Looking for some March Break activities?
Here is a list of the great programs, events, and activites happening this week in London, Ontario:
A once in a lifetime event-
The World Figure Skating Championships are being held in London over March Break. Tickets are still available for the individual events, and also the practice sessions on Monday and Tuesday. There is also a nightly outside LIGHT SHOW at Budweiser Gardens.
To get moving-
The Little Gym - Half day camps in their gymnastic play area with fun themes: lots of running, jumping, climbing, snack, and craft time. Equipment includes uneven bars, even bars, balance beam, air track & many fun shaped mats.
Kidscape – Half and full day camps in their indoor playground facility. Craft time and snack included.
Gymworld – Half and full day camps in their gymnastics training centre. Trampolines, uneven & even bars, a sponge pit, and large open mat area enhance the fun. These camps include outside time & trips off campus. Pack a lunch and snacks.
Adventures On Wonderland - Special prices & promotions during the week. Indoor playground facility and laser tag area. Cafe on site.
Boler Mountain - Skiing & Snowboarding (lessons available).
Arts, Crafts, Dance, Music -
Mashup Kids – Comprehensive performing arts programs including: dance, acting, film production, singing, directing, engineering.
Art Gallery of Lambeth – Classes for children and adults. Make a completed painting in one session. Only 15 minute drive from downtown London.
4Cats Art Studio – Fully day camps. Art studio with classes for children and adults.
Science, Exploration, Inquiry -
London Children’s Museum - Day camps and drop-in events including: puppets, mad science, magic and more.
London Public Library - The library has a large variety of March Break programs going on: LEGO, arts, crafts, science programs, magic, musicians and more.
A Short Drive Away -
If you would like to get out for a day-trip, these are suggestions within a one hour radius of London:
Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory - Look through their website for programs as well as drop-in experiences.
Pinery Provincial Park - Go for a hike, walk along the shores of Lake Huron, have a picnic.
Our family also loves day trips to St. Jacobs and areas on Lake Huron like Bayfield & Godderich.
If you are looking for things to do at home, check out this great article by my writing colleagues over at Erica Ehm’s YummyMummyClub.ca –> 106 Great Activites for Kids
Most of the suggestions above are tried and tested by my family. I hope you have a great weekend which includes relaxation and time to reconnect. –>I tried very hard to include all events in the area. If your business is offering a program and I have missed it, please do email me at email@example.com so I can add you to this list.
As a mother of two young boys, one of my greatest fears is if one of my children should get sick or injured. Although this fear still exists, it was definitely reduced by an invitation to tour the Children’s Hospital here in London, ON. I could clearly see why this hospital is called “a world-class hospital with the latest technology and the best specialists, scientists and health professionals in Canada.” There was some relief knowing one of the best hospitals in Canada is the one my children would go to, heaven forbid, they ever needed to.
On our tour, we were introduced to Ollie the clown who travels throughout the hospital bringing laughter and his bag of tricks. As a psychotherapist, I know the value of Ollie and his goal to brighten a day during a hard time. It turns out that Ollie is a salaried employee who is paid by donations through the Children’s Health Foundation.
Our gang of eager mommy-writers went through colourful rooms, saw high-tech equipment, watched the bubbles flow in the bubble wall, met caring staff, and sat in Ashley’s backyard. I was excited to discover the architect who created the designs for our medical clinic also designed Ashley’s backyard — a beautiful space for children to play with no doctors or nurses allowed.
As we carried on through the hospital, I tried to prepare myself for the walk through the Neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU). I steeled my breathing, holding back tears as I walked by the exhausted parents whose wish was to take their children home. We knew this was not a reality for all the families in there that day. Feeling okay to glance at these brave parents, I smiled at a dad who was making himself some food, he smiled back.
The next stop was to the Paediatric Critical Care Unit (PCCU) where we saw rooms which had to be prepared to handle the massive equipment range of premies through 200 pound, 18-year-old boys. Entering one particular room, the nurse spoke of one young girl who was in that room for two whole years. This little one had to continually be hooked up to a ventilator and other machines but they did their best to give her some fun. The nurse recounted the times they dragged a little pool into the room so the girl could splash around and still be hooked up to her life-saving equipment.
