Friday, November 13, 2009

Rant, rant, rant

I seem to cry at the drop of a hat these days....t.v commercials, newspaper articles, personal worries and concerns all seem to reduce me to quiet tears.  I'm not sure why  - although I have some ideas.

Still, tonight what I feel most of all is frustration and anger.  Who actually knows, maybe H1N1 will turn out to be, please, please, please, much ado about nothing - except for those poor, grieving families who have lost love ones to date because of this flu strain.  I do know that the first chance I had, my boys were vaccinated - and Winston will go back next week for his second shot as he is under three and Canada has to date decided that all children under 3 years should receive two half doses, 21 days apart. 

As for those who say the chances are minimal that they will contract the virus, or that if they do it will most likely be mild, I say that is not a chance I am willing to take.  I sat, slept, ate and despaired next to Winston's hospital crib for a week last winter while he struggled to breathe...I awoke nightly to the urgent rustling of nurses arriving to clear his breathing passages and get his heart rate stabilized because the poor baby could not breathe on his own without help and his heart would start to flag...I sat there pumping milk that he would not ever drink because he refused all fluid and solids day after day as his fever climbed, his condition worsened.  And this nightmare was caused from simple complications due to a common cold virus.   A cold.  The frickin' common cold and my baby was in the children's hospital for a week under constant care, wires and tubes snaking in and out, over and under his little body.  So when a vaccine to help prevent H1N1 came along you better believe I was not taking any chances.

I mean, what are the odds here in North America that any of our children will actually come in contact with, or contract, many of the diseases for which they are routinely vaccinated?  Slim to none.  And why?  BECAUSE WE HAVE A PUBLIC HEALTH SYSTEM THAT VACCINATES THE VERY YOUNG WHO ARE MOST VULNERABLE.  So can someone explain to me why, in God's green earth, we would not also vaccinate our children against this virus?  Too busy with work?  I'll show you too busy with work and raise you one week of absence as you freak out in hospital next to your child as he/she labours to breathe.   Doubt they will actually get sick?  Then why teach them road safety, put bike helmets on their heads, scrutinize consumer reports on child safety seats and buy BPA free drink bottles - what are the odds they will get hit by a car/crack their head on the sidewalk/be in a car accident/have chemicals mutate their genetic codes?  And why are these chances so many parents are unwilling to take, yet a simple vaccine is just too much trouble?

And why am I so angry, so livid, so frustrated?  I don't know exactly - except on the same day that a young, healthy, beloved and reknowned scientist here in Ottawa died from H1N1, people close to me were clogging up our already over-burdened health system with their unvaccinated child (too busy to get it done, too inconvenient, too much "fear mongering") in an emergency room over  mild fever and a runny nose.  Sure, they had time to sit in emergency for hours, exposing him to a multitude of illnesses and sights a young child should not be seeing - but not enough time or interest to have headed the wisdom of the WHO, public health specialists, and governments - and simply gotten him vaccinated. 

It's like countries where people walk and then line up for days to exercise their right to vote in elections; here we act like it is a burden we must, heavy sigh and much complaining, try to get around to if we feel like it at the moment.  In far too many places people - mothers - cry out for public health services, vaccines etc., to ensure the health and saftey of their children;  here we toss our heads and bemoan the inconvenience or worse simply ignore the medical advice.  Is this what we have become, we the privileged of the world?  A population made up of those who simply will not take the time, the effort or the interest to be informed, to protect the young, to value the fragility of our children's lives?

So, I find I cry easily these days.  Not for long, as I hate drama and public (or private) displays of emotion.  But I cry quietly, at the oddest things, at the oddest times.  And under the tears is an anger new to me.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bad Mother

There is no way around it but to simply admit that I fall short on many fronts. 

Take Hallowe'en for example.  No home-made costumes for my kids.  Nope.  I consider it victory that a) I remembered in time to find and purchase a dinosaur costume for Topher, and b) that I could actually put my hands on a hand-me-down costume of Topher's for Winston.  Ah yes, and that 48 hours before the actual event I remembered to pick up the necessary Hallowe'en candy for the neighborhood children (who will no doubt be appropriately costumed in home-made creations that would boggle the mind) along with the much-needed milk, oranges and tylenol.

