You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”
I always believed that it did take a Village to raise a child but once I actually entered into motherhood, I am believing it less and less and in a different way. As smart and educated as I have always felt myself to be, I was not prepared for the oncoming “advice” that is handed out the millisecond one becomes a mother… At almost any and all opportunities. I now just nod and note what the advice tells me about the advisor. We all look through our own ‘unique’ lenses of our B.S. (Belief Systems). It took me a few years to realize that the “experts” who write the books are also just human beings…full of B.S. (belief systems).
Humongous Tree by the Barenaked Ladies on their Epic album “Snacktime”. The best children’s album I have ever heard. Children are like seeds. I am a humongous fan of the Barenaked Ladies. I often say “I want to be a Barenaked Lady”. A girl can dream…
I have two noteworthy examples of discovering the failings of the experts: How To Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber, MD, and 1, 2, 3, Magic: Effective Discipline for Children by Thomas W. Phalen, PhD. Elise being my oldest was the “guinea pig”. I somehow felt I needed to be “booksmart” in order to raise a child. In the end, my best advice came from my Mémé (grandma), “Each child will teach you how to raise them”. She was Oh. So. Right. But being Angèle, I needed to experientially learn for myself. I did not fully recognize the wonderful wisdom of Mémé – at first. Elise was a dream child. We connected very strongly and instantly. I always felt I knew what she wanted…telepathically. It came in very handy. It gave me great confidence as a mother. (I did turn away from that connection as I read all the books by the experts). Her sleep was like a dream. This enhanced the motherhood experience. I actually slept. I recall her sleeping through the night at 7 weeks of age. It was the same day that I put her in her crib for the first time. (Yes, I read that having your baby sleep with you was very good for the baby. It was not bad but she slept through the night the first night she had her own crib.) I had heard of the “Ferber Method”. Many weeks went by where I nursed her to sleep and then gently set her into her crib….Ahhhhh, slept like a baby. Until one day, she woke and was pretty upset at being left in the crib. It was the very day I decided, I will Ferberize her. Ferberize is to let the baby figure out how to soothe themselves and get to sleep – aka cry it out. It broke my heart but took only one night. I am not sure I could have handled a second night like the first – over an hour of crying. (And I know, this is nothing). I am a wimp when it comes right down to it. Or maybe I was just ‘connected’ to my baby. All said, the mother must look after herself first in order to best care for her baby. So each mother has to determine how to do this. Easier said than done…
Then there were the timeouts when she was four. I took what felt to be common advice. I reinforced it from Phalen’s book, 1, 2, 3 Magic. I will spare the details but after using it a fair amount, I determined that time-outs did not work with Elise. I abandoned them. They angered her and it just did not feel right. Brought me back to my own time-outs as a child where I developed the habit of laying on my bed, and then kicking the wall repeatedly as hard as I could until my anger settled. Eventually, I kicked a large hole in the drywall…which my parents delayed repairing as a clear signal that my actions were not appreciated. They won that one more than they originally knew because I was “terrified” of that hole – that some alien or monster would pop out of it. It was right beside my bed…..yikes!! Lesson learned, anger is “best avoided”.
At that point in my mothering career, I decided to start taking my Mémé‘s advice. I felt my daughter and I could communicate very well together. She astounded me with her grasp of complex/difficult issues and her maturity. I feel she is an “old soul”. Once I did this, our relationship strengthened. I had all the evidence I needed now. No “expert” would talk me out of my own wisdom as I had allowed in the first years of my dear little guinea pig’s life (Élise). The two sons that followed benefited from my connection to my own wisdom. (Yes, I see how self-evident this all is.) I am a slow learner. Better late than never.
Fast forward to 2013.
