Monday, April 22, 2013

As Your Parent

It still comes as a bit of a surprise that I have 3 kids. I mean at this point I think I have pinpointed what causes children, but I’m still really, really astounded when I look at their little faces, thinking.. I made you.

In the craziness that comes with raising these offspring, it’s easy to lose sight of what the end game really is. It’s not potty training, or math tests, or operating your own taxi service pro bono for the kids. The end game is sending out fully developed, fully integrated members of society. As parents we are molding these beings into what we all hope are a positive edition to humanity.

Does that scare anyone as much as it scares me? Oh my God when you put it in such epic terms like that, I feel enormously unequipped for such a job.

So I’ve decided to embrace the old joke about how to eat an elephant (um.. by the way that’s just a gross metaphor. Can we agree on like, the world’s largest cookie or something?) and break this down piece by piece.

Then I realized that thus far in my parenting life.. I can only speak to the first 7 years of raising a human. But I can already see so clearly the type of attributes I want these little monsters to possess as fully grown humans.

As my kids have informed me, I have a future police officer/builder, a future mommy who feeds babies with her boobs, and a future professional eater on my hands. (I made the last one up.. he’s too little to know what he wants to be, so I picked what I feel his best talent is). This is for them.

To My Three Beautiful Children,

As your parent, I’m going to expect a lot. I’ve learned by watching other train wrecks that if your parents don’t require anything from you, you’ll end up.. well… as kind of a degenerate. You know I love lists.. so… shall we begin?

- I will be harder on you than any other person in your life. But I will also be happier, and more supportive than any other person in your life. If I think you can try harder, or be better I will not be afraid to tell you. If I recognize that your best is falling short of some goal you hope to attain, I will suppress the urge to throw money at the problem, or try failed intimidation tactics to make it happen. Sometimes, in life, there are things you will not be good at. But there is always something you will be supremely talented at, and I will try to help you find that thing.

- You will learn to feel empathy. A trait that is so scarily devoid in humanity these days. Empathy is the single greatest emotion you need to be a good human. You need to first understand that empathy is much different than sympathy, and that you then must teach those around you by your actions.

-You will behave in a classy manner, because your mother taught you better than to behave like an animal in public. You will know how to make people laugh by being witty and intelligent, comfortable by being a gracious host or guest, and you will never lick your fingers because that would offend me grievously, even if I’m not in attendance.

-You will treat elderly people with the respect they deserve. You will offer your seat in a waiting room, to hold the door at a coffee shop, and volunteer to help wherever possible. Also, you will always smile encouragingly when they want to tell you stories of days gone by, because it means so much to them, and can teach so much to you. I will tell you frequently that I would give anything to be beside my grandparents for one more story, one more funny anecdote, or one more hug.

-You will respect teachers, nurses, police officers, librarians, fast food workers, those just learning English, and basically all other human beings. If you don’t, punishment will come down on you swiftly and without mercy. There is nothing uglier than someone who show what little respect they have for others. I don’t care how cool or funny you think you are, I will cause such an embarrassing scene you will hope no one was recording it because my behavior would launch that video into viral territory.

-You will spend time with animals, taking care of them, and loving them because time with animals does so much for the soul. If you’re like your dad, you’ll feel happiest when snuggled with a dog, even while hearing how much the dog’s farts are stinking up the living room. If you’re like me, you’ll feel happiest brushing a horse even after hearing about how much you smell like horse sweat when you get home.

-You will try to be patient with your dad and I because we won’t always get you, we won’t always react how you hoped we would, and I hope that a small, teeny part of you will always know we are acting this way because we love you. Even if we go nuclear and ground you for months after you pulled an idiotic stunt, know your punishment is because we love you. Also know you can call your aunts and uncles, grandma and grandpas as much as you like to complain about us.

-You will be ridiculously good looking. Ok, well you know what I mean. Just, clean yourselves up and make a solemn vow to never, ever, under any circumstances wear pajama pants in public. I mean you are 7, 4 and 6 months and as so far I’ve never found a reason to send you into the world wearing your pajamas. Pajama days on the other hand will always be a part of our house. But, like, inside our house.

-You will be smart. I don’t care if it comes naturally, or you have to work at it, but you will always work to become more intelligent. You will read, even if it’s comic books, and you will be surrounded with such boring topics like politics and international news at the supper table. Your dad and I are first class nerds, and find it titillating to discuss books with each other, or argue political parties with such passion that we have to take a time out. You will outwardly scoff at our nerdiness, but you will understand it was to make you a more informed, educated part of society. I won’t say you have to go to University, because we all know intelligence is certainly not defined by a degree, but you will always, always yearn to know more.

-You will not listen to any of this, or some of this, or, god-willing all of this. You will be your own person that will no be defined but what we want, but rather by who you see us being. We will try our best to live up to the standards we hope you can achieve one day. You will think we are the lamest set of parents in the whole world for awhile, and then one day look back and realize that boring is so, so, so good for you. I thought my parents were the most boring two people in the entire universe as a teenager, and now I realize that boring is stable, boring is a safe haven to jump from but always a place to fall, and boring is the single best attribute our home life could be for you.



Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Helpers, Light and a Better World

Because I want a better world for these goof-balls.

The world is a real mess.

It’s easy to wallow in the fear of the kind of future we have ahead of us, our kids, and their kids.

After hearing on the radio a brief snippet about the Boston bombing (before I could fumble and turn it off), it was a question posed at me by my 4 year old that stopped me in my tracks,

“Mommy, why them want to hurt people”.

Looking at her big, sweet, innocent brown eyes I really didn’t have an answer. She’s only 4, so it was really quite simple to divert her attention to something else. (She gets that from her dad… haha) and soon we were talking about horses and horse shows and how she hopes to win some ribbons.

But when we got home, I happened across a quote from Mr.Rogers (who was my bestie as a kid) that stopped me in my tracks:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Wow. So simple. So exactly what I wanted to tell her, but for once in a my life, couldn’t find the words.

It’s not the ability to divert her attention I was hoping to accomplish, it was an explanation. She’s too little to really understand the complexity of foreign or domestic terrorism (um.. I think I’m also too young. I did watch Zero Dark Thirty.. does that count??). But Ben, well he’s not too little to ask more intricate questions.

After the Newtown shootings I could barely function. It was something I actually couldn’t even write about because every image I saw, every story I heard, sent me so deeply into a place I couldn’t bear to be. Those toothless smiles looking out at me from the memorials circulating online bore too much of a striking resemblance to the 6 year old smile I saw everyday. I couldn't avoid it all, and then I saw something that nearly crippled me.

One of those sweet little 6 year olds was also named Ben.

For the first time in my, at times, annoyingly-optimistic, life, I saw darkness where I had always seen light. It was so close to home, and so raw with emotion that I succumbed to the scary place. I didn’t want to watch the news, or read anything about that day. I wanted to rewind my subconscious into a place where things like this never happened. I even cried when I sent Ben to school the next day.

But then I made a real and conscious choice, one that I had to make again after what happened in Boston.

I decided to see the light in humanity.

Because when you start to look for the light, you see it more luminous than ever, and the more light you look for, the more the darkness fades. I chose to acknowledge and really notice that even after such a monumentally horrible event, there was light. Police officers running fearlessly into that building, teachers shielding their students, students helping other students, a world shedding tears and saying prayers for strangers.

I realized that in giving those responsible no thought, and halting the train of anger that screams so loudly “WHY! WHY? WHY!?” there is a calming strength that takes over that starts to propel you forward to be the light others are looking for, even if they don’t know it yet. A strength in believing that humanity is good, that humans want to love and be loved, and that despite the horrors we see around us.. we can lift each other up and light the way for those who are floundering in the dark.

It’s not going to stop the hate, or the ‘scary things on the news’. And, I am not naive enough not to realize that there must be those that are forced to look into the darkness, and to find answers to the questions that are terrifying to ask.

But as parents, as an everyday mom who needs to be able to answer questions about humanity, and war, and why people do horrible things.. well I’ve just never heard a more simple, overwhelmingly positive, answer.

And maybe, just maybe, if we can teach our children to see the helpers, and how to see the light, the world might just be a better place.

Here is the clip, it's short.  Watch it and remember why we all happily sat and watched him change his shoes, and put on a different sweater every morning.  What an awesome guy:

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Surviving the Fever...

Sh#t got real back there, huh?

I think I’m having performance anxiety about trying to write again because I was totally, completely, overwhelmed by the comments, messages, and texts. Friends and strangers saying how much that post touched them, how they appreciated my honesty. My blog had nearly 15,000 visitors..

The honest truth is that I pounded that post out in about 45 minutes. It’s how I operate. There was no foresight into what I was saying, how it would be interpreted, and who it would appeal to. I just started writing what was on my mind, as I always do. If you know me, you know it’s how I am in person as well. You never really know what is going to come out of my mouth, and let’s be honest, it’s generally not nearly that insightful or well put together. Usually it’s a diatribe against something super important like refried beans. (Seriously, if there is a person out there that thinks refried beans have taste, and add something to your meal, please, please tell me. I’ve yet to find anyone, but it’s always on my Mexican food when I visit the US….)

Anyways I’m working on something else, but wanted just to pop in to say Thank YOU! And, if you can think of anything I should write about, let me know! Haha

I love this picture, and like to use is as often as possible....

Friday, April 5, 2013

Scarlet Fever Can Be Dangerous.. the RCMP 'Life'

The very first RCMP wife I met, who was actually a soon to be ex-RCMP wife, scared the crap out of me. She cornered me at a party, after finding out my long time boyfriend was heading to depot, and told me what to expect living this ‘life’.

"Never expect him home when he said he would be, his devotion to his work will trump all else, and his personality will slowly change after years of wearing the serge."

 In her desperate attempts to understand her husband’s ‘life’ she even went through depot and became a member herself. While she loved her career, she mourned her marriage that was now beyond repair.

My initial thoughts were… there is no bloody way I am going through depot. Are you kidding? Those pants are ill fitting, my hair is best showcased down, and I don’t really like being told what to do. Since I knew that was out of the question, I kept that conversation in the back of my head as I watched him go through depot, while I supported from the sidelines.

