A Small Note, Dedicated To My Pre-Toddler Self…

You’re a jerk.

You think you know aaaaaaaaaaaaaaall about kids because you spent sooooo much time around them your whoooole life.  You know eeeeeeeverything there is to know because you nannied and camp-councelled or whatever.  Right.  YOU DON’T KNOW SQUAT ABOUT SQUAT.

And YOU.  You with your one child, your 9 month old all sweet and cute.  You’ve gotten the hang of this mother thing, you’re over the newborn newbies.  You think you know eeeeeeverything there is to know about being a mom and life is soooooooo easy.  YOU HAVE NO IDEA.

Because the moment will come– perhaps on a Tuesday afternoon while multiple children are screaming circles around you– when you’ll understand that you don’t know squat about squat; when you’ll understand that these kids are YOUR teachers.  And you will say to yourself what I am saying to you now:  Self, you’ll say, I was a jerk.  Man, what a jerk I have been.  And you’ll look at the people who have gone before you, perhaps people whose parenting your childless self did judge, and in that moment your two year old will slap you on the face, and you will realize that high-horses don’t exist for moms of toddlers.

-mtg

Originally published August 14, 2015

A Letter to My Daughter

Goose,

A couple of days ago I was thinking about your birthday, which led me to to think about the day you were born, which got me all choked up and then led me to scoop you up for hugs and kisses.  In return you cried to be put back down so you could go back to feeding your dolly.

I also got choked up singing Happy Birthday.  After weeks of practicing with you so that you wouldn’t be freaked out when everybody spontaneously broke out into song, in the end all I could get out was the first “Happy birthday…” and then spent the rest of the song hiding my face and trying to compose myself.

As another song goes, (albeit a song before both your time and mine), You made me so very happy/I’m so glad you came into my life…  You are a sweetheart.  You are feisty, stubborn, independent, a poor listener when we want you to listen, and too observant when we don’t want you to be.  You are incredibly sensitive to our feelings; I can’t step on a pebble without you worrying that my Oh! means I am hurt.  You are so smart, just so smart.  You whine for attention a lot, but at the same time you are one tough cookie.  As much as you run to me when you are hurt, you also pull away from me in order to deal with your hurt on your own.  Sometimes I worry that you`ll be too much like me, too reserved, too OCD, too willing to go it alone.

I joke a lot about you having too much of your dad in you.  I joke that if your dad is both a diva and a tough guy, that you inherited the diva and Oscar (Bam Bam) the tough guy.  But in truth, it`s because I see so much of me in you that I write this, because I want to be the one to always encourage you in the ways that I always could have/should have/wish to/need to encourage myself.

What I wish for you, my daughter, is a life full of laughter.  I wish that your voice be loud and clear, that when someone makes you feel you are not worth hearing, that you turn around and tell them all the ways that you are.  Don’t be shy.  Don’t swallow your words, they will choke you.

I wish you, also, to be a listener; we learn by listening, and we learn about people by listening.  Learn about everything, but don’t stop learning about people, it will help you to be a fair and effective communicator.  I can’t stress this enough, communication is the key to eliminating life’s stresses.

Don’t be scared to have fun, but use your head.  We swam with dolphins in Mexico a few weeks ago.  When the adults were swimming far out in order to be pushed back by dolphins, you were frantic for it to be your turn to do that too.  I didn’t really want to be the one to remind you that you’re still a little girl yet, and not quite ready for that stunt, but it was my job to do.  I hope you get to go back to that one day, when you’re big enough, and have that experience, because it’s good fun, clean fun, and you deserve that.  Stay away from the dirty kinds of fun, be smart with your choices– friends, activities– and I promise you that in the end, your life will be so much more full.

Love.  And more love.

Eat good food.  Exercise.  Be healthy, and don’t take your body for granted.

You don’t watch a lot of TV now, and I like that.  It’s good, keep it that way.

Learn moderation from me, but learn the value of right and wrong from your dad.

Don’t settle.  Don’t ever settle.  Don’t settle in love and don’t settle in vocation.  If you find yourself in a relationship where you are not acting as friends, as equal partners, as a team, get out.  Don’t ever fear not finding someone else.  And if you find yourself in a job that is weighing you down, not stimulating you, not utilizing your resources, and not respecting you, recognize it and move on to something else.  I hope you are able to find your life’s calling at an early age, but if you don’t, give every job your all, be the best, have a work ethic.  But if the job is crap, it’s your responsibility to find better.  Nobody expects anything of you other than that you be a good person, and do right by yourself and others.  We don’t expect you to be a doctor or lawyer or astrophysicist.  You know you best, do what feels right, trust your intuition.  But do something.