Élise, 16 years old, continues to thrive – in so many ways. I am in awe and so pleasantly surprised. (Not biased at all..haha). People often talk about the “terrible twos” and then a girl as a teenager as difficult times. For me, I do not agree. It seems that these common beliefs are associated with times when a child may have ideas that differ from the parents (culturally ingrained B.S.). I have a guilty pleasure – not that guilty- in enjoying the occasional psychic reading. Just prior to starting this story, I met this particular psychic man for the first time (my 3rd Psychic at the Russian Tea Room here in Edmonton). So he read Tarot cards, my palm and 3 Destiny Cards. Fun to have these readings done. This time, he surprised me by starting first with my kids. Elise being the very first. Here I am ‘reprimanded’ by the psychic in how I am raising Elise. He tells me I need to “reign her in”. Hmmmmm….I noticed my own reaction instantly resists this. There is no harm in taking a look at it. Elise has a busy lifestyle…of her own choosing. I have often felt it to be a bit busy but as we discuss it, she is inspired by all of her activities. She has achieved a Brown Belt in karate (which is phenomenal). She volunteers extra time to the program without hesitation. That is how a good dojo runs. The higher belts help in the training of the lower belts. It is something she enjoys. Her Sensei is one of the most inspiring young women I have ever met. So I cannot fault Elise in following in her footsteps. Sensei is a Nurse Practitioner and a former Squash Champion, Tennis Champion and just finished a couple of years on the National Karate Team. A Superstar…and a wonderful person. I have a lot of hobbies I have accumulated over the years. I passed on the one of “Cake Decorating” to Elise. We have all the tools and gadgets. Some amazing cakes have been created in my kitchen. This organically led her into a special program of Culinary Arts in a nearby High School. Which resulted in a lovely summer job as a Chef Apprentice. This was part of her schooling and brought her great joy every day.
She also enjoyed playing Badminton/ Swimming on the school teams. To top it off, she even started dating: worrisome to many parents, but not me. Been there. Done that. Hard to control authenticity. Why would you want to? Seeing who my kids really are is the very best part of parenting. I love to ask for their viewpoints. I honestly believe that I could not be who I am now without their wisdom. Their views shook me loose from some of the B.S. (Belief Systems) I had taken on. They even have the lingo. I hear them ask, “Mama, is that not just a Belief System?” I have enabled some very Beautiful Souls in this world…
There’s A Word For That by the Barenaked Ladies (Snacktime Album again). Love how the kids teach the guys…Anatomy no less.
As I review the advice the psychic gave, I learned that my friend feels the same way. Hmmmm…. I realize that I have heard many “warnings” from friends and family. Each of them is afraid (maybe concerned is a better word) that she will get pregnant. As I tease through the various discussions, they always end up here. Teenager… leads to sexual urges… which are explored and then ….result in intercourse…. which leads to the risk of pregnancy. I am always pretty leary when fear is at the forefront of decisions. And what exactly am I to do anyway? I love to ask my critical commentators what they advise. Most people just encourage me not to “make it easy” for her to have time alone with her boyfriend. Does not sound like a solution exactly. Never go out? Sexuality does not necessarily mean intercourse…not that there is anything wrong with that.
What a Good Boy Cover of A Barenaked Ladies tune by the Duke’s Men of Yale A Cappella Group
I am brought back to a time before I had any kids. I was a very keen Family Doctor with a passion for the underprivileged. One of my patients was the Principal of a School located on an Aboriginal Reserve. She described their issues relating to teenage pregnancy and sexuality. She asked if I would do a talk for the Grade 8 group. (Now my own son, Jacques, is in Grade 8). Seems surreal to me as I think back to it. I welcomed the chance to see if I could help in any way. So I put together a little talk about sexuality. Birth Control was a part of it. The teacher had foreseen that the kids would never open up in the group setting so they were offered one on one time with me, in addition to writing questions on little slips of paper that would be anonymously answered to the group. The questions actually embarrassed me. They taught me more than I taught them, let me assure you. They were mostly asking what is this and what is that sexual behaviors. Being the “expert” of course I did not know the answers to most of the questions. And if I did, I was reluctant to answer them. Ha ha. I was left with homework. What were those things? I did not talk as dirty then as I do now apparently. I learned a very valuable lesson through this whole experience. I ‘judged’ their behavior as ‘problematic’ but actually it was not to them. Following this humbling experience, tail between my legs, I entered into discussion about the community. I listened. Ideally this should have occurred before I came in to “teach” them what I thought they needed to know. The teachers and I felt they had a problem but in their culture, having a baby was the highest achievement they could expect. It made perfect sense to me why the girls would want to get pregnant. Their mothers were extremely proud when they were grandmothers before the age of 40. Children are blessings…and they knew it. The teenaged births were celebrated by the family. I was embarrassed for myself as I realized my own B.S. (Belief System) made no sense to them. This feeling also describes why the Medical System itself often fails. The Patients and the Doctors do not share the same B.S. There is remote hope in holistically beneficial outcomes when the Patients and Doctors do not share the same “raison d’etre”. Motivations and expectations are not a match. I guess that is part of what I meant when I felt I was “spitting into the wind” with my Medical work. Unless the two groups are willing to get onto the same page, there will only be frustration on both sides.
