A Different Approach – “Tales of the Momside”

Roche Trail

It was the fourth time that night that she had woken up.  Sweating and burning like a furnace had just been switched on inside her.  She threw the covers off and waited until it was over.  Waited until she could feel the chill creep back into her.  Once it did, she pulled the covers back over her and tried to get back to sleep. God damn hot flushes.  One good nights sleep.  Was that too much to ask for?  Of course, the second glass of wine she had at dinner last night wasn’t helping.

A few hours later, standing in the cold at the trail head, she hoped her bad nights sleep wouldn’t affect her run.  She could just get back into the truck and text her friend and running partner a lame excuse.

I feel sick.

The school called.

The cat is sick.

Really? The cat is sick?  That is the lamest excuse ever for not going for a run.  Too late.  Her friend pulled her truck into the spot beside hers and jumped out.

“Ready?.”

As ready as she could be to run up the side of a mountain.

They chatted for the first ten minutes or so but then the trail got steep and breathing became the priority.  One day, she hoped, this would get easier.

At some point the trail leveled off a bit and their conversation started up again.  As it did on most days, the topic turned to seven-year old girls and schools yard disagreements.  Raising spirited girls was a tough job and they both needed all the help they could get.

“Why are girls so mean?”  I asked.

“I don’t know if they’re mean or if they just don’t understand how their words can hurt people?”  Her friend countered.

She told her how she had taken her daughter her lunch yesterday and seen her daughter’s friend Katy crying on the playground.

“I asked her what was wrong and she told me that Liv and Gail had told her she couldn’t play with them.”

Her friend smirked because she had heard this all many times.

“I know right.  So this is how my conversation with her went.”

“What?”

“Why can’t Katy play with you ?”

“It’s not my fault?”

“I didn’t say it was your fault I just asked why she can’t play with you and Gail?”

“We want to make fairy houses and she didn’t want to.”

“Yes I do”. Katy adds wiping her drippy nose.

She had told her daughter that a good friend needs to remember two things.  Be kind and treat your friends like you would want them to treat you.

“How would you feel if Katy and Gail said that you couldn’t play with them?”

“Bad.”

Her friend nodded in agreement and sympathy.

“But you know what?  I bet you anything you have the same conversation next week too.” She said.

“Ya, I know.  But I had to try.”

It’s a conversation they have had many times.  Different names.  Different scenarios.  But the same general idea.  All of this seemed much easier eleven years ago when she had been raising a boy.

Just as she thought her legs might give out the trail dipped briefly.  But then they rounded a corner and faced another uphill stretch.  No wonder they called this trail Old Buck.

“Is Don away this week?”

“Yup. And next week too.  James?”

“Leaving tomorrow until Friday.”

Another shared challenge in their lives.  Husbands who travelled for work.  They joked about finally getting the bed to themselves again when they went away but the reality was that they couldn’t wait for the days when they came home.  Having another adult in the house evened up the numbers.

“Ugh thank god.”

They had reached the top of the climb.  She pulled up and let out a huge breath as they approached the junction for the next trail.

Now came her favorite part. Running down.  If her friend had an advantage on the uphill, this was her time to lead.  Maybe it was her low centre of gravity.  She could fly down the trail with a huge smile on her face.  It made the slog up the hill almost worth it.

Sometimes the mountain trails are like life.  The familiar ones are often easy to navigate and even welcoming.  The unknown ones can be difficult and may even seem intimidating.

“So what’s up for the rest of the day?”

“Hot lunch volunteering.  Liv’s got dance after school.  Hey can you email me the recipe for that apple salad dressing?”

The rest of the run was spent alternating between quiet periods punctuated with laboured breathing on the uphills and catching their breath on the downhills. All the time catching up on neighborhood gossip and laughing at parenting fails.

An hour and a half later they were back at the parking lot and both admitted to feeling better.  Both women knew the power of not only a good workout but the power of good company.  The past couple of years had been stressful for both of them and they had come to rely on physical exertion to solve the problems of the world.  Okay, maybe not the whole world, but their world for sure.

To be continued.

snowy trail

Have Courage and Be Kind

cinderella

Okay so I stole my title from the moral tag line in the new Cinderella movie, but if the shoe fits. Ya, I guess I stole that part too. It’s just so happens that at a time when my seven-year old daughter is having some seven-year old girl issue, we went to see this movie and it couldn’t have been better timing. In Cinderella she must deal with her wicked stepmother and step sisters, who, let’s be honest, are as close to a group of seven-year old girls as you are going to get. Cinderella is told by her dying mother to have courage and be kind. For the most part she succeeds, but there is only so far you can push a princess before she starts to push back. So how do you teach your princess to “be kind” without losing that fighting spirit in them that we love so much?

