Tag Archives: parenting

Life of Parents: An act of letting go

I finally went to see the movie Life of Pi this past weekend. I read the book years ago and had forgotten some of the finer details of the story, such as Pi’s introduction to various religions as a child, and the alternate ending with his mother, the cook and the sailor. I had also forgotten how I cried when Richard Parker walks into the Mexican jungle with nary a backward glance at Pi. It was so heartbreaking.

Richard Parker walks away from Pi without saying goodbye.

Richard Parker leaves Pi without saying goodbye.

For those who haven’t read the riveting book or seen the visually-stunning movie the story goes like this: an Indian teenager finds himself on a life boat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker and he must find a way to share the boat with the animal to ensure they both survive. A sort of high seas training ensues with the boy, Pi Patel, becoming the tiger’s master and also his unlikely mother, for lack of a better word. Pi feeds Richard Parker, provides him with fresh water and comforts him when the tiger is near to starvation.

Pi comforts the tiger when he is near to starvation.

Pi comforts the tiger when he is near to starvation.

Their boat finally reaches a beach in Mexico and Pi collapses on the sand. Richard Parker leaps off the boat and walks toward the jungle before disappearing in the undergrowth, without saying goodbye or even so much as glancing back at the boy who saved his life. Pi watches this unceremonious farewell and then dissolves into tears, still blubbering about his tiger when some locals show up and take him to a hospital to recover from his castaway ordeal. (On one level you realize it’s a wild tiger so you can’t really expect the same devotion you’d get from a dog. But still. Bring tissues.)

Pi watches Richard Parker leave without saying goodbye.

Pi watches Richard Parker leave him on the beach.

Years later, in retelling the story and its goodbye (or lack thereof), an adult Pi Patel says:

“I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.”

It struck me that this is true and especially so for parents. We spend a huge part of our life raising our children and every stage involves letting go: of a chubby hand, a wobbly bicycle, a set of car keys. Our job as parents is to teach them the skills they need in order to let them go, but the difference between us and Pi is that usually we get to say goodbye: on the first day of school, before the first date, when dropping them off at university.

We can’t fathom that there won’t be a final goodbye, that they might have an accident and die, or run off travelling and never come back, and that our last memory would be them walking away and not looking back; that we won’t get to say, “Good luck. I love you. Goodbye.”

We can't imagine our children will leave us without looking back or saying goodbye.

We can’t imagine our children will leave us without saying goodbye.

There’s something about goodbye that brings closure. It’s why friends and family members rush to the side of an ailing loved one, or failing that attend the funeral. To not say goodbye leaves you living with hurt from a void that can never be filled.

On that boat Pi developed such an attachment to his tiger companion that Richard Parker’s abrupt departure is devastating. It’s hard to bear either way you interpret the story — with Pi as a boy losing his tiger; or the alternate ending, with Pi as a young man losing his innocence.

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All those ski lessons are finally paying off!

When we signed Avery up for ski lessons at Fernie Alpine Resort four years ago, at age three, the day when she could ski with us anywhere on the mountain seemed a long way off. She was so little. Her skis were wee — she couldn’t even put them on by herself. And when she toppled over she was like that old lady from the medical alarm commercial: “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

She fell. A lot. The instructor did a lot of heavy lifting that day.

She fell at age three. A lot. The instructor got a workout from heavy lifting that season.

But my husband and I are avid skiers and we want our kids to get involved in “lifesports” — activities they’ll be able to partake in their whole life and also ones we can do together as a family, such as skiing, hiking and swimming. So we persevered. Every ski trip meant some lessons, rewarded with runs on the bunny hill with Mom and Dad.

Fast forward to the beginning of her fifth ski season and it’s amazing how good Avery has gotten. I just skied with her in Fernie for two full days and can honestly say we had fun (read: we did not do laps on the Deer chair). Certainly, I have had my fill of the blue run Power Trip off of the slow and freezing Elk chair, but she took me on new-to-me runs like Holo Hike, which passes through two tunnels, and I led her down new-to-her runs such as Sun Up and China Wall, two black diamond pitches in Lizard Bowl.

