What's that on your face?
Perched so neatly on your nose.
I want to grab them.
How I love to jump!
Jump jump jumpity jump jump!
Mom's arms are so tired.
These buttons taste good!
Sorry, were you watching that?
Daddy in training.
Each month, my oldest daughter, “Pocketbuddha” sends me (and the rest of the family) an update on Oliver’s progress, which is titled “Oliver is [x] months old.”
Well, today I get to update you all about Pocketbuddha, because it’s her birthday, and because I’m her mother, and because - damn I am proud of her.
She was born 24 years ago in Kindersley, Saskatchewan. There was still a Soviet Union then, and a divided Germany. Jello Biafra was in his last months as a member of the Dead Kennedys. A two-headed baby was flown somewhere for surgery - luckily not my baby. I didn’t want to think about such things back then. No. Wait. I still don’t.
It was hotter than hell the week she was born. The little maternity ward was full and the water pressure in that small prairie town failed from overuse - there was no running water in the hospital for a day or so. You can imagine how much I wanted to take my little girl home to Kerrobert, an even smaller town where we lived. After three days, we did just that.
Me: barely 21 years old, not much prior experience with babies or toddlers of any kind (not much babysitting experience, no small cousins, etc.). We come into our home (a two-bedroom apartment), I took my baby out of her car seat and laid her on the bed.
Baby Pocketbuddha: tiny. Black hair. Sleeping peacefully.
Me: Ye gods. This is an entirely new human being depending on me 24/7 from now until - well like 18-20 years.
What. Do. I. Do. Now???????
Like any new mother - no worse, because I was so inexperienced - I had hopes, dreams, expectations. But Pocketbuddha was from the start her very own person who didn’t feel the need to follow any path but her own.
I’ve always admired that about her, even while I was admonishing her to “Question authority, NOT your mother!”
This is what she taught me: children are their own people, they’re not little “minime” copies of their parents. Not necessarily.
So you can be horrified all you want when you carefully raise them vegetarian until age 4 when suddenly at day care they grab a sausage and wolf it down.
Yes, she did this.
Yes, I was horrified.
But look at her now: she’s the vegetarian, I’m the carnivore. Closing the circle. Nyah.
Over the years our relationship hasn’t always been close. At one point when she was a teenager I actually had serious doubts as to whether she could actually take care of herself on her own given the horrific state of her room and her generally slovenly attitude toward household chores.
I didn’t realize at the time, but it’s just a developmental phase teenagers go through. Pocketbuddha is the eldest of three; she had to train us to be good parents. She did her job well, because I felt more prepared for it with her younger siblings, much to her chagrin.
But one thing I never had any doubt about: that she would be a wonderful mother. When her best friend had a baby at 17, she pitched right in and had that little girl in her arms as much as she could. Same with another friend’s baby boy a year or two later.
One night I was driving up to her dad’s house for a visit, or to pick up something, or drop something off, I can’t remember now. It was summer, it was fairly late (9 or 10 in the evening). There was my teenaged Pocketbuddha with her friend’s baby on the front porch, on the rocking chair.
“Mom,” she said with a pitiful expression on her face. “She’s been up for hours and she won’t go to sleep! I’m exhausted!”
“Oh no!” I said, seizing the teaching moment by the horns. “Gosh, well. Babies do that sometimes. It won’t last. Eventually, she will go to sleep." I beat a hasty retreat without offering to help, figuring the lesson here would be: don’t have children before you’re damn good and ready.
So when my beautiful, smart, sassy, creative, artistic daughter called me a year ago February to tell me she was pregnant, I cried tears of joy. My little baby was going to be the best mother, EVAR. Better than me, because she knew exactly what she was in for.
And when I walked into her home that she shares with my son-in-law (a man I quite like, respect and admire) and my grandson: I saw everything in its place, neat and tidy, and a mother completely in love with her baby boy (c’mon - what’s not to love?) and I knew that, just as her namesake wrote in the 14th century:
All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.
Her mom, her two best friends, and of coarse me, her auntie JJ, who has been buying her Munsch books nearly every birthday and Christmas for the last 8 years.
Needless to say I was ecstatic! I have loved Robert Munsch's books for as long as I can remember. Without his stories I don't think I would love books half as much as I do now.
For anyone out there who has never read on of his stories stop reading this (you can come back to it in a bit, just humor me here), get in your car, or on your bike, bus, or train and go, right this very second, to the nearest book store and get at least one, or as many as you can. You'll thank me when you do, and your children will thank you.
(If you find yourself overwhelmed by the selection, my personal favorites are "Purple, Green, and Yellow", "Millicent and the Wind", "The Mud Puddle", and "The Paper Bag Princess")
The man is quite simply a genius. His story telling speaks to not only every child, but to every person. Every character is us, our children, our brothers and sisters, our nieces and nephews.
