Sunday, May 8, 2016

I Don't Think They Make a Card for That...

Today is Mother's Day here in Canada.  When I was a kid, it was a day for cheesy cards, lovingly made pasta necklaces and fingerprint art and moms being given a carnation at church.  It seemed so umcomplicated.

As an adult, though, I have come to appreciate that Mother's Day is fraught with sadness for so many people.  In our own circle, I have heard painful, painful stories of dear friends who were told they couldn't have children (and these friends live in a small town and as people whose jobs are very rewarding, being a bride and having babies are the only real ways to be special), friends who have undergone traumas related to complex fertility treatments, friends whose mothers were not nurturing and loving for a variety of reasons and whose kids have come away with painful scars (like the boy in my class this year whose abuse at the hands of his addicted mother have led to him living only with his loving but overwhelmed dad), friends whose mothers suffer from mental illness or Alzheimers, friends who have never found a life partner and whose dreams of a family have passed them by as they age and friends who have suffered pregnancy loss or even the loss of a child (this is especially fresh as we have a family at the school at which I teach who lost their 10 year old son to cancer last Sunday).  I know that especially for moms who don't work outside the home, whose worlds don't involve a whole lot of compliments and recognition, it's nice to have a day in which they get to be the star.  For so many others, though, it's a day of pain and powerful reminders of dreams that won't come true and feelings of being left out of life's joys.  It really makes me think that we need to find another way to celebrate to recognize those moms but also to recognize the pain, too.

It makes me think of offering some kind of "nurturing day", a day in which we celebrate all of those who nurture other people.  I heard a story last year that has really stayed with me and today, it fits what I am thinking about.  A friend works in a community in which she is dealing with a lot of youth who are suffering and excluded.  She told me about a gay couple who had always been dreaming of adopting children and being parents.  For a variety of reasons, this never came to pass.  For a while, they were really sad and gave up on their dreams.  Then, at some point, they realised that there was a group of orphans who desperately needed care and they could meet that need.  They decided that they would "adopt" older kids, teens who had been disowned by their parents for their sexuality.  They stepped into the breech and gave a place to "go home" for kids whose homes had been denied them.  While I realised that for some, this isn't what they think of when they think "Mother's Day" and I doubt that there is a card made for this scenario but to me, THESE are nurturers who deserve to be celebrated.  There are the teachers who buy shoes for the kids whose families don't have the means to give them, there are the old single ladies and widows at church who have selflessly taught the little kids Sunday school class for years and are a loving force for so many little ones growing up in the church, there are the "aunts" and "uncles" who may never have their own kids (whether family by blood or by love) who put themselves out to make a safer world for other people's kids.  There are those who are "parenting" their elderly parents and who are dealing with burdens as heavy or heavier than most parents bear.  All of these people deserve the cheesy card and the carnation and they are no lesser because they didn't necessarily do the labour and delivery. 

That's my desire this year.  I want to look for opportunities to be that nurturer - to love those who need to feel some unconditional love and to say thank you to everyone who is nurturing, often in the shadows.  You are doing God's work and living out the gospel message. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Yarn Along

I love visiting the Yarn Along carnival over at Small Things by Ginny.  I have grabbed so many new books to read and added so many wonderful patterns to my favourites list.  I hope I can share a few interesting gems for everyone else!

This week has been a week of little knitting and lots of reading for me.  I've been really, really tired (just life, nothing exciting) and reading in bed has been such a blessing.  I just haven't had the energy to do the knitting that I want to be doing.  It doesn't help that Dh has his musicals that he directs at his school this week and so we haven't been driving in together for the last two weeks or so, which has taken away my knitting in the car time.  I'm looking forward to getting that back at the end of the week.

In my reading, I've had quite a few books on the go.  In terms of non-fiction, I've been slowly making my way through a couple of books - Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans and Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott.  I know that these authors aren't for everyone.  They are definitely on the liberal side of things and especially in the case of Anne Lamott, I think she may even be a bit on the liberal side for me.  I find her easy to read and very engaging but, perhaps because I grew up in traditional church and she didn't, at times, I find her hard to connect with.  Rachel Held Evans is much easier for me.  I find her so thoughtful and such a perfect blend of liberal and yet with a love of the church.  I'm enjoying it so much.

In terms of fiction, I'm also reading two books - Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children by Ranson Riggs and The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley.  I have had Miss Peregrine on my to-read list for a while and when I finished the Sarah Addison Allen I was reading, I decided to go back to my shelf and browse.  It's certainly different but I am a bit fan of the Welsh setting, especially when fairly recently, I had really enjoyed the BBC Wales series Hinterland.  The Shadowy Horses, by Susanna Kearsley, was recommended by a friend.  This friend is a huge reader and always has something new for me to try.  She had just finished reading two books by Susanna Kearsley and felt I would like her.  I'm enjoying the book so far - how can you go wrong with a book set in Scotland?