My girl en route to Power Trip. Again.

My girl en route to Power Trip. Again.

In fact, it warmed my heart to watch her follow an 11-year-old boy straight toward the moguls on the south side of China Wall (the middle part had been groomed flat) and then watch her link turns down the bumps without missing a beat. At age seven, kids have no fear. It’s awesome (except when they tuck it down a rather steep and narrow slope and you are the one having heart palpitations). I also felt a glow of pride when skiers riding the chairlift would turn around to watch my pink-helmeted wonder trying to catch air off of little jumps. I am one proud mama.

After skiing, we did what any tired mother-daughter duo would do: hung out by The Griz — the cardboard cut-out version, not the slopeside bar of the same name. Indeed, that’s now the only downside to carving turns with my girl: it limits the apres-ski possibilities.

She is with The Griz!

She is with The Griz!

Attention-seeking kids and the digital era

There’s a line from the original Cat in the Hat book that my husband and I recite whenever one of our children wants us to watch what they are doing — however silly, and however many times we’ve seen it done before.

“Look at me! Look at me! Look at me now!”

It’s the part in the book where the Cat in the Hat is balancing on the ball, holding up a bunch of stuff — including the fish bowl — and he wants Sally and her brother to watch him add more items. For a cat on a ball, it’s impressive, but with our kids, they aren’t balancing dishes and cake and a boat and a rake. No, they want us to watch them do mundane things, like dance to Thriller, or run around the house in their underpants, or solve an alphabet puzzle. That was exciting stuff when they were two; at ages six and four, not so much.

Still, as dutiful parents, we watch, and take pictures, and sometimes even record video.

"Look at me! In the bathtub! With a bubble face!" Every moment of childhood is now easily captured, thanks to camera phones.

So, it’s no wonder our daughter has decided that filmed evidence conveys merit, and she has taken it one step further. She has recently started asking us to take pictures of her creations, no matter how ridiculous they are. Behold her squishie pyramid:

Awwww, a squishie pyramid! Just one example of how every facet of childhood, no matter how mundane, is in danger of being recorded for posterity.

Yes, it’s eight squishies stacked into a little pyramid. When she asked me to take a picture of this, I laughed.

Me: “Seriously? I’m not taking a picture of that.”

Avery: “Why not? It’s a squishie pyramid. Aren’t they cute?”

Blake: “You should take a picture of it, and then blog about all the lame things kids want their parents to take pictures of.”

And so I did. Sigh. But it got me thinking. When I was a kid my parents pulled out the camera, sure — on family vacations and at birthdays and Christmastime. But there were long stretches that zoomed by, unrecorded. Like a Super 8 film that goes splotchy in parts, my memory is the imperfect lens through which I view most of my childhood. It’s not a bad thing, really, and lets me look back at the era in awe and wonder.

I often wonder if today’s new standard of recording every accomplishment, however insignificant (example: the squishie pyramid), isn’t somehow cheapening our kids’ important milestones. I also wonder if we’re raising a self-absorbed generation that’s going to think it’s amazing for just flashing a smile. Shouldn’t things should be recorded for a reason, not just because they are? My daughter may well look back on this and say: “Why did you blog about my squishie pyramid, but not my solo in the spring choir performance?” Exactly.

How about you? Do you find yourself grabbing for the camera every time your kid strikes a pose, or builds something with Lego? Is this a good thing, or not?

Faking it: my favourite parenting strategy

Many things in life can be faked: tans, fingernails, smiles and orgasms immediately come to mind. Parenting? Well, this one’s a bit trickier, though I have to admit I wing it on a daily basis.

The inspiration for this blog post came from a story by Amy Matthew on Chieftan.com, the online version of the newspaper in Pueblo, Colo. Faking it is the secret to parenting used the story of the dad who put a bullet through his daughter’s laptop as an example of impulsive, “winging it” parenting. Immature and overblown “winging it,” to be sure — I’m sure Dad didn’t wake up that morning and say, “If my kid vents about me on Facebook, my strategy is going to be to shoot the messenger,” — but reactive parenting, nonetheless.