Along with very relatable characters and plots ranging from a girl who finds a baby in a hole, a boy who won't go to sleep, a girl who makes friends with the wind, to the experiences of a young immigrant's first days of school in Canada, Robert Munsch also builds his stories with story time in mind. His stories are meant to be read out loud and interacted with.
Hearing his stories come to life through his own telling was magic.
At one point, while he was telling every mother's favorite Munsch story 'love you forever', all the babies in the audience aged 0 to 13 and beyond rested comfortably in their mother's arms without any resistance or embarrassment. It was a shared moment so peaceful and powerful that there was not a single dry maternal eye in the house. I got the feeling that many of the mothers of older children had not had the opportunity to hold their babies so closely in quite some time.
There is a funny thing that happens though, when you hear stories you remember from your childhood told by someone other than the person who told them to you in your childhood. It's not unlike listening to a cover of your favorite song in that it's often hard to stop comparing the two versions and just enjoy it, and yet it's so much more than that. There's a disappointment that sets in, and something akin to home sickness. The man who wrote the story could never tell it as well as my parents did.
So tears and laughter and nostalgia were had and at the end of the show I eagerly rushed for the autograph line. We stood there for 2 hours, despite the fact that the children were getting bored and Oliver overtired. (Thank god for those girls though, Oliver hardly fussed at all he was so busy soaking up the attention!)
I got to meet one of my childhood heroes, got to thank him for his contribution to my childhood, and to Oliver’s. And even though my camera suffered a sudden and mysterious crap out at that exact moment causing me to miss a great photo opportunity (Robert Munsch holding my son). I couldn't have asked for anything more.
Note: Better Homes & Gardens has since apologized for this article on their Face Book page siting a lack of editor impute and vetting procedures for online articles. Now that this problem has been brought to their attention I certainly hope that steps will be taken to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Well Heather, I am sorry that we parents of the world have inconvenienced you, but you know what? Single childless people aren’t exactly the model of acceptable behaviour themselves. So I’ll make you a deal; I will take your incredibly offensive commandments under consideration if you consider my commandments for eating out with your lonely bitter self:
Yes it’s true that those parking spots are purely convenience, and are not protected by any sort of by-law. You will not be fined for parking there without children, but it forces parents of small children to find parking elsewhere and then navigate their small children across a possibly busy and dangerous parking lot. What's more, it makes you look like a total dooche bag.
Thou shalt not use the folding bathroom change table as a convenient place to set your purse.
It may look convenient, but if you had children, you would know that the festering microscopic germ farm growing on that public change table is not a place you would want to set anything without a quick wipe down and a change pad underneath. Not only that but it’s also really irritating for the woman standing there with a stinky baby in her arms waiting for you to get out of the way,
especially even if you flash a cheesy smile and say ‘oh sorry, just a second’ in a laughing tone.
Thou shalt not swear loudly enough for my children to hear you at the next table.
Regardless of whether or not there are children at the next table, it is just polite to keep your voice down if you feel the need to be crude. I totally get that it is often necessary, I certainly do not have the cleanest mouth in the world, but I have enough trouble trying to watch my own mouth, I don’t have the time or energy to shield my children from other people’s bad language as well.
Thou shall not smoke your cigarettes right beside the entrance of any establishment.
I didn’t work so hard to kick the smoking habit when I got pregnant just to have insensitive jerks blowing smoke in my baby’s face when I am coming or going from a restaurant, or any other building. If you must slip out for a cigarette in the middle of your meal please make sure to step around to the side of the building.
Thou shalt not stare/glare at me while I am nursing my child.
Yes I breastfeed at the dinner table. No, I do not cover when I do. Some babies just won't eat with a blanket over their head, my son is one of those babies, but that doesn't mean that I should have to go somewhere as unsanitary as a bathroom (no matter how nice it may be) to feed him. In fact, it is my legal right to breastfeed wherever I happen to be. I do, however, have that blanket handy if you would like to eat with it over YOUR head.
Thou shalt not sit around gossiping with your friends in the designated nursing area.
It is my right to breastfeed my child wherever I want, covered or not, but if I choose to use one of the few designated nursing rooms provided by some businesses the last thing I want to deal with is a giggling gaggle of obnoxious women distracting my baby while he’s trying to latch, or just taking up the space I need to care for my child.
Thou shalt not drink too much during your quiet adult dinner and then drive home.
It’s happened too many times for me to count. My family and I go out to eat and while we are enjoying our meal (despite the dirty looks and holier than thou attitudes of the childless patronage.) someone at the next table starts to get a little louder, and little sloppier, and well, just a little bit drunk. I have no problem with that; enjoy yourself while you can, if you do ever have kids you will look back on these days fondly. However, when you then get in your car you are putting my children, yourself, and the general public in harms way.
Thou shalt not bother your wait staff with complaints about other patrons.
