Tag: parenting (page 1 of 15)

Teenage wasteland: Where’s the respect?


Dear Wendy,

So Rachel and I were browsing in the drugstore—she in the Makeup in Unlikely Colours section, I in the Skin Care for the Decrepit section—when the PSA interrupted the piped-in music:

“Atten-SHUN! Shoppers, did you know that prescription drugs are the the Big New Thing now? Your kids—yes, yours!—are diving into your stash of Vicodin and Valium, popping pills like there’s no tomorrow! And if they’re not gulping them down with your cooking brandy, they’re stealing them to sell to other kids! Go home immediately and stop them! Stop them NOW! These are your teenage kids we’re talking about! Come on, what are you waiting for? EVACUATE THE STORE! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!! YOUR TEENS ARE ON THE RAMPAGE! DON’T COME CRYING TO US WHEN THEY WIND UP IN PRISON OR LIVING IN A GROUP HOME!”

Okay, that might not have been exactly how it went. But I think I’ve captured the essence of the message.

alt="IMAGE-we-all-want-respect-after-the-kids-leave"By the time I caught up with Rachel (who, I should point out, is exactly 2.5 months out of her own teen years, and is still a little sensitive about this kind of thing) steam was coming out her ears.

“They know there are probably teens in the store at this very moment, right?” she asked (rhetorically, as a couple of kids walked by in Uggs and short-shorts).

“Yep, pretty sure they know that,” I said.

“So what’s that all about? Do they think we’re deaf? Or just stupid? Have they ever heard the word ‘respect’?”

I shrugged. “I’m not sure. But apparently they think parents aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed either. For one thing, they’re assuming parents haven’t talked to their kids about drugs…”

“And they’re assuming all kids want is to get high! News flash: most of us are just keeping our heads down, trying to make it through our teens, until we get to the age where we’re actually shown a tiny bit of respect.”

“I hear you,” I said. “As I recall, that didn’t really happen until I was about 30. And even then, some old geezer in their 50s would tell me, ‘Oh, you’re just a baby yet—wait till you’re my age!’”

“So when does it happen? When do people stop judging you based on your age?”

“Um…” I thought for a minute. “I’m not entirely sure it ever does stop. When you’re young, you’re treated like a criminal in training. When you’re middle-aged, people start telling you you’re over the hill and out of touch. When you’re really old, people talk down to you like you’re some kind of quaint artifact.”

“This isn’t exactly great news,” my daughter said.

“Welcome to life,” I said. “The best you can do is treat others the way you’d like to be treated, and hope it rubs off.”

“And yell at stupid public service announcements when you hear them,” she added.

I nodded. “That too.”

And then we went home.





Luckiest Grandmother ever!

Dear Karen,

This weekend, I was the luckiest grandmother alive:  I got to babysit my grandson for the very first time, at the tender age of 2 and a half months.  Him, not me.  I’m a little older than that.

Not only did I get to take care of him, but I had total control of him for 2 nights in a row.

From bath to burp to bed.

While hanging out with him, I discovered an interesting thing about this grandmothering gig:

There was a time when I did, but that was with my own children.

I expected that I’d be offering advice like rose petals falling on a silk duvet in a honeymoon suite, and that said advice would be received with wonder and gratitude.


Now we get to bore you with advice! Yay!


Not that the parents weren’t grateful for my boring and predictable words of wisdom rose petals.  I’m sure they were overjoyed to hear them.  It’s what they did with my advice that I truly like:  they took it and added it to a little bit from this friend, a little bit from that book, and a lot from their own experience as new parents.

And guess what:  it worked.  My daughter didn’t just have a baby, she is now officially a Parent, an expert in the field when it comes to her son, his needs, sleep patterns and fascinating nappy contents.

My daughter learns a new language

She knows that this whimper means he’s happy, that little catch in his throat means he’s getting ready to break the sound barrier, and that sigh with a touch of breathiness means he’s about to fall asleep.  It’s like she’s bilingual now and has the ability to fully understand the language and culture of her son, while the rest of us struggle, much like tourists in a strange land who assume the locals speak perfect English.

She’s very cool.

So, back to me.  I was asked to read to him from what will no doubt become his favourite book when he grows up and has children of his own:  Goodnight Moon.  Little Grandson gets read to each night by his parents so of course I was to continue the trend.  I admit, I felt a little silly reading to a 2 month old, but there’s no way I wasn’t going to do it.  I had a job and I was going to see it through.

