Today is my grandfather’s 95th birthday. I’ve written here before about how important he’s been in my life, but a 95th birthday is worth sharing some more.
My parents separated when I was three and after that my mother’s parents stepped in to help her whenever they could. That was my family – sister, mother, Tutu and Gramps. They took care of us at our house, we slept over at their house, we all went on trips together.
I still love the smell of pipe smoke because it takes me right back to sitting on my grandfather’s lap while he read us the comics from the newspaper before he and Tutu put us to bed when we slept over. I still love the smell of coffee because it takes me right back to the mornings after those sleepovers and the huge piles of pancakes.
But me and my Gramps? We had a special relationship. I looked up to him, I always wanted to impress him and make him proud. I loved doing what he was doing.
He was the one who taught me so many things. He was the one who helped me through so many situations. He is the person who’s advice I seek when I’m having a really hard time.
And he is the one who’s pride I never, ever doubted.
Because of how much I looked up to my grandfather I also immediately looked up to whoever I saw him admire. And when I was a kid I saw how much my grandfather admired Ed Broadbent.
When I was a kid my uncle worked on the hill in Mr. Broadbent’s office. At one point Mr. Broadbent was looking to have a desk built, and my uncle suggested Gramps. Gramps, descended from a cabinet maker, had been building us beautiful things all my life. He designed built-in bookshelves in my parents house, he made my sister and I both monogrammed toy boxes when we were born. It made sense.
So one day, when I was young, I got to go and meet Ed and Lucille Broadbent at their home, one day they came to our home, he and my grandfather exchanged letters and in turn my grandfather spoke of Mr. Broadbent with great respect.
If this man who meant so much to me was a New Democrat, and if he believed in Ed Broadbent, then I was going to be a New Democrat who believed in Ed Broadbent.
I can’t give all the credit for my political involvement to Gramps, of course. Both of my parents were politically involved and my family is full of smart people who talk about issues and news and politics openly and passionately.
One of the best things about my Gramps turning 95 is that he has had five long years to know my daughter. They first met when we went out to Regina to visit him for his 90th birthday and I wasn’t sure if he would ever see her again. Five years later not only has he gotten to spend much more time with her since moving back to Ottawa, she is now at an age where she will remember him. That is the best gift I could have received. Besides the love that I see in his eyes every time I catch him watching her in awe. And then I can tell that she’s the best gift I could have shared with him. Her, my family and our happiness.
Last year we inherited a Rainbow Loom from a friend who’s son wasn’t interested anymore. We decided to put it away for a little while since the kid was only four at the time, and many people told me that using the loom requires a fair bit of patience and dexterity.
For the past week she’s been asking about it, so Joe finally brought it upstairs and yesterday morning she and I sat down with the loom, the bands and the instructions and the little hook that makes all the magic. Once the instructions proved a bit too confusing we brought out the iPad and looked up some tutorial videos.
What I forgot before starting this project was that the kid and I should never do something fiddly together if it’s the first time either of us has done it.
All my life I have had a habit of wanting things to be easy right away. I understand that is stupid, that things have to be practiced, skills have to be repeated to be learned. I just want to be good at it. Now.
She wants to just get it, now, be able to do it, develop this skill and move on. She doesn’t want me to do it for her, she doesn’t want to watch me do it, she doesn’t want me to lead her hand, she doesn’t want to rewind the video and watch the instructions again. She wants what she’s doing and what she thinks is the right way to just work.
This is something that my daughter happens to have inherited from me. Other people can make fantastic things from Rainbow Loom, why can’t I. On my first try. Because other people can do it.
And despite the fact that I went through the exact same learning curves with the exact same frustration when I was a kid, I get frustrated with her for not understand what it’s taken me 34 years to learn (and I still have to remind myself).
Three tries later, watching and re-watching the video, tearing off the bands and putting them back, we had a bracelet that didn’t fall apart.
Later in the day, after picking her up from camp, she informed me that using the Rainbow Loom was easy and she wanted to make all kinds of different things. That she gets from Daddy.
