Sturm und Mom

The Storm & Stress (& Joy) of Motherhood

Archive for the tag “family”

5 Life Lessons for 2013 That My Kids Accidentally Taught Me

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Trust me — we’ve got it all figured out.

I know many will be shocked — nay floored — that I don’t yet know everything, but it’s true.  Luckily, my kids have also recognized that deficiency and have pitched in on project Improve Our Mom™.  Like when Big Boy points at those obnoxious weight loss clinic ads on the TV and screams “Yeah Mom!! You should do it, too!!  Look how happy that lady is!  And you get new clothes!!”

“Yeah,” adds Princess.  “I’ll come with you.”  (She’s 5.)

Or how my darling son pokes at the exposed small of my back as I scrub the tub.  “Time to get a Trendy Top, Mom!”

Of course, tells me that my first step must be to cancel the cable.  And stop cleaning the bathroom.  But beyond that, here is Liz’s Guide to Wisdom (Gleaned from People Not Yet That Wise):

 

You know I'm awesome

You know I’m awesome

Sarcasm from the under 18 set is always welcome

The best way to build a relationship and be taken seriously, is to totally roll your eyes when you talk, and add geezjust kidding to everything.  Trust me — this-is-suuch-a-good-idea <sigh>.

Many problems aren’t solved, not because you lack the solution, but because you just don’t want to do it

I have talked myself hoarse to tell kids the same thing over and over.  Everyone understands, everyone hugs, tomorrow’s a new day, yada yada yada.  The next day or week or month we’re right back at it.  I’ve now realized that the easiest way to deal with a problem, is to blow off steam by getting someone to brainstorm your solution, and then completely ignore it as you go back to acting the way that you always have.  It won’t actually fix the problem, but it makes you feel better for however long it takes for you to actually change your behaviour .

People are born thinking that, whatever they know, is the sum total of everything that there is to know

Yesterday, Dad tried to “scare” off Tall Girl with threats of a “Mercy Fight.”  This should have filled her with genuine terror, considering that her Dad is a veteran of both the High School wrestling team and Air Force Cadet Survival Camp, not to mention a really rough Junior High School.  Instead, she kept trying to grab his nose while squawking, “What?!  Bring it on!”   The concept that something really, really awful could exist outside the knowledge of her 11 year old mind, totally escaped her.  In other words, a junior version of “what could possibly go wrong?”

What really needs doing is the absolute last thing anyone wants to do

Be rich and famous, and drone endlessly on about your personal brand; tonnes of takers for that.  Repeatedly wipe down the powder room with Fantastik, plan menus on a budget, spend supper time conversation on why war happens, vacuum up Kleenex from under the bed; not too many line up for those duties.  Unfortunately, the first isn’t really needed, and the second is becoming more and more neglected, leading to a whole bunch of problems for everyone.  Which leads me to my last big lesson:

Real success often means looking like a failure

“Can’t you let your sister win?  She’s only a baby!”  And after some grumbling they do.  Later, they do it without being asked — let someone go first, bite their tongue, give the big piece away — it’s what makes a parent proudest. Yet, who really wants to do that?  Doesn’t it sound better to be one of those judges on a reality TV show, barking out insults and walking out to your limo?  No one ever calls someone a hero because they grabbed all the change off the table.  Unless it was to deliver it to the poor.

Now, thanks to my genetic contribution to the world, we can all become smarter, wiser people.  Maybe they still need the plots of iCarly explained to them, but they unintentionally do tell you a lot of what right and true.  Even if sometimes you need to hide in the mini-van from all that right and true, which of course is wrong and false, but nothing has burned down as of yet so no harm done. Right?

Have a Merry Christmas Season and a blessed 2013!

What are the egg and pineapple doing? Relaxing! (Silly question...)