Our last visit was to Hudson’s room — a little boy from northern Ontario who had been inside that little hospital space for one whole year going through treatment for Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). I saw a very cute little boy who was just playing and hanging out in his version of normal.
It was both a sobering and hopeful drive home that day. I raced into the arms of my two healthy boys remembering the wish I hear of most parents just before their babies are born, “I just want my children to be healthy.” Well, the reality is that this doesn’t always happen, but thank goodness there are places like our local hospital where people are doing incredible things to heal the body and the heart of children in pain — and their families. I was left with a strong wish to somehow help the families I had seen that day.
Much of the equipment, therapy and materials we saw were provided through the Children’s Health Foundation. If you are interested in helping in any way, I invite you to look through their website. http://www.childhealth.ca-They have made it easy to provide the smallest or largest of donations, and have fun doing it.
Perhaps I’ll see you at next year’s Magical Winter Ball.
*Disclaimer: I was invited on the tour by Children’s Health Foundation representatives and given tokens of appreciation donated by these corporate sponsors: Poag’s jewellers, IN Fashion, HB Canada, 3M, Maple Leaf Foods and Duracell. All words, feelings and statements are my own.
Although I love all things Christmas, I was quite dismayed to discover “the Elf on the Shelf.” It is terribly cute, and if all it did was play hide-and-seek with children each morning, that would be fabulous. But unfortunately, it is not being marketed this way.
My concern is that the elf is being sold as a spy to judge child behaviour. This is taken from the official website: “Have you ever wondered how Santa knows who is naughty and who is nice? The Elf on the Shelf® – A Christmas Tradition is the very special tool that helps Santa know who to put on the Naughty and Nice list.” NOOOOO!!!!
As parenting educators and researchers, we have worked so hard to get “good girl” and “bad girl” out of parenting language, and this just puts it right back in. Argh!
If a child is deceived into believing there is a magical elf who will spy on them, judge their behaviour, and then tattle-tale to Santa, some backward brain-wiring might happen. Yes, there are some children who won’t be phased by this deception, and won’t freak-out on their parents for lying to them, but unfortunately, most kids will be terribly hurt by this experience.
Children rely on their parents to be truthful. They also rely on their house as a safe place where they know that if they make mistakes, they will be okay afterward. This constant feeling of being “watched” and “judged” may be very troublesome for kids. Imagine how you, as an adult would feel in the same situation.
For those who have already bought one of these elves, please just use it as a fun toy to hide each night, enjoying the pure fun of the season.
The Elf on the Shelf follow-up: (Tuesday, Dec 11)
Sincere thanks to all who have shared and commented on this article. I have been enjoying the opportunities to speak about this through the media.
I just want to make sure people realize I’m not a Christmas party-pooper or against this product if it is used all in good fun. Some children are having nightmares, experiencing anxiety, and there is a risk of hurting the parent-child relationship if the elf is being used as a threat or punishment for “bad” behaviour.
So I suppose “brain-wiring” wasn’t term I should have used; but rather just be aware that if your child seems to be more defiant or scared, consider just using the elf for a hiding game.
Happy Holidays to everyone. Wishing you the best.
The memory of being casually thrown into lockers while I was walking down the hallway in grade nine, and the horrible way the grade 12 girls spoke to me like I was a bug to be squashed still lingers. The challenge of dealing with this was tough enough, but made tougher because I didn’t feel there was another person I could share this experience with. The 17-year-old girl who was the hardest on me, was also one of the most popular people in the school and I was an awkward, gangly, socially inappropriate 14-year-old. I just didn’t have the guts or tools to say, “I feel terrible and I need some help.”
The recent media reports surrounding the suicide and bullying which happened in British Columbia have spurred sadness, awareness, and a call to arms which is appropriate for this incredibly emotional event. The one piece which I feel is missing from this response is the question, “Why are kids feeling so powerless that they are attacking others?”