You are responsible for yourself.  If you make bad choices, there is nobody to blame but you, and nobody can change things but you.  But you can definitely, and should always, ask for help.

You come from a family of dreamers.  Ambition and entrepreneurialship are in your blood.  Don’t forget that dreaming must be followed by action.  Without action, your dreams will always remain where they are, within you.  Don’t waste them, show the world what you’ve got.

If you don’t want kids, that’s alright.  If you do want kids, that’s great.  As your Papa always said, they’re the reason for life.  All I ask is that you be forgiving with yourself.  Whether you decide to parent full time or to maintain working both out of the home and in, you will always have people asking something of you.  Give something to yourself, too.  As someone once told me, we are each a cup, needing to be filled.  It is only when our cup is overflowing that we have something to give.  So prioritize.  Prioritize your marriage, your children, your career– and yourself.  Anything else will have to wait.

Messes can be cleaned up.  Be flexible.  Be organized, but be flexible.

Delegate.  Please don’t fall into the trap of trying to do everything yourself.  No matter how capable you are, always ask others to pitch in.

You are not always right.  Also, you are not always wrong.  It’s ok to admit it, either way.  There’s no getting around your stubbornness, but don’t fight to be right just for the sake of being right.  But if you are right, fight.

Except with your mama, because your mother will always be right….

Just kidding.

Not really…

I will do my best to do right by you.  I will do my best to raise you now in such a way so that in 10, 15, and 20 years from now you will still be coming to me as you do now.  I will try not to hover, not to be paranoid and overprotective

The past six months have been difficult for you at times.  You went from being our only baby to being our oldest baby.  You are now a tenacious toddler; you’ve been in your “terrible two’s” since you were thirteen months old and you are a trying little thing.  You hit your brother.  You know where my buttons are, and how to press them.  You smile when you are in trouble and enjoy discipline.  But although there have been times when my level of frustration far outweighed my patience, you’ve never been anything less than what I want you to be, and have always been so much more.

You’re asleep now as I write this.  In the morning when you wake, I’ll open the door and it will be a crap shoot as far as what I will find; either a super smiley, happy little girl, or a still tired, tantruming kid.  But even in your worst tantrum, you are still my absolute most favourite daughter in the whole wide world.  Just wanted you to know.

With all my love,

Mama

(not Maria, as you seem to think we are on a first name basis these days…)

-mtg

Originally published July 2, 2013

Remembrance

I always feel conflicted on Remembrance Day. I am a first gen Canadian, my parents were born in Italy,and their parents were involved in the war.  My maternal grandfather was a lover, not a fighter, but had no choice but to enlist under Mussolini.  My grandmother was forced to work in a gun factory.  She tells horrible stories of blacked out windows all day long, and bomb raids around the building where she worked.  These were not good times.  But I am a proud Canadian and am grateful for the freedoms we have, freedoms that were fought for,grateful to those who fought.  But it was my grandmother’s guns fighting Canadian soldiers, and Canadian soldiers fighting my grandfather… what a hot mess.  War is a hot mess.

I don’t have the will or energy to write a long post tonight.  But when I think about that, I think, how free I am to be able to make such a choice– a choice to write or not write on a blog that is a hobby– nobody is mandating my time, nobody is forcing me to be anywhere or do anything beyond my will.  Being overly fatigued is a state of being, but indulging it is a choice I am able to make.   This was not the case for my grandparents during the war, this was not the case for Canadian soldiers.  I am grateful for the freedom to indulge.

Had my grandparents not survived the war, I wouldn’t be here feeling grateful for my freedoms.  Although they were “the enemy,” I know them as good people who let me stay on their sofa bed for weeks at a time during summer vacations giving me milk and cookies in front of the tv before bed; good people who let me pour sugar over my Cheerios each morning and who nicknamed me cipolletta (“little onion”) with love.  But had “the enemy” won the war…. we won’t even imagine.

Lest we forget that this was a world war, and that good people around the world died.  Some of these good people had the choice to be a part of the war, many of these good people had no choices at all.  Lest we forget that the world was brought to arms by a few bad people who had more power than they were worth.  Lest we forget that freedom prevailed.  Let’s not do that again.

Red Tractor Designs

-mtg

Originally published November 11, 2015

The Whole Truth

I have a secret: I am not a perfect mom.

