This is the third year I’ve attempted to read all the CBC Canada Reads books before the debates in March.
The long list of books is released in December. I recall last year plowing through books during our many breastfeeding sessions. By the time the debates rolled around, I think I’d read four of the five.
Thinking back to the previous year, I’m not sure how many of the long list I read, but I read most of the short list. I also had more spare time. What oh what did I do with all that spare time?!
If you’ve never heard of the debates, they’re quintessentially Canadian. Five personalities each vigorously defend a book and vote one off every day until there is a winner. There’s a different theme each year, 2016’s being “starting over.”
There’s no rhyme or reason to which book I tackle first. It’s whichever one I can get from the library first. Last night I was able to download the e-book version of The Outside Circle. I finished it in a couple of hours, which is part testament to how good it was, but also because it’s a graphic novel. It touches on First Nations gang life, cycles of violence and substance abuse, the legacy of residential schools.
It’s pretty much a guarantee that if a book makes it to the Canada Reads long list, it’s decent, so it goes without saying you should read as many of them as possible whenever you have time.
I’ve written before about the impact covering residential schools has had on me as a journalist. Now I will reflect on them as a parent.
It has astounded me people who either deny the consequences of residential schools or shrug them off as not a big deal, get over it, it’s history. I’ve heard all the arguments before: speaking to extended family about covering a residential school apology event, I was told Aboriginal people aren’t the only people in Canada we’ve mistreated (as if that makes it alright, any of it). During that conversation, a minister said that the churches had already apologized, implying enough already, time to move on. The minister commented how one survivor was finally less angry – when I responded that she had every right to be angry and no one could tell her how she should feel, that wasn’t welcomed.
I’ve learned you can’t always reason with people using facts. A good friend once told me you have to meet emotion with emotion. So here I present to you an emotional argument you can’t argue with. And if you can or attempt to, you have no heart, and I’m not interested in engaging.
If you are a parent, take a moment and look at your child(ren). Think of how much you love them and how you’d do anything for them. Now imagine someone comes and takes your children away and there is NOTHING you can do about it. How do you feel? I look at my son and feel sick just thinking about it, to the point I almost can’t.
If you aren’t a parent, take a moment and remember yourself as a child. Who did you look to for comfort, safety, and love? Your parents. Now imagine some stranger comes and takes you away from them, either shipping you off to a foster family of strangers or a residential school where at best, you are separated from your family and loved ones. At worst, you are abused.
Is there a worse feeling in the world? Pain is pain, and maybe it shouldn’t be graded or put in a hierarchy, but I’m not sure there is a more sickening feeling than what I just described above: the hopelessness, the power imbalance, the unfairness, the loss. It makes me want to cry thinking about it.
These were the thoughts running through my head as I read The Outside Circle last night. When I was finished, I held onto my son, vowing I would continue to respond to him when he cries, because he needs me, whether it’s day or night. And as I held him, I couldn’t help but think of those children and babies ripped from their parents’ arms. It made me hold him tighter. It made me stronger in my resolve to continue parenting the way I do.
The story is tragic, moving, triumphant – and timely, coming on the heels of the final report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I hope The Outside Circle makes the final 5 because it’s a story that needs to be read, and I believe being a graphic novel means it can and will reach a wider audience. Images are powerful. And the more people this message reaches, the better our country and society will become. We could all benefit from a little empathy and compassion: it can only make us stronger.
There are two main reasons I won’t be taking a picture of a tearful Cub on Santa.
One is I can’t be bothered to stand in line at the mall or anywhere else when I don’t know if he’ll like Santa. Plus it would just be one more thing to do and I’m eliminating tasks this Christmas rather than adding.
But the main reason is I don’t find the photos funny. The thing is, I used to laugh like everyone else at the pics of kids screaming on Santa’s lap. Now that it’s my own little one, I just don’t see the humor.
It would be one thing if I put Cub on Santa’s lap and he then started to cry and we could snap one quick. But I did try at a kids’ Christmas party and he was upset on his way to Santa so there was no way he was getting on the strange man’s lap.