Unlike most spouses, I was also in Regina at the same time, and had the opportunity to get to know many of his troop mates, and had a few crash at my apartment on the weekends. (It didn’t hurt that I had a pretty roommate, either..). I saw up close what the intense schedule did to the men and women that I had befriended on the weekends, and saw them slip into another world during the week. In my estimate, people did some strange, and incredibly out of character things, under pressure. Mostly, as the 21 year old University student, I was just happy to have a solid group to party with on the weekends.

Well, the partying came to a crashing halt when I realized I was pregnant with a depot baby. By his graduation, I was finishing up my degree, 3 months pregnant, about to move to a small town where we would reside in the attached house to the detachment.

Oh yes, and I was 22.

Definitely ready to take care of the flower beds, giant lawn, and detachment yard with a newborn, in the first house we had ever lived in, in front of the whole town. There were ups and downs, moments I would like to forget, and moments I will remember forever, but mostly we were embraced by this small town like one of their own.

But... there was a change in him, and I could see it was not an easy adjustment for him to go from police officer, to husband and father, in the time it takes to walk through the door. The easy going, hard-to-anger husband I had once had, now seemed to be kinda irritable, and wasn’t always the nicest person to have around.

I lay awake at night wondering, did I really just move 11 hours away from my parents, with a terribly colicky newborn, to stay at home and be a doting wife and mother, after working hard (well at some points anyway) to earn a degree I would never use? Did I really do this to have a grumpy, condescending husband come home from work?

We had some moments when I thought that woman had been right. He had changed and I didn’t know what to do with the guy in front of me.

But, we kept talking, and he kept trying to figure out how to be one person all day long, and then come home and relax with his family.

We slowly worked through it, and I took a suitcase out only once... in dramatic flair, to show how much he had really pissed me off.

As a young RCMP wife, nobody really told me about the disappointment of eating dinners alone with the kids, when you cooked all day, but he can’t get away from work. Or, when he gets called out Christmas morning.  Or bringing home your baby from the hospital and having him go back to nights for 15 in a row. How to deal with the inevitable moments when you feel angry, and frustrated, that you somehow ended up so far away from what you thought your future would look like, while he is off living his dream. Or, how to deal with the look on his face after doing a next of kin notification to a young family, because he could hear the kids crying as he walked to his car.

As a wife of a new officer you feel like part-psychologist, part-wife. Always trying to read moods as they walk in the door.  Trying to hear something in their voice that will tell you how bad the day has been, when they just called to say they will be late.. again. Knowing when to ask questions, and when to just leave them alone. It’s so confusing to walk through life with someone that feels a bit like a stranger, watching them experience death and darkness, and not knowing what to say.

What I’m getting at, is that I was beginning to see that this ‘life’ she had talked about, wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

She was right. They change.

But what she forgot, perhaps in her bitterness, is that it’s not necessarily a change for the worse, and the person that comes out on the other side is definitely worth fighting.. well with.

Getting to the place where work is somewhere they work hard, have some fun, and bond with their coworkers.  Where home is somewhere to laugh, and relax, and have loving, meaningful, relationships with family.

In following his career, we’ve been rural, then on a reserve at an LDP, and now in a city close to a big center. His work schedule has been all over the place, and the level of stress has been different in every post. Where we are now, at least there is a chance of anonymity, we can go into the city and no one knows who he is. Holidays really are days off, and with not much on call, his phone doesn’t ring 24 hours a day. (Sidenote- The one benefit of being accustomed to being woken up at least once a night, is I no longer dread middle of the night phonecalls.. I just assume it’s work!). He still works hard, and still doesn’t make it home a lot of the time when he says he will, but there is an ebb and flow to our life. Some of it was the change in location, but a lot of it was the ability for the two of us to adapt to this lifestyle.

Having three children, and the ever present possibility of ‘transfer’ looming overhead means that in this profession he has chosen, we really only have each other.

This...Our family.

His work will take him places, that’s what he signed up for. I have signed up to be supportive, and while I refuse to leave my own aspirations behind, as part of a team, I will follow.

The thing is, a lot of time the anger is when people talk about the ‘life’ they, our RCMP spouses, have chosen for us. I began to realize that’s where they got it all wrong. No matter your profession, as soon as it’s your ‘life’, well that's a problem.

And if someone else is choosing your life.. well, you might have some deeper issues than what they do for a living.

This profession has the ability to give a life style to the members, and their families along with them. The ‘life’ we have chosen is one where we are ready for the next adventure, lucky to have friends spread across the country, with the opportunity to take our kids to new provinces, to share rare experiences. But most importantly, this is a ‘life’ we are choosing to live together.

I have met couples who have lived through years of this career, who have come out on the other side blessed with the memories they have made, unable to count all the postings they have been. And.. of course, we have all seen the other side. It would seem there are lessons to be learned from both outcomes.

We certainly don’t have it figured out yet. We are 15 years into our relationship and only 7 into this crazy career, and it feels like we still have to find new ways to make this career work for our life. I can’t say where our next stop will be, but god-willing, and plenty of hard work later, it will be together.