As I percolated with my experience trying desperately to be an expert on the Aboriginal Reserve, I also wondered how to generally impact a teenage population. I came up with the concept that I declared I would teach to my own kids (and I have to Elise). There is no form of contraception that is 100% effective, so if you are going to have intercourse, consider if your partner is someone you would want to raise a child with. Also, use two forms of contraception. (Sounds a little fear mongering doesn’t it? I was a Doctor. What more can you expect of me?) With my new spirituality, I relax that a little. Not that it does not serve a message. I think about the idea that the more we fear something, the more likely we attract it into our reality. I don’t know. So I cannot lead myself to “fear” Elise becoming a mom. She has declared that she has no intentions of ever becoming a mom. I will not hold her to that but that has been a consistent message from her. I strongly believe that sensuality and sexuality are normal. How we handle our natural urges is a choice. A teenager in touch with themselves will know when they are ready for what. I feel I did. So how do I handle my daughter’s freedom? I find myself trusting in her. (Gasp) I recall my own experiences at a similar age. Freedom to explore was very much appreciated. I feel my daughter is educated and I trust her to make the choices that serve her in her life. My relaxed attitude does not sit comfortably with many. I guess that is their problem… I am not afraid of normal. I love kids!! Ha ha.
I was forever changed by my experience with the Aboriginal Community. Seeing kids through their eyes was a Beautiful experience. I am Grateful for the expansion of my perception.
The book I wish I got my hands on way back then is “The Idle Parent: Why Less Means More When Raising Kids” by Tom Hodgkinson. It was published in May 2010 so was not available in my day. I have not read it but I like the sound of it. Somewhere along the way, I chose to change from a “Fast Parent” to an “Idle Parent”. It feels great. My second psychic reader compared my youngest child, Jean-Luc, to a “self watering plant”. Absolutely true! Found this article, “Slow, Free-Range, Idle Parents Can Increase IQ and Happiness”.
I often sang this song, just the chorus, to my former husband: just one of my many endearing traits. A lot could be said with this little snippet. Sometimes it would continue on to him saying, “We should just hire some more help”. Answered by my, “You cannot hire someone to live your life for you.” I always thought he was a tad of a workaholic. Ironic that he worked with his Dad… and as a result often had no time for his Dad. As he would remind me, my buddy was far from the only one “living the life”…
Remember that fun old mom saying: If your friends jumped off a cliff, are you going to go and jump off a cliff too?
P.S. – Just as I complete the first draft of this story, my 13 year old asks me to come and see “something”. I do not like the sound of that. Apparently, my 8 year old has thrown a ‘javelin’ (some implement pretending to be a javelin) at him. He sports a laceration near his eye (gasp) that I would pop a stitch into if it were at hand. Ironic timing. Bleeding has stopped. Amazing. I have steri-strips for just this occasion. Done…
Warning: This is not intended to be Medical Advice. I write stories….please do not forget. But it would take a whole lot of blood to drag myself or family member to the Emergency Department. The human body has phenomenal healing capacity…
Started writing September 2, 2013