And that’s part of it for me….why do we insist on making our kids sit on a strange man’s lap if they don’t want to? To me, it goes against teaching kids to not talk to strangers or to tell someone they trust if they are made to feel uncomfortable. And perhaps in his mind, it’s a big deal. It’s a stranger he doesn’t like. By making him sit on him, he might not feel safe. That’s not how I want him to feel.
Maybe people think this makes me lame, lacking a sense of humor, too sensitive, a softie, reading too much into a silly photo (because it is silly, isn’t it?! Who isn’t it really for?). Maybe I’m all of the above! I don’t care what other people do, but I’m not going to follow (Santa) suit just because tis the season to flood social media with tearful kids. I mean, CBC even asks you to send in your “worst Santa” photos and I’m sure it’s not the only news outlet.
For me, I’ve never liked to make a baby and now I guess technically toddler cry for no reason. I recognize babies and toddlers cry but when Cub does it because I want a picture that he cares nothing about, my heart says no. Why would I upset him for no reason? It’s not my thing.
It reminds me of a story from about 7 years ago. APB and I took his then 4-year-old son to APB’s dad’s Christmas staff party. His son was encouraged to go sit with Santa (who happened to be APB’s dad!). He dutifully stood near his Grandpa, not knowing it was him. He didn’t stay long before letting out a bit of a cry and running to me. He spent most of the rest of the party sitting on my lap, colouring. APB’s mom commented to Doug that I was keeping the child to myself when in fact he just saw me as the safe person who wouldn’t make him sit on Santa.
I recently read a great article about teaching kids to face and overcome their fears rather than just fixing things for them. You might argue I’m fixing rather than facing here. I might agree if Cub was 6 instead of 16 months.
So for this year, this will have to do for a Santa pic. Who knows what next year will bring, but I won’t be forcing him to sit on anyone’s lap if he doesn’t want to. And that includes anyone, any time – not just Santa.
May you have a wonderful holiday season with your loved ones and may there be more smiles than tears! Merry Christmas from Mama Bear, APB, & Cub ❤
This post brought tears to my eyes. A dear friend sent it to me after my last post about expectations around Christmas. I can’t say enough about what a wonderful person she is. She’s seen me at quite possibly my lowest, and I hope I’ve shown her my highest. I love her and am so grateful for her friendship and to have her in my corner. Enjoy this guest post from MBF.
To feel or show great joy or delight
I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions; I do Birthday resolutions. I like to do things on my own agenda; anybody that knows me will agree.
However this holiday season I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by trying to fit into everyone else’s agenda and expectations. I heard a wonderful speaker on the weekend and he challenged us to think of a word for the New Year and try to use it similar to a Mantra. I chose my word early to act as some sort of an out of this world motivational force to ship me through the holidays. Probably the exact opposite of what he was suggesting it for. Either way; the word is REJOICE!
I should give you a quick background of who I am and really why I am even bothering writing this down. I good friend of mine blogs and is an amazing writer. She is a mom and works from home and blogs. Her son is one month older then my daughter and we are both working (non-maternity leave) mom’s that live only a few blocks away in this awesome suburb outside of Saskatoon. She refers to herself as Mama Bear and often makes references to her village. I am proud to say I am a part of that village in one small way or another. I will refer to myself as Mama Bear’s Friend. MBF.
I always look forward to reading her blogs because they are honest and not FB fake. You know what I mean. The cheery happy posts and smiles that you compare yourself to and wonder what on earth am I doing wrong. My child never wears two socks at the same time; often has food on her face and the only way we get pictures is because iPhones are amazing at candid’s and they are the “new thing” these days anyways.
For the most part I feel like I check off at least a general average of the “checks” on the Pinterest Perfect Mama List…however will never and never expect to get more then that.
My husband and I are career driven; but each of us has a strong belief in balance, family and faith. That being said, I struggle daily with finding a balance between being a good mom and continuing on pace with my career. There is a lot of judgment and not necessarily a lot of support between mother’s that make different choices to either stay home or work. To be honest, that has been my most surprising challenge of parent-hood.
I am ranting; sorry! I am not a writer but I swear there is a point to this….
The reason why I look forward to my MBF’s posts is because she reminds me what is real and what is important. I am not alone in this battle of balance. The day to day in parenting is hard. The small things matter.