Or dinner tonight.....Cambridge is of course, yet again, gone on business and I was left to fend for myself with the boys.  So, after the-ever-capable nanny whom I love, adore and wish lived here with us forever and ever and ever and ever left for the day I changed into mommy clothes and managed to organize a dinner of barely warm left-over spaghetti, corn on the cob (don't even start with me about the 100 mile rule, this is war in my house to get any vegetable from any continent into the mouths of my boys) and oranges.  And this from someone who loves to cook. 

Then there was the small matter of my professional appearance today.  Luckily, I am currently on language training so am not expected to show up in some natty suit with heels, but still the best I could manage from the oh-so-too small pile of clean laundry (as opposed to the mountain of washing waiting to be done) was torn jeans and a long-sleeve t-shirt that was grease stained.  At least I managed to find a colourful shawl to artfully cover the grease spots....until I noticed the glob of peanut butter smashed into the cashmire.

But worst of all - and by far the worst of all is that I still have not managed to find the time to hump the boys to one of the many flu shot clinics where we would wait in line for hours and hours and hours in hopes of getting them vaccinated against H1N1.  There.  I have admitted the worst of the worst.  What with being gone from home all day long, with Cambridge gone on business, with the most mundane demands of keeping the house going, the dog water and fed (although admitedly she has taken to relying on the post-shower water in the bath for a source of water), and getting boys fed, dressed, bathed, teeth brushed, and school bag packed, keeping essential food groups in stock, bills paid, nanny happy (and believe me, a good nanny you HAVE to keep happy) I still have not found the 18 hours necessary to line up, wait and then receive the vaccination that would help ensure we by-pass the dreaded H1N1.

So this is what I will face:  a beyond believable crush of humanity on Saturday - people just like me who have not had time to pee, let alone go to one of the clinics during the working week -  with two small boys who hate crowds, just want to go home and are excited beyond belief about Hallowe'en, all waiting for 18 hours to get a sharp needle stuck into our children's arms. 

I honestly don't remember this being mentioned in any of the baby books.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I hate it when "they" are right.

I have often been "advised" to take some time to myself, aka take better care of myself and to better attend to my own needs.  I have bristled and objected to these suggestions - who has time to be selfish with two small boys, a marriage, a household to manage and a career?

However, I am back home after 3 days away on a leadership retreat....3 days without diapers, tantrums, dinners to plan and prepare, work to attend real, personal and pressing demands on my time, my moods, my emotions, my being.  I had only to shower and dress myself each morning, had only myself to feed - at the hotel breakfast buffet - had only my thoughts crowding into my head and was honestly asked by ADULTS what I thought, what my contributions might be, what my experience might a word, it was amazing.

I thought I would miss my baby, Winston.  I had not before been separated from him for a night.  Topher, well, my little emotional tsunami I had been away from frequently during the second year of his life, flying back and forth across the country for work.  And my spouse, aka Cambridge, well, he'd been gone for a week before I left - and we are well used to, if not liking, frequent times apart because of his career demands.   Shockingly, however, I felt just fine.  Better than fine.  Except for the guilt I felt because I felt so fine.

And now that I am back home, with a weekend of grocery shopping, tidying, ferrying of boys to birthday parties and cookie baking under my belt, I still feel fine.  More myself, more in charge, more relaxed....damn it all, I hate it when the advice you were given turns out to be right!!!

So, note to self:  getting away from sticky peanut butter encrusted fingers for longer than the working day is a good thing.  So is floatng in a salt water pool, laughing with friends over wine in front of a fire, and rolling over to go back to sleep without first having to get up to help a small boy pee, puke, blow his nose, or nurse.   And Cambridge is brilliant at handling all of the stuff life, a dog and two small boys can throw at them for 72 hours.  Of course, it helps if you return home the same days as the cleaners have been to the house.....

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Single moms...

...have my undying admiration. 

I am often a temporary single parent as my spouse travels frequently.  This latest jaunt is for over one week.  Faced with the reality of the unquenchable needs of two small boys, the demands of a career and the minutia of making a household run even relatively smoothly, I am exhausted, depleated and undone.

