Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Women in my Daughters Life … Who Aren’t Me

I received a text from my friend Amanda yesterday. She sends me various texts over the course of weeks, checking in for this or that, or just saying ‘Thinking of You’ (she is great at that). Yesterday she sent me one asking my daughter Megan to babysit. 

Amanda has two kiddos younger than mine, and a few years ago she was one of the first people to entrust their care to my own kiddo on the occasions her and Brian venture out into the world as adults.

As we worked out times and details, I thought about her presence in Megan’s life.

I think many things help build a child’s character over the course of their lives. One of them I have seen for my daughter, and one I never underestimate, is the faith and trust that others have placed in her to care for their own children over the last number of years. 

 
Megan’s knowledge that Amanda, along with Mary, Jenna, Sesaly and Karen all think of her in that way – as a responsible, intelligent, caring, young woman of whom they can trust, has helped to build a confidence in her as she has grown from a girl into a young woman. She prides herself on the job she does, she adores the kids she cares for, and I see how important it is to her that other women think of her in this way to call her on a regular basis.

These are but a few women who have come into my daughters life and played a role, perhaps unknowingly, in shaping who she is in the world. And this example of child care is but one instance where I see this happening.

There are also the women who actively build a relationship with her in a different way.

Women who in my own life I share wonderful rich friendships with, but who also have developed their own relationship with my daughter. It may be small and it may be infrequent, but it still exists all the same. I see examples and the results of it all the time.

It’s when Megan comes through the door in the middle of a party and races over to hug Sesaly or Dena. This doesn’t happen from circumstance – this happens because these women have gone out of their way to ‘see’ her, to take an interest in her life independent of their friendship with me. Megan feels that and she seeks them out. 

It’s when Kathy comes to visit from Ottawa and she carved out some special alone time with Megan, inquiring about her interests and activities, finding common ground and laughing and sharing stories. I see in Megan’s eyes the sense of respect and pride she feels with Kathy who takes a true interest in her life.

It’s when she is jogging over the road one day and feels an uncomfortable feeling that makes the hair stand up on the back of her neck – because a strange dog is following her – and she doesn’t hesitate to go to Amanda’s door to seek refuge – a place she feels safe, with a woman she is comfortable confiding in rather than being embarassed around.

It’s in the phone calls from both Amanda and Sesaly that came on June 30th. Phone calls where I pick up the phone and they ask for – gasp – Megan, not me – because they want to congratulate her on being named Valedictorian.

It’s Norah who never ever – not once – misses calling for her birthday. And it’s never enough to wish her a Happy Birthday, but she spends time talking with her about her day and her friends and her plans. It’s Norah who thinks far enough ahead to always have her gift here, on time, from a different Province, or who listens so intently to the small things Megan says that she remembers to ask about them months later.

And ofcourse it’s Nanny and Granny who are there for concerts and games and graduations, sitting in the audience as the ones who she sees as her family who she can always count on. Who play games together and surprise her with this or that. Who remember the big test she has. Who make a big deal of the little things. The things that truly matter.

These women in my daughters life – not girls – not people her own age – but women – who ‘see’ my daughter and who actively nurture and build a relationship with her are, without consciousness or purpose, creating a foundation for her. A foundation that has the potential to influence and grow over the years becoming something Megan can count on in years to come. 

So often we think of the people who influence our children’s lives as being teachers or coaches or others who are in obvious ‘helping’ professions, positions, or blood relatives. And while certainly that has rung true for Megan, I am filled with such gratitude for those women who are not paid, nor expected, nor in any ‘natural’ circumstance to influence her life. But instead these women who put themselves out there and ‘choose’ to be a part of her world – who each have their own different, personal, unique connections with my daughter. 

 
As a parent, it’s hard to realize you can’t be everything to your kids. There is a selfish part of me that wants to be. I’m embarrassed to admit that. I’m even more embarrassed to admit that sometimes I’m a wee bit jealous of these women and the relationship they have with Megan. They never have to be the heavy hand or the ‘Charlie Brown Teacher’ lecturing ‘woh woh woh woh woh’.