We both sat comfortably, he on my knee, in his jammies and ready for bed, me with book in one hand and glass of wine on a nearby table.  Prepped for every eventuality, I opened the book and read the little story to him in a sing-song voice.  Immediately, and I mean like straight away, he laser-beamed his focus onto the page in front of him.  He had a little smile on his face, wide, bright eyes and I could feel him relaxing into my arms.  We read the book together and with each page, I felt less silly and more fascinated by what was happening.   Obviously he couldn’t read, or understand the words and pictures, but wow, was he happy to hear the words.  I’m sure they somehow reminded him of his parents reading to him nightly.

Even now, I can’t get over how strong an impact that had on me.  

  Seriously!  Do it.  Do it right now.

Sing, sing a song

After we read, I followed up with a tradition of my own, one I did countless times with my own babies:  I sang to him.  Music truly does soothe the savage breast, and in this case, Fais Do Do soothes it quickly and effectively.  This version is the best, in my considered opinion.  It’s by Sharon, Lois and Bram, and I sang this song (minus the harmonising – what do you think I am, a miracle worker?) to them all the time.  As I recall, you gave me this album 28 years ago!

Within minutes, he was asleep and lights were turned out.  Not wanting to wake him, I sat in the semi-darkness and thought about how smart he is to have chosen my daughter and son-in-law as parents.  He was pretty spot-on in his choice of grandparents as well, I would cautiously add.

From birth to teenage years, to adulthood, to bride, and now, mother.  I’m lucky to be her mother and I feel just as lucky to be her son’s Mormor.


Never a nervous mother

Dear Wendy,

Is it obnoxious of me to admit that I am not now, nor have I ever been an uncertain, insecure, or nervous mother?

I ask this because lately I’ve been reading a lot of posts from parents—mostly mothers, now that I think of it—and a common theme seems to be, “OMG, I was so terrified when they handed me that little bundle in the hospital!” followed by a recounting of the writer’s insecurity and distress at “not knowing what she was doing.”

I totally sympathize with these writers, but I feel almost guilty admitting that I don’t share their feelings.

In fact, for me, being a mother is one of the few life experiences that I’ve approached with a sense of confidence, purpose, and certainty. Does saying that make me a bad person?

Sure, I’ve had moments of “Huh. That’s odd. I wonder how I’ll fix that?” Even “Wow, who knew babies could even do that?”

But for the most part, I marched into parenting secure in the knowledge that my kids would be okay, that I would be okay, and that I knew what I was doing.

I had every reason to be a nervous mother, and yet…


Adrian and me

In hindsight, I wonder where that self-confidence came from, especially with Adrian, who was born during an incredibly stressful, tumultuous time in my life?

Certainly not our own parents—if anything, their message to me was more along the lines of, “Don’t touch that, you’ll find some way to mess it up (subtext: ‘just like you’ve messed up everything else in your life’).” In some ways, they were right: I’d just come out of a very poorly thought-out and ultimately disastrous and abusive marriage, and I was living in poverty in a dangerous area of town. I was anxious and fearful about almost everything else in my life.

And yet, I remember feeling immensely competent when it came to caring for Adrian. In fact, parenting was my anchor of stability in a very unstable world.

When he cried, I didn’t agonize over whether to pick him up; I just did it, and (usually) he stopped crying. When he was hungry, we nursed. When he got old enough to play, we didn’t have any money to buy him “mind-stimulating activity centres”; we strung some plastic alphabet letters in a row across his crib, and let him bat at them while he giggled and cooed and kicked his little legs in delight.

When Adrian was two months old, Mitchell and I were involved in a huge public rally to protest the testing of cruise missiles in Canada. I didn’t think twice about bundling Adrian up in his Snugli (a gift from a kind friend) and carting him off to a full day of marching with thousands of other protestors. That night, we were assigned the task of supervising about 200 marchers who were to sleep in a school gymnasium; Adrian came along for that, too, and slept quite happily on the hardwood floor with us. I know mothers today who’d have a fit about such a haphazard arrangement, but I had no qualms.

Parenting isn’t always easy…or fun

This isn’t to say that my parenting has always gone without a hitch: when Rachel was born, she took an instant dislike to breastfeeding, and couldn’t be convinced (by me, by the hospital nurses, by our midwives, by a lactation consultant) to even consider latching on. And that’s how I wound up tethered to a milking machine every two hours, day and night, for the first five months of her life. Moo.

Not that I’m bitter.

