Ten

Transient

Ben, you are ten today and you have been anxiously awaiting your new age for weeks. I am still shaking my head in amazement that my little boy is now in the double digits.
You are still very much a Lego fanatic, although now your play is more about fighting orcs and toilet humour, preferably at the same time. It had to happen eventually...
You continue to be the kindest and most generous soul that I know. You would give your last treasure to your sister without question if she asked, or sometimes just to make her happy. You delight in making people smile and you spread joy freely. You remember to tell people every day that you love them and give them hugs. A while back we were getting ready to leave the house, and in the hustle and bustle I noticed that you had stopped moving and were just staring at me. When I asked what was the matter, you said, “Sometimes I look at you just because I love you”. My heart exploded right there on the spot. Karate and swimming lessons continue, and now we have added piano. You have taken to music very naturally and I was bursting with pride when you played at the school talent show. You never complain about practising and you love the feeling of the keys and experimenting with sounds and tempo.
You continue to progress at school, slowly but surely. You love to read comics and write your own stories. Your art is fantastic and creative and shows your enthusiasm for making. You love to venture out and see and discover. This year, we ran a 12k for charity, pretty amazing! You also conquered your bike last summer, so now we can explore on two wheels. I feel your confidence rise with every independent step you take as the months go zooming by.
And yet you still request a cuddle every morning, and it is still my favourite time of the day.
Your inner light is still the most dazzling, brilliant glow of any little boy I know, and I am so proud you are mine.
Happy birthday Benny,
Love,
Momma

Seven

My little girl, today you are 7. Seven, what a year it's been! A year of kindergarten where you took over the class and were commended for helping other students; a year of Irish dancing which, well, you seemed to have fun with; a year of creating, and learning, and laughing, and make believe. You are still your brother's very best friend, and the two of you make worlds of fictional characters come alive. You live in a land of super heroes and Lego and barbies and stuffed hippos, each new story and game coming out of your mind in a flurry of rampant imagination. You point out the beauty of the moon, bright and still under the clouds, you laugh at Picasso and tell me he doesn't know how to draw a face properly, you sing along to Bob Marley in the back of the car, and dance to a beat that is yours and yours alone. You make friends without fear or judgement and have a way of making even the toughest playmates comply and you fill the world with the joy and wonder that you find all around you.

I love listening to your insights on life as we walk to the park, drive through the country, cruise the grocery store, and hike through the woods. There may be one too many fart jokes now, and the "Muthurrrrr" refrain has already begun, but I find your humour and silliness charming when paired with your mischievous grin and the twinkle in your eyes.

You are in a hurry to grow up, wanting to imitate the older girls, make yourself exotic, be the dramatic centre of attention - but when you and I are alone, and it's quiet, you lay down next to me and hold my hand and we talk and all the personas fall away and you are just you, and you are so damn beautiful that I want to gather you up and hold you forever. Never stop being you my little Noo, because I love the person you are and all the things you want to be and cannot wait to see where tomorrow brings you.

You are a fantastic, amazing girl and you make me proud to be your mom, you always will.

Happy Birthday

 

All my love, Momma

Daughters, some thoughts

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I've been thinking about Amanda Todd. Not about the tragedy of a young girl taking her life, and not about the outpouring of support and rage on all social media networks and across schools and communities, although the idea of a story this sad going viral because of a YouTube video and perhaps encouraging similar events because of the mass response scares me. I'm thinking about Amanda Todd because I have a daughter, and I want to understand what brought this ordinary girl to such a drastic decision. The media is talking about bullying. Bullying is bad, and I commend the seriousness with which this issue is now treated in most schools across the country. Bullying creates an endless cycle of mistreatment and abuse that effects everyone. But from what I understand, this girl's bullying problems started from some bad choices she made while communicating with cretins on the Internet (who take advantage of young girls on a regular basis and should be prosecuted). So maybe parents should be more careful about what their children do on the Internet, but the deeper issue is why girls go seeking attention online in the first place.