There was a discussion in one of my Facebook groups today that I didn’t want to get involved in. There’s something about community Facebook groups that just seems to bring out the worst of everybody. But after hemming and hawing a bit I decided I had to say something.
The thread was started by a father who saw a teenaged girl wearing short shorts while out to eat with his daughters. He shared with the group that he had taken the opportunity of this young girl’s outfit to explain to his children why they should have more self-respect than to wear such things that show off body parts he felt should not be for public viewing.
Following his lead, many people agreed that yes, that was the right thing, and these girls who walk around dressed like that, how dare they?
The thread went on as people pointed out that the only reason this girl would have for wearing that sort of thing was to attract attention from boys. Well, the original commenter said “trying to bring all the boys to the yard,” which is a really lovely way of putting it.
I pointed out that it is unreasonable to assume, based on the length of her shorts, that this girl lacks self respect. Moreoever it is a terrible thing to teach your children to judge others based on what they are wearing. I also pointed out that it is very possible that she was hot in the 40 degree humidex and decided to wear shorts, because she likes those shorts, or that maybe she just likes her ass – heaven forbid the teenager have body confidence.
People talked about this being inappropriate and we need to teach our kids that there are appropriate things to wear to school or work or whatever. Again, this girl was in a fast food restaurant. You have no information about what she wears when she’s doing anything else, nor is it any of your business.
And then the original dad tried to explain to me that this doesn’t have anything to do with feminism or women’s rights. Which, but the way, is bullshit. Any time you decide to go to a public forum and shame girls and women because you think that they’re being inappropriate that has something to do with feminism. I’m looking forward to this guy trying to teach two daughters to be proud of their bodies no matter what but not to display it lest random dads at the Subway see you.
It’s all been said much more eloquently that I can say it by the Stay at Home Feminist here.
Yes, Facebook Dad, you can teach your daughters what you see is appropriate, but using a random teenager that you know nothing about to start that conversation teachers your daughters to judge others based on their appearance, and that’s not cool.
(Photo via Creative Commons).
I have been visiting different stores recently trying to find clothes that I like, that fit my style but will also make me look a little more professional that my recent student attire of yoga pants and hoodies. But, you see, I am one of those ladies that you call plus sized. For years I was on the cusp – able to shop the largest sizes at “normal” stores while also shopping the smallest sizes at plus stores. (Except those stores where the largest sizes were comparatively smaller – I’m looking at you Banana Republic – but agreeing on universal sizing is a whole other issue).
But no more. I am currently firmly embedded in the plus size world. There are some stores that carry a XXL that is still my friend, but more often than not things, frustratingly, do not fit.
But here’s the thing: I don’t believe it’s that difficult to increase the range of sizes you carry. You know, those of us who where larger sizes don’t want to be “special” with our own section at the back of the store with totally different clothes. Really we’d just like you to make exactly the same clothes a little bit bigger.
And when I say bigger… Look, I know there are all sorts of different body types, but you should really know that breasts tend to get bigger along with bodies. I’d like to own button down shirts sometimes.
I understand that we all want our niche markets, and that the niche markets most retailers want is the small, cute, 20 something girl and the teenager who aims to be her. The ones that fit into the image we’re all supposed to want to have. Except that some of us have realized that we don’t fit.
You see, my body shape fits more into the 50s ideal than today’s and it will no matter how much weight I lose. Even when I was a “normal” size buttons gaped, sleeves that went all the way to my wrists were hard to find. Skirts that covered my ass, pants that hit my ankles.
Already I’m seeing my daughter’s way forward. Already it’s hard to find pants that are long enough that aren’t way too big at the waist because someone decided kids of this age should be this size and that’s the only size they should be.
I understand that stores have their niches, that you can’t carry every size, all those arguments. But how about taking the actual, living average woman into account when you choose what you carry. (I don’t know about Canada, but the average American woman is a size 14, which puts her right on the cusp of plus-sized and leaves very little option about where to shop).