During an interview with parenting expert Alyson Schafer this week on CTV News Channel, Alyson eloquently went through some tips regarding bullying, and she also made this point: “We need to teach children how to be in healthy relationships.” I yelled, “YES!” I could finally identify what was bothering me about the bullying coverage; there wasn’t enough discussion about what skills are lacking in kids that make them think it is okay to harm another, that kids are really struggling to “use their words,” and ultimately, many parents do not know how to move past the old model of “making” kids obey or be compliant to that of raising children who are compassionate and can think for themselves.
It is well known that hurting kids hurt other kids. The goal for this post is not to provide all the steps to raise thinking, feeling, non-destructive, happy kids – there are lots of wonderful resources to help with those goals. (I regularly post these resources on my facebook page www.facebook.com/andrea.m.nair, twitter @andreanair, and eNewsletter called “Thriving Parent”).
My goal today is to cause adults to think not just of penalties for those who hurt others, but also to understand that this hurting is a demonstration of experiencing hurt by another, a lack of communication skills and the ability to keep one’s own anger from turning to into an attack. Hopefully we can end the debate that controlling, punishing, scaring, hurting, belittling, and shaming children are the best ways to “keep them in line.” These are not ways to raise thriving kids. Let’s do a better job of using our words to educate all parents how to use discipline with CARE not discipline with sCARE.
This is tricky because most parents I’ve met, me included, don’t decide to wake up and be hard on their kids, they just don’t know how act differently. Let’s try to push the shame away, taking ourselves out of the principal’s office and accept that we need help as parents to connect better and on a more even playing field with our kids. I hope parents can be open to learning ways to guide rather than punish their children. If children feel respected, heard, and that it is okay to discuss tough stuff, they usually feel able to share the many challenges they face. This openness is certain to reduce bullying.
Last night I had the fortune to be in attendance for a sneak peek of the film “Stories We Tell,” written and directed by Torontonian Sarah Polley. My fortune did not stop at just seeing the film; the richness of the experience was magnified as Polley, her Dad, brother, and cast members were also there to collaborate for a Mt. Sinai NICU fundraiser. In addition, I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Polley.
I imagine watching a film after listening to the writer/ director speak and knowing she is there listening to the sighs, gasps, and laughs of the audience is a little like what my readers say they experience having met me then reading my novel. A lovely connection beyond the story-form is made.
As the film opened, the excitement I held in my thumping heart gently shifted to grief. Polley’s mom who died of cancer had the same name as my mom, who had also died of cancer. This revelation caught me off guard, taking my breath and releasing tears. Constantly hearing this name spoken – Polley’s mom was Diane, mine was Dianne — caused my mind to drift to my own mom and my relationship with her. I might be biased in my opinion of this film as the connection between the film-maker, her mom’s name, and her mom’s passing immediately drew me in. I discovered through the Q & A afterward though, that I was not alone in this strong connection. This story has so many elements of the human condition in both struggle and joy that it is likely many will feel as emotionally invested as I did.
Not wanting the spoil the film for those who see it, I won’t give away details of the story. I’ll just say that true to the experience I had while watching Polley’s recent movie “Take This Waltz,” this film was emotionally rich, and demonstrated Polley’s understanding of the complexity and vastness of relationship.
My psychotherapeutic eye watched this with a curiosity of how the director would capture so many personal viewpoints, and at the same time, not losing the emotional realness of each character’s story on the editing floor. The writer in me watched this with awe at how all these stories could be weaved together to create a coherent narrative that flowed. Polley was successful on both accounts.
The relationship between a mother and her children is one which has consumed my thoughts and time. I am a little jealous that Polley was able to immerse herself in old home-video of her mom, and spend so much time thinking, talking, and writing about her. I asked Polley to comment on the relationship between her mother and herself this long after her mother’s death. I know my relationship with my own deceased mom has changed as the years pass. Polley said that her connection with her mom has deepened through this process, particularly since becoming a mother herself.