What are the egg and pineapple doing? Relaxing! (Silly question…)

“How Empty is Your Life?” and Other Parenting Misses

Everything’s just peachy around here

Did you think I could stay away from the my little soap box for a whole 10 weeks?  Come on now.  You’re dealing with a woman who gets interrupted six times while screaming “FIRE!”  Plus, I went camping so there is only so much that one’s psyche can handle.

Since there is only 4 weeks left to the kids’ summer vacation, and I wouldn’t want them to have delusions that it was niceor anything, I thought I should permanently record the Mommy Misses so far of the season.  Think of this post as one of those Realty TV recap shows.   My kids will appreciate the cheat sheets for their memoirs.

“This will be perfect for the cover!”

  1. As for the title —  I didn’t actually say it that way.  Sweetie Pie came up and showed me some gross, dried-up glue in a tube, and said, “You could squirt it on some paper in a big blob.”  I assuming that, at age 9, she was a pretty much an adult in some Hunter-Gatherer cultures,  and quipped, “How empty would your life have to be to want to do that, eh?”  As I watched her eyes and then entire face fill with horror, I realized that I had made a grave mistake.  I gave her the glue and paper and a whole bunch of candy.  Things seem fine now.
  2. Look into my eyes!

    Tall Girl asked why I was staring “right there,” and pointed to a spot above her eyebrow.  I said that I was just looking at her.  Then I realized, being always crazy-run-around-busy, I never make eye contact with my kids.  They think all Moms have heart to heart talks with their heads stuck in the dryer.

  3. I got so out of shape I couldn’t get up off the floor.  Well, let’s back up on this one:  While I was pregnant with my SIXTH adorable child, I strained the ligaments in my back, which caused me an amazing amount of pain.  Being, like, not un-pregnant, I took it easy for a while.  A while being 18 months.  This rest period was abruptly terminated the day I lay down to retrieve a binky from under the kids’ bed and couldn’t get up.  I pacified the little ones by grinning furiously and telling them I was “playing whale.”  Daily walks have since ensued, and the call to “bring it here to Mommy” is slowly disappearing.
  4. Mommy is soooo distracted. Plus this tastes healthy.

    Today, my kids ate Chocolate Chip Cookies and a little piece of cheese for lunch.  I gave them buttered bread, cheese and peaches for lunch, with a cookie for dessert, and they just ignored all the real food and went straight to the sugar.  I was trying to fix my email and didn’t notice until I went to clean up and found all this perfectly good foodruined by sitting in sun outside for too long (they were having a picnic.)  Luckily, chocolate is a good source for Vitamin K.

  5. I told the kids the Ice Cream Man was “just a jerk in a truck.”  They retaliated by lying that he was riding a bike and wearing a FREE ICE CREAM hat .  I knew better — that’s too many letters for a hat, and those jerks avoid all physical activity.  Mom 1 Kids 0
  6. Big Boy reads Green Eggs and Hamto himself by stabbing the the picky guy with his finger and shouting, “I hate you.  I hate you.  I HATE YOU.”

    Come back here Sam-Not-I-Am! We’ve got a score to settle!

Yeah, lots to be proud of around here.   People sometimes says nice things to me like, “You have lovely family,” or “What good children,” or “Could you please go ahead of me in line because I can’t stand the noise” and I just have to laugh if they knew what a zoo I have.  Oh, well.  Four more weeks to screw up improve.

If you feel it would be helpful, feel free to share your parenting missteps in the comments.  Remember, it’s harder to catch a whole herd, than a single Bison.

Community That Lifts You Up, and Holds You Down

I love my new backyard!!!!

I am now typing this in my brand new address.  The movers came a week ago to take the heavy furniture and the too large boxes in their (what would turn out to be too small) truck.  Auntie took the little kids, school took the big ones, and an installation appointment took my Sweetheart to the new house, leaving me all alone with an open front door.  Desperately needing to keep out of the way least I cause a Worker’s Compensation Board claim, I stood at the kitchen island, trying not to look indolent.  The multi-coloured activity that is recess at the playground of the school down the block caught my eye.  Suddenly, I realized now that I was leaving, how much I had connected myself to that swarming mass, even though they weren’t necessarily my children out there.  I had a kinship to those kids and those parents that I saw everyday out my kitchen window, even when my own little ones were sitting beside me eating apple slices and Triscuits.  The melancholy realization struck me that my moving way meant losing a community that I didn’t even know I had.