I’ve struggled a little over the past two years with this concept of parenthood, struggled not to be too obvious when I don’t know what I’m doing.  I’ve struggled, even, over the course of writing for this blog, because I love writing, and I love writing about my kids, but I don’t want people to actually know that I’m usually just winging it.

I lose my patience.  I get tired and run down, I shout when I know I shouldn’t.  Even when it’s my fault for getting them overtired to the point that they’re crying or whining, my fault that they’re driven to the edge, when Grace’s body turns to jello in my arms, or she’s thrashing about as though possessed by demons, still, when I’m tired my patience is low and I shout just to make it all stop.

Sometimes I check out.  Like in the middle of a tantrum, or when I’m leaving Oscar to cry himself to sleep, I just walk away and take myself to a mental safe place far, far away.  There could be chaos whirling all around but there I’ll be, in the eye of the storm, peeling carrots as calm as can be, as if there was nothing happening at all.

I love bedtime.  I love my kids and I love spending time with them, but I love bedtime.  I feel shame in admitting this, but there it is.  Bedtime rocks.  It is me time, it is couple time, it is my guilty pleasure.  I used to be offended by Samuel L. Jackson’s Go the F**k to Sleep but I’ve said these words so many times to myself that it would be hypocritical to not give him props for at least being honest.

There are times when I really mess up.  Like, I use feeling words with Grace because I want her to learn to speak through her frustrations rather than lash out physically, but then I’ll get frustrated and physically manhandle her into a Time Out rather than use my words.  I’ve used positive reinforcements for particular behaviours and then taken them away when other behaviours come into the mix, effectively making a mess out of everything.  There are times when I forget, because of how well she speaks and how much she understands, that Grace is only two, and my expectations of her should be the expectations of a two year old.

I’ve driven with the kids not properly in their car seats.  This is a big one and my stomach turns at thinking about it.  But there was a time with Oscar where I put his bucket seat in the car and I thought it was in, but a while later while driving around a bend I heard, click!, and I knew that he hadn’t been fully attached all that time.  Of course, my sister-in-law was in the car with me.  And there was another time with Grace, where I put her in her seat, turned on the TV because she asked for it, went around to put Oscar in the car, and by the time the groceries were loaded and the stroller was folded up and packed in, I had completely forgot that I hadn’t finished strapping her in.  We were on the road before I noticed her level of mobility in my rear view mirror.  Of course, my mother-in-law was in the car with me that time.  Also, I never told my husband about either of these incidents.  (Sorry, honey).

Sometimes I think about how sweet it was to care for Grace when she was a baby and I am sad, especially after I hear myself growling GRAAAACE over and over over the course of an afternoon.  And when I’m putting Oscar down for a nap, I hold him extra close, and I stroke his hair extra softly, because I know it’s only a matter of time before he’ll be doing things on purpose to get my goad and I’ll be yelling OSCAAAAARRR!!!!!  And that’s probably when I’ll have another baby, just to have a daily reminder of the sweet times.

I have used chocolate and candy as bribes on multiple occasions.  Not as rewards.  Bribes.  Plain and simple.

I drink coffee and I drink wine.  I know I’m breastfeeding but I do.  I’m careful about my timing, and I’m not saying I have a lot, but there are some things in life you just have to keep for yourself and these are mine.  I am not a purist, although I know many people who would tell me I should be.

I am currently using pink diapers on Oscar.  Grace doesn’t want to wear pull-ups to bed anymore, and I have almost a full pack of pink princesses lying around, and they wear the same size… and there’s no guarantee that I’ll have another girl the next time around… and there’s no sense in wasting them…. right?

I hope he never reads this.

Anyway, there you have it.  I am not a perfect mom.  I have made a ton of mistakes.  I just figure I may as well be open about it because hiding it is too much trouble.  When I’m with other moms and comparing ourselves as moms are wont to do, sometimes I feel great because I know I’m not screwing up too badly, and sometimes I feel like crap because I’m not a supermom.  I do what I do and the best I can do it.  But I’m far, and I mean FAR, from perfect.

And now my daughter is awake so I’m going to go make her some homemade pancakes with blueberry smiley faces on them…. Which would be great and perfectly okay, but, more likely, I’ll shove a bowl of yogurt in front of her and say Eat!

-mtg

Originally published August 21, 2013

What looks like bad parenting…

The kids and I were leaving their daycare, and just like other days since the weather changed, when all other children across this fine country are donning fleece-lined coats, my kids flat out refused to wear their coats.  Just like other days since they began refusing I replied with a heavy sigh and a  “let’s just go.”  Except on this day, my four year old found it necessary to say to another mom, a mom who was forcing her kid to put on his coat just like most moms across this land, “my mom let’s me have the choice.”