My first thought is lack of self esteem. We blame society and ourselves for not having enough self esteem. There are articles all over the Internet, Dove campaigns, and tons of self analysis and criticism of media, the modelling industry, advertising companies, and everyone else who tells us what a perfect woman should be.

So what is self esteem? As I type this I realise that I equate the lack of it with pictures of thin models and I couldn't be more wrong. Self esteem is knowing who you are, it's liking the great things about you and improving the things that are not so good. It's about being a good person and pursuing your dreams and living a life that you are proud of. It is being happy to be you.

We are born without any preconceptions of what we should be, but as we become aware of the world and ourselves we start to think about how we are viewed. This isn't a bad thing, but if we also start to compare ourselves to others when we do not know who we are, what we like, where we are going, then we latch on to an ideal created by someone else and compare ourselves to a figment of the imagination, that's when the issues start.

I was reading an article in Psychology Today about the myth of girls losing their self esteem in adolescence (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-women/201001/the-truth-about-women-and-self-esteem). According to the study, there is no significant change in adoloescence, and girls although more "anxious about their appearance" are more confident than boys in terms of academic achievement. What seems to make a difference is support, "For both girls and boys, those who felt supported by parents, teachers, and friends in expressing their points of view felt they had a stronger voice".

Adolescence is such a fragile time because we emerge from that bubble of being completely unaware to the question, "who am I?". It is important to have people in our lives who help us become who we are and not tell us who we should be.

I want to build a relationship with my daughter that allows her to share doubts and problems, and I want to help her to understand that she is beautiful and if people tell her she isn't she just won't believe them. But most importantly, I want her to know who she is so that she can make her own choices and be a happy person.

My goals for my children are countless, but I want them to understand that they are loved and that they have people in their lives who think they are wonderful, can listen without judgement, and will provide help when they need it. I think I'm on the right track, I'll read some more and get back to you.

rain

We are having a huge storm here - thunder shaking the house and lightning illuminating the night. When I was a kid we had a screened sun porch with a tin roof and my dad and I used to sit out there during storms. There was nothing he liked better, he used to say, than the sound of the rain hitting that tin roof and I could understand why - it created a sound that was enveloping and loud, filling your ears, yet gentle when mixed with the wind in the branches. I can still feel the cool air on my cheeks, swirling and gusting through the screens. Sometimes we'd get quite wet out there, sitting in chairs with our feet up on the cooler we used as a coffee table, watching the lightning flash and outline the trees and the distant mountains. My dad gave me a great love of storms, and when there's no threat of being struck down by an act of a god, I like nothing better than to be out walking in them on a hot summer night and feeling the rain fall on my face, my neck, my shoulders, and feel the shivers of delight when the breeze creates goosebumps along my skin. I feel so much more alive and life seems more clear, as if the water is washing away the dust that's accumulated in my brain and from my senses.

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I wonder if my dad remembers telling me about his love of rain on the roof, or if he remembers sitting with me on the porch. Perhaps it's a silly thing to wish, but I hope that he does. It is so strange to have a person sitting in front of you, seemingly as he's always been physically, yet knowing that he may not remember all of the things that he's told you, all of the stories he has filled your mind and heart with your entire life. The loss is felt so much deeper when there's a blankness in the eyes of someone you love so completely.

I know they cannot disappear and yet the memories are so fragile, clinging to the thin threads of love spinning out in all directions and at the mercy of elements we cannot control. Someday I will only be able to remind my kids about how Poppy loved the sound of the raindrops on the roof, in much the same way as they will remember how I used to walk in summer storms and smile.

Nine

Oh Ben, you are nine, where does the time go? I have blinked and another year has zoomed by and you are bigger and still so very beautiful.You continue to spread love and joy where ever you go, touching people and making the world kinder and sunnier. Your ability to notice and understand the feelings of others borders on telepathy and is a rare gift, rarer still considering who you are. You always have a kind encouraging word for friends, and you would share anything with your sister to make her happy, and you still walk up to my bed every morning and ask "for a cuddle please momma". Your selflessness continues to inspire me and proves to me that a gentle heart can have a much greater impact than cautious one.