There’ve been other glitches and bumps in the road, and I would be the last person to tell anyone that parenting is easy, or even fun a lot of the time. It’s messy, unpredictable, occasionally terrifying (midnight visits to the emergency room with a 2-year-old who’s turning blue from asthma are not high on my list of “Fun Parent/Child Activities”), sometimes unbelievably boring (hello, Teletubbies!)…but not really a source of self-questioning or second-guessing.


Not always great, but never a nervous mother


I think my attitude stems from a couple of things:

  1. Despite her obvious failings as a mother, our own mother never betrayed a hint of nervousness with us. She was always 100% in charge, and I suspect I absorbed her approach without really being aware of it.
  2. Long before I became a mother, I read Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care. Say what you will about Dr. Spock, he knew how to convey a sense of confidence. Why, his book begins with the sentence, “You know more than you think you do.” And I believed him.

This isn’t to say I never made mistakes, either. I’ve definitely made my share, and possibly more…but overall, I feel like I’ve been up to the job of parenting. Now, let’s hope my kids agree!










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Awesome Advice Central goes for broke

Hi Awesome Advice Central!

I have a problem with my parents. I love them, but I’m really ticked off with them right now. I need your advice A-sap.

Last year, I found out that the PsychedelicMonkeyHearts were coming to town for a one-night concert. Squee!  I love that band, especially Melanoma. No one knows what he does, but he’s so adorable, no one cares. His real name is Trey, but not everyone knows that. Adorable, right? The way he struts around the stage turns me on like, well, like anything.  He’s so brooding and deep.

Ma and Pa didn’t approve and said they wouldn’t pay for me to go. I said I didn’t mind, I could make money from my new entrepreneurial idea: a mobile rabbit-skinning and pet-sitting service. 

They said, “Okay, kid, fill yer boots,” which is their way of saying, “Go ahead and do it, we don’t approve and doubt you’ll succeed, but try anyway while we sit here and mock you.” Because that’s just how my parents are. Gotta love ‘em.

So I did. Except for that one time I mistook a highly trained dancing chinchilla for a rabbit, and had to pay the owners back for revenue lost, I made  lot of money.  More than enough to pay for my ticket to see my beloved Mel.

I put each week’s earnings into my piggy bank and watched it grow. The money, not the piggy bank. Except for that one time I was on acid, and it kind of got bigger and started singing, “We’re in the money….” But then the drugs wore off and it went back to being a regular piggy bank. alt="IMAGE-pigs-on-acid-we're-in-the-money"

Two weeks ago, the PsychedelicMonkeyHearts concert tickets went up for sale and I needed to use my parents’ credit card to make the booking. I asked them politely and told them how much it’d cost. And they said actually, their credit card was in the “red” (whatever that means), and that they needed exactly the amount I was asking them for, to get it back into the “black.”

Yeah, whatever.  Racists. 

Long and short of it is, they had grabbed my money from my piggy bank (behind my back!!) and used it to pay off their credit card!  OR SO THEY SAY. 

I’ve noticed they’ve got tickets to go to Waikiki on Monday. For 2 weeks. At the exclusive Macada-Lua-Poi Motorcourt Suites. You’ve heard of it, right? It’s where all the D-listers go. One day, I’ll be a D-lister and I’ll stay there too. 

Anyway!  They’ve only got tickets for two, and I have a stinking suspicion they’re using MY money to finance their stupid trip. 

I need to do something about this, and fast! If I can’t see Mel and the PsychedelicMonkeyHearts, I’ll DIE.  I swear I will. Please help me come up with a perfect revenge, one that won’t bounce back on me and land me in the clink.  Yeah, that wouldn’t be good.

D’arleehn D’inglebharrie

Dear D’arleehn,

Your parents sound like cruel, vile people. You know how we can tell this? Because who other than a pair of foaming-at-the-mouth psychopaths would name their kid D’arleehn?

Seriously, what were they thinking? Did they imagine you trying to spell your name out to every single person you met for the rest of your life? Did they find the thought amusing? We suspect they did.

And to steal from their daughter’s piggy bank to cover their own financial indiscretions? That’s just low. It’s lower than low. It’s lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut. It’s lower than the butt cleavage on a go-go dancer. It’s really the lowest low you can get without going any lower, that’s what it is.

And so, dear girl, we have decided to help you out. Normally we don’t go in much for revenge, because we’re such noble souls, but this time it just seems…appropriate.

