Autonomy

One of the challenges of being me is understanding the general sense of a word, or knowing how to use it, but when pressed, not being able to define it. Or not trusting myself when it comes time to define it.

Autonomy is one of those, “I think it means…?” words. So I looked it up and I was right: independence or freedom.

And the first thing that came to mind was the fact that I lost some of my autonomy when I got married – and even more of it when I had kids.

When I got married – or really, anytime I’ve been in a serious relationship – there is a loss of autonomy on my part. And sometimes that’s easier to deal with than others. It’s not a serious matter, it’s not like I no longer make my own decisions or lose responsibility for myself, but rather it’s a consultation process. There are extra steps involved when it comes to make decisions, or signing up for things.

Once upon a time, my money was entirely my own. Now much of it goes towards a mortgage, towards insurance, towards future planning. When I want to sign up for a course, or go somewhere on a trip, I have to take into consideration my husband’s schedule; when we had one vehicle, I couldn’t automatically assume that the car would be mine for the evening, especially when I had a bus pass and decades of experience with public transit in my city and he didn’t.

Then once the kids entered the picture, well, suddenly autonomy is gone. Not completely, because the last thing I ever wanted even before they were a concept was to lose myself to my children. I can’t see that ever happening – I have too many interests of my own, and my husband and I have always been firm believers that it does the kids well to see us with outside interests (though of course, we still have to strike the right balance – I always look at his schedule before signing up for my own stuff). Not to mention our own hobbies and interests will mean that we will still have a marriage once they’ve left on their own paths.

Some choices haven’t been difficult for me to make. It was my decision to sell my motorcycle (something I will mention forever and ever because it was the one brief period of my life when I was cool). I just couldn’t handle getting on the bike when there was someone else counting on me – and now three someone elses (if we count my husband). I know there are plenty of people who continue to ride even with their own small people, and I have full respect for them; it’s just not for me right now.

And other decisions have been harder. It’s hard for me to backburner my interests because there are household or child-related things to do. So I often end up staying up late to pursue them and sacrificing sleep. I forgo buying new clothes – not that difficult to do, I’m not a clotheshorse – to ensure that I have money to buy them food and clothes.

So autonomy for me, at least at the current stage of the game, is something of a loss. But it’s temporary, as is the time spent with young children – my young children – and all the laughs and smiles and happy memories they bring to the table. Too soon they’ll be grown and while I’ll have some money and free time back (hopefully), I won’t have these moments, just the memories of them. So the loss is one I’m willing to absorb, since I’m getting so much back in return.

Summer

I was born at the end of August, so I rarely had a big birthday party as a child. Most of my friends were often on vacation when I had my birthday, so there wasn’t much point to throwing a party. I also was something of a loner as a kid, so maybe I wouldn’t have had anyone to invite anyhow? My memory on this is foggy, which maybe isn’t a bad thing. When I think of what I want for my children, and how it pains me to think that my outgoing, social butterfly of a daughter might not have friends or might not be liked, it makes me wonder how my personality affected my parents and their hopes and dreams for me.

But that’s not just tied to summer, that’s just my baggage. Summer has always been my favourite season, and I do enjoy the way it is in Ottawa. The evenings are usually warm enough that you can stay out in shirt sleeves and shorts or pants, daylight lasts until nearly 9 p.m., which means evening walks are easy to do, and it’s just so emotionally uplifting to be outside in the sun. I love the way my skin smells after I’ve been out in the sun, even for a brief period, and on the rare occasions I do a bit of tanning, I like how that looks, as well.

I do hate the mosquitos and some of the other bugs that show up in the summer months: earwigs on the humid days and if there’s no air conditioning; mayflies at the gas stations (not sure why, but it’s a thing); June bugs on the screen doors in July or August; and mosquitos, always the mosquitos. But they’re a small trade-off for the heat and the humidity, and just getting to enjoy being outside.