Really, retailers, the message here is this: I’m tall, I have long arms and big breasts, I have a small waist and wide hips, I carry extra pounds, and I want jeans that fit. I want to be able to wear cute t-shirts with slogans and not have to buy the men’s shirts when I want to support my sports team.
Because men’s shirts are boxy and I’m not at all.
I was taking a walk down a local path the other day, getting some exercise in before it was time to pick the kid up from the rec centre I was walking around. I had my music playing and I walked around and around just thinking about whatever popped into my head.
There was a group of three mums with tiny babies. I thought of our neighbour and her new baby headed out for a walk – get the stroller base out of the car, put the car seat in the stroller, get the baby all set, bring a blanket just in case.
I thought to myself how glad I am I’m done that part now.
And the thought struck me because I’ve wondered whether I had actually decided that. Of course, my main struggle was the perfect names we’ve got whether we had a boy or a girl.
But as I considered it I thought to myself that I really, deep down, have known for a while that I would never be the best mother I can be for the kid that I have if I had another child.
Right now I’m worn down. I’ve got goals of my own and I haven’t even really gotten going in my career yet.
I don’t want to do diapers again, I don’t want to do feedings every three hours, I don’t want more potty training, more tantrums.
I love my five year old, I like her more every year. She can express herself to me. We can have conversations. She can run around and play, and I can sit and watch her, or choose to play with her. I don’t have to be with her every second. Sometimes she even goes into her room and closes the door and plays. By herself. Quietly.
I’m still at this point that I almost don’t believe we’re here now. Like I’ve gotten over some huge barrier. She still wants me, needs me sometimes, but she doesn’t always need me. I don’t worry as much when I’m not there with her.
Though there are definitely some attitude issues between us, which have given me a nice glimpse into the teenage years (and a glance back at my own), it really feels like we’ve got a few great years ahead of us, as we both surprise each other and ourselves with the things we can learn and the things we can handle together.
We’re nice together, just the two of us. (And sometimes Daddy can come along too).
If there is anything that regularly knocks me down a peg as a parent it is my daughter’s hair.
Hair was one of the reasons I was terrified of having a little girl. I can do pig tails, I can do a pony tail, I can do a basic braid, and that’s it. I’ve never been able to figure out clips bows, I can’t do buns or fancy braids. I’m useless with a curler or straightener. I own a hair dryer and it might come out from under the sink once a year.
Hair has never been my thing.
When the kid was born with a full head of hair it was a delight. It stuck straight up and made her look wacky and adorable all the time.
Now she’s growing up, her hair is longer and it’s my job to take care of it until she can properly wield a brush with the attention to detail required. Her hair is fine, but there’s lots of it, and that means that it tangles easily. And that means that I hate brushing it.
Almost as much as she hates it when I brush it.
We’ve tried different sprays, different brushes and combs. I’ve sought out advice from everyone I can think of. I’ve taken her to a salon to get them to do it for me.
I know that we should brush it every day, probably morning and night, and it wouldn’t be such a terrible experience, but the fact that it is such a terrible experience makes me not want to do it. Ever.
I cannot count the times we’ve both ended up in tears. The screams of pain start when I approach her with the brush and only threats of getting Daddy to do it instead make her settle down enough to get the job done.
Tell me, people of the internet, will she be able to do it herself soon? Please tell me.
I seem to be coming out of the other side of something. For weeks I was having trouble sleeping, I was easily overwhelmed. I was really freaking irritable. It all seemed to be a fairly normal way to grieve, but that, of course, didn’t make it any easier.
Yesterday I went to see my doctor and she asked me how I was doing. I told her that I’ve been really unpleasant to be around for the past month or so, but that last week and this week I feel almost lighter.
Last week there were two days when I went to bed when I was tired, and that meant that I got up happily when the kid woke up and then went to the gym while she was at day camp. Suddenly I felt pretty good about getting stuff done.
