Tag Archives: Parenting

daddy’s girl

me & apu“You know you have a dead bug on your desk, right?”
“Yup.”
“Okay, just checking.”

This is somewhat typical of my conversations with my son. The young man. The high school graduate. The one about to quest onward into the rest of his life. The boy with a geographically challenged father-son relationship. The one with a wide, wide, tender heart, trying to come to terms with the world, on his own terms.

Perhaps we are all doing that.

Yet another Father’s Day has come, this one in conjunction with summer solstice. It is somehow fitting that the sun, a symbolically male energy, would be paired with the day celebrating what could essentially be viewed as a man’s accomplishment of siring offspring.

Popping out children into the world isn’t hard. Don’t kid yourself, though – good parenting is, although our individual views of what that entails varies wildly depending upon cultural, socio-economic and philosophical adherences. It’s fascinating, really.

Unwittingly, we pass along to our children the best and worst parts of ourselves; they are formed by both, the cycle perpetuates itself.

The best we can do – at least the best that I can do – is to attempt to be as unobtrusive an influence as possible so that he can, within the safety net of the family home, find his own way.

There are many things I wish.
I wish I would have taught him to be closer to the earth, and more in tune with the natural world.
The unnatural one, too. The one that sits in your belly and helps steer your way.

It’s hard to teach that without sounding woo-woo. Woo-woo was a bad word in our household when our family was still intact, probably mostly because I engaged with it.

Me, with my crystals and my incense burning, trying to find a healing way as much for myself as for others. To them I was just weird, not wyrd, if you know what I mean.

This mirrored much of the dynamic of my childhood. My mother was the one who was the skeptic while my father remained noncommittal.

apu

No opinion was better than a verbal debate with my mother, yet we both read Ouspensky, Rampa, Crowley and Castaneda. He still offered little in the way of commentary, but I felt a sort of silent solidarity with my father.

I’m pretty sure my father was never really shown how to be a father, by way of a proper example, and his early life experiences shaped him (or misshaped him).

The gift my father brought to me, in the end, was that of redemption. I can’t explain what I mean by that without dragging the whole of my family dirty laundry out into the open. Suffice it to say that I believe that my father’s actions, throughout most of my life unto his passing, were a quiet attempt at redemption. I have no doubt that he suffered. Guilt erodes us from the inside.

His passing, when I was 27, punched a hole into our enmeshed little lives. It changed the dynamic and created a vortex for me to exit through. And I did. It was long overdue. I was, however, so very unprepared for what that exit entailed. It has been a long journey. I am still journeying.

Perhaps we all are.

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going mental…

Seems it’s that time of year, when things have been a bit too dark, for a bit too long. I read an incredible blog post today from Tam which spoke to that. We spend too much time and effort sweeping this stuff under the happy carpet, and it’s taken a very long time for those of us who spend our lives straddling that divide between lightness and darkness to feel less marginalized.

My son had been doing poorly in school for quite some time, and no amount of offering my assistance was helpful – in fact, on the day that I was supposed to be laid off from my job, his school had called me in for an emergency meeting with the vice-principal (thus delaying the inevitable by one whole day). My son was facing a temporary suspension with the ultimatum that in order to stay at the school there would have to be no more unexcused absences nor nonproductive attendance.

For some time now, I suspected that there were other issues at play, but each time I suggested he speak to a psychologist he shrugged and said he didn’t need one, and more recently that it would simply feel like an additional burden to attend to. I suppose this bleak turn of events finally convinced him to make an appointment so I dialled our EAP service provider’s hotline and he asked to meet with a counsellor (his first appointment didn’t actually happen until early December).

He is on the last few sessions and my extended healthcare has run out. The counsellor called me yesterday; we played phone tag a few times and finally ended up speaking today, chatting a bit about what is going on and what some of his concerns were. She said that he is depressed, mildly now, but it was more severe when he first started going.

I had issues with melancholy in my teens too, and well into my adulthood. In my twenties we had at some point determined that I had Seasonal Affective Disorder (which was helped immediately -and amazingly- with light therapy). I had what I semi-jokingly coin my big meltdown in my late thirties (which at the time was termed “Major Depression”) and I still occasionally have struggles with regulating my mood, though my coping mechanisms have improved immensely over the years because I’ve spent so much time on “self-help”, adjunctly assisted by occasional therapy.