This year I’ve also started to take advantage of something that’s an unthought-of tradition in parenting; drinking outdoors with the neighbours while watching the kids. Maybe that’s more of a Maritime tradition, but I admit I’ve been enjoying it. I’m not sure what about it appeals to me, though maybe it’s just getting to see my kids playing and having fun and enjoying themselves with each other and the neighbour kids. Or maybe it’s just that I enjoy socially-acceptable drinking, and doing it with company is even more enjoyable.

City (not my best work here)

I have lived in the same city for most of my life. We came here when I was a little one (16 months old), and my parents have lived in the same house in the suburbs ever since.

 

Through university, I lived at home, and then moved into a shitty apartment downtown once I started working. I moved into a second, better, apartment nearly a year later, and lived there for three years until I moved in with my now-husband, back in the suburbs.

I’ve been at the same office for nearly eight years, and a girl I went to elementary school with for about a minute started here a few months ago. We ran into one another, and she sort of laughingly asked me if I still lived in the suburbs where we both lived back in the day. I explained that no, I was one surburb over now – not exactly a grand achievement, on paper – and it definitely felt to me like she thought less of me because I hadn’t gone off and lived somewhere grand for a period of time.

And sure, the city where I live is often referred to as “the city that fun forgot” (if google that, it’s pretty easy to figure out where we are, especially after John Oliver reported on our Ashley Madison scandal not too long ago). And while there are things I dislike about here – our winters, for example – I’ve done fairly well here. I have a good job, I have a good husband, a good home, two great children, family and friends…

There are pluses to my city, too. I left my purse at a Starbucks when I was pregnant with my son, and when I came back to grab it, it was still there, completely intact — the gentleman who found it simply put it up higher so I’d see it again. We’re generally pretty polite and friendly to one another, and I feel safe just about everywhere in my city, regardless of the time of day or night.

The city is medium-sized, which makes it easy enough to navigate, and there are usually multiple options for things. If a movie isn’t playing at a good time at one movie theatre, chances are it’s playing at another. A book isn’t in stock at this Chapters? There’s a good chance another one has it. Coffee stores are prevalent, there are lots of good restaurant options, we have really lovely walking trails, lots of great festivals, activities for the kids…

And while I do have a longish commute to get to my job, it’s not nearly as bad as some people do. And our transit system is pretty reasonable, so I can take the bus to and from work. I have a backyard my kids can play in, and space to get away from everyone if they’re driving me crazy.

Maybe it’s not the most exciting city, but it’s where I call home.

Open

Open doors, open arms, open thoughts, open hearts, open to challenging one’s ideas and ideals, open to new experiences, open to new ideas, open to new lifestyles and ways of living and ways of being.

It’s hard. Of course it’s hard; opening one’s mind to new anything is hard. Challenging your firmly-held beliefs is hard.

I had a conversation with some coworkers yesterday about how difficult it can be for someone to change their way of thinking when it comes from things their parents believe/have said/think. They didn’t think it could be, because they were able to look at the world around them when went to university or got older and were able to pick and choose their new ideas and ideals.

But I think it’s simplistic to say that it is as easy as they perceive it was. Not everyone has that willingness to challenge themselves, and not everyone is open to having their ideas changed.

I’m trying to teach my daughter and eventually my son to be open to other people being different, to feeling differently, to holding different beliefs and being respectful of those differences, but it’s hard. I fight with myself when I feel like I’m saying something that goes against what I’m trying to teach, and it keeps coming back to the idea that I want my children to be better than me. I want them to be smarter, to have more friends, to be more open and accepting of other people, and I want them to have happier lives. Not that mine is unhappy, but I just don’t want them to make my mistakes.

Which I recognize is idealistic of me; of course they’re going to make mistakes. Of course bad things are going to happen – that’s what life is all about. But I guess I just want them to know that their mistakes do not define them, they do not destroy them, and they most definitely do not destroy our relationship with them.

I am open to the idea that they will make mistakes and they will challenge me in ways I can’t even begin to image, but it’s hard to know and especially to accept that bad things will happen that I cannot prevent.

