17 April 2014

25 Things My Kids Should Know About Life And/Or Their Parents (Even If They Don't Want To... Which Is Likely.)

With me being at home and Daryn's new job being demanding both of time and energy, I've taken over nearly all of the transportation duties getting the kids back and forth to their respective activities. This means the offspring and I are spending boatloads more time in the car together, getting to "know" each other better.

What my kids are learning - especially the Boy, since his volleyball practices are out of town and as such require more time on the road - is that they don't know everything about their parents. They're coming to discover that the people who gave them life actually had lives before they were born, and interests that were not informed by the internet, Jay-Z's musical empire or Disney.

(That last one is a lie. Everybody born after 1950 is shaped by Disney in one way or another.)

The other day when I landed on a radio station playing Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" and sang along, the kid nearly dropped dead of shock, and it occurred to me just how little they know about our LBO (for the uninitiated, that's Life Before Offspring). And there's some important stuff in there, you guys. Stuff they should know about to help them better understand how we grew up, how we became the parents they know, and how our experiences will shape their own journeys.

Oh, and some universal, inescapable truths about life in general. Those are important too.

So for better or worse, like it or not, here are the 25 most important things I think my kids should know about life, and me (and by extension sometimes, their dad), in no particular order.


I've always been a little more sensitive when it comes to tv and movies that pluck on the heartstrings (though I challenge anyone to watch 'She's Having a Baby' and not feel a twinginess in their tear-ductal regions.) But I didn't completely disintegrate into a blubbering mess over Kleenex commercials until kids came along. An old cliché says that having kids is like wearing your heart outside your body, and it couldn't be more true. Or rather, it's like your heart swells bigger and bigger like a bubblegum bubble, surrounding the people you love most. Anything that bumps into it or rubs up against it sends a pang straight down into the middle of your body, the most sensitive part. You feel everything. Every little thing, like a skinned knee. Which is why I cry at sappy movies, long distance commercials, news reports, well written books and everything in between.

Rhythm is not an acquired skill. You either have it (your dad, you guys) or you don't (me). There is no middle ground.

Unlike rhythm, sex IS an acquired skill (which, yes, requires at least one partner to have rhythm, but further to #24, you guys are all set.) Your first time will not be great, nor will the next hundred times after that, probably. But if you're with a partner you are comfortable with, care about and trust, the best thing you can do is experiment and teach yourselves. Read, research, communicate and learn.

I like to claim I'm a little bit psychic, but what I really have isn't ESP: it's just really good instincts, and faith that those instincts are right. Tune into the energy around you: be open. Trust your gut, always. It will rarely lead you astray (and makes for a great party trick when you guess - correctly - the sex of every baby of every pregnant woman you come across.)

I'm terrible at managing finances. I'm an instant-gratification kind of person with very little in the way of impulse control. I've learnt over time to generally manage day-to-day expenses but I'm terrible at saving and credit is not my friend. I own my limitations but I'm not proud of them. I will say, however, that I'm very good at ensuring you get what you need, and much of what you want. But, you should know this may mean your father and I have to live with one of you in our old age. Be prepared, and try not to learn from my example.

Further to No.21, I often cut my nose off to spite my face on account of the instant gratification. Waiting (for anything) makes me frantic - I need things to be definite and can't stand the indefinite. So in the interests of making things definite and alleviating anxiety, I will make spur-of-the-moment decisions that I often regret (Ferb is a great example of that.) If you can, develop patience. It will make you happier in the long run.

Native Canadians have a long, sad history, only some of which you'll learn about in school. Reading about it in history books is difficult enough, but my dad and his family - your grandfather and extended family - are the faces of that experience. It connects me to that history in ways that make me uncomfortable; in ways I'd rather not be and still, even at the ripe old age of 38, can't reconcile, which is why I know very little about my family, their tribe and their history, and share even less. But denying our heritage because of bad things is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater: you can't deny bad without denying good, too. I will probably always struggle to make peace with my bloodline, but I've started to work on my connection to it so that one day I can pass it on.

When I was 13, a popular pastime among some of my friends was shoplifting. I was considered a goody-two-shoes because I didn't participate, so I decided one afternoon on a whim to try it. I was going away on a school trip and needed toothpaste so I was like: I think I should steal a tube of toothpaste. And then I totally stole a tube of toothpaste... and I totally got caught. I was driven home in the back of a police cruiser (in which the cop wouldn't let me lay down on the seat and hide) and when we arrived at my Nanny's house and knocked, she answered the door in a towel because she'd been in the bath. She was embarrassed on so many levels, and nobody ever let me live it down (true story: ask Grimmy about it. She loves telling the story.) Shame is a harsh teacher and a powerful motivator: abandon your criminal enterprises at the outset or else become very, very good. There is no in-between.

Cutting class, underage drinking, staying out all night, midnight joy rides, make-out sessions in inappropriate places (drama room loft or tech wing stairwell, anyone?). Your dad did none of these things; I did all of them (within reason) and you see how we turned out. You'll be OK too.