What to do when the kids are climbing the chain link fence but there's no fence strategy? Fake it. It works for most sticky and unexpected parenting situations.

Faking it is, essentially, reactive parenting. We’re presented with a situation we have no idea how to handle, so we bluff our way through it and hope for the best. I like to think that I’m a consistent, reasonable and patient mommy, and I am all that — for the most part — until one of my kids throws me a curve ball. Which happened tonight, at bedtime snack.

Avery: “Can I have some of the new cereal with the panda bear on the box?”

Me: “No, you need to eat something healthier for your snack.” Usually, she says, “OK,” and we’re off to the races. But not tonight.

Avery: “But Bennett gets to eat the good cereal.”

Me: “That’s because it’s gluten-free and he can’t eat the other kind.”

Avery: “But that’s not fair!” Cue tears (seriously, they are on-demand with her), wailing and utter heartbreak over mean mommy’s edict. And here I am, wanting to get my kid to bed, wondering how to calm her down and still get a healthy snack into her, when she throws the game-changing zinger.

Avery: “You always let Bennett eat whatever he wants. You like Bennett more than me!” Louder crying, faster-flowing tears. There’s no way we’re going to make bedtime.

Me: “That’s not true. You’re being ridiculous.” Would it really hurt to let her have the gluten-free cereal, I wonder? Is this a battle I need to fight? I really have no idea how to diffuse this before-bedtime bomb. I could give her a healthy-snack-or-no-snack ultimatum, but she ate a poor dinner and no snack might send her to bed hungry. So I wing it. “Well, how about we do half-healthy half-panda cereal?” I venture.

The tears stop (again on demand — she’s that good). “OK!” (Smiling now. I’m a sucker.)

Overall, it’s not a bad winging it compromise. I faked my way through, got half of what I wanted (I poured the healthy cereal on top so she had to eat it first) but still got Avery to bed on time, no guns involved.

Of course, she threw me another curve ball after I tucked her into bed. “Mommy, can I ask you a question?”

Me, hesitating: “OK.”

Avery: “What does ‘sexy’ mean? Mrs. Anan says it’s a bad word. Is it a bad word? What does it mean?”

Guess we’re not going to bed just yet. Let’s see if I can fake my way through this one.

STFU, Parents! What not to share

Blogging about my life and kids and travels has got me thinking: what are the boundaries for sharing personal information on the web? Then I came across this On Parenting blog on the topic that featured an interview with the STFU, Parents founder.

For those not familiar with STFU, Parents, it’s a blog site that mocks all the redonkulous birth, baby and kid posts that parents share with the world. In the interview, the site’s founder (who wants to remain anonymous), said the line between sharing and over-sharing has become fuzzy. The more people become familiar with social media, the less they think about what’s appropriate to put “out there.”

While it’s probably OK to post a video of your live birth on your personal blog, you may be crossing the line by posting it to Facebook, where your junior high school science teacher could stumble across it. Do you really want Mr. Milavec to see all that? As I write this I realize I may have been guilty of over-sharing in my daughter’s birth announcement, which included this photo:

I crossed the line with this picture of my kid. In my uterus. Sorry about that.

Yes, this is Avery at about 34 weeks gestation, inside my uterus! At the time, nobody was really sharing in-utero photos, but there I was, grossing out my co-workers and acquaintances when this picture landed in their in-box. After hearing through the grapevine that some people thought our birth announcement was “kinda weird,” I have tried hard to keep my Facebook shares under control. Fortunately, as I am not in possession of video footage of either c-section, breastfeeding b-roll, or photographic evidence of potty training success, I have found it easy to STFU about all that private stuff. Now, if only the rest of the parents out there would STFU too.

How about you? Have you ever over-shared parenting milestones on Facebook? Do your friends?

Parenting trends: the good, the bad and the ugly

Every year we get to hear what forecasters believe will be the big trends in everything from fashion to food. There are parenting trends too, some worthy of jumping on the minivan-wagon; others, not so much. A quick Google search revealed some interesting 2012 trend reports from iVillage, Babycentre and Philley.com. Scrambled Life weighs in.