I highly recommend seeing this film, which I believe opens tomorrow, and feel grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of such a grand event. I am left feeling happy with the new connections I made, and the strong visceral, creative experience.
The September 2006 Maclean’s magazine cover story was titled, “Homework is Killing Kids (And it’s not making them any smarter, either).” I carefully filed this edition away for the day I would kindly let my children’s teachers know they would be doing very little homework in elementary school. That day is here.
The reason I have made this statement is quite simple; to date, no significant evidence has been able to conclude that homework is helpful, teaches good study skills, builds character, or raises standardized test scores. You might ask about the need to develop a good work ethic, but, surprisingly, even that has not been linked to homework.
Despite this, children continue to bring more and more homework home. I taught both in the public system for five years and then in private schools for another five. It seemed that the parents of the private schools felt they were getting their money’s worth if their children had lots of homework. I’d have to say on average, those students got significantly more homework than their public school counterparts. I remember hugging frazzled private school students as they wept on my shoulder in utter exhaustion with the their burden of work.
Through my years as a teacher, and now as a psychotherapist, I have heard from students and their parents about the negative effects of homework. These include frustration (on many levels), less time for other activities, general exhaustion, anxiety, and battles with parents. I need to point out that these disputes can lead to the development of something called, “counterwill” where the very thought of doing homework becomes a deterrent for doing it, even if the child has some interest in the topic. This counterwill can expand into other areas of a parent-child relationship causing the kids to shut down. Once this happens, it can take a long time to reverse.
The biggest and most detrimental negative effect of too much homework is the loss of a love of learning. We all have an inborn curiosity about the natural world and how things work. If this curiosity is allowed to flourish, children will be drawn to learn more, read more, understand more and problem-solve more. If we turn learning into a battle, this curiosity can fade. For example, I think the biggest killer of the love of reading is doing book reports!
Alfie Kohn, who was interviewed for the Maclean’s article, continues to strive to change how much homework is given. He discovered that a “stronger predictor than homework of academic achievement for kids three to twelve is having regular family meals.” Given that my work is based in relationships between family members, I cheered at this revelation. Daily attachment time in families is very hard to accomplish when the kids are stuck doing mountains of homework. Those families who are able to bond through the process of homework are unique and certainly in the minority.
Data is also showing that PLAY is a crucial component for healthy child development due to the positive growth that occurs in creativity, social skills, and brain development. Play coupled with good parental-attunement, resilient language, and open communication facilitates the development of becoming a better thinker.
Homework can still have a role in elementary school and does not need to be eliminated, but I (and Alfie Kohn) recommend that it needs to be useful and something that can’t be done during school hours. Useful homework is that which is chosen by the student, and is done because of genuine interest. Examples of this include preparing a short presentation of a family outing, interviewing someone, or creating a budget for an upcoming trip.
Homework needs to be meaningful to be beneficial and rather than occupying our children with busy work, we need to develop their minds so they can handle the situations thrown at them and maintain their intrinsic love for learning.
-A recent article published in “the Atlantic” discusses how Finnish students who are continually achieving the highest scores worldwide, do so with little homework, and without private schools. “What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success.”
-Alfie Kohn has created several articles which help parents and educators speak more clearly to each other, understand the research, and support kids. Please visit his site here.
I have been hesitant to write this article as it feels like I’m dodging bullets while walking on egg shells over a land-mine. One of my primary goals is to help parents connect with their children in way that is not shaming of anyone. The reason I feel this article is so difficult to write is that in order to understand what drives helicopter parenting, and the belief that spanking is okay, we must address the parenting practices of our parents. I want to do this without hurting them because most of us dearly love our parents.
In order to understand the language behind these two dynamics, we need a quick primer on the brain. For simplicity sake, I use two terms to describe the areas of the mind from which we generally operate: the “check-in” part of our mind where rational, responsive thought comes from, and the “freak-out” part which I summarize as the “primitive mind.” It drives instinctual and reactionary thoughts.
