The Canada I want for my son

The Canada I want for my son is welcoming to those fleeing terror. It does what it can to bring as many refugees as possible to help them begin and build a new life. Once they are here, the Canada I want for my son allows these refugees access to our health care because healthy people are better able to go to school and work and thereby help themselves and the country as a whole.

The Canada I want for my son is compassionate and recognizes people don’t make the decision to pack up their families and leave their homes lightly: if they make such a drastic decision, it’s because they have little left to lose and much to gain. My Canada treats people how I would want to be treated if I lived in and needed to escape a war-torn country – by welcoming them, maybe with offering one of our winter coats or some of the over-abundance of toys our children have, since they will have arrived here with nothing. That’s how I would hope to be treated if circumstances forced me to leave everything behind but my husband and baby.

The Canada I want for my son helps these countries rebuild, especially if we played a role in bombing them or armed one of the factions in its civil war.

The Canada I want for my son embraces religious freedom for all religions, recognizing that this is enshrined in our Constitution. Religious freedom in Canada is not and should not be for only the religious majority. My Canada recognizes that just because you are able to practice your religion, it does not take away or threaten my religious beliefs or practices. I am not religious, so the fact you go to Catholic mass or Hindu temple does not affect me, nor does the fact I don’t practice any faith lessen or affect your faith.

The Canada I want for my son recognizes, welcomes, and embraces diversity. As a nation, we once said how proud we were of multiculturalism and that we weren’t a melting pot, pressuring people to assimilate like the United States. After all, unless you are one of Canada’s First Peoples, you are an immigrant or a descendant of immigrants. My Canada does not think it better than someone just because we may have been born in safety. That is by luck and chance alone. When I gaze at my baby, I am grateful every day that he was born here, and that I don’t have to risk our lives in a rickety boat to try and find a better life.

The Canada I want for my son recognizes it has to help make things right globally, but also at home. That means acknowledging and truly being sorry for our past actions. If I’ve wronged you and apologize, but do nothing to make things better, that is insincere. As such, the Canada I want for my son takes the 94 recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission seriously and begins implementing them now. That includes an inquiry into the more than 1,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Because the Canada I want for my son values all lives and knows this is a serious issue.

The Canada I want for my son cares about our beautiful lakes and forests. So many of us like to go to the cabin at the lake on the weekend. We need to protect the land and water and air for us and the creatures who live in the wilderness.

The Canada I want for my son does this while finding a balance with industry and jobs because the reality is we all need to work, get paid, and support our families. And, it feels good when we are able to do this.

The Canada I want for my son recognizes that to do all of this and more, we need to pay taxes, and that’s ok. We all work hard for our money, whether we are an oil patch worker, a server, a teacher, a dentist, a gas jockey attendant. Working hard for your money and your profession do not mean you are more entitled to money than the next person. And, the Canada I want realizes that if we don’t pay for things like health care through taxes, we will pay upfront a much larger amount, and in the case of healthcare, accessibility will then be based on how deep our pockets are rather than how badly we need the care.

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In the Canada I want for my son, people will have the freedom to enjoy simple things like the outdoors. Something so simple must feel like winning the lottery if you were escaping war or persecution.

This is the Canada I want for not only my son, but for my husband and myself, step children, family, friends, and strangers. This is the Canada I want for my son not just after Election Day, but every day. My hope is we each do our part to make Canada a loving, welcoming, inclusive place every day, for everyone. That is the Canada I want for my son and for you.

My mom was right about (not) watching the news

I know that sounds strange coming from a journalist, but bear with me as I start at the beginning.

Growing up, my mom never watched the news. She didn’t read the paper, either, except for the announcements section to see the weddings, which I came to love doing as well. My dad, on the other hand, watched the news and read the paper every day.