My list of academy award nominees for the mother of a lifetime award include ( in no particular order):

- single parent women who manage breakfast, school-time, lunches, naps, dinner preparation, dinner, bath, bedtime, stories, endless re-bedding of youngsters as well as weekly groceries, meal planning, laundry, pickng up toys, encouraging creativity, trips to the public library, etc, etc, etc, without completely cracking under the strain of not having another adult nearby to help carry even some of the load;

- stay-at home-moms who do all of the above, although not all on their own, yet if my neighbourhood is any indication also manage to schedule play dates, swim lessons, kindermusic, renovate homes, decorate homes for each seasonal occurance, while still looking benign and beautiful;

- working outside the home moms who do all the above and still manage to excel at careers, look at sale flyers, arrange amazing parties and get manicures.

But the truth is, for me anyway, that raising kids on a day by day basis on your own has got to be the single most soul-destroying, exhausting, unrecognized and uncelebrated work of all.   While my spouse is frequently away for work and I am all too often found on my own with my "boys", at least I still have the option of calling his  cell phone to interrupt his dinner meeting so he can hear first hand from Topher how and why he is at that very moment puking into the toilet while Winston is painting his bedroom wall in feces.  Yes, we have the flu in our house.  Lovely.  But that isn't my point - my point is that I have someone to call, someone to put on speaker phone - even if he may be in a rather important scientific meeting in Philidelphia - to buy me even 50 seconds to let the dog out, wipe up some vomit and swab valiantly at some shit.   But we also have the luxuries that come with a dual income family: namely a nanny, cleaner, yard and snow maintance guy......not to mention one set of grandparents a mere 15 minute drive away. Imagine not having that.  Imagine having to do it all on your own for real, every single day.

I can't. 

So, here's to single mothers who do this daily with style, grace, humour and a commitment to non-violence.  In my eyes, you are the true heroes of this world.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

And so it goes....

So, it has finally happened and I am bereft at some points and yet oddly vacant at others.  Yes, the first of many fissures in the mother-child bond has occured...Winston is in his own room, in his own bed. 

No longer is my baby boy sleeping next to me.   In fact, for the first time in over two years he is neither inside me nor beside me all night long.  No longer can I either feel or hear his rustling sleepy movements.  No longer can I listen to his breathing when sleep eludes me.  No longer can I merely run my hands over my belly or glance over to the crib right next to my side of the bed to see, to know, that he is well, happy, secure and soundly sleeping.

Of course, on the other hand, no longer am I awakened at 3, 4, 5 a.m to his plaintive cries of  "Mama.  Mama.  Up. Up."  And no longer do I succumb and drag him into bed with me so that he can sleep sprawled across my chest, elbow wedged into my adam's apple, snoring contentedly while I lay there vainly trying to breathe.  For hours. 

But still, all in all, it is a loss.  And as his his nature, he took to the change easily and happily.  No fuss, no muss is Winston's motto in life.  That very first night he merely settled himself down to bed in his new room as though he had been doing it all his little life. No fears, no apprehensions - just time to sleep, thank you very much and see you in the morning Mama.  I on the other hand curled up in my own bed crying, missing my boy, my beautiful little boy who had, until then, never ever been apart from me before at night.

And so begins his long voyage through life seperate from me.  I'm sure it doesn't help that he has also decided to wean at precisely the same moment as he gained his night time autonomy.  My boy.  No fuss, no muss for him, maybe - but Mama is missing her boy right now.

Sleep tight little one.  Mama loves you.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Put this demographic in your pipe and smoke it.

On the off chance that some major Canadian corporation is trolling the internet and blog sites looking for information, here's a little tidbit for you...

Happily married professional woman, earning more than $100k a year.  Two children under the age of four. Outsources most of her family's life - nanny, cleaning lady, people to clear snow in winter etc.  Tries to compensate by preparing home-cooked, healthy meals for family.  This includes preparing most meals "from scratch".