How much of our sense of community is more than just physical?  Location, work, Church, sports — these are the easy identifiers to where we belong.  But we all carry around in our heads an idea of who we belong to, and who belongs to us.  Much the same way that search engines customize their results based on past search requests, we start to view the world as a collection of groups, placing ourselves as members in or out of them.  But what happens when we find that our self-selected group doesn’t think we belong?  Like when your favourite comedy suddenly turns the jokes on what you hold most dear, and you realize that they see you not as a co-conspirator but as ridiculous.  Or when a group of Moms organized a playdate in front of my friend, making a conspicuous effort to let her know she wasn’t invited.  There is something psychically jarring about finding out that as far as part of your identity is concerned, everyone voted and you don’t belong.

People often write, often quite beautifully, (like Jen at Conversion Diary did recently about a horrible motorcycle fatality in her neighbourhood,) about how community can stitch us together, bind us up, and make us whole.  But in my sadness in leaving my familiar haunts, I also mutter “and good riddance to that.”  Community can lift us up, but sometimes it keeps us down.  My last neighbourhood paired streets of McMansions straining at the setbacks of their city lots, with blocks of status seeking starter homes and condominiums.  People worked so hard and long to take constant trips to Mexico, carry flashy purses, and buy their 8 year olds Macbook Pro’s for Christmas — they got their iPhone for Kindergarten Grad — that they were never around.  Every evening at 5:55 PM, it was a line of luxury cars down that same school street as parents rushed to make it to After School Care pick-up before the fines kicked in.  I saw my neighbour with kids twice in the year that she lived 5 doors down from me.  She was such a stranger I walked right by her at the Public Pool, and didn’t clue in until I was 20′ past, that I had just snubbed her.

I hoping, praying, that things will be different in our new digs.  We’ve already met more neighbours here, than I did the entire 7 years I lived in my old house.  Perhaps this house will bring more of the same, but it’s too soon to tell.  And until then, I am hoping that we have landed into a community that’s more chatting on the sidewalk, and less chasing after the latest win.

What Makes a Good Mom?

Letting a baby play with a plastic bag probably wouldn't qualify as good Motherhood.

This last week my chest felt like it was in a vise, but not from anything physical.  I was fighting off anxiety over the kids’ crazy baking schedule.  Brownies for Tall Girls’ class on her birthday, stollen for Sweetie Pie’s class on her “Share a Bread” day, and gingerbread cookies for Art Girl for her presentation on family traditions.  I tried to convince Art Girl that our new family tradition was hiding in bed trying to ignore all the coloured sheets of paper in her backpack announcing more school “FUN!!!”, but she didn’t buy it.

I know what you’re saying.  “So, Mrs. Busypants, just say no.”  But no one wants to be the Mom whose kid doesn’t bring the treats on her birthday, who’s presentation didn’t include the snacks that the student teacher suggested that you could provide (in a letter to the whole class, by the way.)   Motherhood has become a competitive sport with kids as our proxy players.

But why?  How did things get like this?   This debate was brought to my mind by the whole “Never worked a day in her life” kerfuffle.  Which then reminded me of the times when I was out with my stay-at-home mom peers and heard that Moms with nannies, “don’t love their kids as much as us.”  And the time my friend worried aloud if her son’s autism was due to the TV she let him watch.  Or the sadness I felt reading that Veronique at Vie de Cirque she went to Grad school in part over feeling “that (she) was a rather lousy mother,” (which I totally don’t get because her blog always makes me feel like a couch potato slacker.)

