Category Archives: Family Ties

Comfort of mother and son

My boys are growing up. And no matter how often I remind myself, slow down, remember to pay attention, I know this will all be over too soon. I often feel I’m being swept away by life. It’s hard work  to pay attention. It’s even harder to remember to pay attention. I’m delighted by them, by our family, and this precious gift called motherhood. It sounds quaint I know, but the truth is, I’m in awe of it. They are people. People I made. And now, as their arms and legs stretch the limits of boyhood, as their minds expand to explore thoughts unknown to me, I sometimes forget that I made them. They are me. But now, they are no longer me. They are them. It’s kind of a mind twist isn’t it?

But when I do look at them and see them for who they are, my heart literally bursts with pride. Wow. They are something.

I just wish they would slow down.

I want to inhale one more deep breath of their baby softness. I want to feel their round thighs and stroke the baby softness of their chubby little fingers. I want to hear the squeals and delight in the joy they feel when they seem after even a short separation. I want to be their centre.

They say this is what we are meant to do, that our job is to help them learn to fly free. And I want what that for them, of course. But I find it hard knowing that they are living lives without me, that things happen to them every day, at school and even under my own roof, to which I am not privy. How can that be? How can I not be part of it all? It’s not fair. I struggle with this. And sometimes the depth of the struggle surprises me. They’ll talk about things I know nothing about and I’ll feel jealous and hurt. It’s silly really, but it’s the honest truth.

I’ll never hold them accountable for this. It’s my pain, the pain of motherhood. But, it’s also the joy. The joy of knowing that they are stretching their wings and learning it’s safe to fly free.

Right now my oldest and I are sitting together companionably. He’s reading. I’m taking a taste of my writing again for the first time in a while and I feel the contentment surrounding us. I feel sure that this will always be available to me. This companionship and deep comfort that is mother and son just being, together.

I think they take me for granted. I hope that they do.

Learning to find our way back

We’ve been going some through growing pains with my oldest son recently. He’s 5 1/2 and discovering his individuality which is just a nice way of saying he’s testing his limits and our patience along with them. He’s bold, sassy and moody. There have been more battles of will in our house in the past few weeks than I care to admit. I’ll be honest, every once in a while I blow a gasket. It’s not always pretty, and usually ends in tears (his and mine).

In theory I consider myself to be a firm, but reasonable parent. In practice, my husband is far better at setting limits than I am. We don’t spoil our children, far from it. But much like he’s challenging us by reaching for new independence, so too am I testing my parenting limits and exploring my comfort with different kinds of discipline. I’m constantly wondering which behaviour needs to be a “teachable moment,” which is completely unacceptable and which are best left alone? It’s so hard to know. But it’s even harder to translate frustration into positive discipline. Sometimes I just lose my cool. I’ve told him I get as frustrated as him, and sometimes my emotions get the better of me. I’m not sure he understands that yet though.

So you can imagine my contentment when we declared a truce Saturday afternoon. While his younger brother napped, the two of us worked on decorating our Christmas tree. In previous years this has been a bit of a chore, with him eager to put every ornament on the same branch and in a rush to unwrap every ornament with little care for their fragility and me taking deep breaths trying to remember exactly what the joy is.

This year, he was thoroughly engaged. As he unwrapped each one, he joyfully commented that this was his favourite and then thoughtfully place each on the tree. We worked companionably, talking about each ornament, whom it was from and why it was beautiful. Every ornament on my tree has a story, whether purchased on a family adventure near or far, or given as a gift from someone special. I loved sharing all of it with him, hoping that it would inspire him to feel connected to our holiday traditions in the same way that I always have, and to know that the tree has been adorned with love and happiness.

It was just what we both needed, to restore the peace and faith that no matter what we’ll find our way. The two of us just trying to figure out this mother-son, individual-parent relationship as we go. There may be bumpy roads along the way, but we’ll always be able to find our way back to this, this place of love and happy companionship because ultimately that is what it’s all about. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

Eleven

How do you define eleven?

  • A university degree.
  • Five professional positions, with five different organizations.
  • Two houses, built with our blood, sweat and tears.
  • A family member with a serious ongoing mental illness.
  • My own struggle with depression and anxiety.
  • Cancer, a brain aneurysm, and quadruple bypass heart surgery.
  • Vacations to the Bahamas, Cuba, Las Vegas, Florida, the Maritimes, Victoria and Vancouver.
  • A diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease.
  • Seven scrapbooks filled with images and words to tell our story.
  • Two glorious, beautiful sons.
  • Two year-long, sleepless and overwhelming maternity leaves.
  • Three different daycare providers.
  • A long , drawn out and emotional battle over a motorcycle. (He eventually won).
  • Too many commutes to count.

