Tag Archives: Parenting

I Will Never Be Mother-of-the-Year – Like Ever!

A few weeks ago, I was out with some work colleagues at one of our favourite restaurants celebrating the retirement of one of our own, a man I’ve worked with since I first started as a wet-behind-the-ears magazine editor at the tender age of 28.

Sigh – I can still remember back to when I was 28 and drove a black, two-door, sporty-looking car rather than a honking huge minivan – but I digress.

I had a car just like this one. It even had the fancy bra and everything. God it was a piece of shit but it had two-doors.

I had a car just like this one. It even had the fancy bra and everything. God it was a piece of shit but it had two-doors.

Anyway, our buddy was pumping back the drinks and we were having a good time when one of the women in the group brought up the subject of her children. Now, I’m not sure if you’ve figured this out yet or not, but I’m a bit of a smart-ass. Actually, I’m a big fucking smart-ass. So, when people start telling me about their wonderful, angelic, gorgeous children, I usually start talking about what little shits my two Goobers are. Not because they actually are – hell, all kids have their projectile-vomiting-pea-soup-Exorcist moments – but because I like to interject a little bit of reality into these types of conversations. My ad manager usually plays along, agreeing with me about my Goobers’ horrid behavior (she should know, she’s actually babysat them).

So, I’m joking about my Goobers when the co-worker sitting next to me – a man – states: “I guess you’re never going to be Mother-of-the-Year.” I laughed, my response being: “Damn right!”

I will never, ever win on of these. But that's okay; it would just get dusty.

I will never, ever win one of these. But that’s okay; it would just get dusty.

Fast forward to this evening. Like most Wednesday’s, I am responsible for transporting my son to and from his Cub meeting – they’re currently in the middle of making their Kub-Kars so this is really important shit. As I back my huge honking minivan out of the driveway – which is currently a very narrow, single-lane plowed through deep snow – I veer off course slightly and end up driving up a snow bank. I have no problem getting the vehicle out – one of the actual benefits of driving a big honking minivan – but I joke to my Goober that I’m acting like I have just learned how to drive. His lightning quick response: “About fucking time!”

And then it hit me – like a tonne of bricks to the head – I sure as shit am never going to be Mother-of-the-Year because I’ve made one of my Goobers a carbon copy of me: a foul mouthed smart-ass.

Personally, I have no problem with my children swearing, as long as the word (or words) being used fits the situation, is meant in jest and is not hurtful to another person – the dog and cats are open season. I do have a BIG problem with the C-word and generally don’t go there, although my Goobers have informed me they hear it from other kids at school all the time.

It wasn’t the swearing that made me laugh with a slight hysterical edge. It was the realization that, by example, I have taught my son comedic timing and he will now be burdened with the need to make every situation – no matter how horrific, depressing or awkward – into a stand-up routine. And that sucks.

I can remember as a little kid, my mother coming home from work to find me sobbing, upset because kids at school were teasing and making fun of me. Her response – a la Singin’ in the Rain – was make ‘em laugh. So I did, using the one thing I already knew they thought was funny – myself. Rather than wait for the big bully of the schoolyard to call me a fucking pizza faced fat bitch with shit-for-brains, I would call myself that first. It was ingenious. Soon, I was known as that weird funny girl and treated with a certain amount of reverent respect because I wasn’t afraid to make other people laugh at my own expense.

Donald O'Connor and his famous Make 'em Laugh performance from Singin' in the Rain.

Donald O’Connor and his famous Make ’em Laugh performance from Singin’ in the Rain.

But – looking back on it as an adult – that particular method of dealing with bullies and uncomfortable social situations is a tricky tight-rope to walk. You have to be pretty sure of yourself and have a lot of confidence to repeatedly beat yourself up mentally for the big laugh. I was neither one of these and it was damaging. I certainly don’t blame my mother for this – she gave me the best advice she could at the time. But when it comes to my own Goobers, I’ve tried to steer clear of the make ‘em laugh approach, relying instead on the you’re-better-than-that, they’re-just-jealous, ignore-them philosophy.