But my jealousy is quickly brushed aside, because I know that some day she will look for different perspectives and opinions … she will look for a friend and an ear … she will struggle with big and small problems … and although I hope more often than not she WILL turn to me, I am not naive enough to think there will not be times where ‘mom’ won’t be the first nor the most realistic choice. A time when she will need more ‘advice’ than friends her age can provide. A time she will seek out older women in her life she can trust and confide in.

I am beyond grateful that women in my life are building a foundation NOW that will help my daughter in the future. That these women want to – choose to – play that role in her life. A role that sometimes seems so small and random, but that I see helps build her character and sense of self in the world. Women who can be there for her in a way I can’t always be in the role of ‘Mom’.

I wonder if they know what a difference they are making in my daughters life, or the potential it will have to make a difference?  

I hope so.

I am so grateful for each and every one of them.

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Beyond Safety. Some Not-So-Random-Thoughts for my Daughter on Social Media.

I’m so proud of you, kid. I see you managing all of this social media and digital world better than I ever could have at your age. Better than I do sometimes at my age! Keep it up. You are doing great! 

But because you got stuck sharing my DNA, I wanted to share a few not-so-random thoughts with you on the subject. Thoughts that go beyond the long safety-orientated talks you have suffered through the past years.

I know, I know. Just bear with me for five minutes. Here goes.

You are growing up in a world where you are being taught that ‘sharing everything’ makes your experiences better. It doesn’t. At least not how ‘sharing’ is now defined. What makes things better is being present in the moment. Not always sharing ‘each and every’ moment.

Having a connection with people has nothing to do with being connected. I know we have heard that many times before, but I don’t think we as a society are listening. I don’t think we are walking the talk. So I think it warrants saying again. The greatest connections you will find are when you are unplugged. Don’t let people convince you otherwise. I think this may be the hardest thing for your generation to realize. It’s even hard for my generation as we look around and we all have phones stuck to our hands. And when we do realize it … the difference between connecting and being connected … it is even harder to put that phone down and put that knowledge into action. 

Hiding behind a screen is easy. It’s easy in the middle of school when your friends haven’t arrived at your table yet and you are alone for those two minutes that can seem like two hours. It’s easy when you are in a place where you are uncomfortable. It’s easy when you are bored. And it’s ok to hide sometimes. It’s ok to use your screen to seem busy sometimes or to get through that awkward moment. It’s ok. SOME TIMES. But make those times few and far between kid. Choose those times. Choose them infrequently. Have the confidence in yourself to be alone sometimes. Learn to be alone. You happen to be great company!

The number of likes you have has nothing to do with your worth. That goes for when you have a lot or a little. The ego can be just as funny a thing as self esteem. Don’t let things go to your head either way. I know you know this. I just have to say it. 

I am so proud you don’t have a tonne more ‘followers’ than people you are following. This shows me you are kind and inclusive and don’t see yourself as better than others. It can be rare.

Take selfies. Post them. Have fun! But please don’t post them every day all the time. Don’t ever be that self important or self centred. 

Thank you for not asking for a phone or social media while you were still in single digits. Thank you even more for waiting until you were a teenager. It just made my life as a Mom much easier.

You know the people who make you laugh? Keep them. And I don’t mean the people who put smiley faces on your account. The people who you find yourself laughing outward with. In real life. In real time. Keep THEM.

Always opt for quality over quantity. Your world is not set up for this anymore. But remember that this social media platform isn’t always the real world. One real true friend outweighs the 200 on your social media account. I know that’s sometimes hard to remember. But I know it to be true from personal experience.

You know how everyone uses the acronym ‘ilysm’? You know the little hearts and ‘baes’ and I love yous that float around every day on your Instagram and Snapchat? That’s great! You have so many wonderful friends. And as a Mom I’d rather see these acronyms than insults any day. But when you step back, please know and remember that real love is much rarer than that. Even between friends. Deep down you know the friends who really care for you. Real love is felt … not typed.

Go look up the words friend and like and hangout and chat and share in the dictionary. The old fashioned Webster Dictionary. These terms are being used in a different context now. They really are. Find out where their roots come from.

Take some pictures you don’t post. Take some for the memories you will want to cherish later. Not for the showing off aspect of today. 