In the end the end I realize there is more to this journey than can easily be defined.

Thank you for everything my love, for all that you do and for being my best friend. There are no words that describe what you mean to me.

Happy Anniversary
xo

 

The Master Bedroom

Friday night I flaked out on my couch. I don’t do this often, usually any and all free time is filled quickly with some activity or another, chores, reading, writing or a multitude of other things. My husband was out with a friend, and I was wiped from a busy week, so I snuggled with a warm blanket, dimmed the lights and mindlessly flipped between channels on the television.

Before long I happened upon a new show on HGTV called Consumed. Perhaps you know it, but if you don’t it’s basically a toned down version of Hoarders. Even though I’m somewhat obsessed by living a clutter-free, organized life of my own, I find it alarmingly cathartic to watch others work to get control of their own chaos.  Anyhow, this particular episode focused on a traditional couple with a young family of three children. They home school, home church, he has a home office, generally they “home” everything.  (Since when did home become a verb?) At any rate, the entire house was filled with clutter, mounds of clutter. Not dirty clutter, just stuff clutter. Especially their bedroom. As the host talked to them about the importance of creating an oasis for themselves, so that they could reconnect as a couple each night, I really started to think.

My house may be very organized, I don’t generally accumulate “stuff,” and everything has a place or a specific use, but I do not treat my bedroom as any kind of oasis, for me or for us as a married couple.

At the moment our room feels like a community gathering place. My children find our bed to be the most enjoyable place to play in the house and on weekend mornings we all cuddle together tickling and horsing around in bed. My children wander aimlessly in when I’m showering or soaking in the tub, or worse, having a private moment on the loo. The occasional guest finds it completely acceptable to just march into our room and use our en-suite as if it were the main family bathroom, and until recently when we finally installed blinds, the neighbours very bright outdoor lights shine into our windows like a beacon signalling “stay awake!”.

But perhaps the most shocking thing is that my husband and I fail to respect this space as an inner sanctum of our marriage. When we crawl into our bed together at night, instead of snuggling and cuddling and chatting with each other, our bed is frequently laden with digital devices. That’s right. On the very worst nights you’ll find us cozying up to: two laptops, two iPhones, an iPad and a Kindle. There maybe even be a cord or two criss-crossing from outlets and across night tables.

Until I watched this episode of Consumed the ridiculousness of our bed mates had never crossed my mind. It was simply what we did after the children were in bed. We, like millions of others who complain they don’t time for each other, may not have a master bedroom filled with “stuff” clutter, but our bed is certainly filled with “life” clutter.

You see the irony.

So in the spirit of what I’ve learned, and the somewhat embarrassing, if also humourous, realizations about my own relationship, I’m declaring a few bedroom rules:

  • iPhones will no longer be accessible after 8:00 p.m.
  • Kindles are allowed because reading, when you have children, can only realistically happen in the bedroom, at night, when they can’t interrupt.
  • Laptops may be used as necessary, but only for specific purposes and not to endlessly surf or engage in mind-numbing escapism.

What do you think? Is this a good start to reclaiming this space as an oasis for us as a couple? Baby steps right?

 I wrote this post as part of Heather at The Extraordinary-Ordinary’s Just Write exercise. Head on over if you want to learn and read more!

Remembering

April is a difficult month. It feels like one long breath caught between what has been and what should have been. It marks the anniversary of my mother’s death, 29 years ago, new mom of two young girls, and only 24 herself. At a time when she should have been cradled by the promise of a long and beautiful life, she struggled with a deadly illness and to say her goodbyes. Instead of hope and excitement for what was to come, she suffered with intense fear and anguish over what was inevitable. Instead of choosing bright Easter dresses for her young girls, she was extracting a promise from her husband to take care of “her girls.”

Her girls, her husband, her whole life would move forward without her. Her spirit snuffed out before she had a proper chance to live.

Only 24.

It’s never easy to remember. So much of who I am and who I am not is laced with this history . As each year passes and I grow years older than she did, I struggle. I struggle with my own loss and sadness and with a growing and deep awareness that I will never know who she was.