December is a busy month for most people with festivities, shopping and to-do lists. Add in a busier work schedule and I feel like my head is spinning some days. Reading MB’s Blog was so refreshing to me tonight. However; I felt it was a cry for support or help. I wanted to do something for her but wasn’t sure what to do other then write. I am not a blogger or really a writer. But I have a few degrees so figured I could bust something out. This is for my friend. To support her in her continued struggles and remind her that her Blog is important maybe not just to her; but to me and I am sure other mama’s out there.
Mama Bear. The small things you are doing everyday matter! Rejoice in them. They add up to VERY big things. You get to have your son at home with you full-time. He get’s to see and will understand one day that is important for his partner in life to have an identity as a Mom as well as a career person. He will understand your small daily sacrifices one day and all of those small things will add up to him being a very successful young man. Not just in his own career, but in his relationships with his future family and friends. He will see how he is a part of a village.
So, this holiday season I am going back to my word of REJOICE. I will be happy in whatever I am doing. If I am not; then I am not doing it. Compromises I have made are no Christmas letter, no decorations on the tree (the tree is up and the lights are still awesome), no Christmas lights outside (bought a strobe light thing-took 3 minutes to set up), no Christmas baking (did a work cookie exchange and made this wafer thing that tasted delicious and took 45min), no gifts to my hubby (we are going to save and put money into a new vehicle in the New Year) and minimize my Christmas shopping (80% has been done online-God Bless Cyber Monday)!
Christmas makes me so happy. I love people. I love conversation, food, memories and having so many of my loved ones from very far away being all under one roof. I don’t think if I baked some special dessert or bought my uncle the best gift ever would change any of the above.
So I will REJOICE. If I make a decision to do something Christmasy I am going to make a choice to find joy in it. If it is not bringing me joy then I am not going to do it. Because that is what it should be about.
I am going to do the small things that lead to big things. I am often overwhelmed with getting to an end result (competitor in me). That being said; my Holiday Season resolution this year will be to not despise the small beginnings and instead rejoice in myself to see that I have allowed the work to even begin.
Mama Bear. I hope you can use these words to encourage you to keep going (and perhaps as a break from a post in a few weeks). That way something can go on your blog and you don’t have to worry about writing anything.
Merry Christmas Dar.
Just one Mama of many in your village
Ps. I expect a Christmas gift…in a mug, at your house, hot (or microwaved to be honest)…with flavored creamer!
I actually really like Christmas. I strangely look forward to the snow, partly because this year it meant I could let the dogs run freely in the backyard (welcome to dog shit hill!), thus making my life easier. But I also find the snow pretty. And I like Christmas music and spending time with friends and family. It’s always been a happy season for me.
I know for some it’s not. I also know it comes with a lot of stress and expectations because this year I’m feeling those.
Now, it might also be sleep deprivation, but I lost my shit in a bawling, hot mess on the weekend. I was feeling overwhelmed by the pressures of a part-time work-from-home job combined with being a full-time mama. It’s probably a post for another time. Regardless, APB reminded me that while I kept repeating, “I can’t do it,” that I’m in fact doing it every day, and that the pressure is from me and what I put on myself as a perfectionist (also probably another blog post).
Cub seems to like Christmas. He's already started opening gifts.
I recently read a good post from another mama’s blog about reframing stress, so instead of allowing work to overwhelm me, being grateful I’m at the point in my career where I can have a job I enjoy and from home, allowing me to spend as much time as possible with my boy. It’s a goal I’ve achieved and should be proud and happy.
However, in addition to reframing, sometimes you need to let shit go. I’ve been trying to practice this since last week’s yoga practice, where we thought the words “let” and “go” in time to our breath. I try this when I find myself getting frustrated as a parent.
So, in the spirit of the season, here is how I’m going to let go this Christmas:
Gifts. APB told me I don’t have to buy him a gift. I feel like a shitty wife, but I’m going to listen. When I find something, whether in January or June, I’ll buy it. Normally I also make sure there are gifts from APB’s kids to their grandparents, even if it’s just new pictures. Not this year. Again, it might make me a shitty stepmom or daughter or daughter-in-law, but I’ve got to let go somewhere. Each grandparent has a gift from us, as do APB’s kids. Good enough.