All right, so here’s what you do. Since your dingbat parents seem to have failed to disguise their destination (because they’re not only low, they’re kind of dim), we have taken the liberty of calling the Macada-Lua-Poi Motorcourt Suites on their behalf, to let them know your parents might be delayed a few hours because they’re having their house fumigated after an unfortunate bed-bug outbreak.

Strangely, the desk clerk seemed to become quite agitated at this news. Long and short of the matter is, your parents’ trip has been mysteriously cancelled. Go figure.

We suggest you carpe the diem, grab their credit card, and book your concert tickets now while the booking is good. Then get out of the house, as we suspect all hell will break loose when your parents figure out what’s happened.

And you’re welcome. Least we could do.

Awesome Advice Central

p.s. And do us a favour? Lay off the LSD. Bad scene, man.


Another year gone: Let’s do the Time Warp again!

Dear Wendy,

Time: it’s a funny old thing, isn’t it?

I honestly don’t know how this happened, but Rachel is done with college for another year. Exams are done, final projects handed in, lockers cleaned out, dorm rooms emptied (a whole other story, which my aching back will be happy to tell you about for some time to come), and…that’s a wrap, kiddies!


Good-bye, dorm kitchen!

College: Year 2 is done and dusted.

In September 2012, when we first dipped our toes into this whole “mostly empty nest” thing, it seemed like the school year would last forever.

I remember bidding a slightly tearful farewell to Rachel at Thanksgiving in October, and thinking that it would be ages before we saw one another again at Christmas.

This past September, I was a lot more sanguine about it, and sure enough, this year has zipped past as if it were on fast-forward.

If this keeps up, she’ll be completing fourth year in about five minutes, and her master’s degree in five seconds flat. I’m pretty sure she won’t be doing a Ph.D., which is a good thing since at this rate, she’ll have finished it before she even started.

The journey out is always longer

Actually, I have a theory about this whole time-compression thing.

You remember when we were kids and our parents would take us on those seemingly interminable car rides around the Nova Scotia countryside to visit the pilots who worked for Dad? It was a bit like when the Queen goes walkabout, except it involved driving to places like Herring Cove, Lunenburg, Digby, Shelburne, Port Hawkesbury, Bridgewater, and North Sydney.

We’d set out on a Saturday morning, and from my queasy, carsick point of view in the back seat, we’d drive aimlessly along interminable highways and country roads for hours and hours and hours. Eventually we’d locate that week’s victim’s house, where we’d disembark and be told to sit quietly and not make nuisances of ourselves, while Mum and Dad partook of the hospitality of the house.

Eventually we’d leave, and the drive home always seemed to take about half the time of the trip out—because now I knew where we were going, I recognized landmarks I’d noted on the way out, and each minute took us closer to home (and merciful relief from carsickness).

My point, and I do have one, is that when you know where you’re going, and you’ve made the journey already, each successive trip seems shorter by comparison.

The parenting time warp

As I think about it, this applies to parenting as well.

For instance: back when Adrian was a baby, it seemed to me that my life would never be anything other than an endless round of diapers, drool, and breastfeeding. From the perspective of a brand new parent, babyhood seems like it’ll never end…until finally, you graduate into toddlerhood, preschool-hood…and then the school years. (I was going to say “school-hood,” but that starts to sound like it has criminal overtones, so let’s leave it at that, shall we?)

By the time you and your child are in the school years, things take on a kind of sameness from year to year, and suddenly you know pretty much where you’re going from one September to the next. You understand the rhythm, you have a general idea what to expect.


How is this even possible? Beats the heck out of me. All I know is that it took about five minutes, tops.

And that’s when the whole time-speeding-up thing starts. By the time our kids are in high school, we’re acutely aware that our time with them at home will be limited (and we’re right).

Incidentally, go ahead and tell all this to a mother who’s just had her first baby. Go on, I dare you. You’ll come away with a bloody nose, guaranteed.

I can’t even tell you how many times some well-intentioned soul told me, “Savour this time! It goes by so fast!” while I was trying to cope with the whole shit and stringbeans deal. I remember smiling sweetly, nodding, and thinking to myself that I would like to stab that person in the hand with a fork.

And yet, by the time I had Rachel, I knew very well how fleeting her infancy and toddlerhood would be; I knew what to look for, how long the ride would take…and most of all, I knew that each phase would be a lot shorter than I expected.

I also knew that the trip likely wouldn’t involve me being carsick, which was a total bonus.

So as we embark on another summer with Rachel at home, I need to remember that the time between now and September will be infinitesimally short…and that we should enjoy it while it lasts.






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