We’re moving forward. Things are moving forward. We’ve got a lot of summer left and I can make good use of it still.
Something very strange I have noticed in the past week or so, amidst going to be early, getting up early, eating breakfast, making salads with dinner – all things that are very out of character and feel rather grown up – I have not been watching TV. I found myself sitting, getting work done, I didn’t have anything playing in the background.
This is really unusual for me.
All of this is really unusual for me.
And it feels pretty good.
I’m going to have to get used to that.
We’re doing alright here.
A photo posted by Amy Boughner (@amy_boughner) on
Sometimes I want the kid to have everything in the world she could ever want. I walk through a store and I see something I know she would love and I battle with myself – she doesn’t need any more stuff. In fact, she has too much and we really should purge, and the house is always messy with just SO MUCH. But I want her to be happy, and I want to get her surprises and I want to make up for all my failings, the time I spend away…
Our backyard is a frustration. We’ve got weeds growing out of every crack and cranny, the grass grows too quickly, we’ve got bugs, we’ve got a stupid little patio and last year we bought a play structure for the kid that didn’t do very well this winter. It’s too big. Last year hornets made a nest on it, the slide won’t stand up to this very active child much longer. She loves to twist and swing and flip on the trapeze and swing, but it’s really becoming an annoyance.
We’ve talked about removing the slide and re-jigging the structure so we’re left with just the one swing and one trapeze bar.
But what she really wants is a trampoline.Because she’s a gymnast and she wants to practice big flips and tricks. But she also wants her swings. And why can’t we have a backyard big enough for both like one of her friends does?
I tell her that a trampoline is expensive and that’s something we’d have to seriously think about. And then she’s mad that we don’t just have more money.
But right now, today, I just want her to know that she’s got it pretty good, and that compared to a lot of other people she is very, very lucky and maybe she could just take a day off wanting.
Through some work I was very lucky to do a few years ago I learned about the power of neuroplasticity – the power of our brains to adapt and learn new things in new ways.
This summer I am using my neuroplasticity to work on some things to help me hit the ground running when I finish my schooling next year. I’m doing an online course in Project Management, I’m going to practice my French skills using Duolingo, and I’m working on my information skills with all the reading that I’m doing.
As Sunni Brown says in The Doodle Revolution:
“The reality is our brains are like giant, muscular vines, and they can wrap themselves around almost any skill we ask them to consider. … People using even rudimentary visual language to understand or express something are stirring the neurological pathways of the mind to see a topic in a new light.”
Reading this book has led to me playing with doodling again and I have discovered that playing with words and font-styles helps me brainstorm.
And, it’s helped me to turn the words of Sheila Watt-Cloutier into a reminder about the work I want to do that I can put on my wall:
I was worried when my father died that I wouldn’t have any real memories of him. I was too young when my parents separated to ever remember living with him, and I was so angry at him for a lot of my adolescence that I didn’t enjoy seeing him.
But lately things have been flashing into my mind. Joe and I went to a football game and I remembered how last season I kept trying to arrange to get my dad to a game and it never worked. And that when I was a kid I once went to a football game with my Dad and sat there, unhappy and freezing and not understanding the game, just because I wanted to spend time with my Dad. I wanted him to know that I wanted to spend time with him.
I also remembered that one of the football games was on Halloween night and I decided that instead of going to the game the kid and I (along with my mom) would head over the Grandpa Joe’s house and trick or treat from there. I hope she will always remember with fondness that she got to help him hand out candy. I will.
And then a couple of days later we took the kid to soccer and my brain flashed on the last time my Dad said goodbye to her. He knew she was starting soccer and he reminded her to kick with the inside of her foot. I remember that, but I can’t remember the last thing he said to me.
I guess I’m moving through grief. That’s what I gather from the things that I’m feeling, the trouble I have sleeping, the fears I have of other people in my life dying. The irritability. The utter confusion. But here I have these memories, popping out at the strangest times, giving me the slightest comfort.