Early on, I took after my dad. I don’t really remember watching the news, but I know I must have, and I also enjoyed true crime shows like he did. Remember the creepy host on Unsolved Mysteries? I watched that show All. The. Time. There’s no way I could watch it now. I also distinctly remember watching, with my dad, the documentary or re-enactment of Colin Thatcher’s murder of his wife, JoAnn. I would have been in elementary school. I remember my mom coming in and ushering me out before they actually showed anything, but I got the drift.

It would make sense, then, to become a journalist, so that’s what I did. And to her credit, when I worked at CBC Saskatchewan, MBC Radio, and now Eagle Feather News, my mom listened to and read every one of my stories if she was able. Even the awful ones.

In the beginning, the awful ones didn’t phase me. And in addition to covering them, I’d read mostly non-fiction books and watch documentaries about war. I remember watching Shooting Dogs with a friend at the Broadway Theatre. There’s a scene where a mom is hiding in the grass with her tiny baby. Her baby cries, so the Hutu militia find them and kill them. My friend (who is a mother) bawled. I did not. Now there is no way I could watch that film.

I hit a turning point at MBC. I covered three stories in one week about residential schools. One particular event was a screening of survivors telling their stories. An elderly man recounted being so scared at the school and soiling himself, and how he was held upside down out of a two-story window as punishment. I called my mom as soon as I got to my car, bawling, asking, How could we do this to people?

That week created a crack in my former steely resolve. It cracked further when I covered two murder trials, one where a man was convicted of raping and killing an Aboriginal woman, and the other of Curt Dagenais, the man convicted of killing two RCMP officers and trying to kill a third. The survivor’s testimony was haunting.

After that, I had to go to counselling.

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Fast forward to now, and I’m done. When every newspaper and news outlet was showing the photo of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler who drowned as he and his family tried to escape to find a better life, my heart broke, as I’m sure yours did. I hugged my little guy closer. My husband, APB, said he refused to look. But how could you miss the photo? It was EVERYWHERE.

And now we hear a 2-year-old girl and her father have been murdered. APB told me, “Don’t read the story, don’t read the details.” And I haven’t, and I won’t.  I don’t need, nor do I want, to know. I knew it had happened because I went to Facebook to unwind and do something mindless like look at your photos, and instead I saw the headline shared 20 times.

And so now I understand. I totally get it. I used to say to my mom she was burying her head in the sand by not watching the news and not knowing what was going on in the world (although I would say my mom somehow did know what was going on anyway), and she said she was fine with that. And guess what? I’m fine with it, too. It only serves to break my heart into a million pieces.

The only positive that comes out of these awful stories is it forces us, in the case of Syria, to do something, which has always been my argument for watching/reading/telling the news. The only positive to come out of reading a story about someone murdering a 2-year-old is it makes us feel so grateful for our own lives, but we shouldn’t need such a horrible tragedy to practice gratitude.

Last night, and tonight, and nights moving forward, I told myself I would not complain or be upset no matter how many times my baby woke, needing to be comforted. At least he is with me and I can hold him in my arms, rather than only in my heart. May we all be grateful for what we have and practice love, patience, and empathy as much as we can each day…with our children, our partners, our friends, ourselves, and with strangers. That is how we will make a difference in the world. It’s not burying our heads in the sand, as I once thought, either. It’s making your immediate world, and therefore the rest of the world, a better place.

We measure wealth in more ways than just money

My husband (APB) reminded me of this last night when I was stressing about money.

As I was eating a late night meal (breastfeeding leaves me famished) and crying over anger at myself for being so frustrated with our dogs earlier that day, he listed all of the reasons we are rich, and none of them had to do with our bank account.

So today, as we celebrate being married six years, I also celebrate how far we have come together. We’ve come from almost nothing, and just like anyone else, we’ve had tough times, but we’ve weathered them together and come out the other end, still mostly smiling.

My 6th anniversary gift to APB: wood in honour of 6 years. It's a carving we bought on our 1st vacation together. The cats broke the mirror in it, so I replaced that with a photo of our family.