I’m worried friends are getting us gifts. I haven’t decided if that means I will get them something as well. I have time to decide and shop if need be.
Cards and letters. I love receiving these, so thank you for sending them. Last year, since we moved a month before Christmas, I sent valentines. This year, it will likely be New Year’s. I threw together a quick letter when I met some friends for lunch. It might just be our Christmas letter because it’s not worth stressing over.
Work. Now obviously I have to keep working because colleagues rely on me to get the job done and my family relies on me for the income. But I’m going to really try to stop freaking about it. It gets done. My boss is happy. I’ve been trying to work extra and bank time so as to be off more at Christmas. I’m going to let that go, too. If it works, great. If not, not the end of the world.
Get-togethers. This one is admittedly meant more for next year. But we do a Christian with APB’s daughter and the grandparents before Christmas and then we also celebrate Christmas. It’s a lot and it’s tiring. I think next year we’ll just say, come here, everyone, during such and such time on this day. There’s such a thing as too much Christmas. We’ve always tried to make it work for everyone but moving forward we need to think more about making it work for us.
Further to get-togethers. When people come, they are getting something I threw, albeit lovingly, into a crockpot or pizza. Our meals will taste good but won’t be Pinterest or Instagram worthy. That’s not really what it’s about anyway.
This blog. Did I mention I am my own worst enemy and put pressure on myself? I think of stuff I could write all the time but I ask myself, do people really want to read that?! Do you care that my son is slowly trying to kill me with night wakings? I figure no. I also don’t want to open myself up to advice, well-meaning or otherwise. I started this blog in part to document my parenting journey, so I may just share less posts if they are about my sleep deprivation. But I hope you’ll keep reading if you enjoy them. I’ll be sure to share what I think are the best ones.
Now. I say all this but I have to actually do it. As I said, it’s hard when you’re about perfectionist but I’m going to do my best to let it go. Perhaps I’ll do a follow-up post in January to let you know…or not! Promising that sounds like more pressure, no?!
By the way….The only reason I have Christmas decorations or beautifully-wrapped gifts under our tree is my mom. She has done 99% of our decorating. Bless her.
Merry Christmas to you, and thanks for reading. It means a lot.
Wasn’t there an article about this recently? I feel like I saw a similar headline floating around Facebook or Twitter. I don’t think I just came up with the thought on my own.
APB has commented to me before that I don’t often smile. My dad has said the same thing.
The thing is, I’m happy. But do I get frustrated? Yep. Don’t we all?
I hope my baby sees me smile. I’m fairly certain he knows I love him so much I could burst. I mean, I routinely tell him and show him and figure I should take advantage that he’ll still let me because one day he might not…..
At least I hope he knows and remembers that when I get frustrated.
Sometimes it’s all too much: the crying because he doesn’t want to leave Grandma to have a nap or go to bed (which is also touching and cute – I’m glad they love each other so much); the frustration he feels and then I feel when he can’t tell me what he wants so he points and kind of grunts (also cute and kind of funny); the dogs whining (they can’t help it if they need to poop); staying at someone else’s house, which inevitably leads to butting heads; all while there’s always a to-do list at the back of your mind.
How can you not smile at this face? I look at this photo and can't believe how cute he is and how much I freaking love him.
I fully recognize I have the life I asked for and wanted. That right there is reason enough to smile. No one likes a pity party, but sometimes you just wish for a glass of wine to cry into or to strap on the boxing gloves and hit the pads like you once did.
But I think mostly you just wish someone understood how you’re feeling: overwhelmed and tired from both love and responsibility.
And I think many do know how I feel, so I just need to remind myself of that: I’m definitely not alone in any of it, whether it’s the struggles or the great stuff, whether or not I actually hear those words from people. It’s hard to admit to the struggles. It’s easier to paint a picture of sunshine, rainbows,and unicorns on Facebook and Instagram. Pretty sure that’s what they were created for.
The other day I was upset about something and APB said I should go back and read my blog because it had some good advice. Perhaps it’s time to remind myself that it’s the little things that matter the most and bring us joy….and no doubt bring smiles to our faces.