Of Shamed Mothers And Slammed Doors

She threw her boots off, ran up the stairs and slammed her door.

I took a deep breath. We’re here already? I felt a knot in my stomach, and wondered if I had handled things poorly.

We had been playing in the park with another dad friend and his two girls. When Cassidy urgently had to use the bathroom, I left Mischa with our friends and ran Cassidy back home. By time we returned a few minutes later, the other girls had hatched a plan to all come over to our place for dinner. Don’t know if the dad had endorsed the plan (I’m guessing not), but when I told them that today wasn’t a good day for it, the girls did not react well. Mischa whined and vehemently refuted my answer, while the other 6 year old dissolved into angry tears. We left, and when we were on our way into the house, I told my daughter quite plainly that she should not make plans with friends before talking to me first. I told her that things had ended very badly at the park because she had not asked me permission before she invited her friends over. I never said anything as direct as, ‘It’s your fault,’ but I was blaming her for upsetting everybody.

That’s when the boots went flying and the door went slam. And I was left standing at the bottom of the stairs with a toddler who was now crying because we had left the park, and the very distinct feeling that I had chipped away slightly at the self-esteem that was just beginning to become identifiable in my young daughter. I felt horrible.

Once Cassidy had calmed down, I went upstairs. Mischa was under her covers. I asked her if we could talk. She told me to get out. I told her I didn’t want to get out, I wanted to talk. My manner was gentle, and all I wanted was to scoop her up in my arms. She continued to reject me. I asked her if she wanted me to leave, or if she wanted a hug. She screamed at me to get out. I told her I would leave her alone, and I did.

When did things get so complicated? When did we reach the point where instead of pining for the comfort of my arms, she runs from it? And when did I start to feel like every word I said had became laden with the possibility of damaging our relationship?

I already felt guilty about what was happening, but I knew I had the power to help it end well. I wouldn’t take it personally; I wouldn’t yell back; I wouldn’t reject my daughter or tell her she didn’t have a right to act this way. I was feeling sad, not exasperated, but I also felt like I had the opportunity to really be the mother I wanted to be. I knew there were more slammed doors and more hurt feelings in my future. I have two girls who will one day been teenagers. I’m not kidding myself on this one, but I am determined to have a good, respectful and solid relationship with them. I don’t want their teenaged years to be like mine.

I gave it about five minutes, and headed back upstairs. Mischa looked at me and immediately yelled at me to get out. I rubbed her back for a minute and I could feel her body begin to relax under my touch. We’re going to have these moments. I’m going to make mistakes and she’s going to make mistakes. I will always be me with her – I don’t know how to put on a mummy voice or adopt a different persona for my kids – but I will try to refrain from saying things that I will regret later, no matter how justified the words seem in the moment. I will say I’m sorry when I am. And I will let her know that we can be upset and still love each other.

Do you want me to leave, I asked again, or do you want a hug?

She leaped into my arms.



Bedroom Makeover Part One

Hard to believe we've been in our house for six and a half years. That is, until I look around. There's no question that my kitchen needs a reno; it was meant to be done in the first year. Six years, two children, one layoff and one new flat roof later, we're still saving our pennies. But there are other things that really are begining to look a little... tired. The bathroom needs a change beyond the bath mat and shower curtain (my go-to refreshers), we never did put up the chair rail in the girls' room, and the bedroom wall colour we could live with 'for now?' It's been forever.

So we decided to do something about it! (My husband wants me to be very clear that when I say 'bedroom makeover,' I mean that in a purely decorative way. Note taken.) Behold! The old, barely-there blue that came with the bedroom is gone, and in its place is the colour of my sweet dreams, a hue with the ridiculous name of angel wings or pixie dust or some such nonsense, when really they mean that it is kind of grey with lavender undertones that looks different in every light. And I love it.

[Side note: I would be really good at coming up with paint names. They would be poetic and meaningful, like Corn Husks at Dawn or Broken Dreams or Trailer Park Sunset.]