My 6th anniversary gift to APB: wood in honour of 6 years. It’s a carving we bought on our 1st vacation together. The cats broke the mirror in it, so I replaced that with a photo of our family.

In six years of marriage and nine years together, we’ve gained, in no particular order:

  • moving from a tiny shoebox we rented to purchasing a condo, a house, and now likely our forever home. Our home is beautiful in a small community like I always wanted and on a quiet street like APB always wanted;
  • two dogs and two cats that I/we love even when they drive me/us crazy;
  • two vehicles to get us where we need to be;
  • careers we both enjoy and that enable us to live the lives we want (which means I get to spend a lot of time with our son, which is what I always wanted);
  • family who love us and is about to ger bigger (no, not pregnant! A marriage that will add some lovely people into the mix!). I’ve personally gained two beautiful stepchildren and together we have a beautiful baby;
  • good friends whom we can lean on and laugh with.
  • Most importantly, we have each other. And in this past year as parents together, I’ve seen how supportive APB can truly be. He was a fiercely protective advocate for us in the first few days in hospital after Cub’s birth and that has continued.

On our wedding day, September 12, 2009. It was a gorgeous sunny day, just like today.

On our wedding day, September 12, 2009. It was a gorgeous sunny day, just like today.

Money is important, but it isn’t everything. Happy anniversary to APB who may never smile (although look! he is in the picture above!), but I know he loves us more than anything and would do anything to make us happy. This is proven by the fact we have two cats.

Why I own my parenting style (and why you should, too)

This has been on my mind for a while. Various reasons make me think of it: having to miss a social engagement was the most recent, but it can be as simple as talking to other parents, usually moms, about day-to-day life.

Unlike pregnancy and labour, I didn’t do a lot of reading on parenting before we had a baby. I have likely never given any thought to my parenting style until I had a baby. What the hell is a parenting style?! (In fact, I would have rolled my eyes at the phrase “attachment parenting,” and the irony is that of course now I practice attachment parenting.) I read and read and read on pregnancy and labour, determined to have a positive birth experience. Near the end of my pregnancy, I thought maybe I should start reading about breastfeeding, but then Cubber came early, so there went that idea. I also distinctly remember reading one book that once I got to the parenting part, I closed it.

I didn’t start reading any books until nursing/nap marathons, and then I discovered the wonderful invention of downloading library books or buying e-books on my phone. I have a huge screen, so it’s like reading on a mini iPad. Awesome!

Anyway, to back up: I’ve always just done what works for us. As an example…Before we had our son, my husband said he was against bed sharing. Yet, as soon as we got home from the hospital, he told me and Cub to set up in the bedroom so he and a friend could clean the house. Cub has slept with us ever since, save maybe two nights. It’s always just been easiest for us, especially with breastfeeding.

Over time, Cub has decided he likes to sleep like a teenager, so he stays up until we would normally go to bed, somewhere between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m., and then gets up late: as early as 8 and as late as 10. Mama is NOT complaining.

Cub has always been a big-time breastfeeder. You can tell this by looking at him. Chubby baby!! Often before bed time, he likes to nurse a few times. Or, as we discovered last week when I decided to go to an evening yoga class and he, in APB’s words, wasn’t thrilled, he just likes to know I’m around. Doesn’t even care if I’m reading to or playing with him, but wants to know I’m there, so he can happily play by himself in his room.

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As such, this makes it difficult to go out without him. So I’ve had to miss a friend’s celebration, and it looks like I’ll miss another that’s coming up. I once had tickets to go to a Mommy’s Night Out. In the end, Cub and I were getting over being sick, but I couldn’t figure out a way to make it work. Once we moved away from the city, travel becomes a consideration. Do I want to be driving home for half an hour, knowing I have a baby freaking out on the other end? Not really.

Now. Some of you are likely thinking, Just go. You deserve an outing. He’ll get over it and he’ll be fine. And all of that may be true to some degree. But here’s the thing: I’m at peace with our situation. In fact, I like it. My baby is only a baby for so long. I cherish every time I get to hold and nurse him. I also cherish the later nights and mornings, knowing one day he might pull a 180 and decide 5:30, like other babies I know, is a great time to get up (please, no).