Once you hit the send button it’s gone. Learn to type, then pause and count to ten first when you are feeling emotional about something before sending it.

Thank you for not fighting our family’s screen boundaries too much. Thank you for bringing your phone downstairs every night so it is not the first thing you reach for in the morning. Thank you for keeping the door open when you Facetime with a boy. Thank you for paying half of your own phone bill and never complaining about it. I know rules like these aren’t always the norm with your friends and I know it does affect you. I know it’s not always easy being a part of our family and our beliefs that accompany that. I do know that, and I appreciate your respect of that more than you know.

‘Be bigger than the fear of missing out’. Ok. I stole that one. But it’s important. It’s one that I’m still working on even at 43 years old in this social media world. Don’t worry about missing out on things because you aren’t on line 24/7. Be bigger than that feeling. Be stronger. 

Turn off the screen. Close your eyes. Be still. Use your mind and imagination independent of the online world sometimes.

Be thankful for what this digital world offers you. It offers a lot of opportunity and potential for growth. Especially for a bright kid like you. Use it. Explore. Discover. Have fun. 

Everything you type or post is public domain. Forever. Period. I know we’ve talked ad nausium about that one but it warrants a reminder. 

Keep reading real books with real pages. I love that you still do this. Never stop. I love that you adore your Kobo too, but the feel of a real book in your hand – the way it opens the first time you hesitate to crease its spine – the way a bookmark lays in it – there is an appreciation there for the written word that you can’t replace on a screen. I sense you feel this too. Don’t ever lose that feeling.

Thank you thank you thank you for not having two separate social media accounts for everything. One for your ‘friends’ and another for your ‘real’ friends. I think this is awful and elitist and mean and I am proud you are not that kid. I know you are probably shocked I even know about this practice and you would probably defend them and their reasoning … but you drew the short straw in the ‘Mom with strong opinions’ department. Sorry kid.

And finally, above all, very simply, just ‘check in’ with yourself every once in a while. You are a wise, thoughtful knowledgeable kid. You know if your life is balanced in a real way. You know in your heart what is real, what matters, and what is just distraction. Listen to yourself. And then have the courage to put away the white noise for a little while until you can feel balanced again.  

So that’s it kid. Thanks for listening to your old Mom.

I do happen to think you rock … in every aspect of this teenage thing! You are already living so much of this and the balance you choose to have in every part of your life makes me burst with pride. 

I also recognize you have so much more insight into this online world than I do. But you know me …. I just can’t help sharing an opinion or two with my favourite girl.

xoxo Ilysm … 😘 😍😀😛Bahahahaha!!

Mom

An Unexpected Gift

My best friend and I don’t get to see each other during the week of Christmas. And it seems the last number of years we don’t even see each other the entire month of December with busy family schedules. We live in different Provinces. And sometimes that really sucks.

It especially does over the Holidays when you want to be surrounded by your closest friends and family. 

Norah and I have been friends for 38 years now. She has been ‘my person’ for 25 of those. I actually ache for her during this time … these two weeks that I seem to define as the Holidays. Sentimental fool that I am. 

Phone calls abound, but I want her physically close to me where I can hug her and cuddle up on the sofa with her, and surround myself with her presence – more than just her voice on the other end of a receiver.

This year, I think in anticipation of that time, she gave me my Christmas Gift early. It was no ordinary gift. When she handed it to me I was like a giddy little girl. It was an entire basket full of perfectly wrapped gifts. An Advent Gift she said. One present to be opened every day until Christmas, beginning December 1st.

I know this is the place where I’m supposed to say ‘it was just a gift getting to see her for 4 hours’ in the city where we met and had a quick lunch together, but the fact is that it WAS really exciting to be handed an entire basket of presents and be told they were just for me.

It’s Christmas and I am a Mom. Nothing is EVER just for me! I spend months making sure everything is ‘just for others’.

So here I am handed a basket full of pretty presents … one to open every day starting the first of December … you better believe I’m a giddy school girl at that prospect!

And because I know my best friend so well, I’m vibrating with anticipation because I know each gift was meticulously chosen with me in mind by someone who knows me like no one else. Now THIS is exciting shit!