The best I can do is prepare them and equip them with the tools to take on those bad things, and I have to be open to the fact that I will still fall short.

But’s the best I’ve got.

A New Year, A New Hope

Every year around this time, I think I didn’t accomplish anything through the year, that the time just kind of rolled on day to day. This year is no different.

But if I do stop to think about it, I’ve taken on new challenges. Some of them are relatively minor – I’m trying out the intermediate level for my dance class, instead of the beginner level. I tried aerial yoga. I started making jewelry and teaching myself new techniques.

Some of them are a bit bigger – I went back to work after my second maternity leave, and once again handed over a child of mine to someone else to look after for the majority of each week day. I’m being facetious here, it definitely isn’t as ‘easy’ as I make it sound (though because it’s the same person who looked after our daughter, it’s a bit easier in some ways – not to mention he’s a pretty chill baby who adjusted to daycare a lot more quickly than she did). I saw my daughter start the next phase of her life with going to school for full days, and have been dealing with the changes in her resulting from that.

And always, always, I have new worries and fears and concerns. Worries about my daughter’s interactions with her school mates, and pride in her being invited to birthday parties with said school mates. Pride at seeing how many of her friends greet her or say goodbye to her. Pride in hearing that she stood up for herself at a birthday party against a kid who was trying to push his way through and rush her off her turn on a play area.

The old stereotype of parents always wanting better for their kids holds true – I have my own baggage from being the kid I was, and I want her to be better than I was, and to be more, and she is. She has a strength in her right now that I would do well to emulate (to a point, I don’t think I can get away with physically expressing my emotions the way she sometimes does). She stands up for herself when it matters, and she wants to see others involved and having fun.

I had her in a preschool playgroup over the winter and summer, and in her last session the leaders paired her up with a boy who had joined who was having trouble adjusting – and she would just drag him along in her wake. I had no idea about this until the final few weeks, when his parents told me what was going on – and told me how much of a change in had made in him.

Her days at school are a mystery to me in that I’m not there for them and only know what’s going on from her version of events or what the after-school care teachers tell me. She’s adjusted well, she gets on well with the other kids, the conflicts she has aren’t big enough for them to be a problem it seems… For a four year old, I can’t ask for much more.

And my son, well, he’s doing what babies do. He’s growing, he’s learning, he’s experimenting, he’s challenging, he’s pushing, he’s charming. He shows clear preference for things, he’s happy to see us and he gets upset if I walk away from him when he’s chasing me or wants me around. I regularly refer to him as an asshole in my stories, not because I hate him of course, but because he’s just… well, sometimes he’s being an asshole. Sometimes, he does something that he seems to understand he’s not supposed to, and yet he goes and does it anyhow – while either making sure you’re watching him, or waiting to have you look at him, or just with a big, shit-eating grin on his face.

When he was first learning how to crawl, he army-crawled, and he was noisy about it. If you put him down on one side of the room, he’d make his way over to the cat’s food dishes – and he’d pause while on en route to look at you and make sure you saw him. Then he’d laugh and go right back for them, completely ignoring us telling him no. If you moved him back to the other side of the room or tried to distract him with toys, he’d go right back for the dishes – and he’d throw his toy so that he was ‘chasing’ it and had an excuse to go that direction.

He’s older now and is moving to walking as his main form of ambulation, but he’s still a little shit. But he’s cute, and he’s funny, and for the most part it’s pretty easy to deal with. I’m sure I’ll eat those words in another few months, but for now we’re managing. I always tell people that it’s not often someone hands you a toddler and tells you to figure it out, that you grow with them, and that’s what we’re doing now.

Otherwise… I don’t make resolutions as a general rule, but I’m trying to balance my free time better. I want to try to sell things, I want to try to write more, and I want to try to be more patient. I’m frequently writing things in my head and never actually getting around to putting them on paper (or screen), and I’m hoping to change that. Of course, I say that every time I post, but y’know, new year and all that.