Grade three was so much better than two: an enthusiastic teacher and two lovely helpers who appreciated your gifts all gave you room to be yourself and encouraged you to believe in yourself and now you are a confident and enthusiastic reader and a creative writer. You made up your own poem on a walk home one evening and everytime I look at it framed on my wall I burst with pride.

You can converse about Spiderman, story plots, and The Magic Flute. In addition to being a scientist and inventor, you have recently added Lego master builder to your c.v., and I believe you are on the right track about that, the bricks dance between your fingers and become worlds that I marvel at. In addition to your academic and creative achievements, you also managed to complete a 10k run for charity and have started karate which you are patiently teaching your sister at home.

With every accomplishment you are becoming more mature, more aware, and more able to perceive and challenge things in your life that you feel are unfair or wrong. You can stand up for yourself and are a loyal friend and these traits will protect you when you need it most.

You are everything you should be and so much more, your light and sweetness are unique in this world.

I love you more than ever, Momma

Moms in the jungle - work in progress

I'm sitting in the dank kitchen in a church basement waiting for my daughter's latest class to finish. Irish dancing. It seemed like a good idea, good for her coordination, great excercise, lively music,and none of the weight issues and structure of ballet.

My daughter started with the rest of the class of absolute beginners, none of them knew a single step in September. Now most of the girls are picking it up very well and a few are exceptional. My daughter is not one of them; she's been at it for six months now, and she's still stumbling over basic steps and waving her arms around like windmills which is the biggest sin an Irish dancer can commit other than dissing Michael Flatley.

I get up and take a peek into the main room. She's been shuffled into remedial jig with four other girls so they can catch up with the rest of the class. She's pulling at her underwear and staring at herself in the mirror instead of paying attention. Sigh.

I am caught in the stage of "before it's too late", the world of "if they start young it's easy", the window of opportunity that allows your child to become a talented, successful adult rather than an ordinary drudge. Every world-renowned dancer, singer, musician, nobel winner, and elite athlete started, it seems, before age 2 and practised every day for 50 hours. And as adults they love what they do and make the world a better place and they thank their mothers every day for the sacrifice and encouragement (nagging) they received in their childhood to keep going. Their success, they say in interviews, was largely the result of their moms guidance (pushing).

I live in the age of the Tiger Mother, and I am a Tabby Cat. I want my children to find passions, but I want them to have fun and enjoy their childhoods. And I agonize over this every second of every day.

How is a Tabby mom to compete? How can I ensure that my children excel in this world of overachievers? I look around at the rest of the moms in the kitchen: some checking their email on their phones, some chatting about learning activities, some helping their other kids with their homework or feeding them something organic. We are all living with the pressure of parenting and wanting to do the best job that we can to raise our children, knowing that if it goes badly, it is all our fault. And that every other mom in the room is doing a better job than we are.

We find activities, pay the registration fees, buy the shoes (leotard, stick, racket, trampoline, chainsaw), and then throw them in and hope something talented happens. If it doesn't, we think, as moms, that it must be our fault, so we put in more effort.

I have encouraged and asked and drilled and praised and pleaded and scolded, but nothing I have done has made my wonderful child turn into the diligent girls dancing near the front of the class, bouncing gracefully and practising their steps over and over to get them perfect.

It didn't make her a great ryhthmic gymnast either, laying on the mats looking up at the ceiling of the auditorium while the other girls did effortless cartwheels and twirled without falling over.

We worry about wasting the limited time available and then worry that we haven't given our kids a long enough time in an activity to truly develop. My limit is two sememsters before we move on, watching for signs that she's still keen about the old activity. Did she just twirl without falling over? Did she just perform a flawless reel? No, probably not.

And in the midst of all of this, our children skip around in a fairy circle oblivious to talent and judgement and I envy them and realise that I am insane. And I smile and enjoy the dance.

Let's try karate next.