In our youth, we believe ourselves invincible, that we will be and achieve and do all the things we dream of. I have my own twisted experience with this. As a younger woman, I believed that my day would come, that I would somehow know her. I’ve never faced her death and what it really means, the loss of her as permanent. I think that’s what happens when experience the death of your most primal connection at 4 years old. The reality is quickly, succinctly swept away by a higher power. It’s impossible to deal with the emotions surrounding such an experience as such an emotionally immature age. So your spirit takes over, covers it up, with years and layers of diversions.

But it never goes away. It’s there. Deep, profound, heavy and dark. All of it. It’s only hidden.

This year is particularly hard. My sons have the remarkable distinction of having been born on my birthday and my sister’s birthday. Even more stunning is that their age gap is exactly the same as ours, just shy of three years.

This year, this month, they are the exact age we were when my mother died: almost 5, and just 2. Little. Vulnerable. So young. Not even completely out of diapers.

Yesterday afternoon we were just hanging out. The two of them were being the boisterous boys they always are, bouncing on my bed as I tried and failed to read. I chose instead to stop and watch them, squeal and giggle. I soaked up their sheer intensity, delighted in the life that fills them up and said a silent prayer of thanks for my own.

I asked my husband. “How do you suppose it would feel to know that you would be raising them alone?”

He refused to answer the question. He preferred to change the subject. I don’t really blame him. To him, it’s inconceivable. To me it is too.

And yet I think about it more and more these days, probably because I knew we approaching this significant anniversary. I feel such pain for both of us. For her, and what she has missed, and for me, for what I have missed.

Is there a me in marriage?

19th Sept: 5 years of marriage Several months ago I read the most interesting article in The New York Times. In it, Tara Parker -Pope explored the notion that it’s no longer enough to stay married and that couples today are in search of meaningful and satisfying partnerships that help them grow.

My immediate reaction was: Of course! Would a person consider any different?

Arguably I’m not a relationship expert. Ten years into a very happy marriage, I genuinely have no idea what any other kind of relationship would be like. In fact,  I married my high school sweetheart, the only man I ever seriously dated. So relationships experience isn’t something that I have a lot of. But I do know that he’s my soul mate, and the perfect partner. I’m a lucky woman.

I do however, believe (perhaps naively) that our generation, and presumably those from our parents generation (and all those in-between) wanted the same. I realize that historically speaking marriage was not what it is today.

We’ve certainly come a long way in recognizing marriage as a partnership between two equal individuals and the importance of love and commitment. We now have the “Michelangelo effect“, a term coined by Caryl Rusbult, a former researcher at Vrije University in Amsterdam, that suggests that “close partners ‘sculpt’ each other to help one another attain valued goals.” I googled the term; apparently I’ve been under a rock because I’d never heard it before. If you search it, you’ll find countless blog posts and other web documents that explore the issue.

To be honest, I think it’s a very apt description of my own relationship. I’ve been with my husband since I was 15. This fall we’ll celebrate 19 years as a couple. That’s a very long time. We’ve truly built our lives together, as partners. He understands me completely and accepts all of my faults and limitations. No one knows me like he does. Frankly, he probably knows me better than I know myself. It makes for a powerful bond, one that I cherish and rely on.

At the same time, he fully supports who I am outside of the relationship. He recognizes that I have personal goals that help enrich my life and contribute to my happiness, and by extension our happiness as a couple and family.

So I understand the idea described in Parker-Pope’s article that “individuals experience personal growth through their partners in big and small ways.” For goodness sake, we literally grew up together.

My husband celebrates my individuality and helps me nurture it. But our bond is strengthened by our commitment to our marriage and how we live our lives together. A true partnership is not about me or we, it’s about a perfect blend of both. A subtle, but important distinction that recognizes the strengths and importance of honouring ourselves as individuals and partners .

Image: ‘19th Sept: 5 years of marriage‘ by scribbletaylor via a Creative Commons license.

Waiting to exhale

My father is my anchor, my heart. We are very close. We’ve been through a lot together. He’s a friend, a support, and a wonderful grandfather.

Last spring he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It came as a shock. I wondered how this could this happen to him. He’s only 57 and has always been vibrant, healthy and bigger than life. At least to me.

I didn’t take it well. The news sank deep, and sat still and dark, like a lump in my heart. It was the beginning of a severe downward spiral. Thankfully the cancer was found early, and the prognosis was excellent. But this didn’t settle the vibrations spreading in my deepest core, a new knowing that this person who I love so much, who has been my whole world for so very long is susceptible, vulnerable just like the rest of us. I spent many months ignoring it, burying my fear. I didn’t acknowledge. Refused to.