I admit I hung my head in shame and scurried them out the door as fast as I could.  I admit that there’s a part of me that was like, Why can’t you be that mom that forces their kids into their coats?  And definitely there was a part of me that was like, Why can’t you be those kids that let their parents force them into coats?  And of course I justified it with reasoning that they were only walking from the daycare to the car and in the car I would be removing their coats anyway for the car seats until the -20 weather begins at which point I’ll be a little less firm where the no-coat-in-the-car seat thing is concerned, and I reasoned that they would likely get outside and understand that it was cold and change their minds about putting on their coats but if they didn’t out of stubbornness today they were perhaps more likely to put the coats on tomorrow but if not tomorrow they definitely would when the -20 rolls around.  A part of me knows that I’m just choosing my battles and avoiding a fight.  A part of me doesn’t want other moms to look at me with what-are-you-doing eyes.

But, a part of me tells myself that they are learning, that there is a lesson in all of this.  A part of me pats myself on the back for allowing them this freedom.  A part of me thinks, Why shouldn’t they be allowed to choose?   Why should I bother to force them?

It’s a reasoning that I’ve come around too– kicking and screaming, mind you– several times over the course of my life as a parent.  I understand that my kids are not the kids that move gently into that good light.  More than that, I understand that neither myself nor my husband were not those kids either.  Stubbornness prevailed for us, and the legacy lives on.   I cannot fault my children for what is only in their genes.  Nor would I want to for I remember as a young child, when I was not allowed to come to my own conclusions no matter how painful the process, it always left me feeling slighted and even more bound and determined to have my way the next time.

As much as it drives me insane, I am grateful at my kids’ determinedness to understand life in their own way, to express themselves in whatever menial way they see fit.  Why shouldn’t they be allowed to choose?  Why shouldn’t they indeed.

But only for the walk from the daycare to the car.

-mtg

Originally published November 10, 2015

‘Twas the Night Before

Tonight J and I put Grace to bed together, taking turns with reading books and singing songs and playing the nightly light game– where one of us turns off the light as a sign it’s time for bed, and she turns it back on, and we turn it back off…  We both feel guilty that by the time Grace wakes up tomorrow we will already be on our way to the hospital, guilty about not being there to put her to bed tomorrow night, and about the fact that by the time she sees us next, there will be another baby lying in my arms.  We are excited, we can’t wait, yet we recognize that this is the end of the world as Grace knows it.  Seeing her so cute and cuddly, happily moving from one lap to the other, absolutely basking in all this singular attention– well, I can’t help but feel like a traitor.

There are things I will forget about tomorrow, in that moment when I am finally holding my baby boy.  I’ll forget about how uncomfortable I’ve been for the past four weeks with his head so low in my pelvis I was sure it was going to pop out at any time.  I’ll forget about how it feels to have a little hand repeatedly try to punch it’s way through my cervix.  I’ll probably forget about how he continued to put me through this, week after week, rather than ripping open that water sack and forcing me to the hospital early like a good little boy.  I’ll even forget about how itchy I feel in this very moment, effectively scrubbed down by my hospital-issued disinfectant, unable to lotion myself up post shower even though it’s freaking winter out there and my dry skin feels like prickly fire all over, something no amount of scratching can fix.  I won’t forget about the months of uncomfortably sleepless nights, but at least by finally having a purpose for being awake, I’ll be able to move on.  All that I will forget about tomorrow, skin on skin with my little man, hubby by my side.  But Grace’s little face tonight, leaning into me for a kiss, waving her hand at J and saying, Dada, bye!, I won’t be able to forget.  In such a touching and profound family moment, she will be missed.

I don’t think I’ve put enough thought into how it will feel to be insanely in love with two kids instead of just one. I know it will happen, I know it just does.  But I’m so protective of Grace and her feelings, and this baby, until I can actually hold him in the flesh, is still so abstract, that I haven’t quite wrapped my mind around it.

Despite that, I know that tomorrow is the day I’ll start telling her she’s a big girl and not a baby, even though by all intensive purposes, at 17 months, she actually is still a baby.  Tomorrow is the day where I stop being able to carry her on command.  Tomorrow is the day where I’ll start asking her to play on her own for a while until I finish feeding the baby or changing his diaper.  Tomorrow is the day where the short-term and immediate needs of a newborn will supersede some of Grace’s needs, and I will somehow have to reconcile the fact that it is I, Grace’s mom, that is doing the displacing.  Tomorrow is the first day in a long line of foot-stomping It’s not fair‘s.

