The Dreaded Question

I was talking to an old friend yesterday. We’ve been girlfriends since high school, over 30 years now (I hope that everyone is gasping in disbelief). We don’t speak very often but when we do it feels as though it was just yesterday when we last spoke. It’s great having a friend who remembers EVERYTHING.

Then the weird thing happened, trying to get a feel for my life she asked me what I consider ‘the dreaded question’ – “So what do you do?”

The thing is, I like what I do, I’m happy with what I do and for the most part I feel pretty fulfilled by what I do. But, when asked point blank like that I always start floundering around. If I have to itemize and account for it, it’s a pretty mundane list. Chauffeuring, some cleaning, some laundry, a lot of grocery shopping and cooking, cheerleading and general support of children and spouse, some time in my husband’s office, parent-teacher councils, some knitting, a lot of reading, blogging, exercising when I’m being good and proactive. You know, the regular Mom/Wife/Me stuff. Not finding a cure for cancer, not running a large company, not teaching and encouraging young minds, not writing the Great Canadian Novel, not counselling people in need. Not a lot of the things I imagined when I was young.

For the most part I’m good with this. I’m O.K. with the fact that at 47 I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up – I have no driving passion outside of my family. But every now and then the niggling thoughts creep in. Could I do more to lead myself to greater self-actualization? Sure. What is my contribution to this planet on which I live? I’m not so sure. Will my husband and I have stuff to talk about when the kids are all out of the house? I think so.

When the kids were little I would listen to some of the working moms talk about their guilt about not being home. I decided then that we have screwed ourselves a little with Women’s Lib. Men seem to be better at compartmentalizing their lives than women are. I know that my husband misses the kids if he has a late meeting and doesn’t get to have dinner with us, but does he feel guilty about it? I don’t think so. I believe that women can have it all but to have it all at the same time is a huge demand on oneself. As I see it, something’s gotta give.

Years ago I attended a conference with my husband. Before dinner a group of us were standing around chatting. One of the women was a mom with young children. She had given up her law practice to be home with the kids. With great indignation she was relaying a story in which someone kept asking her what she does, not taking stay at home mother as an acceptable answer. “Can you believe it?” she asked me, “As if that’s not good enough.”
I nodded my agreement and said that I didn’t find this so shocking as I had been in the same situation more than once as well. She then smiled and said to me, “So what do you do?” I replied, “I’m also a stay at home mom.” She then countered with, “Yeah, but what did you do before?” I smiled and replied “Nothing as important as what I’m doing now.”

So, once again I remind myself that this is important. That I am not a static being. There is always room for growth and who I am now is only a part of who I will be in the future. Albeit a very big part.

In the immortal words of Dorrie from Finding Nemo, “Keep on swimming, keep on swimming.”

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Product, Product, Product

I was talking with my sister yesterday. She was telling me about what turned out to be a disappointing day. Of course I was upset for her and then she went and did something that it seems my sisters have a talent for. She cracked me up.

She told me that she purchased a bottle of body cream. The bottle said ‘firming’. She said she put it on her body and then she stood in front of the mirror and..nothing.

Oy what a visual! The determination, the hope and then the let down (no pun intended).

Whatever happened to truth in advertising? If you can’t do it, don’t put it on your label. Which brings anti-frizz hair products to my mind. Who are you kidding? Not this head. Wrinkle creams, anyone?
Reduced fat ice cream? I ate a whole carton and my fat was not reduced, not even a little bit! Just joking about that one, I knew it wouldn’t work the whole time.

So ladies, what say we throw away the creams, gels, mousses, hair dyes and what have you? Burn our bras and dance around like it’s 1964! I looked so good in 1964. My skin glowed with the bloom of youth. Even in my saggy wading pool water logged diaper I was a thing of beauty. Oh right, that bloom of youth was actual youth.

Right now I need to put on my night cream and get my beauty sleep so that I can wake up refreshed (even if those damn sleep lines seem to stay on my face for half the day now), wash down my bran bar with a good shot of caffeine so that I can get on my treadmill and feel good afterward. I will shower and use my small arsenal of moisturizing products. I will use three different kinds of hair goop to restrict my hair to one area code while I smile at myself as I put on my daily makeup (a.k.a. the mature woman’s youthful glow). Then I will have a great day because I know that underneath it all I am still the happy, beautiful me that I was back in the droopy diaper days.

The Fine Line

One of the things that I’ve noticed recently about parenting (maybe it’s because we’ve entered the teen years) is that I feel as though I’m always walking a fine line. There seem to be so many of them and I don’t want to cross over any of them.

I want to be a loving supportive mom who will always be there when her kids need to talk, but make no mistake I will not cross the line and be your friend. Friends come and go, I am in it for the long haul.

I want my kids to have good self esteem while maintaining humility and not becoming arrogant.

I want my kids to have a sense of humility without being critical or lowering their self esteem.

I enjoy joking with my kids but have to be careful that we do not cross the line into the inappropriate – the boys have been known to come up with a ‘that’s what she said’ or two, mom’s cannot and should not come up with any, no matter how tempting.

I want to keep them safe but not instil fear in them.

I need to be their reality check but don’t want to rain on their parade -I know you want to be a director, do you have a Plan B?

I want to be a fun mom but I’m still responsible for their good health. Cheesecake for dinner would be fun but broccoli cheese cake is better for you – how’s that for compromise?

I want to be a great mother but I’m afraid of becoming a smother. The difference between being a strong presence in their life and not having a life of my own.

These are but a few of the issues as I see them and some of them are inter-related. I feel as though every time I turn around there is another one of those fine lines in front of my face and they can be as hard to see and as easy to cross as a filament from a spider’s web.

Good parenting is tough.

