1. Children washing dishes. This will look like bragging, but trust me, it happens far too rarely for the parents to claim superior parenting skills. Basically, the dish-washing child was inspired by the promise of a “reward” after all the evening chores were done — watching old family movies together. I had laundry to fold, Kevin was making school lunches, so Fooey decided, all on her own, to speed up the chore process by doing the dishes. Actually, neither Kevin nor I thought she could do them quite so thoroughly, but she did. She washed all the dishes. And her brother was inspired to “towel,” as he put it. We should put this knowledge to use, and we may, if the schedule becomes as insanely busy as it promises to be next fall, but for now, I prefer just to enjoy the moment for what it was: kids working together toward a common cause, helpfully.
2. Spring! It’s coming. I know it. Evidence surrounded us yesterday evening as the little kids and I took the dogs for a walk to our tiny neighbourhood park. Along the way we met friends, and more friends, and even more friends, everyone feeling the call of the after-supper sunshine, despite the bitter wind and necessity for hats and mitts and coats. We spent an hour out and about, visiting, playing, and remembering what it feels like to emerge from hibernation and be in the beautiful melting world again. Yes, snow is forecast for today, but I can feel the spring. I can feel it!
3. Dogs. Dogs are awesome. Our dogs are especially awesome, because, well, they’re ours, I suppose. They’ve been part of our family for a little over six months, now, and we have watched them settle in to our lives and claim our house and yard as their own (we’ve got a winter’s worth of clean-up work to do out back, but that’s another story). Without the dogs to walk, I never would have left supper on the table and spent an hour outside yesterday evening — instead, I would have been cleaning up and prepping for tomorrow and herding children toward bed. But because the dogs needed walking, I set aside all of my perceived efficiencies and off we went on a discovery of spring and neighbours and fresh air. And you know what? The dishes still got done, the piano got practiced, snacktime was had, chapters were read before bed, and kids fell asleep. So it all worked out, with the added bonus that I was a happier woman for having gotten outside and socialized. So thank you, dogs.
4. Letter writing. An edited version of my letter, which I posted on the blog yesterday, appears in today’s Globe and Mail “letters to the editor” section. So it touched a nerve, and got through. I’m pleased. Now, when do I get my own column? After my (embarrassingly brief) retirement from blogging, two blog readers emailed suggesting I pitch myself as a columnist to a magazine or other news outlet. I can think of lots of obstacles in the way, one being that I would need a unique angle. Another obstacle is in my own head: it’s one thing to hold an opinion and quite another to state it out loud and take responsibility for the noise it creates. Disagreement, conflict, tension, debate. Would that be something I’d be open to? Am I less open to it because I am a woman? That bothers me, and I wonder. And now I’m off-topic.
5. Coffee in the morning. Tea in the afternoon. It’s the little things.
(click on photos to see in full)
Among our many activities this weekend, AppleApple performed at Beckettfest yesterday afternoon. Her little sister came along for moral support, making this an all-girl outing. Kev stayed home and cleaned. It takes a team. AppleApple also spent yesterday morning swimming 5,000 metres (yup, that’s 5 kilometres) in a swim-a-thon to raise money for her swim team. I think she earned her donations. Good grief. I’ve never swum that far, nor that long–have you? She did most of the swim in back crawl, which is her favourite stroke.
In other news, I spent most of yesterday groaning every time I bent down to pick something up. That just meant kundalini class on Friday night was a success.
Also in other news, we were treated to a tacofest supper with friends yesterday evening, who, I’m grateful to report are quite loud themselves and were therefore not overwhelmed by the noise and energy our family generates in these situations. We don’t get a lot of bring-the-whole-family dinner invitations. Just sayin’. So kudos to those brave enough to invite us in. (Come to think of it, Kevin and I used to be more deliberate about inviting friends / family for meals, and that’s fallen off in the past while; I should do something about that. Sharing meals with friends is such a good way to spend an evening).
I capped off the night with poetry book club where a peaty Irish whisky was served and we all laughed a lot. The big kids even got a babysitting gig out of the event.
This morning, Kev took AppleApple to her out-of-town soccer game — the last of the winter season!
I stayed home and did: dishes, laundry, vacuuming, got yogurt going (that’s what’s in the towel-covered cooler in the photo above), and started bread (that’s what’s in the towel-covered bowl on the counter). I did not attempt to clear the breakfast bar, also pictured above. And in the foreground, we see a child holding a dog which has been dressed in a bikini, with several dog-babies stuffed in. So, you know, just the usual morning.
