Category Archives: Lifestyle
It was Mother’s Day on Sunday in North America, and on my walk yesterday I ruminated over the dark side of the day that I kept bumping up against over the weekend.
- The father of young children whose mother died too soon. Her young boys braced for a Mother’s Day where the empty space where her unconditional love used to be loomed large.
- A mother estranged from her teenagers due to a difficult family break-up.
- A note from an acquaintance on social media to “everyone, but especially to those who never got the mother they deserved. Today can be a rough day, but I’m here with you. I see you.”
As I walked ideas bounced around my brain, but when I arrived at those two very different side-by-side lawns, it led my thoughts to perfectionism and unconditional love (freely given, withheld or ripped away).
The lawn at the bottom of the picture is Perfect Mother as we all want to be: an unblemished Plato Ideal.
But the lawn at the top is the mother we really are: messy, rutted, and weed-filled.
I imagine that the carefree state of the lawn at the top drives the owner of the dark green manicured lawn crazy, its imperfections judged and remarked upon. Every mother knows what it is to be judged. Too lenient, too strict, too involved, too arm’s length, too busy working, too much at home, too preoccupied with appearance, too slovenly . . . too, too, too . . .
We are human beings that make mistakes. We lose our tempers. We’re tired. We can never live up to the many variations of Ideal Perfect Mother, and our children are the first to home in on our failings and foibles.
If we’re lucky, our children grow to understand and accept our imperfections and love us unconditionally, but that’s not always the case.
The lawn at the bottom is Perfect Child: the unblemished Plato Ideal.
But the lawn at the top is children as they really are: messy, rutted, and weed-filled.
Parents usually come to the task of parenting with the misguided belief that their children will grow into miniature versions of themselves who will follow the paths laid out for them. Surprise! Children are singular and self-directed and not at all what we expect.
They are human beings that make mistakes. They’re figuring out who they are and trying to find a way to love whatever that is. They can never live up to the many variations of Perfect Child, and parents are the first to home in on their failings and foibles.
The most important thing parents can do is love their children unconditionally as imperfect as they are, but that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it happens, but the parent is taken away too soon.
A rough day
Messages all around us on Mother’s Day portray the Perfect Mother and Child ideal. One could easily be mislead into believing that every family situation is unblemished and shiny like that manicured lawn, instead of complicated, sometimes painful, and ever-evolving.
On my walk, the first lawn struck me as falsely green, drugged into submission and more concerned with appearances than authenticity. I preferred the messy lawn. No pretense, no trying too hard, and no plastering over imperfections.
I enjoyed a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend, I hope you did too. But if you had a rough day, it’s okay and ever-evolving.
For the past few weeks I’ve enjoyed my evening cup of hot herbal tea in a yellow submarine mug.
The submarine windows remain dark and wave-splashed when the mug is cold.
But when I pour in boiling water, Paul McCartney miraculously appears and waves at me.
John, George and Ringo also make their presence known in other windows.
The Beatles stay hidden until I choose to create the right conditions to see them, and then I have to choose to celebrate and appreciate them.
The mug reminds me:
- If I can’t see something, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
- When there is something to be revealed, the conditions have to be right.
- Sometimes I have to make a choice to take action to make those conditions right.
- And then I have to choose to notice, celebrate and appreciate.
- I have to trust in what I can’t see as much as what I can.
Faith, hope, peace, joy, love surround me. If they begin to feel distant or elusive, I can pour some warmth on them and notice how they miraculously appear.
We used it to determine who was “It” in games of tag, or blind man’s bluff, or kick the can, or whatever. We all stood in a circle with one “duke” extended. Someone said the rhyme and pounded a different fist in the circle on each word.
My mother and your mother were hanging out the clothes.
My mother punched your mother in the nose.
What colour was the blood?
Whoever owned the duke that coincided with the word “blood” yelled out a colour.
The person then carried on hitting fists in the circle on each letter of the colour word.
Wherever the word ended, that person was It.