Add to this demographic the following scenario:  Husband is ill after 3 long days of business travel.  Children are also exhibiting signs of illness.  Dog has puked all over her bed and youngest child has chosen this medium as a pseudo-finger paint and re-decorated living room.  Dinner is pasta with home made sauce  -- not from a jar, but home made, including nursing onions slowly in olive oil, adding fresh tomatoes and minced garlic, simmering quietly before adding fresh basil from garden to ensure no pesticides.  At the same time, dinner for tomorrow night is being prepared in anticipation of coming home from work to face three ill males and no time to do anything other than administer hugs, kisses and mix a half-assed martini.  Dinner for this next evening was to be beef pot pie - using left over cross rib roast, shallots, organic carrots, beef stock, dried mushrooms and ...wait for it....frozen peas purchased on the fly.  Said frozen peas were a generic brand, in a "re-sealable bag". 

Now, include in the above demographic that the aforementioned female possesses two graduate degrees.  Re-sealable is not supposed to be difficult.  BUT, should you chose to make "re-sealable" mean, "seemingly re-seable if all the gods are on your side" until the bag is returned, upside down in the freeze,r only to spill out all over the freezer and kitchen floor at 8 o'clock at night when, quite frankly, I have next to no patience, well, then screw you and your product. 

If you want brand loyalty, think about your client.  I am officially done and dusted with Canada's favorite generic brand and will from now on shell out the extra 50 cents for a company that will ensure a bag is actually re-sealable without an engineering degree.

Working women unite.  End the tyranny of unre-sealable bags.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Family is a mystery to me

Families are complex things. I know this - my own family is a mess of complexity and I have had enough therapy over the years, at different times in my life, to begin to become somewhat accomodating to the messiness that is my family. For the last seven months I have also had my spouse's family living in - well, my living room. And complex is the least of the adjectives I can find to describe this situation.

Tonight, after seven months, they are gone - back to Africa. And I miss his parents deeply already, while at the same time I am also finally exhaling for the first time in a long, long time. With their being gone now also comes the possible end of any real familial closeness with the other part of his family here in our city....and although I care deeply for the two small off-spring that come with this package, their parents, my spouse's brother and wife, well, I hope for an at least temporary reprieve from their seeming need for drama, complaints and complications.

But while tonight has finally afforded Spouse and I a chance to compare notes on the he-said, she-said aspects of the past seven months, I am still struck by the complexity, the bizarreness of familial relationship. What it is that actually binds us together in families? In the case of my own brother and I - different as we are - it is a spoken understanding that no matter what, the bottom line is that we will always be there for each other. That doesn't mean we always get along, doesn't mean that we approve of how the other lives, that we always feel some kind of Hallmark card kind of love for each other - it seems to be, as he and I have worked it out over the years, that we will not need the other's approval yet we will back each other up when needed, no matter who or what the opponent may be. And we don't talk all that often, although we live in the same city; we don't live similar lives at all; we don't even see the same way on alot of things that with anyone else would be non-negotiables. But when we are together we manage to say more without words than with - we are, no matter what, no matter who, a united front, and would be if circumstances had been different, friends if we met. God help anyone who tries to bring the other one down - because there is a second wave lined up and ready to attack if necessary.

It is not merely DNA, not merely genetics, not merely environment or a shared history and background that binds my brother and I together....except all of these contributes to an often unspoken understanding when needed. At the base of it all, we just like each other even when we don't (something only siblings may be able to understand) - as people and accept each other for who, what, and how we have become. Neither needs the others approval. What we have together is deeper than that. So familial relationship is the tie that the public see, and is the tie that brought us together - but it is not all that there is.

Without that simple yet oh-so-difficult aspect, how do siblings get along in adult life? How do you begin to accomodate vast differences in morality, in responsibility, in daily actions and choices? And how do the parents caught in this vortext cope? I have seen my in-laws' hearts broken over the divisions between their children and at the same time seen my own parents frustrated at the unquestioning wall my own brother and I can draw between them and us.

How will my boys be when they are older? Will they be friends not only because they are brothers but because they genuinely enjoy each other? Or will they be at odds - not because of birth order or any other environmental factor....but just because?

I hope I will not one day be as my my mother-in-law has been, in tears over the wide gulf between my children that nothing or no one can bridge. My spouse admits he will always, no matter what, be there for his brother. But I think it is not for the same reasons that my own brother and I say the same thing. Acceptance versus duty-by-DNA. My brother and I are an unquestionable team because we choose to be, not because we must be. Which way will my own two boys go? And what is my role in the outcome?