This self-loathing coupled with drive-by character assassination and the endless busy-busy-busy, is due I’m sure to that the fact that are target is worse than just moving.  It flies around the room like a laser pointer piloted like a toddler, landing on everything for exactly 3 milliseconds.  There is no consensus on what makes a good Mother.  When is your job done?  What do you owe those little angels of yours?  A college education?  A Tiger Mother study schedule?  Non-stop “advocating” until they are placed in the gifted class?  A TV?  Trans-fat free diet?  Perfect spank-free discipline delivered in a monotone voice?  Three meals a day and roof over their heads?  Lots of money?  Frugality and simplicity?  Really, I ask what?

And God forbid if you get it wrong.  Your adult children have the licence to go on about how their mistakes in life are somehow due to you.  (Thanks Dr. Freud!)  And that’s what we’re fighting against:  someone someday looking at our messed up offspring and thinking “what kind of bad mother let’s that happen?”  After all the sleepless nights, the money spent, the stretch marks from here to your ankles, this is what just might come your way:  a judgement of failure.  You should have done more.  What that more might be, that’s not so forthcoming.  But judgement, as a society we’ve got loads of that.

What makes a good Mom?  You try your best with what you have.  Period.  Really, what more can anyone do?  But more importantly, we are about to pass this toxic hate cult on to the next generation.  I’m not sure how happy I’ll feel watching my daughters fall as casualties in the Mommy Wars.  While I’m not sure where this all began, I feel deep down in my bones that this is where is all should end.  I believe we need to have a conversation on the Philosophy of Motherhood.  As a society children are now (mostly) fed, clothed and sheltered.  We need to look at the opportunities this affluence has given us and decide what we are going to do with it.

Because I can’t believe that God and nature intended Motherhood to be a guilt laden taxi-service marathon, and until we figure out otherwise, that’s just what it’s going to continue to be.

Stollen Angst

Every Christmas I make Stollen, German Christmas bread with fruit and nuts. And every year I experience a near panic about whether it will turn out. This year I decided to try to a new recipe from my very fancy, award winning bread book.  However, because it is a high-brow culinary recipe, the bread is quite dense, which is what good bread should be.   But, being just a plain old housewife, sometimes I just want an over-abundance of yeasty, bubbly, big bread that rises up and spills over the side of the pan, and domes the plastic wrap. Why?  Because it it looks better. You see where the angst comes in.  Or, I suppose I should say I’m a plain old Hausfrau.  Though, part of this year’s angst comes from the fact I couldn’t cut the bag of icing sugar open properly because I didn’t have any sharp scissors.   (I covered the counter – and my cell phone – in it.)  This automatically precludes me from being a proper Hausfrau, as I believe sharp scissors are imperative in the kitchen for cutting off the beak of any Grimm-esque talking birds which have found their way into your house.  Or Grimm-istch.  Whatever.

I know my tag line says “residually cynical,” but I also would describe myself as “residually German,” since the last ancestor of mine from any Heimat left for citizenship in the Commomwealth 80 plus years ago. Yet as Canadian as I act the rest of the year, for some reason I resurrect all these weird Teutonnic food fetishes at Christmas. Hence, the Stollen angst. Or maybe Stollenangst would be the term, to go with my Mutterschuldfreude (mother guilt joy).  Then there’s the Pfeffernüsse cookies.  These can best be described as round little balls of playdough that have been sweetened and spiced with ginger, and then left out on the counter to almost dry.  Then someone coats them in a white glaze, and maybe dips them in chocolate.  I’m eating one right now, and it’s freaking awesome.  Who cares that I got them from the drugstore when I was searching for extra bows.  ( I didn’t find any.)