I have a soccer game in an hour. And plots and plans bubbling in my brain. And a book on the history of midwifery in Ontario to read in my spare minutes.
And dust mites to battle. (That’s one to your left. Looks out of this world, doesn’t it? It has recently been discovered that AppleApple suffers from an allergy to said mites. It has also been discovered that she almost certainly has asthma. We’re pretty sad about that. The good news is that she doesn’t appear to be allergic to the dogs. The other good news is that vacuuming apparently has no effect on the presence of dust mites, so I don’t have to feel guilty about how infrequently we manage the task. Even with a team effort).
Yesterday afternoon, I spent some time helping two little guys launch a squeaking balloon down the staircase, with the happy effect that it squealed overhead and repeatedly smacked its little balloon head against the wall or ceiling before deflating and twisting earthward.
It would be pleasant to turn this into a metaphor, but I’m struggling.
There, no metaphor needed. I’m struggling. That’s it, plain and simple. I hesitate to spit it into word form, especially on a public forum, but there it is. A blog is a troublesome creation: it’s very much in the moment, and therefore can magnify the smallest ups and downs in a person’s life, and this here is a down. Right now I’m happy when I’m running, and that’s about it. But get that right now really is right now.
Suffice it to say that I’m tired after a second night up with a sick child. I’m irritable after another day home with my children, who are on holiday, but who can’t leave the house or have play dates due to the aforementioned sickness. It occurred to me today that the only thing a person can really accomplish while home with four children is cooking and housework — plus the vacuuming covered the noise of the periodic tantrums and steady stream of complaints. So the house is pretty clean. Which is something. But it’s not enough.
I would like to reflect on my impatient response to International Women’s Day, a day I usually respond to with honour and interest, solemnity, even pride. But this year, on this International Women’s day, all that welled in me was intense frustration. And I think my response is the key to unlocking exactly where I’m at right now, and why I’m struggling.
My expectations do not seem to be in line with reality.
I expect that girls and women will be treated as individuals, with the same opportunities as boys and men to pursue lives that are interesting and fulfilling. Every time I read another story about a horror perpetrated on a woman — because she’s a woman — my response is THIS CANNOT BE! Every time I read another statistic coldly demonstrating women’s under-representation in, well, you-name-it, most anything that has to do with power or cultural critique or leadership my response is HOW CAN THIS STILL BE? Every time I read some trumped up story on “The Mommy Wars,” or “Stay-at-Home Mothers v. Working Mothers,” or even hear myself referred to as “a full-time mother,” (what, exactly, is a part-time mother?), I want to shrug it off as mere noise, but instead I feel something akin to disbelief: WHY?
A few more WHYs.
WHY would any family rationally choose to have more than one or two children, understanding that childcare, particularly during the early years, will either cost one parent his or her career, or two working parents the better part of a decent salary? Let’s ask the politicians who a) have no interest in funding childcare and b) want Canadian families to produce more children FOR THE ECONOMY. (Surprise! They tend to be the same ones.)
WHY is Canada’s major news magazine running a photo, this week, of a woman shaving her face under the headline “Man Up,” suggesting that women should be more like men if they want to succeed in the workplace? WHY are we always being told to be someone we’re not? Which reminds me: WHY is success in the workplace our main measure of success? Further to that, WHY are good and moral choices so often couched in economic terms, as if that’s the only language that matters, the only real currency? I heard a news report, happened to be on International Women’s Day, in which an economist (who was a woman) explained that educating girls and women is a sure-fire way to increase the economic well-being of communities and nations. So let’s do it, people. Let’s do it FOR THE ECONOMY.
First day of March break.
With the sounds of sibling irritability yowling in the background as I write this — “Where’s my hat? Who took my hat? WHERE’S MY HAT?” “Don’t push me away so I can’t go to the bathroom!” [crying] “Go away! Go away! Get out of the kitchen!” “It’s not your kitchen!” “Yes it is!” “Where’s my hat?” — I’ll pick out the good things.
Like the doggie-sister love, above.
P.S. I’m adding a post-publication, end-of-day extra list of good things this first day of March break has held. It’s been a lovely, lovely day, despite the occasional howls and yowls.