I spent some time puzzling over why—heavens why—this rhyme popped into my brain. I hadn’t thought about it in at least four decades. I moved on to analyzing the words. How gruesome! I then pondered who came up with this violent ditty first. What kind of society normalized hand-to-hand combat amongst mothers?
I made me realize the responsibility we have for today’s children.
As children we carved out gun-shaped pieces of wood and played Cowboys and Indians. Guess who always won? Now I cringe about the violence AND racism.
Speaking of racism, another popular It-picking rhyme we used as children started with the words “Eeeny meeny.” Remember that? Would we ever think of using the version we did in the 1960s and 1970s now? You couldn’t pay me to.
But my friends and I played those games, and then went home to mothers who didn’t come to fisticuffs with the neighbours. We recited those rhymes in the playgrounds of schools that taught us about other history and other cultures. Because of the stability and the education, we were able to grow into adults with an expanded world view.
Our responsibility for today’s children is to provide the stability and ensure the education for all, so that violence and racism affect the fewest members of our future generation.
Skaters arrived in my city and hurled themselves down a steep, curving ice track at speeds of more than 50 km/h.
The ice cross downhill athletes performed the feat on a track constructed in a breathtaking setting beside the historic Chateau Laurier and inside the Rideau Canal lock system. Who knows if anything like it will ever happen again in Ottawa?
Red Bull® Crashed Ice was an event not to be missed.
Off we went on Friday night. The sky lit up for miles around with the flashing light show. The bridge on which we stood over the Rideau Canal vibrated with the thumpa-thumpa of the non-stop pumping music. We craned our necks to see over the huge crowds and tried to figure out what was going on. We needed to deduce the action for ourselves because the young announcers for the event failed to live up to the basic requirements of their job description; that is, letting the spectators know what is happening. Information arrived to us in spotty patches. Skaters flew out of the starting gate with no warning. We didn’t know who most of the skaters were, where they were from or even what event they were skating in. I’d guess that five of eight skaters had backflipped down the track before the announcer informed us it was the semi-finals of the freestyle event. The commentary consisted mainly of “Whoa! Wow man.”
In the end, I didn’t marvel as long as one might expect over the daring of skaters who, by choice, (no one shoved them from behind off the starting block or anything) leaped off a precipitous ledge into a steep, icy hairpin turn. I didn’t gape at their breakneck (literally) speed.
Instead I mused about how we as a human race seem to be losing depth of moment.
No need to know or remember the names, the inconsistent commentary seemed to suggest: You can Google everything later. Were you looking down at your Twitter feed when a skater whizzed by? No worries. It’ll probably be on YouTube.
Before the Internet, before search engines and social media, the announcers of such an event would have felt the weight of their responsibilities. They would have known that they were the sole, fleeting source of information about the happenings unfolding in the moment. They would have felt some urgency to get the 5 Ws and the How to the spectators at the time. Our younger don’t feel the same pressures.
We are drifting away from “living in the moment” toward “living in the moment we look up later.”
I know they’re millennials and I’m old, but I like to live fully in the now with all the information I need for that moment.
I won’t need to look anything up later. I’ll be too busy enjoying the next fantastic deep moment.
Adults yammered on and on around a little boy about 3 years old. He grew bored. Squirmed. Squiggled. Stretched out on the floor.
To entertain him, I handed him a sheet of paper with a maze printed on it. Happy to have any distraction he sat up and began to trace the path as if meditating with a finger labyrinth. The boy’s finger made its way over the printed paths with delightful disregard for lines that might be in the way. After blowing through any number of twists and turns that might have blocked progress, his finger reached the end. The boy raised his arms in victory.
“I did it!” he proclaimed.
“Yes, you did,” I affirmed.
Who was I to dampen his enthusiasm? Why tell him that crossing lines isn’t always that easy? Why burden a child with the idea that some lines are best left uncrossed and sometimes it’s hard to figure out which ones.
Better to let him savour his accomplishment. Better to send him out into the world ready to obliterate barriers blocking his path. Better to equip him to cross the many lines there are that need to be erased. Better to encourage than discourage.
He’ll figure it out.
And the adults yammered on.