So I drive home on a November day, after a long four hour lunch with my bestie, basket safely tucked in the back of the Subaru.

When I come through the door, basket in hand, my kiddos are home and they look up at the basket. They know I’ve seen Norah and are naturally expecting the basket to be the ‘family’ gifts that we always exchange. And of course those family gifts are in the back of the Subuaru too … but I am quick to inform them (with perhaps a cat-ate-the-canary smile on my face) that these are all ‘just for me’. AND that I get to open one each and every day until Christmas starting December 1st.

Oh.

They don’t say it, but you can see the wheels turning in their heads.

Just for Mom?

All those presents?

Oh.

So I sit my basket down next to the armoire in the living room. It’s only then that I really have the chance to take a good look at it. Each gift has a number on it. And the numbers aren’t just written on. They are fancy stickers placed on thick parchment like paper and placed on each gift. Every gift is painstakingly wrapped, and looking at them I would be happy to open just one. But I get to open 24! 

I get a twinge of worry that she has spent too much on me. But I know her and we are both really good at being reasonable over Christmas. She promised me she didn’t go over our usual amount – that it was like a long drawn out stocking. So I quickly drop that feeling of guilt and concentrate on my pretty present.

December 1st is fourteen days away. I’m like a little kid again waiting for Christmas Day. Only I don’t have to wait that long! Inside I’m a little embarrassed by how excited I am, but trust me that embarrassment disappears as the days go by and I’m run off my feet with Holiday to-do lists, and I really remember how much I do for every one else during the preparation of Christmas.

So there the basket sits. For fourteen days in the living room.

And then December 1st arrives. And what happens then, and over the next 24 days is a very unexpected side effect … and is, for me, and for my family, a gift in and of itself.

That morning I get up and come down stairs. It’s a particularly crazy day. I have a Board Mtg at work, Mark has a Volleyball Tournament, Megan has Piano and a test at school, Craig is away for work so I’m on my own. I’m running around making lunches, getting everything and everyone ready for another pretty normal day at the Wilkies. 

And then the kids look at me and say … with these excited looks of anticipation on their faces … “Mom!!!! It’s December 1st!!!!!! You get to open your first gift from Aunt Norah today!”

And I have to admit. I was a little taken aback at their excitement. Because this was not excitement ‘for them’ at all. They KNEW nothing in those packages were family related. Nothing for the minors in the family. And as for ‘their’ Advent ‘gift’, well – ever since they were young they only ever got those Advent Calendars that were like $1 from Walmart, with the dinky little chocolates (if you can call them chocolate) smaller than the size of a dime. 

So no. This wasn’t excitement for them. This was excitement they had for me. They were excited for me alone. They wanted to watch me open it, and had comments on what it was and what a great gift it was for me.

And so it went. Every day until Christmas Eve. They would excitedly remind me of my Advent gift for the day, and hoped I wouldn’t open it without them there.

And a few days into this selfishly lovely routine I realized what a beautiful side effect this gift my BFF gave me actually had.

For my kids got to see, in a very unique and somehow tangible way, how very much someone else loved their mother. And even better … someone not related to me. Someone who didn’t ‘have’ to love me. Someone who wasn’t related to them either.

They got to see the care and thoughtfulness put into something for their Mom … who is always the one ‘giving’ in their lives … always the one running and driving and doing and keeping it all together for them. They, as children, are always the centre of attention. They rarely get to see me receive anything except on days that ‘I’m supposed to’. And from someone I’m ‘supposed to’. No one ever does anything for Mom ‘just because’.

And that was pretty cool. For them to be so unbelievably excited just for ‘me’ each day; during a season that is so focused on them as children. For them to visually ‘see’ my worth through another’s eyes. To see how much time someone took to shop and wrap and prepare and think of ‘me’. For them to see me in a new way, and not just as a Mom.  

To see someone’s love for me in such a tangible and consistent way.

It was a very unexpected side effect of a wonderful gift … that was a gift in and of itself. And the entire experience, the gift and the side effect, made my Holiday that much brighter.

It was a gift I will never forget.