‘Not about me’ Day

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I hate mothers day. I have nothing against motherhood, or mothers in general. Heck, I’m a mother and some of my best friends are mothers. But I do resent, in the same way as I resent Valentines day or Secretaries day, anyone telling me when and where I should be grateful for the people in my life. If my husband deserves a box of chocolates, whether it’s February 14th or October 3rd, he’s gonna get one.

Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself. Well if this is the motto to live by, then I’ve done it every mothers day of the past 25 years. Nothing. I would be embarassed if my son ever bought me so much as a card for mothers day, and so therefore I’ve never thought to do anything for my own.

But this year, the year that myself and my mum have been taking steps to understand each other better, I’ve been having thoughts. Ok, I don’t agree with the concept or implementation of this faux holiday. I think it’s fake, impersonal, forced and insincere, and I think its pretty much meaningless. But it’s not called Daughters day, and so it really isnt about what I want. What I want, (by the by) is to ignore the whole thing and roll my eyes whenever I hear it mentioned. Not only is that what I want, but it’s what I’ve always done. And yet I know that she would love me to mention it or do something out the ordinary. She’s even said as much from time to time. And then I spend my time complaining that she doesnt ever think about me.

Hypocritical much?

So this year, I’m thinking again. I still hope my son never even mentions this day to me, let alone acts upon it, and I would be upset if he did. But that’s because I’m his mother. And I suppose it makes sense to say that as upset as I might be about it being celebrated at some point in my future, the same emotion might be felt by my own mum at itnot being celebrated.

There are many things that the two of us disagree on, and basically have to agree to be polar opposites about. We discuss, argue, attack and debate each other about so many aspects of our very different lives and feelings on a plethora of topics. This does not have to be one of them.

So I’ve bought the flowers, I’ve signed the card, and I’ll be giving them with a smile. The smile at least, I know has meaning. And I hope to get one more meaningful than ever back in return.

How to teach our kids to be average

Nobody wants to be seen as incompetent. We all know that we have strengths and weaknesses. No one is good at everything. But if we cant be good at something, then I dont think being bad at it is appropriate second place. In my opinion, shockingly bad is the next best thing.

For example. I am so bad at ice skating that I literally cannot let go of the side. It takes me about twenty mins to pluck up the courage to step onto the ice itself, and all I do for the entire time I spend at the rink is go round and round the edge holding on with both hands and glaring at anyone in the same predicament who is in my way and stopping me getting past. A really good day is if I can let go with one hand. But this doesnt bother me. I am not embarassed to be awful at this or anything else. Awful is not really humiliating, because it generally connotes “I’ve never done this before.” In the cases where it doesnt, it is normally laughable enough to get you through the experience relatively unscathed.

Being awful, means I can look on in awe at the people who are actually better on ice than on land, exchange sympathetic glances at the equally inept visitors to the rink, and shake my head in companiable mirth at the newcomers who enter with excitement, thinking they’ll be swishing along in no time. If I were merely ‘bad’ at this particular sport, I’d just feel like everyone was looking at me wondering why on earth I’m there. Needless to say, I dont go that much, but when I do, I am truly safe in the knowledge that it looks just like it’s my first time.

Unless you are on the way up towards good, bad is not the place to be.

R is on the way to good. In pretty much everything. Where he has been inept at something, it is an obvious matter of time before the necessary wheels are clicked into place. For example, I embraced baby led weaning wholeheartedly when my son was about 7 months. Until then I basically spent twenty two out of every twenty four hour period worrying that he wasnt eating. The other two hours were spent feeling guilty that I was currently giving him milk when he wasnt eating food. (Shouldnt I be starving him so that he eats orange mush?)

The first time I gave him a piece of broccoli, he opened his mouth wide, and mashed the vegetable against the side of his face. Shockingly bad. Within a few weeks it had improved to ‘on the way to good’ where the food would enter his mouth and promptly fall out again. By 8 or 9 months, he had cracked it, and was eating 3 meals a day, plus various amouns of my own 3 meals a day.