Stollen to me, and Pfeffernüsse, and Lebkuchen (spice cookies — yes, there are more) for that matter, aren’t just Christmas treats.  They’re un-remembered memories.  Memories of people who came before me, the ancestors who farmed the hamlets of Burkovina, who toiled in the coal mines of Silesia, who nursed sick infants across the Atlantic in steamer ships, who bore the first child in a sod hut all alone in the dark days of November.   These are the people I don’t know, who never left any records, or diaries, or blogs, other than their descendants.  They are who I am trying to remember.  So this food takes on a greater meaning then how much the bread rose, or if I used the proper spice mix.  It’s the only way I know of connecting to those that came before me, and who sacrificed so that I could enjoy the life I have now, and in turn pass it along to my children.  And it is also an act of hope, that someday, somewhere, an angst filled mother will be debating whether to force rise her Christmas bread.  Someone will able to do that, because I was here doing this right now.  And that woman will be doing it, as an act of trying to remember me.

Remind Me Again How I’m the Loser

Reading this article left me the most disturbed I’ve been all week (h/t Kathy Shaidle.)  (The second most disturbed was when my little kids came out of the bathroom with a Dixie cup exclaiming “We made you tea — with cream in it!”  But I digress…)

The author of this column, Liz Jones, seems to be one of those women newspapers employ because they write bizarre, unbalanced and salacious stuff, and generate a lot of “controversy,” and therefore lots of readers (1000+ comments on this story alone.)  The gist of her tale is that she was desperate in her late 30’s to have a baby, and resorted to all sorts of nefarious plots to try to unknowingly entrap her boyfriends/husbands into impregnating her.  She then claims that many of her middle-aged female friends are doing the same thing.  It ends with the warning to men about these shifty gals:

If there are any men out there even contemplating getting close to a woman in her late 30s or early 40s, I suggest you tread very carefully.

She might be the woman for you; she might be totally honest if she says she doesn’t want to rush into motherhood.  But she might also be a duplicitous creature willing to go to any lengths to fulfil her dreams of having a family.

When I was in my 20’s in the 1990’s, and hopped-up on feminist-gender theory, I would have considered a married mother of six (i.e. myself in 2011,) as being an oppressed baby-factory, her true dreams and aspirations suppressed by religious fundamentalism, no more than a domestic servant that you don’t have to pay.  The “traditional gender role” for women, everyone knew, meant spending your life begging your husband for money, at least until he abandons you to a lonely existence with your cat, hoping against hope a man will call.  Everyone knew, there was no dignity in being a housewife.  No dignity at all.

Funny how all the “dignity” that these social progressives keep promising us, doesn’t seem so dignified when you actually have to live it.  Take euthanasia, for example.  Two days I ago, while waiting for my appointment, I over heard the older Doctor warn his much younger employee to get married, or when she was older, no one would take care of her.  “They’re bringing in euthanasia now,”  he told her.  “You better watch out.”

While she laughed it off, he wasn’t smiling. Death with dignity, or death because people get tired of footing the bill for your nursing home?

Raising 6 kids may not be the most dignified job (heck, I’ll be the first to admit that,) but I’ve never, ever, even considered doing something as humiliating as retrieving a used prophylactic from some guy I could barely tolerate, with the hope of having a baby.  Or listened to different men tell me that they had too many “sexual offers” to continue seeing me.   Or decided that I should abort one of my children’s siblings, because funds were tight this month.  Or strap my kids into their car seats at 5:30 am on the way to daycare, while later that day my spouse goes out boat shopping.  And while my husband could try to withhold money from me, he might have a problem with all the joint bank accounts, credit cards, mortgage, and the titles to the vehicles and house.  Not to mention he hates to pay bills and budget.

However, I guess they got me with the “lonely old lady with her cat” future that awaits me.  Oh, hold on….

I still have days now when I wished the sperm-theft had worked; that I had a daughter or son my husband felt compelled to visit.

Not, I’m ashamed to say, because I think I’d be a particularly good mum, but because our relationship would not have been a complete waste of time, with nothing to show for it but bad memories and a shared cat.

Yeah, sometimes winning seems a lot like losing.  Count me as a happy “Loser.”

 

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