So what drives helicoptering and spanking? The short answer is… receiving instructions from our primitive mind and making decisions based in fear. We have lots of data now which tells us that helicoptering (overparenting) and spanking do not help children. In fact, both of these dynamics increase anxiety and sadness. To those who are saying, “I was spanked, but I turned out okay so I’m going to spank my kids too,” please consider that spanking creates obedience in children – not resilience. Most children who are spanked might be “kept in line” but they are most likely also seething with anger and shutting down the communication flow with the person doing the spanking.
When a child is spanked, yelled at, belittled, and hovered over, the primitive brain becomes more developed. When a child is spoken to calmly, encouraged to “find their words,” allowed to experience the natural consequences of their actions whether those consequences are challenging or not, given appropriate, consistent boundaries, and not shamed when they make mistakes, the “check in” mind becomes more developed.
Why do I paint helicoptering and spanking with the same brush? I do this because they are both reactions from the primitive mind. If we are treating our children this way, we likely spend more time operating from that part of our mind than the rational one. This is where we go back to how we were parented, and I start walking over egg-shells.
Many of our parents and grand-parents, due to very valid reasons like wartime, the depression era, lots of kids in the family, agricultural life-style, and no electricity, running water, etc did not have time for “affect management” (learning how to calm ourselves down), respect of feelings, or attuned listening. They were happy that all the kids were safe, fed, clothed, and didn’t talk back to adults.
We now realize this dynamic had many benefits – we can thank our parents for great work ethics, ability to get along with others, pride in doing things for ourselves, a good sense of humour, and a strive for success. We need to be okay with realizing that the punishment-style of parenting back in the day perhaps did not suit us, but at the same time, we really love our parents and have many fond memories of childhood. What may have been missed, however, was the development of this “check in” mind which many of now realize helps us to be happier and less worried.
In order to shift out of helicoptering and spanking, we must learn how to grow this “check in” mind. Thankfully there are MANY wonderful resources out there to do this. If you “like” me on facebook (www.facebook.com/andrea.m.nair) or follow me on twitter, (@andreanair), I am constantly posting articles, workshops, videos on this topic. I also wrote my parenting eBook “Connect with your Heart, Connect with your Child” with the purpose of growing our rational minds so I hope you will check it out ($5 for your kindle on Amazon).
I’ll be the first to admit that when my kids are raging, I have a REALLY hard time staying rational and not wanting to shout at, hit my kids, or declare, “I need a drink!” One particular day, my primitive mind just completely took over and thankfully instead of striking out at my kids, I kicked a hole in my laundry room wall. Yup, I knew I was in my “freak-out” mind, knew that I needed to shift out of it, but just couldn’t. I left that hole there to remind me every day to continue this goal of mine to make the shift. I really get that calming our own primitive mind can be really, really difficult.
Please join me in making the commitment to — in our not-perfect, probably with lots of mistakes, human way — reducing helicoptering and spanking, and shifting to more rational ways of parenting. Thank goodness for forgiveness and do-overs.
The relationship between a parent and their child’s teachers is important for that child’s development and fostering a life-long love of learning. It also helps children relax when they know the various people they spend all day with are on the same page.
Having been a high-school teacher for ten years before becoming a psychotherapist, I witnessed parent-teacher relationships go well, but also very, very badly. My worst parent-experience as a teacher was when a Dad screamed — at the top of his voice — how incompetent I was (for not allowing his son to re-write a test he had skipped.)
As in any relationship, some effort, openness, and conflict skills help keep the ever-important communication flowing. Here are 5 tips to forming a secure-attachment with your child’s teachers. Yes, I said secure attachment — that’s not just for babies!
1) Whether we like it or not, first impressions have more weight than we probably would like. Take a moment to wipe the toddler-snot off your shoulder and do your hair. Leave the grey sweat-pants and flip-flops in the “only wear at home” drawer, pulling out your funkiest outfit.
First impressions also apply to the children! It has been said a teacher will grade a child over the whole year based on the very first mark they receive at the beginning. Talk to you children about this, and about how they can start off on the “right foot” with their teacher.