This is his life as a baby. He is introduced to something new, and jumps in with both feet, no inhibitions. He is normally abysmal at it, but quickly progresses, with a swift pause at bad, straight onto good and then normally great. At the moment for example, he is inept at walking. He started off by taking one shaky step, grinning, and falling flat on his tush. Shockingly bad. He now takes lots of steps, but not quickly, and with his whole body shaking, looking to all the world like he is under the influence. I have no doubt that by the time is is 18 months in a few weeks, he will be running around faster than his parents.

But what are we supposed to do when they, or we, dont get to the good part?

One day, he will be awful at something, and then get slightly better. But that’s where it will stop. Whether it’s drawing or dancing or maths or public speaking, he will find a challenge that cant be overcome by repetition or us holding his hand while he does it. And there is nothing I can do about it.

There are plenty of things that I am bad at. I dont mean to the skating extent, just generally not very good. Art, Tact, Patience.. the list goes on. And my answer, probably the same as many adults, is to avoid it entirely. Just stop doing things you find really hard. For most, once school is over, this is a pretty acheivable choice. Choose a career that plays to your strengths, choose a partner and friends who bring out the best in you. No one is going to force you to mix test tubes of liquids if you arent good at chemistry, no one is going to make you lead a group when you would rather be the wallflower. Normally by the end of school, we have all developed the skills to deal with doing subjects and tasks we dont want to do, and while obviously happy to be leaving those things behind, we then carry with us the ability to get on with something we are below average at when the time arises.

Not me. Unlike most people, I made my choice to ignore my mediocre side when I was far too young. And no one really stopped me. If I didnt like maths, I just didnt go. If I didnt like authority, I just didnt listen. And so now, I hate being average at anything in grown up life, because I’ve always been able to ignore it. When something comes up, in my career, or my relationships, that I can’t laugh away by being shockingly awful at, and I cant push past the ‘okay’ and keep climbing towards great, I just dont know how to react.

But then there will be plenty more times in my life where I have to do things I dont want to do, and as I havent really built up an ability to deal with that, I dont know how to teach R either. I dont know what to say to him when he says “Why do I have to?” because I never listened to or agreed with the “Because I said so” reply.

I dont want to force my son to keep doing things that he will never be good at. Personally I dont think it’s fair, or that it does him any good. But I know that a lot of parents would say differently, would say pushing your kids builds character, and teaches them invaluable life skills.

I dont know. What I do know is that when my son is terrible at something, I will remind him of his strengths and abilities elsewhere, and where possible teach him to laugh at his own weaknesses. When he is great at something, I will be the proudest mum ever, while trying to make sure it doesnt go to his head.

It’s when he is mediocre I am worried about.

Thoughts?

 

A Perfect Afternoon

There were noises all around them, but they were only noticed with the briefest moments of attention. A child running and laughing, an old couple deep in conversation, a dog or two barking and jumping in the distance.

The couple walked together. Sometimes hand in hand, sometimes a few inches apart, helping each other push the stroller when the road got bumpy or steep to climb. They talked, constantly, ravenously, sharing the appetizers and main courses of each other’s days since they last had time to simply speak without distraction. Sometimes it’s like that; a moment in time opens up where you can talk on a deeper plane than all the hundreds of conversations preceding it. The sweet desserts and after dinner treats of banter and private jokes made the afternoon glare of the travelling sun seem not too bright to focus and pushed the noise and interference of the busy park to simply fade into the background.

At points, they turned to the little person who was never out of thought, and almost never out of sight. He was watching the world go by with such intent and interest, that you’d be forgiven for thinking he was controlling the elements with his very gaze. Never taking his tiny eyes off the world around him, so as not to miss a second of the changing afternoon, he babbled and motioned and smiled towards his parents, silently thanking them for the security and love for which he didn’t know any different.