One of my son’s issues at the moment is anxiety over our not having enough financial resources… for food… for a roof over our heads… etc. … as a result of my unemployment. Yeah, it kind of sucks to be unemployed, and yes, it definitely affects the ease with which we can carry on with our daily lives, but we haven’t come to the point of having to be concerned about losing our place to live (even though it is crazy expensive on our current budget).

She encouraged me to speak to him about it. Not to merely placate him by saying things like “things will be okay” but acknowledge that there will be some struggle and offer what the solution will be – at least enough of one to put his mind at ease.

I want to posit that this escalation of worry is partly his dad’s doing, in that he discusses with our son my seeming incapability of being an adequate provider, and instead of offering support and assurance, offers his criticism and discusses the hardship the current situation causes him due to his having to assist more during this time of heightened struggle.

But also I think that my son has had it so good throughout his whole life that he doesn’t know that so many people struggle like this every day, all the time. Worse, even. Many, many … much, much worse. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that we live in a very affluent neighbourhood, and that most of the kids that he goes to school with are so spoiled that they have lost sight of what is important and meaningful.

I grew up with socio-economic diversity, and witnessed it daily with the kids I went to school with. I came from a middle class home but there were little kids in my first and second grade classes who were undernourished, unkempt and shabbily dressed. I remember one time a brother and sister were segregated from the rest because they were found to have head lice and the school didn’t want there to be an epidemic. Some of the other kids were unkind to them, taunting them after that. I felt like my heart would break when I saw how they were being treated and I went over with my colouring book and coloured pencils and we coloured together, the three of us; it was my way of showing my solidarity – that we are all equal and the same.

I want to say that in our society we will always have “enough” if we apply ourselves “enough” so as to go out there and not give up, either on ourselves or on the things that we believe in.

I want to say that we have people that care around us. Kind people, who will help us when we need it, not because we owe them anything or that they expect to be repaid but because we mean something to them… because of how we treat others, and how we offer support where we can and embody a generous spirit, always.

I want to say that this feeling of hardship will be a familiar one throughout life, whether it is of a material kind, or one of spirit (and that is the hardest of the two to deal with), and that resilience is the greatest trait that one can learn to develop in life, and like any muscle, it requires a working out in order for it to gain in strength and be able to provide support when one needs it.

I want to say that being grateful and remaining hopeful is most of the battle, and that kindness will always beget kindness.

And I want to say that I love him, and would take the food out of my mouth and the clothes off of my back before I see him unfed and without shelter.

the season of giving

As some of you may or may not know, the position I occupied at my last job was “eliminated” and thus so was my income. I received a modest severance and because of this will not receive any actual Employment Insurance until the first week of February. For most of my life I’ve lived pay check to pay check. I’ve posted plenty of times about how my handling of and relationship to money, like most people who live in the western world, could stand for some improvement. It is an ongoing investigation and process, involving a lot of self examination and, subsequently, necessitating growth.

As some of you may or may not know, the work that I’ve been doing for most of my working life has been less than satisfying on many levels. While the way in which I’ve chosen to support myself has lacked much in the way of professional validation and stimulus, I’ve managed to support myself when I was alone, contribute to -at times more than half of- the household income during my marriage and now, as a single parent, largely support myself and my son, with my earnings. I want to acknowledge that my son’s father does contribute to our household, and without this contribution we would not be able to enjoy the lifestyle that we currently enjoy. The standard which we live in is largely the standard to which my son was born and the one which we’ve become accustomed to in this affluent north american culture in which we live.

By the same token, though, we haven’t had an excess of loose change, and many of the luxuries that were easily accessible during my married life are no longer a possibility. Every luxury has to be considered and weighed for value and worthiness, even while I was employed.

And, if you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you also know that there have been some financial struggles in our lives, especially over the last several years since leaving my marriage. The loss of my newly acquired job in January 2010, soon after our move back to Canada, was a huge blow. Without any savings to speak of, the first month after being let go was brutal, and the struggle continued for months after that, while anxiously waiting for the EI checks to arrive and not being able to pay the bills (cell phone, cable, health insurance, furniture I had purchased on credit) that continued to roll in. There was money for food and rent but much of everything else fell by the wayside.