This is not a blog about bullying because I am not picking a side with anybody. Young girls are, well, mean for lack of a better word. And believe me I am including my little darling in that group. One minute they are best friends and the next they are mortal enemies not to be invited to birthday parties. Ever. Strong personalities are emerging, interests are changing and some are maturing faster than others. Why does being seven have to be so hard? And why can’t they listen when we try to help them understand? Is it because their minds just can’t process that what they are saying may be hurtful? Because it seems like we, as parents, say the same thing over and over again and they nod their sweet heads and say “I know” and then they walk out the door and do the exact same thing again. It’s like banging you head against a brick wall. It’s a pretty pink brick wall, but it hurts just the same.

ballerinas pushing

In trying to help them, the natural instinct may be to say something like “you don’t need a friend like that anyway” or “just go play with somebody else” or perhaps “I hope you told her you don’t want to be her friend either”. You know you’ve wanted to. Right? It’s just not that simple though. They really WANT to still be friends with the girl who they are disagreeing with. They are just frustrated and maybe even hurt or angry with them but they perhaps lack the cognitive skill to know how to deal with those feelings in a grown up way. I think it’s pretty safe to say that as an adult woman I have had the exact same feelings. Imagine you are having drinks with the girls one night and a friend interrupts your funny story about what you did on the weekend. You know you should politely wait until she is done with her story and then continue yours but what you really want to do is scream “Don’t interrupt me bitch I’m talking right now”.

So with your little princess do you step in and guide them through the rough patch or do you back off and just let them deal with it in their own way? I know that no matter what I do it is going to happen. At seven and at seventeen. But nobody wants their daughter to be “that girl”. You want them to be the girl who has her own opinions and stands up for herself in a kind and respectful way. Is it just a matter of time? If I keep repeating the “be kind” mantra will it one day sink in and take root or is there more I could and should be doing? Nobody said parenting was easy but crap this is really hard and as a mother and a woman it is hard to take the emotion out and just approach it in a reasonable manner. If anybody out there has any pearls of wisdom to send me please send them my way.

For the most part I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone in is. I have friends who have raised confident, mature young adults and friends who are still in the thick of it, like me. We may struggle on a daily basis with the task of teaching our girls to “have courage and be kind” but really, would we have it any other way? My daughter continues to be full of Piss and Vinegar and that is on of The Best Things in Life.

Piss and Vinegar

tri finish

The little strawberry blonde adjusts her swim goggles and looks around. “Mom, I’m a little nervous” she whispers. It’s 7:25am and she’s anxious to get in the pool. Finally the whistles blows and she off. Down and back. 50 meters. She quickly climbs out of the pool and races (walks quickly down the pool deck) to the outdoor transition area. Smiling. Dry off, t-shirt, shorts, shoes, bike helmet and she’s off again. Up the hill out of the parking lot, turn left, then right up another hill. Remember to change gears at the top of the hill. It’s a quick 1.5 km and she’s back at the transition zone. Helmet off and back up the hill on foot. She’s slowed down a little but still has a smile on her face. Half a kilometer later and she’s coming around the building. She surges up the slope and crosses the finish line with a huge grin. My six year old daughter has just finished her first triathalon.

From the day she was born…no actually the minute she was born….I just knew that this little ball of piss and vinegar would be a handful. She came into the world early and quickly and never looked back. Maybe it’s the red in her hair. Maybe it’s that she is just a teeny bit like her grandfather (okay, a lot like him). Whatever it is, I’ve known all along that life would never be boring with this one. She goes at everything with all the gusto that she can handle, talks a mile a minute (all the time) and lives to learn new things. If there were more hours in a day, she would want to fill them up with another activity. Constant, constant movement and did I mention she talks a lot?

vans

With this level of spirit, however, comes a certain degree of attitude. Shoulders set, hands on hips, eyes on fire kind of attitude. It can be a challenge, but I know that it goes hand in hand with having a strong personality. The question is, how do I deal with the attitude without squashing the fire? What does it take to raise a confident, well mannered, ambitious girl? With six nephews and not one niece, nobody in my family has really been prepared to answer that question for me. I’ve got lots of friends with teenage girls, so I’ve been picking peoples brains for tips and ideas on the subtleties of bringing up a girl. There are lots of things to consider in these days of social media and body image. I’m learning, slowly, that it’s all about building confidence.

She’s not alone though. And neither am I. Since she was about two, she’s been friends with a couple of other like minded little girls. Imagine three of them at the park all wanting things done THEIR way. As moms we weren’t so much watching out for them as we were refereeing. Girls, I’ve discovered, are not always the nicest of friends. Let’s face it, girls can be bitchy from an early age. And yes, even my little darling has had her share of moments. “You not invited to my birthday party.” Is a popular threat in the five to six set. We’ve been fortunate, that so far these comments have seemed to roll off her back. That may not always be the case. I like to think that I’m prepared for that day, but again, I’m not really. The truth is, I’m totally winging it.

So building confidence is the key. I get that. I want her to be strong and stand on her own, but I also want her to know that she can ask for help to. Something I’m not very good at. In a Forbes Magazine article by Samantha Ettus, she says that we should minimize the Princess for our girls, to avoid the belief that girls should just keep house and wait for their prince to come. I kind of agree but I don’t completely agree. Every girl (or woman) should have a little princess in them somewhere that enjoys being taken care of. Of course she also needs to be able to kick the Prince to the curb if he doesn’t behave properly.

So as I tread lightly through the early days of raising a girl, I often look back at my younger days. Was I this difficult? Yup, I’m pretty sure I was. Every time my daughter is stomping up the stairs and slamming her bedroom door in defiance, I remember what my mom said when I would argue with her. “One day you will have your own daughter and I hope she’s just like you”. Well, my mom got her wish but  The Best Thing in Life is having a daughter who is just like me….only better.

red team