I can't wait to see what everyone else is reading and stitching!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Winner Takes All

According to my stats page, I have nine followers.  I don't know who they are and if I do have followers, it's probably by accident.  I'm sorry if you are putting up with my aimless rants but I am grateful!  I feel like blogging is such a nebulous thing - there is a form to it but I wasn't taught it in school.  I'm never sure how a post should be put together and truly, I'm writing more for me than for someone else.  Sometimes, the words need to pour out and my hand gets less sore when I type than when I write.  If you are here and actually reading this, thank you for your patience.

Pk skates at our town skating club.  It's a fairly small club, especially when you get past the younger levels.  There are lots of "Canskaters" but when you get to the "Starskaters", the classes get much smaller.  We have great coaches (who also coach at larger and more competitive clubs) so I don't feel like we are missing out.  There isn't too much pressure on the kids and the girls really support each other.  I've been grateful that somewhere, for once, there doesn't seem to be the same pressure to be the best.

The other day, I was chatting to one of the mothers there.  She's someone that I really like and someone who I have commiserated with on the challenges of parenting on several occasions.  We started talking on the growth planned for communities close to ours (although, thankfully, our town is in designated Green Belt, agricultural land, so our immediate area won't be changing).  She expressed that our club is going to need to grow to meet the population demand.  She said that she had been talking to someone who had been a national figure skater for a while and had asked him what he thought about our club.  His response was that it was, "a good recreational club."  She expressed to me that this was such a terrible criticism and that our club was going to have to get more competitive.  I wanted to cry.  Why???

I think that the biggest shock of my life happened when Pk was born.  Normal, rational people, women who had been lovely all along, suddenly became promoters for their children.  Their children were always outstanding - potty training, sleeping through the night, talking, eating... whatever it was, their children were exceptional.  I was stunned.  For a people like me who has always struggled with inadequacy, the constant, ongoing competition totally made me want to hide.  I won't lie, at times, the sense of needing to keep up has made me a parent that I am not proud of and has made me see my kids with eyes that I don't want to have.

I liken it a bit to our dog experiences.  I grew up as a dog lover.  We had a Brittany, Flora, and I adored her more than words can ever express.  She was my best friend, my almost constant companion, my one-dog cheering committee who was always in my corner, no matter how much I had messed up or how awful I was being.  When she died, I was absolutely devastated.  She was a piece of me and I missed her more than I can say.  When it came time for Dh and I to get a dog, we decided to get another Brittany.  Long story short, the breeder would only sell us a puppy if we would agree to show it.  Before I knew it, we had been sucked into dog shows, field work and obedience competition.  Everything was about being the best and beating everyone else.  I knew that people were constantly looking at our beautiful Chelsea girl and cataloguing her faults.  At times, I did it, too.  I always saw her through the lens of measuring.  I looked back at photos of Flora and all I could see was how imperfect she was in terms of what she was supposed to be.  My view had totally changed and instead of just seeing the beautiful heart of the dog, I saw her flaws and how she didn't measure up.

I feel like parenting has been that way for me.  Maybe it is just the people around me but with only a few exceptions, I feel like many of those around me are constantly evaluating and cataloguing their kids.  There are the friends with whom I can't have a conversation that doesn't include either how bored this children are at school because they are just so bright, the number of goals the child has scored in hockey in the last little bit, the comment the teacher made about how exceptional the child is or the immense talent that the child has in music/athletics/karate/reading, etc., etc., etc.  It makes me feel so inadequate and as if my children are useless.  I know I should just ignore it all and let it go away but I am not good at that.  I've really been spending a lot of time praying to see my kids through God's eyes and to see who they are and build them up, rather than trying to fit them into perfect little boxes.  I am finding, more and more, especially as Pk gets older, that I don't want her to do things for ribbons, medals or prizes.  I want her to have the chance to do something because she loves it or because she is learning from it or because it fits with who she is.  I don't want to be measuring and anyway, whose measuring stick are we using?  There is only one child who can be the best in each competition, does that mean that all the others don't matter?

I don't know whether anyone else struggles with this or see it, but I am beginning to think that we are not doing our kids any favours.  Yes, they will play piano beautifully and/or be able to outskate everyone and/or be able to boast that they have report cards full of A's and/or spell every word ever written but truly, does that make them any happier?  Does that make them more valuable members of their families, better contributors to their communities?

It's time to stop putting so much pressure on our kids and to TRULY (and not just give lip service to) appreciate who they are, their gifts and talents and flaws.  They need to be allowed NOT to win the medal, not to get the ribbon but to enjoy themselves and try their bests and that needs to be seen as having its own value. 

I don't have all the answers and I am the first to say that my type-A, need-to-prove-myself mentality struggles with this.  I just hope that we can see what we are doing to our kids with all of this pressure and ease off before we create a generate that doesn't know joy in anything.