Until last week.

He had his prostate removed in October. The surgery was a terrific success. His surgeon couldn’t have been more pleased. The recovery has been steady and free of complications. He looks well, he feels well. We’ve all been holding our breath, waiting for 10 long weeks to know how this would all turn out. The results of his blood work that would tell us if the surgery was successful weren’t due until January 4. But we got an early Christmas gift, one we all so badly needed. On December 22 he had a check-up with our family doctor. Our doctor said the results had come back early. My dad didn’t want to know, I would imagine he sucked in his breath. But our doctor assured him he did. And we couldn’t have asked for better. He is cancer free and healthy again.

Exhale.

My husband called to give me the news because I was out with a friend. At first it didn’t hit me. Not until I was driving home. And I cried. I cried, and I cried and I cried. I cried away all the pent up emotion and fear that I had felt for months. It was a relief such that I don’t remember ever feeling before. He’s well. God willing we’ll have many, many years together ahead. He will continue to be a part of my life, my connection to reality, my daddy.

I first published this post more than a year ago. It seems fitting to share it with you again, here and now.

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If you read my blog you know that I lost my mother at a very young age. Her death had the most profound impact on my life and has shaped who I am more than any other single event in my life. I often tell people that losing my mother so young defined my future in an instant. As hard as it has been for me and as much as it has defined my life, the loss of her was as significant to him. At only 28 my father was left alone to parent two young girls (I was 4, my sister was 2). I can only imagine how scary and lonely that must have been for him. However he didn’t let it consume him, he stepped up and was the best father, the best daddy two girls could ever have.

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Dear Dad,

Thank you for being everything to me. Thank you for being the father I needed always. Without you I would never have been able to heal and grow. You gave us as much love as two parents and for that I will always be grateful and in awe.

Thank you for being strong when all you probably wanted to do was run. People offered you help, an escape, but you didn’t take it. We needed you and you were there for us. Thank you for being a daddy to two girls. How hard that must have been.

Thank you for working so hard, days, nights and weekends, so that we could have so many opportunities.

Thank you for making dinner every night, especially spaghetti which is a favourite to all of us to this day. Probably because it reminds us of you.

Thank you for spending countless hours at the rink for figure skating, hockey, and ringette. I know you loved it, but you still deserve to be thanked. I will always remember the look of pride in your eyes the time I got to stand on the podium.

Thank you for always coming to get me at school when I was sick. For being available in ways that would be hard for a family with two parents.

Thank you for all your help with my math homework. I used to secretly pretend I needed it just so we could sit and be together. It was magic!

Thank you for coming and listening to me speak in public speaking competitions over and over, no matter what the subject. The hours must have been long, but you came. And for that I’m grateful.

Thank you for your willingness to pick me up at late at night, even in the dark Canadian cold, so I could go out with my friends.

Thank you for going to school meetings, especially the one to advocate that we should be able to wear what we wanted to our graduation. I don’t expect that was easy. But it meant so much to me.

Thank you for being strict. I didn’t know it then, but I understand now how important it was. You started the cycle, and provided a foundation that now I’m giving my boys.

Thank you for being so gentle and kind, for believing in me no matter what. Thank you for the pride in your eyes.

Thank you for being such an amazing grandfather, for loving my children as you did me and for making a difference in their lives.

Thank you for coming early mornings to take your grandchildren to daycare so that I could leave for work early and they could sleep in.

Thank you for helping us to build not one, but two houses. Your tender loving touch is all around me. This is a home that love built. I feel you at the heart of it.

Thank you for being constant, and loving, and always on my side.

I’m all grown up now with two kids of my own. Yet still you are here for me whenever I need you. I might be an adult, but I still need you so much.

From the bottom of my heart,

Christine

Everyday !!!

I have to admit, there is lots of benefit to actively remembering to capture moments of intentional happiness. When I stop to snap a shot just because it makes me !!!, I actually take the time to reflect on the ordinary in my life. In the process I’m smiling more. How great is that?

Here are this week’s !!!

Two handsome boys hanging out and enjoying some great cartoons.
Like father, like son. It melts me every time.
(Though I could do without that tattoo. Really I still don’t like it.)
 

This has become my life. What big brother can do, little brother can too.