2) Try to avoid getting into a power struggle with your child’s teacher. I’m sure my boy’s teachers fight over who is NOT going to have my kids in their class. I can just see them shaking their heads, “You take the parenting-expert’s kids! That’s all I need…”
I make sure to ask the teachers what they have used that worked, and what they can share with me that isn’t going so well with my kids. I try very hard to make it an even playing field between the teacher and I by not pulling the “well, in my experience as a parent-expert, I have found…” card and really make an effort to hear their ideas.
3) Find a way to regularly communicate to the teacher that they are valued and capable. This is called “encouragement!” Starting off sentences with, “My son loved when you…” or “Hey, my daughter really smiles when she talks about you…” goes a long way to building strong attachment. The teacher will actually change their behaviour to try and get more comments like that from you! The one that warms my heart the most is, “I’m so grateful for how much care you give to my son ¾ I can really see that he likes you.”
4) At the first sign of discord ask them if they have 5 minutes to chat. Do not wait to off-load at parent-teacher conferences. Ask for their perspective and then share yours. This can be tricky when a teacher or parent uses mostly old-school punishment type discipline and the other does not.
Rather than shaming the teacher with, “I can’t believe you shouted at my kid ¾ you obviously know nothing about teaching!” I would calmly start out, “So my son said you raised your voice at him today. I would like to know more about that, please…” I italicized those words because that line is key to getting someone to open up without feeling they need to defend themselves;”Can/ Would you please tell me more about that?” Chances are good the teacher is going to tell you “sorry” and that they were at the end of their rope, and your child happened to throw a pencil at their friend at the wrong time.
I smile at the teacher and offer some suggestions of non-punishment discipline after a little line of validation, “YA! That would have driven me nuts too. Usually when my son throws something I try, ‘Throwing happens outside.’”
5) Speak to the teacher directly before involving others. If you feel there is conflict brewing between your child and their teacher, try speaking to them before involving a vice-principal or principal. If you involve an authority figure, chances are good you are going to cause “counterwill” with that teacher which is not going to help your relationship grow. This is a great time to model, “use your words!”
When parents and teachers work together, a child can stop focusing on how to manage or figure out adult behaviour, and just be kids.
Last night instead of doing my much-needed book-keeping for our clinic, I made my way to the short, narrow gravel hill of the Hyland Theatre parking lot to watch, “Take This Waltz” written and directed by Canadian Sarah Polley.
Something about this film told me I had to see it way back when I first heard about it, in the similar way a book reaches up and grabs me while glancing at the cover. Perhaps my curiosity of how Sarah Polley was going to dramatize the important theme of falling away from one’s partner caused me to play hooky yesterday. Was it going to be another “You complete me” movie?
As an aside, the Hyland Theatre, an old independently owned space was the perfect place to watch this film. A group of elderly women were a few rows up from myself and other 30 and 40-somethings (I’m in the latter group). Each time there was a mention of sex, nudity or sexual acts, these women shouted aloud in surprise, disgust, embarrassment, and shock. These shouts made me smile.
Early in the film, the main character Margot (Michelle Williams) said, “I have a fear of connections” to her attractive airplane seat-mate Daniel (Luke Kirby). I said, “A-ha!” and watched how that statement was going to unfold. Margot later discovered this person she had met lived across the street from her and her husband Lou (Seth Rogen).
This motion picture was an honest portrayal of how someone falls away from their partner beyond their ability to return. In that respect, I believe the movie as a whole was very successful. I cried. Actually, I cried a lot. I started thinking of how my own chest was ripped open about 12 years ago when the man I was deeply in love with back then, just couldn’t be there for me. My eyes wandered, and instead of sitting him down to explain I was drifting, I just drifted. Perhaps the tears were for that thirty year-old me who still had some scars.
The question this movie conjured was; are we more content in leaving or finding the words that are needed to stay? As a psychotherapist, I believe finding the words — which many do not have the ability to do — is the course of action which leaves us the most at peace. When we are able to express ourselves to another, we open the connection gate and the opportunity for deepening. If we are unable to find those words, we can leave only to appear at that same discontent stage again with the new love.