Tomorrow I throw another ball in the air, try my best to juggle, and not let anyone fall.  Oy…

One of my favourite stories about my brother-in-law, my sister’s husband, involves his transition from having one kid to two.  He was so in love with this first born, his son, that he couldn’t imagine loving another child in the same way.  He often would say that he was happy their second was to be a girl, imagining that a daughter for my sister meant he could have his son all to himself.  And then my niece arrived.  And she was a daddy’s girl from the second she was born.

Even though I had no first hand knowledge of this, I was amongst those that warned him that it would happen, that he would love his daughter as much as his son, that what was difficult to imagine possible would really just be.  I find I need to remind myself of that now, as a way to assuage my feelings of guilt.  There will not be any less love in my life, but instead a whole lot more.

I kept wondering about the timing, but I believe this week, in particular, is the best one for being offered this gift.  Following the loss in our family, following the tragedy that was Sandy Hook Elementary, — heck, we’re even a few days away from the end of the world, if you believe the Mayans– more children, more family, more love, sorry, I know this is total cheese, but, it’s really the best gift of any and all.

Someone might need to remind me of this in a few days, though, when I’m entirely sleep-deprived and Grace is in meltdown mode, angrily trying to tear the baby from my arms and yelling MINE, MINE!  Just saying.

-mtg

Originally published December 2012

To Grampy, With Love

A parent should never outlive their child.  Truth as there is behind this one simple statement, it does not make it any easier when a child loses a parent.  It may hurt a little less for my mom to lose my grandmother, now in her 90s, than it would for me to lose my 50-something mom; and that in turn might hurt less in the grand scheme of life than for Grace to lose me right now, but there is hurt nonetheless.  But what about grandchildren, how do we measure their hurt?

I grew up knowing one set of grandparents.  On my dad’s side my nonna had already died, and my nonno lived in Italy, and died when I was only 5 besides.  But on my mom’s side, I knew and know my grandparents very well.  I spent entire summers with them, scouring fields for wild mushrooms with my nonno and learning to knit and watching The Price is Right with my nonna.  I knew their home as well as I knew my own; where the best hiding places were and where the goodies were stashed.  My life is so full from memories of cereal with sugar in my milk for breakfast, biscotti e latte before bed, homemade pasta eaten together from one communal wooden platter (the best thing you could ever eat in all your life), my nonna’s old wringer washing machine, eating cucumbers right from the vines of their backyard garden (by this I mean that their backyard, all of it, was a garden), lemon water in the fridge and the feel of my nonno’s favourite vinyl armchair.  My nonno, the man who always pinched my nose and called me Cippolletta (Little Onion), died when I was 18, and for me it was a very sad day.

Quite honestly, when J and I were first asking ourselves that question, Are we ready for kids?, one of the main driving forces behind our decision to go for it was knowing that our kids would have four amazing grandparents, and wanting our kids to grow up knowing, and influenced by, their grandparents.  It was with a sad heart when, having made that decision and being in the process of trying, we discovered that my father-in-law had cancer.  He beat cancer the first time around, got to meet his granddaughter, and although Grace is too young, provided us, her parents, with fond memories of the two of them.  Every moment that Grace spent with her grampy was an important one for us, because we knew that cancer would one day be back.

Unfortunately it returned way too soon, just before Grace’s first birthday, and with way too much finality.  We managed two trips “down home” as a family since then.and during that time no matter how ill he felt, or how frustrated, or how emotional, he always had a smile for his “little girl.”  I thought of that this morning, the morning after his final breaths, as Grace was making bubble sounds by twiddling her lower lip.  He taught her that, and it’s still her favourite trick.

I remember when J first passed on the news to his dad that we were expecting Grace.  He responded by saying that children, having them and raising them, are the reason for life.  As I sit here, with a new life inside of me, expecting him to make his debut at any time now, those thoughts take on a deeper meaning.  I am sad for the memories that will never be formed.  Sad that Grace and her brother will not know and learn from such a role model, yet happy that Grace, at least, knew who he was for however short a time.  J is a bit more concrete than I on these matters, but for me, I can’t help but feel that grandfather and grandson are somewhere out there in the yonder world, together in spirit, the old passing on the torch to the new, and that on some level they know each other already.

-mtg

Originally published December 12, 2012
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