My husband calls them original and carbon copy.
I’m sure a time will come when it will drive me crazy but for now I just love it. It’s adorable and amazing.
You know, budding buddies and all that!

To little brothers who show up out of the blue with such lovely gifts !!!

 And to parents who live close and have such a great view for relaxing when they cook for you !!!

And to dinners with great friends and “non-bloggers” who really know how to make your day.
Really, what’s better than a cold one on a patio? Well great company of course!
Great company in the form of a friend who is just as chatty as you.

What makes you?
Intentional Happiness

Bad Mommy Moments !!!

Momalom !!!

Budding buddies and all that is sibling

My sister and I are not close. Our relationship is complicated, to say the least. She is my only blood sibling; I have a step brother too. Sadly, though my relationship with him is far less complicated, it’s no more satisfying. We love each another, but we don’t rely on each other. We’re all in our 30s and I have never had a heart-to-heart with either of them.
We see each other relatively frequently since we live close. They aren’t married or in committed relationships, and I have no nieces or nephews. My two boys are the only grandchildren. I know my siblings adore their nephews, and they are Godparents to them. We spend all the holidays together, we celebrate our birthdays together and we have travelled together as an extended family.
The point I’m trying to make is, though we are present in each others lives, we are not present in each others lives. They don’t know me, just as I am quite certain that I don’t really know them. We are family, but we aren’t friends.

It makes me sad, but I’m powerless to change it. Trust me when I say I really am. We are such polar opposites of one another, have lived life experiences that thoroughly separate us, so much so that it makes it difficult to relate to one another in any meaningful way. They’ve made choices that don’t sit well with me. I’ve accepted that this is how it is. But sometimes I long for better.   

After the birth of our first son, my husband and I briefly considered the idea of staying a one-child family. It was silly and fleeting and really didn’t carry a lot of weight. We knew we had to have to another; wanted to provide our first with a sibling. We knew that we wanted our family to grow with the richness and love that comes with adding a new member. And so, after two years we took the next logical step. We got pregnant.
Obviously I know that simply having two is no guarantee that their relationship with flourish. I know this because of my own experience. It’s not a question of raising our boys in an environment that reinforces the importance of these relationships. We do that. And I grew up in a home that emphasized the importance of family. Despite that, I know only too well that having a sibling is no guarantee of a connection or meaningful friendship.
My youngest son is approaching 16 months, his older brother will be four later this month. As they grow into their individual personalities and get to know each other better, I’m see the signs of a budding friendship. And it takes my breath away.

For example, my youngest, X, has a passion for hockey. It surprises me that despite how young he is he is naturally quite taken with this sport. His entire day is filled with playing with his miniature hockey stick, trying to hit a little plastic ball, and raising his arms in excitement when he does as if he’s scored the game winning goal.

A few nights ago, he was playing contently with his father, while my oldest ,C, finished up his dinner. What came next, I would never have expected. When he was done, C jumped down from the dinner table. The moment he did, X, toddled (yes, he’s a hockey fiend who’s still discovering his walking legs), over to his daddy, grabbed the stick and brought it right to his big brother, who he apparently really wanted to play with. This simple, and yet so very meaningful gesture, brought tears to my eyes and filled me with a love and excitement that’s impossible to describe.

They are brothers, and I hope that by virtue of that they will always share a special bond. I’ll do what I can to nurture it along, encouraging them to respect and stand up for each other. But I know the sibling relationship can be complicated. People tend to hurt those closest to them without fear of reproach. That, above all, is what I hope to teach them. To love each other first. To cut no corners when it comes to their connection and their friendship. To apologize. To be honest. To be available.

In this world, I want them to always know they have each other.

Are you close with your siblings? Is there anything you would change about your relationship with them if you could? If you have more than one child, do you help grow their relationship or do you just let it naturally unfold?

Life happened

I’m reading hand wash cold: care instructions for an ordinary life by Karen Maezen Miller. To say that I am ripe for her message and the lessons that are found in this book is an understatement. I will write about it later this week, but I’m not quite finished yet. I need to savour and consider it before I share with you what it means to me.
For now, I’ll entice you with this passage:

Do we ever notice, and trust, the wonder of life happening continually and miraculously by itself? Do we ever see how effortless life is?

                                                                                         Karen Maezen Miller

This past weekend, life happened here. It was effortless, it was happy. I felt the wonder of it. Today I share a small glimpse with you.