It took four months’ time for me to find another job, one that was not ideal but that certainly was a relief to obtain so that the looming bills could finally be settled, at least in part. Four months later I got into a car accident in which my car sustained lots of damage. Because it was considered my error, my deductible was $1,000, which I of course did not have, but in order to claim my car back from the body shop which held it hostage, I had to pay it. Robbing from Peter to pay Paul, I got the car back, but the hole that was left in the wake of this financial gap was something that I continued to struggle to recover from.

And now, once again, I am jobless. Jobless and truly wondering why the Universe continues to dish up this same meal for me to partake of. Someone recently, after I mentioned that I would not have any money flowing in to the household until the end of January (which I’ve now recalculated to actually be the beginning February) told me that this was a character building experience. Initially, I found the remark to be insensitive and flippant, making light of something that really was very serious and life altering in a way that only someone who has had the experience of being in the place in which I find myself to truly understand. The growth will occur, certainly, and will potentially yield a better direction – at least that is my hope. The choice, as always, remains mine to take, though everyone has an opinion on what that choice should be. And while I “trust” in the Universe, it doesn’t exactly deliver random and sizeable checks through my mail slot just because I need it.

The day that I had that brief exchange, I had been catapulted into complete deer-in-the-headlights mode. How was I going to pay for food and rent? Both my son’s and my birthdays are in January – they would be write-offs, certainly, in that we would not be able to celebrate them. I spent the night tossing and turning, stomach churning and cursing that I had to once again be mired by this burden that I could not seem to pull myself out of.

Finally, I did the only thing that I could think to do and asked my ex-husband for additional help, so that, in the least, I could pay my rent. To put this request into context, you have to understand that much of the strife within our marriage was one spurred by financial discordance. My issues with money. My inability to have enough self-mastery when I was emotionally bereft to come to grips with the management of the funds that he so trustingly put into my very incapable hands. To further frame that, you also should know that I never hid the fact that I had these issues. From very early on, in our conversations, I openly and with much candour disclosed that I was not good with the stuff, and told him exactly what happened with the stuff when I had it in my hands, especially when I was in crisis. He had his own issues with it. It seems that many of us have a rather unhealthy relationship with the stuff – I am not an anomaly, despite being made to feel so throughout the length of my marriage.

So, when I asked for help by requesting the very thing that was the bane of our marriage, it was humiliating in a way that I can not even begin to adequately express. I knew the thought processes which would run through his head when I asked. I knew that ultimately he would probably help, but not without a cost.

Last night, after preparing a very nice meal and sitting down to enjoy it with my son, we got into a discussion about jobs, job searching, how tight things would be for a bit, and that it would be a good thing for him to perhaps find himself a part time job as well, so that he could buy himself the nice things he’d like that extend beyond the necessities that I am able to provide. What he said floored me. He said that I shouldn’t rely on income from his job to supplement our household, and that my lack of an income was affecting others already, including his father. Firstly, I never intimated that I would be asking for his help in assisting with the household. However it was not what bothered me the most about our conversation.

The fact that his father discussed -even merely in passing- our financial arrangements with my son violates an unspoken agreement that I thought parents should have (certainly one that I thought we had), especially those who are no longer in a family unit, in regard to affording their children the semblance of a unified front, a sort of solidarity that despite there having been a rift that separated our mutual ideologies enough to necessitate a parting of ways, that at the core of our interactions and by virtue of our shared history (and joint interest in our offspring), there remained an underlying respect and genuine caring for each other’s well-being.

I resent that I am (or continue to be), whether overtly or subliminally, being vilified – by my ex-husband to my child – when I am in need of the most support. Wouldn’t it be in everyone’s best interest to be supportive of each other, and hold each other up rather than beat each other down? Furthermore, I have never spoken ill of my husband to my son, despite there being plenty of ways in which I could list his various failings both as a father and as a husband. We are imperfect, and thus we at times make choices that are not necessarily the best ones. In light of this, I don’t share my thoughts on these things with my son.

I resent that, while my son is too unformed in his own maturity to see it otherwise, his father is engaging in skewing his opinion of me, despite the fact that he does not live in our household (and is not even able to witness it in any proximate way) and is clearly not in a place to judge. Not only that; his lack of clarity not only in this case but essentially in regard to his own role and contribution to the success or failure of our relationship while we were married strips him of the right to comment in this case, but should he desire to comment, it should be to me and not our seventeen year old son to whom he should air.