But obviously, if my son is any example, some of that joker crap managed to seep its way through. And I’m to blame. For now, I’m going to watch to see what develops, how he chooses to use his comedic skills. Hopefully, he won’t turn down the self-deprecating route and I can provide him with some other pointers.

I will never, ever, ever be mother-of-the-year – like ever. But I can always hope for smart-ass-of-the-year!

SmartAss

Making a buck

I had a rather horrific day at work this past week that  resulted in a night of insomnia. I was tossing and turning in bed, replaying the day and how I could have made it different, a rather futile exercise considering the day is past and I have yet to discover the secret to time travel. But as I was lying in bed torturing myself, I remembered some of my first employment experiences – cringe-worthy horror stories in themselves.

Like a lot of country kids, my first employer was my father. During the summer months and some weekends, my mother didn’t always have someone available to watch me while she was at work as my older siblings all had full-time summer jobs. So I would be packed off to spend the day at my dad’s office, which happened to be a manufacturing facility that built products from fibreglass and aluminium. My dad owned and ran the company with a partner and spent the day selling and managing the factory workers. I spent the day exploring the back fenced storage area for toads, frogs and wild cats, riding empty resin barrels like a horse, sorting sales brochures, playing with the adding machine and tracing routes on the large map of Ontario that was pinned to my father’s office wall. I also liked to fiddle with my dad’s address book, which was equipped with a metal arrow. You slid the arrow up the side of the address book to the letter you were interested in and then pressed a button at the bottom. Presto-chango, the address book would open to that page. I could play with that damn thing for hours.

After awhile, my father obviously got annoyed with me kicking around his air conditioned office. Or perhaps he was amazed by my prowess with the adding machine. Regardless, he soon found a summer job for me.

I guess I could have tried a lemonade stand but we lived in the country and only two or three cars went by our house each day.

I guess I could have tried a lemonade stand but we lived in the country and only two or three cars went by our house each day.

It started out with sweet corn. Although my father ran a manufacturing company, deep down under the collared shirt and tie, beat the heart of a farmer. And, as such, he had this great idea that selling fresh produce in the parking lot of his company, which was located along a very busy highway, was the perfect thing for me to do. So, he put out a table, a cash box, a lawn chair and what seemed like 100 dozen of fresh sweet corn and set me to work. At times it was an extremely hot and boring job. I’d read my Nancy Drew books and dream about that air conditioned office as I sat on the hot pavement in the direct sun, sweat dripping down the back of my shirt. I always seemed to have to use the washroom a lot. But soon I had enough truckers and harried factory workers starving for fresh sweet corn to keep me busy for hours. Huge semi trucks would pull over in front of my stand, hissing and whistling and chugging while the driver bought six cobs of corn from me (50 cents). Before the driver was back in the cab, he’d be husking a cob and eating it raw as he drove away.

The sweet corn was such a success, my dad decided to up the ante and invested in a truck load of peaches. The flats were stacked in the air conditioned office for storage and I would take a few baskets out at a time to set up my display. Soon I had truckers buying corn and baskets of peaches, juice dribbling down their chins as they drove down the highway, corn silk flying out the window. The smell of peaches soon overpowered the smell of fibreglass in the office and customers interested in fibreglass and aluminium products were soon buying baskets of peaches as well, unable to resist the aroma.

The sweet corn was such a success, my dad made me start selling peaches.

The sweet corn was such a success, my dad made me start selling peaches.

It was a very educational summer that taught me an important life lesson – how to add, subtract and make change in my head. My father checked that cash box every night and if the daily sales total did not match up with my sold inventory, I received a lecture on the importance of adding and subtracting money PROPERLY. I was soon a pro, counting back change from $20s without batting an eye.