Maybe I am crazy, but someone could walk into an establishment totally naked and I probably wouldn't say anything to the wait staff. It is their job to take your order and bus your table, not be your social babysitter. Deciding what behaviour is or is not acceptable, or who is and who is not welcome in the establishment is up to the management, human rights legislation and local licensing laws. By complaining about other patrons to your wait staff you are putting them in a really uncomfortable and sometimes impossible position.
If any of these commandments cannot be met for whatever reason, there are plenty of great recipes out there to recreate the dining out experience in your own home where you do not have to interact with anyone you find annoying, inappropriate, or distracting.
Not too long ago I posted about BFAR and body image for the Body Image Carnival hosted by Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! and MamanADroit. It was such a wonderful experience to share my story, and to read the stories of other women & their body image experiences.
The issue of body image plagues all women it seams. Not surprising in a society that equates beauty & sexuality with worth, and then defines that beauty & sexuality with an airbrush.
But what about men?
My little man is barely aware that he and I are two separate people, so I doubt that he's overly concerned with how he measures up to the rolly-polly blond haired blue eyed happy squealing babies on TV. But the experience of reflecting on my body image lead me to thinking about what body image will mean to my son in the future.
Naturally I asked my partner. 'When young boys see pictures of hulking muscle men with shiny abs and bulging pecks, does it make them feel not good enough?'
He doesn't seam to think so. Or at least, he doesn't remember having those kinds of feelings, or comparing himself to any masculine ideals as a child.
I am a little skeptical. Women aren't the only ones whose bodies are idealized, skewed, and misrepresented in the media. So why would women be the only ones feeling shamed and pressured by those images?
I don't believe that we are the only ones, so why isn't their more talk about the ideal of masculinity that is being marketed to our boys, and the effects that these images have on them?
I am well aware of the behaviour that will be modeled to my son by the media. I find myself determined, if a little daunted, to raise a peaceful and respectful boy who treats women and all beings with kindness and mindfulness despite the fact that every TV show, album, toy, and game marketed to him will be working against me. Even so, until recently I hadn't really thought about how the marketing of masculinity would effect how he feels about his body.
Will he see the barrel chested and over-muscled features of super heroes and action figures as something to aspire to? Will he compare himself with eerily hairless square jawed billboard models?
I expect that he might, and I am unsure of how to prevent, or deal with any self image problems that may arise from the media's version of what it is to be male.
Is guiding a son through all of these unrealistic messages about body and behaviour the same as guiding a daughter?
How does one help any child, male or female, find their way through the muddied waters of gender and body image?
This Sunday will be my first mother’s day.
Last mother’s day I was swollen and irritable and out of my mind with nausea and fatigue, and working my ass off building a tiny human in my womb, but for some reason that didn't count.
So Sunday will be my first mother's day. To be honest I am not sure how to feel about it. There is a part of me shying away from the attention and sentiment.
I spent 38 weeks sustaining a life within me, and 7 months now sustaining that same life outside of my womb. I feel like a super star. I feel powerful, capable, and female. I appreciate having a day marked on the calendar for everyone else to recognize all of those wonderful things.
But more than all those things I just feel tired. I feel lost and stretched thin. Worst of all I feel guilty for feeling that way. That's right; I said it, guilty, the most common cliché in the mom-verse.
There is no other word for it though. When my partner asked me last week how I would like to celebrate mother's day I didn't imagine spending the day basking in the loving glow of my family appreciating the shit out of me. My first thought was to ditch the kid and spend a few hours as far away from the word mother as I could get and just be my own sovereign being for a while.
I almost followed that up with the statement 'don't get me wrong, I love my family'. I caught myself though; I refuse to buy into the ridiculous idea that being tired means I don't love my family. Being frustrated and exhausted doesn't make me a bad mother, or a bad wife. I do know that.
I do not feel guilty because of some misguided idea that loving my family means having to like them 100% of the time. I know better than that.
It's the pressure of the day that's bothering me I think. It's MOTHER'S day, and on a day set aside specifically for others to celebrate and appreciate my motherhood, shouldn't I be appreciating it too?
On Sunday while I am eating my special mother's day breakfast, and reading my cheesy mother's day card and participating in whatever other activities my family has planned for me. I will be feeling tired and guilty because they are so wonderful and thoughtful, and all I want to do is run away and hide for an afternoon of quiet solitude.
You will need:
1 cup fine cornmeal
1 cup flower
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup yogurt
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup frozen (or fresh I guess if you've got them around!) blueberries
Preheat oven to 375 and oil 9 inch round cake pan.
Whisk together dry ingredients and set aside 2 tbsp of it.
In another bowl zest lemon and add wet ingredients.
Fold together wet and dry ingredients and pour batter into your cake pan.
Coat frozen berries in that extra 2TBSP of dry ingredients you left laying around.
Then gently fold berries into cake batter. If you want to be all Martha about it and make it look nice you could deliberately place and submerge the berries... But I think it's weird when food looks all deliberate like that so I don't!
Bake 35 to 45 min... You know, till it's done.