They lifted him from his seat, and each took a tiny hand in theirs, letting him lead the way as fast as he could go, and as slowly as they could manage. Watching him navigate the world around him for one of the first times, putting pressure onto the earth and feeling it push back, grinning with sheer joy at what he could achieve, the couple smiled at each other in disbelief, at the miraculous and god-like capacity of simple love.

The afternoon got colder, and the trees on either side of the path changed. They had been shade from the bright rays of the late day sun, and they were now rustling protection from the early evening wind. The boy was tired, and grateful to be carried across the uneven grass, where only time would teach him how to walk steadily. The couple were happy to be silent, people watching, swapping quiet thoughts with looks and touches of hands and shoulders; gratefully aware that they were sharing something both rare and special.

They walked back through the trees, hand in hand, feeling the cool air lighten the very steps they were taking, watching the sun streak across the sky, like a child sponge painting impatiently, filling the page with innacurate colours and swirls of shape, yet somehow creating beauty with his lack of inhibition. They breathed in contentedly. It was a perfect afternoon.

 

When Superman isn’t available

Today was Purim, a Jewish festival where it has become customary to masquerade in fancy dress. I say become customary, it became customary at the end of the 15th Century. Nowadays it is more social law, especially when kids are involved.

C and I have never had any trouble getting in the festival spirit, and since we got married, as well as since we had R, we have always dressed up as a team. This year, we became superheroes.

Surely you mean you dressed up as superheroes? (I hear you ask.) No no, we actually were superheroes. We spent the afternoon with our parents, and from start to finish it was pretty difficult. We used our super human strength not to cause an almighty row, and our superhuman patience not to walk out. Next to the powers we displayed today, spidey senses are pretty tame.

Why can family holidays only go one of the two extremes? You either have the best time ever, and wonder why you dont see your family more often, or you leave wondering if you can possibly get out of next year already.

Today was the latter. And it was nothing new really. Nothing we couldnt have anticipated. Certainly nothing that we havent discussed to death after many trips to see the generation above us. And maybe our expectations are too high. People say that you either go one of two ways when it comes to being parents. You either repeat your own parents mistakes, or you are so aware of them that you make the huge effort to escape them and do the opposite.

Well, with God’s help, I would like to be able to promise my son the following:

  1. If you tell me something in confidence, I won’t announce it at the dinner table /  secretly tell the rest of the family and make them swear not to mention it. Until they do anyway.
  2. If we’re annoyed at each other, we will always try to discuss it calmly and out of your hearing.
  3. I wont volunteer you to do a million expensive or timewasting errands which you are capable of offering to do yourself if you so choose.
  4. I wont whisper childish jibes about you, just loud enough for you to hear, and then get angry when you ask me to stop.
  5. I wont ignore what you tell me, and then blame you for the results.

Do I really think my expectations were too high? No. Not really. And like I said, it was nothing we didnt expect, and with or without our costumes, the two of us have built up a fairly great arsenal of super-powered weaponry to deal with these battles. What makes me nervous is, there are now three of us.

And just as our little man has no idea he is in a costume today, he has no idea that today is anything different from any other. He doesnt expect any difference from the normal cloud of love and respect that he is constantly enveloped in. Spiderman or otherwise, he hasnt learned to find his superpowers, and I kind of hoped he wouldnt have to, at least not yet. Watching him today, disappearing into his Baby Einstein programme, and whining almost constantly to go home, I was so glad that he had no real understanding of what was going on around him. Most of all, I was thankful that we had the super-power he needed, the one we both have waited for for so many years, to be able to fly him back to a happy home.

Watch and Learn

Just a quick lesson learned from my 1 year old today, proving that he continues to teach me just as many amazing things (if not more) than I could possibly hope to impart to him.

Not everything has only one answer. It doesnt matter if you’re following society’s strict notion of what is ‘correct’, just as long as you’re doing your best and enjoying yourself along the way.Great job carving out your own path and ‘sticking it to the man’ little boy!