THE GOOD

1. The End of the Goody Bag. Hooray! Finally! We can thank the crap economy for putting an end to the tradition of giving birthday party attendees a bag full of dollar store junk to show them how grateful we are they are friends with our kid. I have never understood why the party wasn’t enough. You get to eat cake and juice and then run around and trash my house, kid. Isn’t that fun?

2. The Good Enough Marriage. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, iVillage reports your relationship doesn’t have to be perfect. Still, “good enough” doesn’t equate to “no effort” so it’s probably still a good idea to buy your love flowers and a card on Feb. 14th.

3. Kid Tablets. Santa gave Bennett a LeapPad for Christmas so I know the amazing power of this little tool. He uses it to draw and make patterns, takes pictures with it and practices writing his letters. With it in his hands — provided it’s fully charged — I will not fear a five-hour plane ride. Best of all it’s virtually indestructible and costs way less than an iPad.

THE BAD

1. “Dadchelor” Parties. Seriously? Guys need to find another reason to get together and get drunk? Come to think of it though, going on a bender before baby arrives is probably a good idea since all hangovers post-baby will be little excursions to Dante’s third circle of hell, where a screaming infant and a bitter wife punish Daddy for his over-consumption.

2. French Parenting. Last year Tiger mom made the news; this year it’s Pamela Druckerman and her book Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. Evidently, the French are strict and don’t coddle their kids. They also eat better food and drink wine with dinner! This is supposed to make the kids better-behaved gourmands. Now, fermer ta bouche and eat your escargot!

3. Empty Nests Fill Up. This means parents will never get rid of their kids because they’ll just keep boomeranging back between jobs and breakups. And evidently the lodgers stay put even if Mom and Dad charge rent and refuse to do their laundry (can’t you just see the French rolling their eyes and saying, “Quelle horreur!”).

THE UGLY

1. Even Older Moms. Just because modern medicine can now get 50-plus women pregnant doesn’t mean granny-mommy wannabes should head to the fertility clinic. For sure, the kids they have are wanted, but there’s just something kinda creepy about it. Do you really want all the playground moms to think you’re the grandma? Just sayin’.

What do you think? Which of these are trends you’ll embrace, and which are trends you’ll pass on?

Make your parenting resolutions fun (for you) or you won’t follow through

I know it’s a bit late to be penning parenting resolutions for 2012, but I keep coming across blogs from other moms who have vowed to make 2012 the year they unplug from technology, let their kids try new things, or visit more museums during family field trips. So initially I thought I could resolve to be more present with my kids, practice patience, visit Michaels regularly for crafting supplies, and spend more time cavorting in golden meadows with them.

Cavorting with Bennett.

But then I thought, who am I kidding? I am already present in body (even if my mind is zooming ahead to happy hour), I’m already fairly patient since I have a four-year-old who still isn’t potty trained, I actually really hate crafts, and it’s way too cold to frolic outdoors. So why not make some resolutions I’ll stick to? They may be hard on my kids, but they’ll make my life easier and more fun.

1. No more crafts. I just don’t get cutting and pasting and glitter and googly eyes that make a mess and a craft that gets tossed two days later. Seriously, what’s the point? Sure, it helps kids hone their fine motor skills, but can’t they just do this stuff at school?

2. Cook less rice. Note to Asia: this grain is really messy! Pasta is way more manageable. Also, stop buying Rice Krispies. When they mix with milk and fall on the floor, if you don’t clean it up right away it forms an unbreakable bond that will never come off.

3. Make the kids do more chores. This will be hard to institute, but think of the rewards! They are old enough to set the table, unload the dishwasher, clean their rooms, fix their own  snacks and feed the fish. So why I am I still doing everything?

4. Take them skiing and hiking more. We live so close to the mountains, so why do I spend so much time at playgrounds and the Calgary Zoo? 

5. Travel to cool places. We used to backpack in South America and Asia. Since having kids we visit all-inclusives and rent condos in Hawaii. These trips are fun, but kind of meh. It’s not like I want the children to get dysentery from a street vendor, but a little global adventure could add some spice to their pasta life.

What do you think? Are these resolutions I can keep?