So, without further ado, I present, our Bedroom Makeover, part one: new paint.



Next steps: a photo taken in better light; finishing touches that include something on the window besides the sheet we tacked up for my homebirth; a new rug and some accessories that are not empty water glasses, migrating hairclips or my husband's dirty socks! 




Turning Pages

She runs to the bookshelf and chooses – the cover is immediately familiar and I smile. She loves this book. I love this book. I love reading her the words as she sits in my lap, her finger running over the text, the images; reading along – we both know this one off by heart.

Come little monkey, come, come, come. It’s time I took you home to –

Mum! My little monkey exclaims, as I cuddle her close and tight.

I kiss her goodnight and give her a snuggle; pull up the covers and whisper sweet secrets in her ear. In her one-piece pajamas, the green fuzzy ones with the little owl on it, she still looks like a baby. But as I put the book back on the shelf, thick, cardboard pages fraying at the corners; spine cracked and broken from all the years that we have enjoyed it together, I know that this is not really the case anymore. The footy pajamas will be outgrown by next season, and the board books will be outgrown as well.

Mischa groans and rolls her eyes when her sister picks a ‘baby book’ as her bedtime story choice, my five-year-old having moved on to the pleasures of more intricate paperbacks, poetry collections and chapter books. I enjoyed the transition when we went through it the first time because of the excitement of my oldest moving on to different things, and because of the excitement of seeing my youngest being able to claim as her own the books whose domain was previously shared with her older sister.

I try to keep my sentimentality in check as I watch my children grow out, grow up. But the thought of putting books that have been synonymous with my children’s infancy back on the shelf for the last time is conjuring up yet another emotion I never knew existed. It’s not nostalgia or the pleasure/panic that hits me with every milestone attained – it’s a true sadness this time. My favorite books, the ones we have shared, are written with a cadence, a sweetness that so rhythmically echoes the traditions and routines of babyhood; that have introduced to my babies the magic of story-time giggles and bedtime snuggles.

And then, I realize, just as simply as that, that it is not really the end of the words, the pictures, the sing-song rhymes that this melancholy resides over; it’s that once again the gentle tide of passing time is taking my babies further into the sea of childhood, where board books give way to chapter books and one-piece pajamas are handed down to new babies, not mine.

And I am left, watching from the shore, blowing my kisses into the breeze.



Observations From the Road

We drove to Florida with a five year old, a three year old and my backseat survival guide. And lived to tell the tale.
Here then, is the tale:

  •  Your child will only barf after they have eaten a huge meal, chugged a cup of milk and then downed a third of the snacks you packed, ensuring that every inch of her, her seat, you and your shoes are covered in puke. I guess that makes sense.

  • My car needs a bumper sticker. Driving through the land o’the bumper stickers, where politics, religion, thoughts on gun control, birth control, sports love (hot), gay love (not), wildlife and wild living are pasted onto the ass-end of half the cars we passed made our Mazda feel downright nekkid. The good: Obamamama 08. The bad: It’s Not a Choice, It’s a Child. The ugly: God, Guts & Guns Made America. (*shudder*)

  • My life is not better because I now know what grits taste like. (paste, btw)

  • The only billboards more prevalent than the ones demonizing women for even thinking about abortion are the ones for the highway-side strip joints.

  • When it is your turn to drive, it will either be through the ugliest, nastiest city with the worst roads on the entire route (not naming any names. *cough* Cincinnati *cough*), or through the mountains, in the pelting, blinding rain.

  • When your white-knuckled drive finally does end and your husband gets back behind the wheel, the power steering will temporarily fail. He will blame you, but you are pretty sure that fear does not break power steering.

  • Eventually, your husband will make a wrong turn. It will be your fault.

  • When the children in the backseat have stopped using their recorders to serenade you with a peaceful tune and started using their recorders as weapons of mass destruction, it’s time to stop for the night.

  • It will all be worth it.