The summer after that, I worked for my dad on our farm doing field work in the vegetable patch and picking up piles of potatoes by hand. I swear those potato rows were two miles long. He would harvest the tubers with a special machine that dug them up and dumped them on the ground behind. We had to grab the greenery and shake off any spuds still attached and then pick up all the potatoes and put them into bushel baskets we dragged behind us. It was back breaking work and I can remember laying on the front lawn trying to crack my back into place as the potatoes were being washed with the garden hose.

The summer I was 13, I dressed in my best T-shirt and shorts, tied my hair back in a ponytail, shoved it up under my black and white Flamboro Downs hat and mustered up the courage to pedal my bike down our concession road, just over into the next county, to ask Doug Arthur for a job. And for some strange, mysterious reason (I think it was the hat) he gave me one. The Arthur’s bred, trained and raced Standardbred horses. And I LOVED horses. I decided that summer the best job in the whole wide world would be to shovel horse shit and clean water buckets while surrounded by huge animals that liked to bite and kick you. I had experience with horses but not horses like these – pampered, spoiled, temperament divas who were coddled and had zero stable manners. My first day I had to be rescued from a rearing stallion who had managed to pin me in the back corner of the stall I was cleaning. I loved every minute of it.

I LOVED horses, even when they tried to attack me. I never claimed to be smart!

I LOVED horses, even when they tried to attack me. I never claimed to be smart!

Unfortunately the barn manager didn’t love me. I was fired after one week and told to come back when I was older – and faster at shovelling shit. I cried all the way home. But in my pocket I had about $300 in cash, the most money I had ever earned in a week. And I learned another important life lesson – sometimes it’s hard to make a buck in this world. But it’s really easy to spend it.

A state of grace

Grace – that wonderful pre-meal tradition where you thank some invisible dude for the food you’re about to eat that you know damn well was actually produced by a farmer somewhere and purchased with your hard-earned money.

When I was a kid, grace was a big deal. It was always said before each meal and the honour of spouting it off was usually rotated through myself and my three other siblings. My parents never had to say it, although on special occasions – like Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving – my mother seemed to have the power to whip a long, flowery one out thin air. It would go on and on and on as the food steamed and went cold around us.

As the youngest and least powerful member of my family, the job of saying grace seemed to fall on my shoulders a bit more often in the rotation. I hated it. I was hungry. I wanted to eat the meal that I knew my mother actually prepared, not some alleged high and mighty deity. Why’d I have to thank HIM? As with all things I didn’t want to do, I eventually rebelled.

See that kid on the end? That's how I used to act when grace was said at our table. Of course, my mother never served my meal on a prison tray like this poor sap. The rest of these old farts don't look a thing like my family. They also have a nicer chandelier.

See that kid on the end? That’s how I used to act when grace was said at our table. Of course, my mother never served my meal on a prison tray like this poor sap. The rest of these old farts don’t look a thing like my family. They also have a nicer chandelier.

I think I was about 14 or 15 when the incident happened. For my 13th birthday, my father had finally given in to my years and years of incessant whining and begging and had purchased me my very own horse. His name was Pongo (named in honour of the dog in One Hundred and One Dalmations) because he resembled a Dalmation – white and covered in brown spots. He was purchased at the annual Norwich horse auction and I was never prouder than the afternoon I led him up our farm driveway, much to the horror of my mother (she wasn’t a fan of horses).

Owning Pongo resulted in many adventures, including near death experiences for both the horse and myself. As a result of the illness that almost killed Pongo – a story for another day – he would experience “off” days when he wasn’t 100 per cent healthy and would lay around groaning in the field. It was amazing how often these episodes seemed to correlate to the times when I wanted to go for a ride.

