knacks, all the toys in bins.  Everything valuable is either pack in numbered boxes in the basement, or stuffed into a black gym bag to be stowed in the trunk of the minivan when someone comes to look.  Look at a house which is still ours, but may not be for long, or maybe ours forever.

The next item on the house selling project agenda: wait.

I went for a walk with Princess, Big Boy and Baby yesterday.  As I pushed the Chariot stroller down the icy sidewalks, and I looked up at the front room windows of my neighbours and I somewhat envied their state.  My emotions reminded me of sitting in the reception area while waiting to be called in for a job interview, as they employed nonchalantly moseyed by trying to get a look at who they might share a cubicle with.  Meanwhile, all I could think is how great it would be to be one of them, with a pass card and a paycheque.  Now here were all these  Not For Sale houses, and I imagined their toothpaste stained counters, stacks of personal papers and corners of unfinished projects, with no worry of someone calling an demanding entrance to peek in their most distant closet.

But at least the waiting has given me a chance to stop working at getting the house ready to wait, and I have had a chance to slow down with the kids again.  I realized that my parental skills had slipped this past month when today, Art Girl kept jumping up from lunch to play a musical accompaniment on the computer.  I finally got up to check what she was up to and found that she was jumping from game to game on the National Geographic Kids website.

This last month Princess changed the most.  Sometime in the last 4 weeks, she grew up.  I noticed it first at the restaurant on Tuesday when she confidently ordered a cheese pizza, carrots and chocolate milk from the waitress with no help from me.  Full eye contact, please and thank you.  Then today, I dropped her off at her preschool dance class.  I kissed the top of her head and she ran off into the room, and started leaping toes pointed, across the floor, her arms out, smiling.  She was wearing her hot pink and blue tutu tunic, with leggings covered in multi-coloured heart polkadots.  She looked like a deer in the sugar plum forest.  And it filled my heart with such joy that I could have stayed there all day and watched her and wept.   As I dragged Big Boy, Baby and myself back to the car, a lady passed by.  She looked up at the blue sky and sunshine.  “Isn’t it a glorious day?” she asked.  It was.

The problem with waiting, is wishing the now over, wishing the time to pass and the days to fall away.  With so little time on this earth, and so much to make us happy, it seems a sacrilege to wish it away, to pine for days ahead.  That’s why I see waiting as empty, and a waste.  So we will call this phase resting.  Because whatever the future brings, we will find some joy in it.

If This is the Age of the Liberated Woman, Why is my House So Hard to Clean?

I mean, really.  When Leo Gerstenzang created the Q-Tip after watching his wife wrap cotton wool around a stick to clean their son’s ears, did he think “One day University educated women can use this to clean the completely pointless ridges and crevices that manufacturers will build all over their homes?”

Really?  Aren’t I supposed to be doing something like finding a “room of my own,” not scrubbing cream coloured grout between floor tiles with a Dollar Store toothbrush?  And why am I on the fifth type of bathroom cleaner, trying to remove the red mildew stain on whatever space-age polymer is holding my shower door to its frame?  All with a toothbrush?  Huh?  Why?

It seems just a little unfair that those boffin techno-types have come up with a tiny little head set that sticks in your ear just so that people can wander all over the supermarket have really loud conversations about what Julie said and make everyone feel uncomfortable, and yet I’m hiking up to Canadian Tire to buy carnauba car wax for my the tiny little scratches on my fridge.   All because I used a paper towel, instead of the spring water, lambs wool  and “loving caress”  that the manufacturers dreamed it should be cleaned with.

I thought we had Women’s Lib.  I thought that women were supposed to be equal, intelligent, worth of not just the vote, but to hold high public office.  Then why, is our traditional stomping grounds – the Home – so infuriatingly retro?  As in, “Don’t worry — the Upstairs Parlour Maid does that” retro.  And don’t say why doesn’t your husband help — he’s right there beside me scrubbing the kitchen floor grout.  All we’ve done to fix this problem is drag in more helpless scrubbers to the party.  So why is the modern home so full of ridgey baseboards, dust catching knickknacks, and tiny little gaps between the strips of the hardwood floor?  Doesn’t the sheer drudgery of scrubbing the little creases around the jets in the whirlpool tub negate whatever stress relief it’s supposed to bestow?  Maybe you need to soak in the tub as a reward for cleaning it.

Everyone seems to have an R & D Department now, even companies that you would think shouldn’t have an R and D Department. (Having to hustle my kids past massive Valentine’s Day displays at the local Walmart highlighting  products that used to sold behind the counter, and sent home from the Pharmacy in a paper bag proves my point.) Well, all you lab coat whiz kids here’s my request:  Could you make a shower wall that impervious to the cling of soap scum and hard water?  A dryer sheet that removes wrinkles?  Light bulbs that shed dust?  Please?  I’ll make you brownies.  The real kind, not from a mix.