It is easy to vilify someone, but much more difficult to embrace our part in the failings of an enterprise. For many years I looked to place blame outside of myself for many things, and at some point decided that the only way to begin to tame my demons was to finally accept them, own them and examine them. Sure, there were (are!) reasons for which I am the way I am that were outside of my control, many in fact formed during my childhood despite them not being formed in a way which engages enough life experience to be useful (then or later), and ones which continue to manifest even as mature adults.

I have spent much of my life attempting to deconstruct the reasons why I do things, to gain an understanding of what underlies my instinctive reactions and to gain enough emotional maturity to be able to lay new pathways, to rework those reactions in more beneficial ways. I could cite various and sundry childhood and early adult traumas which are partly at the root of these behaviours and the ways in which I’ve learned to cope with them. I have been alone and unsupported throughout this process, particularly in the context of my former marriage. I understand that we can only show up with what we are capable of (and I did, after all, choose the relationship), that despite our intelligence, knowledge and life experience, things continue to escape us. We are human, after all. I did expect, though, that after all of the things that we shared together, that there would be an underlying sense of compassion that imbued our dealings, post and prior to our parting, though seeing that if that would have been present in the first place, more than likely we would still be together.

So I leave you all with this. Even for a moment, try to imagine yourself in another’s place, not just as an onlooker but as you would if you were in identical circumstances, not in the context of your own life but the one in which they are in. What would you do? How would you feel? What, if anything, would you want someone to say to you or do in order to ease your distress, lessen your burden, share in your human experience?

Being kind costs nothing. Staying out of judgement, despite it being really difficult to do for some of us, affords greater connection with our fellowmen than it does to stand in judgement of them. Compassion is truly the only way for humanity to reconnect with itself, to cure whatever ails it, and much ails it.

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.  Romans 14:13

truth or consequences

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The school year is only a month or so in, but already the emails start coming, from the teachers, from the counsellor. My son will early next year officially be of voting age, and yet, and yet…

A friend asked about consequences for his not showing up and going to school. The onus is on him. The consequences for him not following through are his failure to thrive. So no punishment, which to my mind, as far as he is concerned, has not worked since elementary school (and I question it’s effectiveness, even then, in retrospect).

We did, however, have a talk. I talked, mostly, and he listened, mostly, but when asked he did reply as best he could, and that’s all I can expect. I told him to reach out – that he is never in anything alone – and if he needs assistance or just a sounding board, people who love and care about him are around him and always available.

I did not get preachy (much) but I told him that some people are lucky and some people struggle and some work really hard and we all attempt to wring out of life what we need and want, and what that means to each person is an individual thing, but we each need to spend some time with ourselves to figure out what that is.

I told him that I struggle, that I struggle to provide us a good life because I didn’t think much about these same things when I was young and life made choices for me. I told him I struggle as a human being and at almost 50 I am still only now figuring some important things out about myself and life.

I told him I struggle as a parent, excruciatingly making choices for the both of us that will permanently, in some way, affect both our lives. Tears were shed, by both of us. I think I got through. Maybe.

What has been keeping me from my art…


(Click to see enlarged view in separate window)

Homework… not mine, but Gabriel’s. Every day he drags ass to get it done… every day it’s a major panic session right around bedtime (which is later than *I* ever went to bed at that age), because such-and-such homework hasn’t been completed and it happens to be due “tomorrow.” So… I helped Gabriel make his heritage doll… in fact, I pretty much dressed him by myself. He was busy doing other stuff… like math homework and such… you know, the important stuff. He took (correction: he forgot the f*n thing at home, so Steve had to drop it off at the office) the doll in to school today (it turns out it wasn’t due until next Tuesday *grrrrr*) but the teacher was so impressed with it that she kept showing it off to everyone… the fifth graders… the kindergardeners who some of the fifth graders “tutor”… the teachers… everyone in the vicinity got an eyeful of Gabriel’s heritage doll, which was met (by Gabriel) with a mixture of pleased embarrassment. Well… I’ve done my job as a parent then… I am able to both win him brownie points with his teacher AND embarrass the heck out of him, all at the same time. Yay.