It was during one of these bouts of equine malaise that the great grace incident happened. It was a Saturday and I had spent most of the afternoon sitting beside my groaning horse in his pasture rather than actually hacking with him down the road. I was concerned I might have to phone the vet – again – and my father wasn’t home to bounce the idea off or finance the visit. I was contemplating selling my new English saddle to pay for the vet bill when my mother yelled out the back door for me to come in and have dinner. About 10 minutes later, she was back shouting for me again. After the third shout and the use of all three of my names, I decided I better go in. With one last concerned glance at my suffering steed, I went in the house to eat.

It was just a small group for the evening meal – my sister, her boyfriend, my mom and I. As I sat down after scrubbing my hands in the laundry room sink, my mother informed me they had already said grace but I was going to need to say it as again since I was so late to the table.

“GodisgreatGodisgoodletusthankhimforourfoodamen,” I mumbled, actually reciting that blessing faster than the speed of sound. My lips actually stopped moving before the sound of the grace ended – I’m not shitting you.

I reached out for a bowl of mashed potatoes but was stopped by the sharp use of my name.

My mother wasn’t impressed with my amazingly speedy recitation. She trembled in her chair with outrage.

“You’re going to say it again but this time, with feeling,” she said through clenched teeth.

I’m not sure what made me do it. Maybe it was the idea of entertaining my sister’s boyfriend. Maybe I was unstable after the stress of caring for my sickly horse all afternoon. Maybe I just wanted to be a smart ass. Whatever the reason, I mentally snapped. She wanted a grace said with feeling, she’d get a grace said with feeling.

The rest of them stood open mouthed in disbelief as I stood up from my chair.

“GOD IS GREAT,” I boomed in my best impression of a Baptist preacher, both of my arms extended up to the ceiling like I was worshipping the wagon wheel chandelier (Yep, we had one of those ugly things).

“GOD IS GOOD,” I added, pointing at each one of them sitting around the table.

“LET US – THANK HIM – FOR OUR – FOOOOD!” I shouted, rattling the plates and silverware as I pounded my fist on the surface of the dining room table to the beat of my voice.

Now for the big finish.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMEN,” I sang, holding the note for as long as I could.

I think I probably looked a lot like this guy during my performance, except I'm not a guy, I didn't have a band accompanying me and there was no alcohol involved - I think.

I think I probably looked a lot like this guy during my performance, except I’m not a guy, I don’t wear suspenders, I didn’t have a band accompanying me, and there was no alcohol involved.

I plunked back down into my chair and once again reached for the potatoes. I KNEW those acting lessons would come in handy some day.

My performance was met with complete silence. I think I was two spoonfuls in to loading my plate when I heard the first noise. It was a choking sound deep in the throat of my sister’s boyfriend. I quickly glanced up at him. His face was turning bright red and I knew I had him. A laugh exploded out of his mouth along with some green beans. He gasped for breath in between bouts of laughter, tears streaming down his face. My sister soon followed, her shoulders shaking with the effort of trying to keep in the sound. She soon lost the battle, hanging onto her boyfriend for support as she laughed and laughed.

My eyes turned to my mother. If I thought she was trembling before, now she looked like she was experiencing her very own internal earthquake. She positively vibrated in her chair. Her eyes were huge, her face pale except for bright red patches on each of her cheeks. She gripped her cutlery, her knuckles white. We stared at each other for what seemed like hours. At first I was worried. She looked pretty pissed off. But then I saw it, that slight quiver in the corner of her mouth, a small curve to her lip. She was fighting back a smile. Without a word, she dropped her eyes back down to her plate of food and I did the same.

It took my sister and her boyfriend a few minutes to gain back their composure but they too were soon eating their meals.

The battle of grace had been waged and I had won  this round anyway. I had made my point, expressed my opinion, let my view on the exercise be known in the best way I knew how – like the smart ass I was.

After that, my mother always paused before asking me to say grace. Perhaps she wasn’t sure what I would actually do. Or maybe she was just trying to choke back a chuckle.

Full-contact poetry

From time to time, I have this … issue.