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My point in this long ramble is this is what works for us. It might not work for you, and that’s ok. I’m not you, your baby is not my baby, and your life and circumstances are not mine. You have to do what works for YOU…and you should own it. Make no apologies for the choices you make for you and your baby. Whether you breastfeed, bottle feed, or formula feed. Whether you take your baby to daycare or stay at home. Whether you returned to work six months after your baby was born or two years. You, and ONLY YOU, know what is best for your family. I wouldn’t tell you what’s best for you because I don’t know. Only you know that – so don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise and more importantly, BELIEVE in yourself. Your mother’s instinct is right (in fact, I was pleased yesterday when a doctor told me it was my mother’s instinct that would tell me if anything was wrong with cub after his stroller tipped and he hit his head on the ground. He’s ok!).

For us, the way I see it is this: this is for now. It’s not forever. And I don’t mean that in a “this, too, shall pass” kind of way. I mean it in a “I want to cherish this time together” because before I know it, it will be gone.

So Mamas….keep doing what you’re doing, and I will, too….All of us with the confidence that we know what’s best for us.

5 ways to not lose your mind

I’m not the most patient person. Just ask APB. In fact, I’ve been known to lose my shit. APB likens me to a firecracker.

While it’s ok to go bananas once in a while, it’s not really the behaviour I want to frequently model to my little man. I get it: we’re all human and kids need to see us being human. But they also need to see us strive to do better and see us not make things into a bigger deal than they really are.

So after a night where I felt like I barely slept (though I must have, because I had some weird dreams), a morning where the dogs are driving me nuts by first hopping around like lunatics because they want to eat and then whining because they want to sit by me, and where a baby isn’t totally happy, here’s how I try to keep it in perspective, in no particular order:

1. Let it go. Key word above is perspective. Sure, there’s always shit to do: probably dishes, laundry, cat litter, in my case my other job (these are all things I could currently be doing)….it will all be there later when I have a better mindset, more time, and someone to help me. As the saying goes, housework will keep but babies won’t.  So don’t be offended by the dust in our house (apparently when I was dating APB, I told him I don’t dust. I don’t remember this but I guess it was foreshadowing). Or the stairs that really need vacuuming. Not my priority!

2. Do something kind for yourself. I get it. If you relate to the above, you have no time. So do something small. Sip a cup of flavoured-creamer with coffee. Breathe deeply. Enjoy a bath or shower if the baby naps. TURN ON THE TV. Who cares?! Turn on Chopped or House Hunters or E! or whatever crap you like. I don’t judge. My Saturday morning to myself used to involve watching reruns of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. So there. As APB noted, I used to only watch sad shit like documentaries. Now I watch dumb shit and kid shows.

3. Do this.

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Apparently colouring helps relieve stress. I found it fun. It looks like Cub made this multi-media masterpiece but oh well. It helped mama and gives him something to look at and for us to practice our signing.

4. Practice empathy. Realize it’s not personal. I try to focus on this a lot. Baby is not giving me a hard time: he’s having a hard time. It would be so frustrating to not feel well, but not be able to say why.  I find I’m more patient if I literally pause and try to see things from his point of view. I should probably do this with my dogs, too. There are worse things than your dogs wanting to sit beside you. And while I know all this, it’s easy to forget if I’m tired or grumpy.

5. Remember, it’s the little things. I was grumpy when we woke up after not a great sleep. But then Cub was chatting away beside me and laughed and laughed when I tickled his nose and tummy. Too cute. I’ll remember that when I look back on this day and not the fact I’m grouchy. Plus, that’s what I’d rather remember!

These are what will help me get through the day. Those and a nap. And Bailey’s if we had any. I’m sure my fellow mamas and dads have some other ideas, too. Let me know. We need to support each other!

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