One thing neither your dad nor I ever tried was drugs: he because he never felt the need, and I basically because of fear. I knew with my luck I'd be the one to end up with the one dime bag of weed that was laced with LSD or whatever and I'd end up OD'ing on a bad spliff, and my fear of damaging my noodle trumped whatever curiosity I might have had. One of you has inherited my "luck" gene, so be forewarned.

I know what 'spliff'' means. Ditto: smack, crack, crank, angel dust, reefer, 'ludes, tranq's, coke, snow, china white and all the others. I may never have actually done drugs, but I grew up in a town that's the biggest drug-running highway in Ontario (possibly Canada) and some things you learn by osmosis. Now you're growing up here, too, and it will be up to you what you decide to put in your body versus not.

My biggest fear is that I will lose you; that you'll be taken from me by circumstances outside my control. So when I plague you with questions about your personal life outside the house - the who, what, where and when of your social selves - it's not because I don't trust you to make good decisions, or even that I'm particularly interested in prying (I do, and I'm not.) It just helps to alleviate my anxiety if I generally know what's going on with you. I need to know I can find you if I need to (or if you need me to.)

Speaking of fears, I have an intense fear of failure which is why I stick my neck out very rarely to try new things. It's like being handcuffed much of the time. To a pole. In a basement. Basically, it sucks. I'm working on it, but when I spin around in metaphorical circles and worry and fret and chew my fingers and generally freak the f*ck out because I can't figure out what I want/need/can do with my life, it's because I'm scared.

Things that make me happy that are not you and/or your father: books, books and more books; old houses; the Shih Tzu; soup (pretty much any kind); sunshine; cool breezes; the first snowfall; fairy lights; original art; museums; lists; felt-tipped pens; new notebooks; Craigslist finds; antiquing; pajamas; rainy day movie marathons; dill pickle chips; road trips; everything Harry Potter; my favourite song on the radio; being the cheering section; mittens; tattoos; the colour orange; devilled eggs (done "right"); this blog; "Canadiana"; comic book movies; Thai food; yoga pants and steeped tea. [not a definitive list]

If I could visit just one other place in the world, it would be Ireland. It's my dream to live there for a year or two.

If I could visit just two other places, it would be Ireland and Iceland. Is it weird that they're separated by over one thousand kilometers but just one letter? Probably.

I love you guys so much that sometimes I feel like I'm going to burst with it, but you're not the centre of my world. My centre is your dad; or rather, my centre is your-dad-and-I. It's our marriage, the unit we create together. You might feel differently when you have your own children, but I believe that my job as your mother is to raise you to become capable and independent. I'm raising you to leave, eventually. Whereas your dad and I are paired for life; "until death do us part" and all that. In the solar system of my life, your dad is the sun and you both are little planets in orbit around us. Which is why we ignore you every Sunday to spend time together.

Speaking of your dad, he is my favourite person in the world and the very best man I know. He is a manly-man in that he is strong and confident and intelligent and gentle. He isn't aggressive or confrontational because he doesn't need to be: he's secure in himself. And that's what a real man is: secure and quietly confident. He is a wonderful example of the kind of man you can become, or of one you can invite into your life to share it.

All of my decisions relating to travel hinge on two things: what I can eat there that I recognize, and what (animal/insect/food/bacteria) could potentially kill me. Everything else is just details.

The feelings I hate feeling the most are: fear (like real, "I'm in danger" fear, or "this horror movie is way to well-done" fear), helplessness and loneliness. The feelings I love feeling the most are: satisfaction, contentment and love.

I feel my best when I'm comfortable, and think others look their best when they're comfortable, too. Fads suck; I hate them. Being trendy is fine for some, but not for me. Sometimes that'll embarrass you ('Angel' pants ring a bell?) but I like what I like and the older I get, the more comfortable I am being comfortable in my own skin (and my own pants, as it were.)

Depression is hereditary. I hope I am demonstrating to you that it's OK to receive a diagnosis, that it's OK to take ownership of that diagnosis and that it's OK to seek help, so that if you ever experience the same, you will know there's no shame in it and that you're not alone.

There are things you get over in life, and things you just learn to live with. When you lose people you love - by death, or desertion - it creates cracks in your foundation. You can move on, but you are never the same. Those cracks inform who you are, forever. Accept them, but patch them up as best you can. Try not to let them crumble the rest of you.

I don't care if I'm never wished a happy Mother's Day, happy birthday or merry Christmas, as long as the people I love are connected to me in our daily lives. I don't believe in visits on special occasions; it's more important to me to be involved in your day-to-day life, because what we do every day is the essence of who we are. But not every day, day-to-day. I like my space, and understand you need yours, too.

The best way I've found to create good relationships is to throw out the golden rule (seriously) and observe this rule instead: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them. Ask others for the same courtesy and respect in return. You wouldn't buy someone a Christmas gift that you liked but you knew they did not, right? Right. You would buy them something you knew they liked, knew they wanted, expressed interest in or specifically requested, regardless of your personal preferences. Try to apply that same principle to every interaction you have with folks, and life will be lot easier.


Now, the trick will be getting to them to read this.

What you about? What are the most important things you want your kids - existing or future - to know about you?