It’s not really an “issue” per se; it’s more like a loss of perspective, a slip in reality. Okay, that sounds bad. What I mean is, sometimes I don’t think I’m really an adult. Sure, I look in the mirror and, after I’ve finished screaming in horror, I see that, yeah, there’s an old broad standing there. But when I’m just thinking, or walking, or out at the movies, or at a restaurant with friends, or driving down the road, I tend to forget I’m allegedly a responsible adult. Instead, I think I’m 18 or 19 again, as thin and tight as a pair of expensive silk stockings with a cocky attitude and fantastic fashion sense – especially when it comes to hats.

I find it really tends to hit home when I’m signing school permission slips for the Goobers. I’ll be sitting there, scrawling my name on some form so they can go on the class trip to Afghanistan or take part in that exchange program where you work as a Sherpa on Mount Everest and it will suddenly hit me: “Shit, these people actually think I’m responsible for these children.” And then: “Fuck, I AM responsible for these children! I’m not old enough to take care of them! I’ve never babysat in my life! Who was the stupid idiot who allowed this to happen?” And then I remember I’m actually in my 40s and at one point gave birth to them and then the whole nightmarish weight of reality sinks on to my shoulders.

I’ve mentioned this “issue” to some of my friends, who assure me I’m not alone; there’s lots of people who feel this way. Of course, this statement is usually followed by sniggering poorly disguised as coughing. Then they quickly pull out their phones, bang off a text, which is typically followed by a quick succession of bings and then uncontrollable laughter.

Sometimes, as I sit in my tiny cubicle at work dreaming up editorial ideas or editing product listings about new micro-mist sprayer nozzles or which is the best pneumatic tire to use for preventing soil compaction, I’ll imagine what I’m going to be when I grow up. I currently have two front-runners:

  1. Be Hayley Williams, the lead singer of Paramore
  2. Become a spoken word poet

Let’s be honest here – Hayley Williams (@yelyahwilliams) is cool. She has awesome orangey-pink hair that looks amazing with everything she wears; she has fantastic fashion sense (I love those tights and the DWEEB T-shirt she has on in the Still Into You video); she can dance; she can sing; she looks great on camera; she knows and hangs out with lots of interesting people; and she probably has shitloads of money. And who wouldn’t want to ride their bike around the house? I could live with that.

But the spoken word poet thing is also very tempting.

A few months ago, a friend of mine posted the following viral video on Facebook showing Lily Myers, a student at Wesleyan University, competing in the 2013 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational. The poem – entitled Shrinking Woman – was awarded Best Love Poem at the tournament.

And then I discovered Kait Rokowski and her poem – How to Cure a Feminist.

According to her website, Kait was ranked third in the world after the 2011 Individual World Poetry Slam and the 2012 Women of the World Poetry Slam. I couldn’t give a shit – she’s a world champion in my universe.

My exploration of spoken word poetry and slam – competitions where poets read or recite original works and are judged on the performance – also helped me discover Megan Falley and her poem – Fat Girl.

Plus Dawn Saylor and her heartbreaking poem – When I Was 14.

Since I’ve discovered these talented young women, I’ve been fascinated. This looks like fun. It looks empowering. It looks like a great way to get away with swearing like a sailor in public with minimal backlash, an opportunity I’m always searching for.

There’s just something about the idea of standing in front of a room full of people and spouting off a string of heart felt words – like “I hope monkeys rip off your danglers, you misogynist pig, and you feel the vengeful heat of the spirit vixen deep in your prostate” – before flashing your boobs at the audience, that feels very liberating. Of course, I might be confusing liberating with embarrassing – that sometimes happens to me.

Anyway, I’ve been working on some poems of my own. I’m afraid they have a real Charles Bukowski feel to them – a bit random, a bit biographical, a bit stream of consciousness with lots of sex and alcohol thrown in. But I promise they don’t mention cats or talk about sexy young girls that read my poetry and then want to spend the night with me, although that might make them more interesting and appealing to a certain type of audience.

Forget it, you misogynistic pigs!