Jaw Dropping Moments

There have been a lot of jaw dropping moments in my career as a mother. They have ranged from happy to absolutely stunning (which I just can’t print).
I present to you, for your entertainment a few things that have been flung at my brain:

If you gave me a toy with every meal you’d be as good a cook as McDonalds.

I was thinking of ladies I’d like as my mom and even though she’s a teacher I think I’d like Mrs. K.

I guess I’m a Lesbie. (stated by my then 5 year old daughter when her fortune cookie told her that she and her wife would have a long and happy life together)

I closed my Facebook account while I study for exams, it’s too distracting.

I think I’m allergic to all green food.

All said to me through the bathroom door while in my morning shower:
What’s for dinner?
I can’t reach the plates.
Where does this go?
What is there to snack on?
Can we get a dog?
Why not?

Is Music Still Important To You?

Here’s an odd statement -I love living with teenagers. Let me amend that statement. I usually love living with teenagers. No, I can make it more honest. I love living with my teenaged children when they are not making me insane.

One of the things that I love about living with teens is that they take you back to “the day”. I remember when I was a teenager thinking (in that very egocentric manner common to teens) that I would always be able to relate to teens. Well, ha ha. It’s a bit of a stretch now and it can take quite a bit of effort. I have to admit that I don’t always make the connection. The one area that really takes me back and causes me to shake my head in wonder is music. When I was a teenager music was sooo important. There were many different musical influences in my life. Being the youngest I could not help be influenced my my older sisters. So Neil Young, Joni Mitchel, Gordon Lightfoot, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor and Carol King and even Jethro Tull meant a lot to me. My other sister gave me America, Harry Chapin, Donovan,Elton John and Chicago. My father gave me classical music, Theodor Bikel and Chassidic music. There was also music that I rejected; opera, disco and G-d help us ABBA. I saw the invention of Punk (no thank you) New Wave (yes thank you) and RAP (can anyone say misogyny?). I had a friend who was consumed with music. She made me many a tape trying to influence me and she did, mostly for the good (or so I think). Enter; The Band, The Grateful Dead and CSNY to name a few. Thanks to her I got to see The Kinks, Neil Young and The Grateful Dead in concert. The Dead did a 20 minute guitar riff that had me wishing for a whack from a shovel to the back of my head to end the misery. Sorry all you Deadheads.

So I was thinking about the very eclectic selection of discs in my van right now – Sting, Jason Mraz, The Who (my son’s disc), The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, America, Departures soundtrack and yes one of the GLEE albums – and how often I drive around in complete silence. How I crave the silence! My eldest son gets in my van, hears the silence, glares at me and states “You hate music!” This happens every time he gets in the van and there’s no music playing. How do you explain to a teenager that I still love music it’s just not as important as it once was? Yes, I still love music, really I do. But, now more than ever I love the sounds of silence.

Is music still important to you now that you are no longer a teen or in university? Why was it so important? Was it simply the need to express ourselves and to figure out where we fit in? Was it the poetry of youth? Why do you think it’s so important to teenagers?

Do You Know Cold?

It’s been a cold weekend here in the Great White North. The kind of cold that causes pain across your forehead and everything in your nose to freeze when you breathe. The kind of cold that makes you huddle indoors. The kind of cold that makes you wish for it to snow because that would mean it’s warmed up. The kind of cold that makes your car scream when you start it. The kind of cold that makes teenagers put on hats, boots, scarves and mitts. The kind of cold that gets you to read over every soup recipe you own so that there will be a different soup for dinner every night this week.

This morning it was -40celsius with the wind chill factor. Tonight it will go down to -30 before the wind chill. For those of you who don’t know centigrade let me say that this is just outrageously cold. At minus twenty the schools here cancel outdoor recess. So then you have crazy cold temperatures and squirrely kids.

Just for excitement our furnace stopped working yesterday. Luckily for us our house has the quirk of half of it being heated electrically. Between the electric heat and our fireplaces we’re staying fairly toasty. But still, even though it’s crazy cold here I still prefer this craziness to the heat we faced in Israel this summer. I’m sure if I were touring in this weather I’d rethink this position.

Do you know this kind of cold? What does this cold make you do?

Romance? Puh-lease!

So here’s an unusual admission for you from a woman, I don’t like romance. This is not just something that I’ve convinced myself of so that I’ll be happy with my life, this is the way that I’ve always been. I have never trusted romantic men.

This is my reasoning, I’m a pragmatist. I like reality without the rose coloured glasses. Don’t try to sweep me off my feet with flowers and chocolates. Pick up the broom and sweep around the kitchen table after dinner. As I see it, it comes down to this, life and marriage are filled with day to day drudgery and I need someone who will be my partner in this. There’s a reason that all of the chick lit novels are written about single people finding one another, heck even Jane Austen ended her novels at the weddings. Long haul marriages are filled with the real stuff like diapers, paying bills, cooking, laundry, P.T.A. meetings, staff meetings, committee meetings, piano lessons, ski lessons, and a million other fun things. This is the stuff of life, it can be messy and it’s often boring. I need someone who will be my partner in this, not someone who expects a woman with a constant smile on her face and sparkle in her eye.

These are the things that are romantic or better than romantic to me; the surprise of having my gas tank filled, warming the car up before I have to get in and drive the kids to school, a shoveled driveway, swooping up a baby to change a diaper without being asked, watching my husband play catch with the kids or play anything with them, deflecting my anger when I’ve lost the ability to parent effectively, letting me sleep in on the weekend without my asking,reviewing the day with me late at night in bed, treating me with respect each and every day, valuing my opinion, knowing that I can trust you around ANY woman and my favourite, holding me in your arms like I’m the most important thing in the world to you.

Keep your flowers, your candlelit dinners and your chocolates, they’re nice but they’re not what I want. However, jewelry, is always gratefully accepted. 😉