It is true that because many of us do not know how to identify what prevents us from connecting fully, and communicate that to another, leaving is a viable option. I suggest that this option be used after those involved have at least tried to find their words and use them. A very important scene in the film happened near the end when Margot’s drunken sister-in-law exclaimed, “You are just as f***ed up as me.” I love that Sarah Polley created that exchange. It caused the audience to wonder if Margot had gone down the path she chose with intention or abandonment.
This film has ended its run in the theatres, and will likely be out in video form soon. I recommend you watch it for several reasons: enjoying Sarah Polley’s distinct and beautiful story-telling style, the fabulous Canadian setting, and seeing what emotions are tapped in you. What do you think about, what do you connect with?
Then next movie I want to see is what happens when these two lovers try raising a baby — where the “fear of connections” cannot be avoided. I’m working on it!
*photo taken from the Rotten Tomatoes site with credit to “RT Staff”
The day my oldest son arrived after 2 draining, emotional days of labour and delivery, I held my son in my arms thinking of my mom. How on earth was I going to raise this child without her? She had passed away the spring before I became pregnant.
A deep feeling, that only now I feel able to put words to, arose as my pregnancy progressed. That feeling was of anger, emptiness and pain, which I found surprising because I had been quite at piece with my mom’s death. It was as though a deep ache inside my core started growing larger. This ache was the reminder that I would have to raise my children — my whole life – without my mom. I wondered if I could do it, and I was so sad that I had to.
My career is rooted in psychotherapy so I told myself that I would be okay, that I would know the steps to healing this wound and recover well. I’ll tell you that I did go through the steps, spent lots of time with colleagues, but still the ache hung like a large soap bubble hovering over grass, waiting to burst.
Finally it did — I call it the “angry year.” When my oldest was 3, and youngest was 1, I completely fell apart. I started blaming my mom for my struggles. I would yell to the ceiling, “Why aren’t you here to help me?” I would watch other moms call their own mothers, drop their children off at their houses, and embrace each other. This was a level of grief I had not expected or been prepared for. The centre of my body ripped apart.
I realized I had to do something. I had to regain my joy, have some fun, laugh, find my peace, and let go of this feeling toward my mom. On the floor yelling with my kids, I had to find a way to get up and calm us all down. I was scaring the kids, I was scaring me.
As those who know me can attest, I often jump into things with my whole body, which can really get me in trouble sometimes. But this time it worked. Learning to be a mom who thrived through the challenges of raising screaming toddlers, without the support of a helpful mom, became my sole purpose.
I realize now some of the anger toward my mom was partly because she had died, and partly that I felt she wasn’t able to attune to us the way I wanted to attune to my children — to be “attached.” For a few years, I hadn’t allowed myself to be angry at her because of the valiant effort she gave to live as long as she could, and because of the truly wonderful person she was. Now I can separate the young twenty-five year old mother she was from the wise and peaceful woman I saw the day before she died.
She became a mom 14 years younger than I did. Wow! I can’t imagine the struggle she must have had being so young, hearing the discouraging parenting advice of the time, and following the prevalent “punishment-style” discipline that everyone else was doing. I can now give her credit for what she was able to do given those circumstances.
Through dedicated time of self-reflection, help from other professionals, and lots of journaling filled with the hottest, angriest, page-ripping swears possible, I feel so much better. Writing my novel was also very therapeutic. I was able to release the darkness through a keyboard.
This may sound odd, but I believe my relationship with my mom has deepened. I imagine her quilting beside my boys through the night, keeping them safe. I ask her for wisdom, guidance, and clarity — and I feel she answers me. I see her running beside my fearless sons while they bike away from me. I talk to her constantly, and I swear I can feel her hand resting in mine when it lays open just before I fall asleep at night.
The title of this piece, I suppose, is not entirely true. I’m not a mom without my mom — it just her body that is gone.
-This photo was one of the last photos taken of my mom. She is holding my sister’s daughter who was born three months before my mom passed away.