Come on people!  I’ve been told we put a man on the moon — now it’s time to fix these dirty houses.  We need something as easy to maintain as it is to hose down those shower rooms in old-fashioned European Spas.  Just open up a hose and 15 minutes later, everything’s sparkling.  Clothes pressed, floor clean, plates that never need pre-rinsing.

Until then, the next time someone tells me that the sexes are equal, I’m sending him or her into my bathroom — with some bleach and a toothbrush.  15 minutes should fix up that notion just fine.

Escape from Perfectland

If you buy my house, I'll thrown in my laundry!!

I was agreeing with Elizabeth Esther’s take on Mommy Bloggers and their “oh-so-natural” lives, when I started trying to figure out why we do this to ourselves.  Any Mother who’s been on the Internet knows what I’m talking about here:  all those ever so perfect blogs with the lovely pictures of the great crafts, the repurposed toddler dresses, the homemade educational toys, the organic gluten-free everything to eat, the hand painted baby’s room mural.  And just as Elizabeth points out (the other one,) as soon as you’ve been around the block a few times, you know that this isn’t the whole story.  It can’t be.  Motherhood is a messy, tumultuous business, with lots of fibs, and fudges, and milk spilt all over the organic steamed broccoli that no one will eat anyway.

I ruminate upon this as I scrub my house within an inch of its drywall.  Part of the reason that this poor blog has been put out to pasture for the past week is that we are desperately trying to list our house as soon as possible.  Part of the work required, as anyone who has tried to sell a house in the last 4 years will tell you, is that it must look Perfect.  As is in “Wow!  I didn’t know that a structure could be occupied continuously for 30 years, and have no one ever set foot in it.”  Every single picture?  GONE!  Kids’ toothbrushes in the bathroom?  HIDE THEM!  Kids’ toys anywhere?  BURN THEM!  Tiny little toe prints on the hardwood?  WHAT??  YOU MEAN YOU ARE STILL ALLOWING YOUR CHILDREN TO WALK IN YOUR HOUSE?  (And you said you are serious about selling?  Parents.)

Over and over again I keep coming up with the news that people, especially younger Gen X’s and Millennials, want perfect and they want it now.  They want a starter home with slate counters, stainless steel kitchens, and some kind of rare rainforest hardwood that can only be harvested by indigenous tree climbers on alternating Full Moons.  And they don’t mind paying mortgages for 35 years to get all this, either.  Because which is worse, being owned by a Bank or having to wait?  It seems that most folks are picking Perfect over Free.  And what’s true in real estate, is just as true in Motherhood.

“So, what?” you might be saying.  “Hasn’t it always been like this?  June Cleaver and 2.5 in the neat and tidy house?  Pot roast on the table and Dad gets his pension 65?”

But, back then everyone wanted the Perfect Life, but everyone agreed on what the Perfect Life was.  Children, Mom at home, Dad gainfully employed, ownership of a modest house, a car in the driveway.  Now, no matter what Perfect you seek to emulate, someone is there telling you how wrong you are.  Stay-at-home?  That’s nice, until your kids need the programs that your extra income would have bought.  Birthday party?  Oh sweet, actually too sweet, since all that sugar will ruin their health.  Put them in hockey?  Fine, unless running to all those games means you eat too much fast-food in the car.  But I suppose if good health isn’t a priority for you…..

I once heard a mom of Baby-Boomers proclaim that, “As long as they graduated high school, we knew we had finished as parents.”  Could you imagine how great that would be?  That we could define success in Motherhood as raising adults that have finished high school, got a job and moved out?  And we as parents could only be required to provide a home environment that would allow them to do that.  Everything else, the organic diet, the homeschooling, the musical theatre camp, was just an “if you want”?   Maybe we would have fewer adults graduating with their second Masters without any prospect of gainful employment, and thirty-something parents asking their kids’ Grandparents for “help” with the mortgage.

All this uncertainty, married with a paranoia of unknowingly making a mistake, is fuelling this “my lovely life” blog-o-frenzy.  That’s why, as evident in many of the comments in Elizabeth’s original post, these ladies respond as if they are the ones under attack — because in their minds they have responded to this feeling of never being good enough by drawing up the lines of their own battle and fighting back.  Except, that by doing that, they unwittingly become soldiers in the enemy’s army.  You don’t overcome June Cleaver Perfect, or Celebrity Mom Perfect, by substituting Crunchy Momma Perfect.  We need to remember that some of the greatest human beings ever to live never had Mothers who cared about how white the toes of their socks were, and as for diet — only cared that they had one.

All this Perfect is costing us our freedom; freedom to be happy, to enjoy ourselves as Mothers, to make choices based on what we think is best rather than on how we will be judged.  So I’ve said good-bye to Perfectland, and never looked back.  Let me tell you, the grass, even littered with dollarstore toys, fruit leather wrappers and the occasional Happy Meal wrapper, is still a heck of a lot greener.

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