* I slept in.
* I cleared away every last stack and pile of paper that has been accumulating on every flat surface for the past couple of months. I kid you not. Huge project, DONE!
* I vacuumed.
* Just when Kevin and I were wondering what we’d feed the kids for lunch, my mom arrived with offerings from the market, and so we had hot dogs on fresh buns; and then we ate market-fresh chicken drumsticks for supper, marinated in yogurt and Indian spices, along with Indian-spiced rice, and green salad. And a glass of wine.
* I ran 15.5 quick km in gorgeous afternoon sunshine, watching the snow melt, with my elder daughter beside me on her bicycle.
* I finished two books, and updated my ongoing 2013 reading list: see here.
* I felt like I was on holiday. So did everyone else. And tomorrow I get to play soccer!
It’s International Women’s Day. As a long-term forever feminist, I appreciate there being a day to shine light on the distressing and mind-boggling inequities suffered by girls and women world-wide. But I noticed a curious tone to some of the posts coming through on my Facebook feed on the subject: irony, impatience, humor mingled with rage. Oh, a whole day for women? How can we thank you enough? (As an aside, I was also intrigued by a post on a cookbook devoted to vulva-shaped cakes.)
I don’t know if it’s something in the air, but I’m feeling a bit impatient too.
What’s so radical about the idea of men looking after their children with the same intensity and care and aptitude that women do? None of us know what the hell we’re doing when we start off parenting and I refuse to believe I’m somehow instinctively better at it than my husband. Just like I refuse to believe that I’m better at housework. Hey, we can all learn how to clean a toilet. Just like I refuse to believe that it might be damaging to claim for myself the words “competitive,” “driven,” “confident,” and “leader” (because it’s unwomanly? it wouldn’t look good? because I shouldn’t naturally feel or be those things?). Just like I refuse to believe that it might be damaging for my husband to claim for himself the words “nurturing,” “collaborative,” “gentle.” Those words aren’t in conflict with each other; we could both claim them all, and wouldn’t that be fabulous!
Finally, I’ve observed that neither my husband nor I is necessarily better at being the stay-at-home parent than the go-to-work parent. The stay-at-home parent is inevitably more harried and flustered and irritable by the end of the day when compared to the parent who has been out of the house. So it’s nice to mix it up and share. We’re all happier.
Our most contented days combine elements of just about everything. Alone time. Parenting time. Play time. Work time. A bit of cooking, but not all of it. A bit of dish washing, but not all of it. You know?
My greatest goal, in our family’s life, is to share everything and get along.
Maybe that’s what is grating on me when I think about the concept of International Women’s Day. A day where women are told we’re different. We’re singled out into a category that is, still, somehow, seen as inferior, or whose inferior status must be overcome. We’re a plight. We’re a cause. We’re not like men.
None of us should carry a heavier burden, in any one area, merely because she is female, or because he is male. Are we different? Sure, we’re different. But we’re not that damn different, people. We’re just not.
Life is about taking care of what you’ve got.
And it’s about making way for new things, too.
I’m pleased to report that our vehicle has been returned to us, after a week in the repair shop. After doing some serious number crunching, we’ve decided to keep it for now, although ideally we’d love to be driving a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle. Put it on the wish list. (Speaking of which: we’ve got one of those hanging on the fridge from the fall of 2011, and our wishes now look wildly out of date; most of them didn’t come true, and we find ourselves no longer wishing for those things. Curious, huh.)
I’m also pleased to report that my manuscript has left the house. I’ve put it into the good hands of my agent, whom I trust to tell me yea or nay, or some combination thereof. It will be awhile before she gets a chance to read it, and I’m grateful for the mental break. My writing days were getting obsessional in the extreme toward the end of the editing process, and it’s a relief to have space.
I would like to tell you more about where I’m at, right now.
I am standing in the middle of a wide field. I am looking at everything that surrounds me, and it is filled with possibility and potential, and vivid striations of colour and texture and weather. I could turn and walk to the east, to the west, to the south, to the north, or even to explore in a curving, meandering, curious path that does not follow any one direction. I am waiting. I am weighing. I am listening. I am gathering clues. I am open. I am not afraid of stepping the wrong way. I know there are many ways to explore this field. There are many rich and rewarding destinations. Fortune will call me, one way or another, and I will go.
I’ll tell you when I start moving. But for now, I’m quite still.