So the more things change, the more they stay the same. Of course, the kids will drag me kicking and screaming along in their wake, so at least I’m forced to make some changes as it goes. Which is a good thing, believe me.

Being A Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence

The Belle Jar

1.

I am six. My babysitter’s son, who is five but a whole head taller than me, likes to show me his penis. He does it when his mother isn’t looking. One time when I tell him not to, he holds me down and puts penis on my arm. I bite his shoulder, hard. He starts crying, pulls up his pants and runs upstairs to tell his mother that I bit him. I’m too embarrassed to tell anyone about the penis part, so they all just think I bit him for no reason.

I get in trouble first at the babysitter’s house, then later at home.

The next time the babysitter’s son tries to show me his penis, I don’t fight back because I don’t want to get in trouble.

One day I tell the babysitter what her son does, she tells me that he’s just a little boy, he doesn’t know…

View original post 1,529 more words

Let social media inspire you

I see this in my daughter, and it scares me to think it might one day disappear. She has an unbridled enthusiasm for life and for experiences, and as much as it drives me batty some days, it’s pure and it’s innocent and it’s amazing.

Ages ago she started asking me if I would do whatever with her — be it craft, play, do a puzzle, read to her, whatever. It was the addition of “with me” that I found hard to resist; it was specific to her, it meant she wanted me to do something with her, not just in general, and so I had to give in.

Now, it’s evolved to “want to do something fun with me”, or go someplace fun — it’s more open-ended, and it falls on me to come up with options for her to accept or reject. Just like everyone else in this household, but that’s another matter.

She creates constantly, though rarely actually on paper. She’s always talking, and it used to be she was sometimes retelling what she remembered of plots from television shows she’d seen. Then it became her telling very simple stories — mostly two or three characters telling each other to come visit and where they were standing (“I’m up here” / “there you are!”).

Now? Now it’s a never-ending narrative that includes characters and ideas and plans and visits. There are people and there are mystical characters, there are ideas and plans that could happen and others that can never be. But if you asked her what she thought about or was talking about or what her story was about, she probably wouldn’t be able to tell you — it’s not a story, it’s just what she’s experiencing.

I had a memory book when I was little where I would store keepsakes and write about who my teachers were, what my signature looked like, and what I wanted to be when I grew up. Without fail, I wanted to be a writer, and to some extent I achieved that (though I’m still working towards becoming the kind of writer I want and wanted to be). I can only hope that whatever she wants to be and what she becomes involves some element of creativity so she keeps this spark — really, this burning sphere — alive somehow.

(As an aside, she recently told me she wanted to be a mommy. I said that I was glad I made it look so glamorous, and asked if she wanted to look after babies. She said no and then said she wanted to be a grandma. Not yet four and she’s got things figured out.)

A story in a single image

City at night

Once I finally learned how to drive, one of my favourite times to drive around was at night. When I worked downtown at the radio station, I enjoyed the challenge of leaving the core and timing it so that I just hit each light as it turned green, and I’d get frustrated with other drivers who would mess up my patterns by driving too slowly.

I remember driving around streets at night, in the rain, with flashes of silver in front of my headlights that I realised were frogs, and slowing down almost to a crawl to try to spare them.

I remember falling asleep in the middle of winter and having to rouse myself to drive back home at 4 a.m., hoping to get away without clearing the windshield but having to pull over because every time the streetlights hit, I went blind.

I think of the first time I drove out on the motorcycle to my now-husband’s house and wondering where the hell he actually lived, given I saw nothing but cornfields and drove on a poorly-maintained, single lane road.

I remember driving late into the night from our home to my grandparents’ home in New Brunswick, staring out the windows and listening to music after it became too dark for me to read. I tried to use the streetlights, but it didn’t work well, especially not along the highway.

I always trusted that my dad would get us there safely, and I think of moments like those when I drive my kids around now — that they will have their memories of driving with me, with us, in the dark, listening to music or talking to us, and always having complete faith that they would be safe with us behind the wheel, taking them to visit their grandparents or returning home.